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BQ Aquaris M4.5 hands on review

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Cheap and cheerful? Or cheap and nasty? Luigi Palazzolo finds out.
BQ Aquaris M4.5 angled

I had very low expectations for this little phone, which is exlusive to O2 in the UK. It's cheap and the specs are basic.

I was anticipating playing with it for a couple of hours and then pulling my SIM out and declaring it a waste of time and resources. But it really isn't.

It is a 'no frills' handset that perfectly matches the needs of anyone on a very tight budget and who prefers smaller phones.

Yes, there are alternatives in the same price range. The Motorola Moto E goes for about the same price, for instance.

But Moto's budget handset is looking a bit dated and its camera isn't as good. It's also thicker and heavier than the Aquaris.

Design and first impressions

The packaging is minimal. It's an all-cardboard box with no accessories except for a USB charging cable. There are no free headphones. But given the always-poor quality of bundled headphones, this is likely a blessing in disguise.

The phone is small, very light and thin. That makes it ideal for 'tween-age' hands. The design is basic but not unpleasant, and the case is built from a nice, 'soft-touch' plastic.

Battery life and software

BQ Aquaris screen

Battery life is very good. Expect at least two full days of general/light usage, which is what this phone is designed for. That equates to an occasional YouTube video, a couple of calls and checking your email.

We liked that you can schedule switch on/off times for uninterrupted sleep and battery saving. Charging is slow, though. So if your battery is flat and you're going out in 20 minutes, you're out of luck.

The Aquaris is powered by what's called a 'stock version' of Google Android. This means it looks 'stripped down' and more basic compared to the redesigned editions of Android you find on phones from Samsung and Sony, which tend to come with exclusive apps.

The plus side of this is that it means the Aquaris is easier to get to grips with and is reasonably responsive, due to the absence of apps that put extra strain on the phone's processor. The downside is that you don't get any of those same exclusive apps, which can sometimes come in handy.

Camera

BQ Aquaris image

The Aquaris's camera is easy to use and offers fast focus and goodish quality snaps.

It's fine for that throwaway selfie. But it's not good enough to be your main camera. Or to take on holiday.

Screen

The screen is poor, especially for reading, browsing, emailing or anything involving text, which is indistinct.

Luckily you can easily increase the system text size in accessibility settings and this goes some way towards making up for the small screen.

Watching the odd YouTube video is fine and unless you're one of those people that want to use their phones to watch full feature films in high definition, it will do the job.

Sound and call quality

The speakers are loud for such a small handset. I had the phone propped up on the kitchen counter running a YouTube lecture video while making breakfast and it did the job adequately.

Don't expect an HD experience. But for casual watching/listening in a quiet environment it's more than acceptable.

Call quality is OK. O2 mentions a Dolby Sound system for extra clarity, but to be honest I couldn't tell the difference from my ageing Samsung Galaxy S4.

Storage

BQ Aquaris back

The Aquaris has very little memory on board: only 8GB. This isn't enough if you need more than a few essential apps and there won't be much space for pictures, videos or music unless you make use of a Cloud storage service, such as O2's Store and Share.

Rather than storing files on your phone, Cloud storage services allow you to store files on the internet and access them at any time.

Alternatively, you can pop in a microSD card to boost the phone's capacity by up to 64GB. But be warned: this can be fiddly (you have to manually determine which apps and media you want to be stored in the card) and is time-consuming. So I really wouldn't depend on this if you want to start downloading games or want to your music library offline.

Verdict

For £80 upfront (plus a £10-per-month O2 SIM), you could do a lot worse. If you're on a tight budget, the Aquaris has got much to recommend it. Given the choice, I'd pick it in white.

Mark: 7/10

Category: News
Tagged: smartphones

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