Boost Dex phone: Full in-depth review

How usable is the sub-$100 Alcatel Pixi 4 Android smartphone?

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Boost Mobile Dex
  • Boost Mobile Dex
  • Boost Mobile Dex
  • Boost Mobile Dex
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Very cheap

Cons

  • Iffy screen
  • Struggles with casual games
  • Camera not the sharpest

Bottom Line

For $99 you can't ask for much but Boost still delivers a usable Android smartphone.

Would you buy this?

We’ve reviewed some cheap phones lately, but Boost’s exclusive Dex (otherwise known as the Alcatel Pixi 4) makes all of them look expensive with its $99 price point. Alcatel proudly brags about being the choice of skinflints, credit-nightmares, the old and infirm plus teenagers with no money and we can respect that. So what can you expect if a $200 Kogan Agora 8 is too expensive for you?

Key Specs

5in, 480 x 854 LCD screen, 1GB/8GB RAM, 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, 8MP rear and 5MP front cameras, MicroSD slot, MicroSIM, Micro USB, Android 6, 2000mAh battery, 141 x 73 x 10mm, 148g

Handling and Design

The box says that the Pixi 4 is Volcano Black but the back is actually a dark grey. Expect it to scratch a lot but really, who cares. This phone is all about value over form. It’s quite thick by today’s standards but at least the back can be removed in order to replace the battery – a rare feature these days.

The rear can be removed and the battery replaced. Two extra colour backs come with it. They scratch easily.
The rear can be removed and the battery replaced. Two extra colour backs come with it. They scratch easily.

The main issue you’ll have is with the screen. We can be extremely forgiving at this price but there’s no getting away from the screen being poor. It’s not the low resolution of 480 x 854 as that is perfectly usable for general app usage. 

Viewing the screen from any angle other than straight led to harsh LCD extinction angle effects.
Viewing the screen from any angle other than straight led to harsh LCD extinction angle effects.

The washed-out colours won’t bother too many people either as at least you can see them – but only when looking directly at the phone. Any deviation from front-on and LCD viewing-angle effects come in to play making the screen hard to see. To be fair, this is mainly an issue when taking photos as you’ll struggle to see what’s on the screen if it’s at arm’s length pointing in a different direction.

But the prime requirement is that you can see it, so it still passed this test.

The 1.3GHz quad-core processor is naturally pretty weak but it still makes most apps usable and they launch quickly enough - it's naturally not as responsive as more-pricey phones but we didn't feel like it was slow. If you want to play any games, however, expect to be struggling with slide-show framerates.

There’s only 8GB memory and we filled this up very quickly – once our standard apps were installed only 4.3GB was usable. A microSD slot can boost matters here but really you’ll need to have photos backed up elsewhere and be selective about which apps you install if you’re wanting to use it for much more than basic comms and social media.

Don't expect much from the speaker (the phone's main speaker is used rather than a separate unit) as it doesn't get very loud and there's no body to any music coming through it. It's usable for conference calls and video calls but tricky in a loud environment.

The Boost telco is actually rather good - the brand resells Telstra's impressive network making it significantly cheaper (and much cooler) to use. 

Camera

Using the 8-megapixel camera can be a bit frustrating as seeing the screen clearly when you’re not looking directly at it is tricky. Nonetheless, photos from the primary camera are usable, even if it’s not the sharpest lens on the market.

If everything was still in low light, you could still get some decent shots.
If everything was still in low light, you could still get some decent shots.
In good lighting colours could pop and be vibrant.
In good lighting colours could pop and be vibrant.

If lighting is good, then photos were too. Not surprisingly, quality can fall off a cliff as lighting gets worse but, despite some serious grain, low-light images could be usable if everything was still.

For snap shots the Dex could do well in good lighting. But resolution isn't very high and you won't be able to zoom in much.
For snap shots the Dex could do well in good lighting. But resolution isn't very high and you won't be able to zoom in much.
The camera isn't the sharpest.
The camera isn't the sharpest.
Turning HDR on made a big difference to dynamic range (you have to stay very still when using it). But we still lost a great deal of detail in shadowy areas.
Turning HDR on made a big difference to dynamic range (you have to stay very still when using it). But we still lost a great deal of detail in shadowy areas.

Panoramas weren’t great with lighting transitions tripping things up. The weird, colourful Creative Mode shots could actually look interesting.

Panoramas are low resolution and struggle if there are both bright and dark areas.
Panoramas are low resolution and struggle if there are both bright and dark areas.

The Selfie cam, despite being a lowly five-megapixel resolution, was actually quite sharp and produced impressive images. The Beauty Mode, however, made you look like you’d been slapped around with an overzealous Photoshop blur filter.

The Selfie camera is actually quite good. The Beauty Mode effect... less so.
The Selfie camera is actually quite good. The Beauty Mode effect... less so.

Video is HD 720p and not the sharpest. However, it is quite usable if your standards aren’t high and it’s actually quite impressive in low light.

It's not the sharpest video camera, but it works.
It's not the sharpest video camera, but it works.

Next: Battery Life and Conclusion

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