Alcatel 3L review: A modest effort with modest results

Alcatel 3L
  • Alcatel 3L
  • Alcatel 3L
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Decent Android skin
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Plain design
  • Sluggish performance

Bottom Line

For better or worse, the Alcatel 3L rarely delivers above and beyond the kind of conservative confidence the price tag inspires.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 199.00 (AUD)

Should You Buy The Alcatel 3L?

If you’re looking for a disposable smartphone that’ll handle the basics, the Alcatel 3L is worth a look. It’s not hard to wish for a little more storage, a little RAM or a slightly better camera but when you’re looking at smartphones this cheap, corner cutting is inevitable. 

The question then becomes whether or not manufacturers are cutting the right corners and picking the smartest battles. For the most part, the Alcatel 3L meets that criteria. It’s unlikely to delight you but if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care to look for delight in their consumer electronics, it might just be the budget-friendly solution to your problems. 

Price when reviewed

In Australia, the RRP of the Alcatel 3L is AU$199. 

Alcatel 3L (2020) full review

Design - Look, Feel, Features and Camera

2016’s IDOL 4S was one of the first phones I ever wrote about as a tech journalist but, if I’m being honest, almost every Alcatel device I’ve used since has fallen short of that precedent. 

Once dominant in the mid-tier, Alcatel has come under increased pressure from Chinese rivals like RealMe and Oppo in recent years. What’s more, they’ve been slow to adapt. The bar for what consumers can and should expect out of budget and mid-tier devices feels like it’s rising faster than ever before. To date, Alcatel have struggled to keep pace with this trend in the same way that Nokia and Motorola have. 

Thankfully, the new Alcatel 3L sees the brand make smart moves in the right direction. 

Priced at a lean AU$199, the handset features 4GB of RAM, 64GB of on-board storage, a 6.22-inch HD+ display and a 4000mAh battery. Aside from the HD+ resolution and limited storage space, that spec-sheet isn’t too far off where flagship phones were only a few years ago. The Alcatel 3L might hold its own against 2020’s Galaxy S20 Ultra but it’s got just as much memory and a larger battery than the Galaxy S7 did.

Credit: Alcatel

Unfortunately,  to handle and to hold, the Alcatel 3L feels as cheap and plastic as you’d expect. It’s not impossible to live with but if you spend even $100 more, you’ll probably come away with something that feels a lot nicer. 

That being said, these shortcomings are partially offset by the inherent lightness of the Alcatel 3L. For better or worse, it feels inconsequential - but that’s not to say it isn’t capable. You won’t find an in-display fingerprint sensor or a curved screen here but you’ll not want for the essentials of Android. 

Beyond that, the biggest sell here is that the Alcatel 3L has a triple-lens camera on the back of it. The inclusion sets it apart from many handsets playing in the same price-bracket, even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into stunning results. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday

The backside of the Alcatel 3L features a 48-megapixel primary lens, a 5-megapixel super wide angle lens and a 2-megapixel macro lens. There’s also an 8-megapixel camera on the front that’s used for selfie situations. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday

On paper, that’s an impressive arsenal of optics. Unfortunately, in action, the Alcatel 3L’s triple-camera setup feels like a setup. Don’t let the number of megapixels fool you, the level of detail, color accuracy and focus here is world’s away from flagship. At a glance, things might look okay but it only takes a small of scrutiny to spot the difference.

That being said, I was sometimes pleasantly surprised with the low-light performance here.  

Credit: Fergus Halliday

For the most part though, the Alcatel 3L’s rear camera delivers functionality aplenty but little and less flair. You can do much of the same things here that you can with a more expensive device but it doesn’t feel nearly as enjoyable and it won’t look nearly as good. 

If you’re the kind of person who loves to take or share photos on social media, it doesn’t cost that much more to get your hands on hardware that’s more reliable or capable. Settle for this, and you’re probably going to hit the ceiling on what you can do with it sooner than later. 

Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life

Specs

  • Processor:  MT6762 Helio P22

  • Operating System: Android 10

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 64GB

  • MicroSD slot: Yes 

  • Headphone Jack: Yes

  • Fingerprint sensor: Yes

  • SIM: Single

  • Battery: 4000mAh

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G

  • Rear Camera: 48-megapixel (f/1.8) + 5-megapixel ultrawide (f/2.4) + 2-megapixel macro (f/2.4)

  • Front-Facing Camera: 8-megapixel (f/2.0)

  • Dimensions:  165 g

  • Weight:  158.7 x 74.6 x 8.5 mm

Benchmarks

As you can see from the chart below, the RealMe C3 (which is priced about $70 higher than the Alcatel 3L) delivers some pretty significant performance gains.

Credit: Fergus Halliday
  • PCMark (Work 2.0): 5604

  • 3DMark SlingShot Extreme (OpenGL): 436

  • 3DMark SlingShot Extreme (Vulkan): 595

  • GeekBench (Single-Core): 150

  • GeekBench (Multi-Core): 869

Battery Life

In terms of battery life, the Alcatel 3L reaped the benefits of combining a large battery with a less-demanding screen and a processor with a slower clock-speed. Run down with streaming video over Youtube, it took 11 hours and 7 minutes for the phone to run down from 100% to zero. 

Of course, the caveat here is that it would usually take hours to charge it back up again. The Alcatel 3L doesn’t support any form of fast or wireless charging. 

The Bottom Line

With the Alcatel 3L, it feels like the brand is finally starting to gain on their competition. They’ve got relatively-clean software and a somewhat-appealing design. They just need to build on that. I wouldn’t say the Alcatel 3L demolishes any comparable offering from Oppo or RealMe just yet but it’s a promising start and a lot closer to the mark than some of other recent efforts. 

At this stage, they just need to squeeze in some better fast-charging and find a camera formula that works in their favor. A camera that uses less megapixels in a smarter way rather than trying to brute force the problem would change the equation in a real way for budget handsets like this one. 

Credit: Alcatel

The Alcatel 3L rarely delivers above and beyond the kind of conservative confidence the price tag inspires but it doesn’t feel like a struggle to use in the way that some other budget devices do. It’s a modest smartphone that achieves modest results. It’s not hard to expect more but, at the same time, I can’t say that I really expected any less either.

For some alternative $200 smartphones, click here.

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Read more on these topics: Alcatel, Alcatel 3L
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