A few weeks back Alcatel launched two mid-range smartphones into the South African market. We already featured the first, the Go Play, and now it’s the turn of the more affordable younger brother, the Pop Star. While the Go Play faces tough competition at its price range, the Pop Star doesn’t face as many obstacles, but is it anything more than a pretty face?
Build and Design
The Pop Star very closely resembles the Go Play, with the almost the same face, both having a 5″ screen with the 3 capacitive buttons, the back button on the left, menu button in the middle, and recent applications button on the right. The biggest difference between the two, apart from the Go Play’s IP67 rating, is the Pop Star’s swappable rear covers. Alcatel has included two additional covers to box’s contents. The artificial wood and faux denim covers were chosen for the South African market, with a plethora of additional covers to purchase along with other long with other accessories. Paired with the swappable covers is a choice of matching themes for each cover, which can be activated by scanning the QR code on the inside of each cover.
Although similar in design and build, the Pop Star is ever so slightly thinner and narrower, measuring 141×71.5×8.6mm. The added waterproofing makes the Go Play bulkier and a tad heavier, making the Pop Star easier to hold in hand, and feels a bit more premium, even if just a bit.
Screen and Display
As stated previously, the Pop Star is fitted with a 5″ screen, the panel that’s found on the Go Play. The IPS screen has a 1280x720px resolution display at 294ppi pixel density. Although it wouldn’t be noticeable by many, the Pop Star’s screen has a higher screen-to-body ratio, 68.4% vs. 65.6%. Being the same panel also means it suffers the same pitfalls, in that it has a fairly dull screen and bad viewing angles. As stated in the Go Play’s review, the panel performs well when viewing HD content.
Performance and Battery
Thus far, the Pop Star is pretty much the Go Play without the outdoor features. As far as the internals go, however, the Pop Star is better equipped, although, again, only slightly. The unit sports a Mediatek MT6580 chipset, Quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, Mali-400MP2 GPU, 8GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, and 8MP rear-facing camera. While both devices run Android 5.0 Lollipop, the end results are very different. The Pop Star has a more themed appearance, but feels a lot more vanilla, as it runs a lot smoother. Without any of the benchmarks or direct comparisons, it is easy to assume the Qualcomm Snapdragon would outperform the MediaTek, but it clearly does not. On average, the benchmarks show an increase in 20% for the Pop Star’s MediaTek chipset.
Removing the rear cover reveals the 2000mAh battery, some 500mAh less than the Go Play. Getting the through a full day of light to moderate usage is straightforward, but with any additional heavy usage makes it nearly impossible to manage.
The camera is also the same 8MP rear camera fitted to the Go Play, so managing your snaps is also expected, with good quality photos in good lighting conditions. Low light conditions mean grainier photos.
The Alcatel Pop Star is an excellent choice for a mid-range smartphone, and even better at a cost of R2,299. Compared to the Go Play, that’s a saving of R1,200. While it doesn’t offer any outdoor protection from the elements as the Go Play, it is thinner and lighter, and has surprisingly good performance. There are, however, a few omissions in that it doesn’t offer any LTE support (the South African variants that is), but many other mid-range smartphones in South Africa fall into the same bracket. Still, it is a bit of a concern long term, if you’re planning on keeping the unit into 2017.