As they demonstrated earlier this year with the Idol 4 and 4S, budget can be little more than a label when it comes to smartphones. Alcatel’s new DEX builds on this legacy nicely, even if it lacks the flagship prestige of the above.
Exclusively available through Boost, the DEX features a hard interchangable plastic shell on one side and a 5-inch display on the other side. Marketing efforts for the DEX has seen Alcatel emphasize the idea of the handset appealing to a fickle millennial market by offering up customisable style and fantastic audio – and that shows through in the design.
The back cover can be pulled off via a groove on the bottom right edge and easily swapped out for one of several colors. The selection here isn’t mind-blowing – but it is a nice touch, even if it is very prone to scratches and markings. Hopefully Alcatel’s move to distributing their own products online allows them to offer up greater choice in the times ahead.
On the other side of things, the DEX’s 5-inch display comes off a little ordinary. There are plenty of pixels – but in terms of the fidelity of those pixels isn’t going to dazzle you like a higher-end smartphone would. Everything is clearly displayed, but it’s neither sharp nor shiny.
The DEX feels nice to hold in your hand, however, the touch buttons don’t always feel as responsive as they ought to. The DEX touts a 1.0GHz quad-core processor, and the relatively-small size of that processor is definitely felt. Heavier apps are often subject to minor hitching and the multitasking built into Android Marshmallow 6.0 often feels a little out of reach for the DEX’s humble hardware.
That said, it’s hard to complain too much about these niggles this considering the DEX’s pricetag. If you aren’t willing to make some compromises in performance and responsiveness, the DEX may not be the $99 handset for you.
Beyond that processor, the DEX features 8GB of internal memory (expandable by up to 32GB via SD card) and a battery that offers up a reasonable 11 hours of 3G talk-time (alongside up to 440 hours of standby-time). These numbers aren’t exactly going to blow anyone away but again, given the price, they remain noteworthy.
The DEX also promises high quality audio experiences, courtesy of optimized Arkamys enhanced sound and DJ software. Unfortunately, the implementation of these features isn’t particularly salient. While audiophiles are the most likely to notice the difference, they’re also pretty far out from the audience that Alcatel are aiming to capture here.
Similarly, when it comes to the camera. The DEX features a 5-megapixel camera on the front and a 3-megapixel rear shooter.
You won’t see anything taken with these cameras on a bus stop anytime soon but it’s probably safe to say that if you’re buying a $99 smartphone then a lack of support for high-quality digital photography is unlikely to prove a deal-breaker. You get what you pay for.
Same goes for the pair of Alcatel headphones that are included with the DEX. They sound nice – but you’re definitely not going to replace a more dedicated set with them. That said, the headphones (and the external speaker / power-pack unit that comes bundled with the handset) do add a bit of additional value to the package that should be considered..
The Boost DEX is dead-set on targeting the “budget conscious youth market”, and if you fall into that category this may well be a great boon for you. At $99, it’s got all the bases of an Android experience covered. Those expecting the same level of polish and premium out of more expensive handsets will likely find the DEX’s capabilities insufficient but taken on it’s own merits, it’s a versatile proposition with a lot of value behind it.
The Boost DEX is available now for $99 at Boost.com.au and from retailers including Big W, Kmart and Target.