The Boost DEX comes in at a great price, but several drawbacks stop out from calling this an out-and-out bargain. In fact, it would be fairer to say you get your money's worth with the DEX, but not any more than that.
Outright Cost: $99
With Christmas around the corner, the Boost Dex might be exactly the right fit to stuff someone's stocking with, but you should consider the alternatives before wrapping it up in goofy paper.
What is it?
Badged with the Boost Mobile brand, the Dex is actually made by Alcatel, which is actually one of the largest smartphone makers operating in Australia. It may not have the name recognition of companies like Samsung or Sony, but Alcatel ships more phones Down Under than a number of the better known competition.
On the tin, the Boost Dex looks like a great first phone. It comes with a 5-inch screen, a 5-megapixel camera, compatibility with fast Telstra 4G networks and a neat DJ music mixing app built into the music player.
For the most part the Dex delivers on these promises. Its connection to the Telstra network is nice and fast -- so be sure to top up with enough data to take advantage of it. And it has a big enough battery to keep you going throughout a busy day.
General everyday performance is fine, though noticeably sluggish. Even typing on the keyboard can be interrupted while waiting for the computer to catch up to the keystrokes you've just entered. Apps take a little longer than expected to open up, but we're fine with this. This is something we expect to see with a cheaper phone, and showing a little patience is a fair trade for a phone at this price.
We had a chance to play around with the DJ software on the phone (found under the 'Mix' tab in the pre-installed Music app). While this is definitely not one of the many things the WhistleOut reviewing team is any good at, it is definitely a lot of fun to play around with. Especially consider that you can record you hard work and share the tracks you've made.
What's not so good?
But the 5-inch screen is a problem. We love the size and we think the 480x854 pixel resolution is fine, if a little low. But the off-axis viewing angles are appalling. Even at slight angles away from centre the screen flares out, making blacks look grey and words on screen very difficult to read.
To compound this, the screen obviously lacks an oleophobic coating, which is a fancy way of saying that it doesn't repel the oil from fingers, the way touchscreens on more expensive models do. Between the constantly shifting colours and backlighting, and the oily smudges across the glass, we found ourselves squinting to use the Dex quite a bit.
Likewise, the 5-megapixel rear facing camera isn't going to blow your socks off, but then did you really expect it to? Our test shots are all a little blurry around the edges, with bright colours, and spots of flaring where the sunlight is too bright for the shot.
The results are not entirely unappealing -- it's sort of like having a photo filter applied to every shot that gives the photos a whimsical feel, like a smudgy watercolour painting. Of course, if you want a camera to take more realistic looking images, you might have to look a bit further up the price scale.
On top of the $99 you'll pay for the phone, you should seriously consider adding another $30 or so to this and buying a microSD memory card. The 8GB of internal storage is shared with the operating system, so you don't end up with much for the photos you take or the music you want to mix with the DJ app.
Who's it for?
As mentioned earlier, the Dex would make a great first phone. With it you can get online, download social networking apps, take a few photos and listen to music.
Using it requires a little patience, but it seems a small price to pay for a fully featured smartphone for under $100.
What else can I buy?
Samsung Galaxy J2
Boost Mobile has a small range of prepaid phones to choose from, and at the time of writing, is also offering the Samsung Galaxy J2. You'll pay up to $100 more for the J2, but we'd argue you get a lot more phone for the extra money.
The J2 may not read as well on paper; with a smaller 4.7-inch screen and a similar sounding 5-megapixel camera, but all of its components combine into a better, more refined package that is far more pleasant to use.
Optus X Sleek
As the name suggest, the Optus X Sleek is only available through Optus, so you will have to choose between this network and the Telstra network you get with a Boost plan. If you choose Optus, you will get a far better phone for around $50 more. The X Sleek is also made by Alcaltel, but it has a sharp, premium-looking design with a chassis that looks like metal and glass. It really is a phone that looks far more expensive than its $149 price tag.
You'll spend a bit more on this Oppo (it sells for about $279 at writing) but you buy a phone that is easily mistaken for an iPhone 6 or 7. It has a large 5.5-inch screen (like the iPhone 6 Plus), a great camera, a big battery and good, solid performance.