Verdict: Don't call the X Sleek a cheap phone. There is nothing about this handset that suggests it's a cheap phone, other than its price. With a premium feel and a great camera, the X Sleek would make a killer first phone.
- Fantastic camera
- Glass and metal finish
- Fingerprint scanner
- Android Marshmallow
- Poor screen visibility outdoors
- Metal edges feel a little sharp
- Glass finish can get a bit smudgy
Outright Cost: From $179
There was a time when you could easily tell the cheap phones from the expensive models. Cheap phones were smaller, had low quality screens and crappy cameras. Moreover, cheap phones looked and felt cheap. Nowadays, the lines are blurring, which is great news if you'd like to save hundreds of dollars on your phone and spent that money elsewhere.
The Optus X Sleek is a perfect example of what we are talking about here. There is no way you can tell this phone costs just $179 by looking at it. We tested this with friends and family and every guessed a price of $400 to $500 - and this with them knowing there must be a trick to the question.
The Optus X Sleek punches above its weight in all regards. The first thing you'll notice is how good it looks. Constructed from glass and stainless steel, we're reminded of the Samsung Galaxy S6 when we glance at it. With the screen off, it looks like a glossy sheet of onyx.
The 13-megapixel camera is killer, easily the best camera we've seen in a phone at the price point. It captures colours superbly, it focuses quickly and accurate and the detail in the resulting photos is outstanding. It does struggle with photos that have both strong light and shadows, but this is a minor criticism on the whole.
Being an Optus branded phone also gives you the surety that the handset will connect to the fastest parts of the Optus network, known as 4G Plus. It is able to connect to the 700MHz frequency of the network which means, among other things, that you should get better reception indoors.
Just above the Optus logo on the back you'll find a fingerprint scanner - which is a first for a phone at this price point, as far as we know. It works well too, able to recognise your print and unlock the phone in a moment.
The X Sleek, is not just a pretty face. A quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 2GB RAM keep the engines running smoothly, with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) offering zippy performance.
It isn't a clean build of Android on the phone, but it is a pretty easy user interface to master.
The 5-inch screen is a winner, with good colour and detail. It is made from an IPS LCD panel, which have the reputation of displaying well even when you look at the phone from an angle. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much how we are always looking at our phones. But be sure to read on as we get into a little more detail about the screen below
A large 2460mAh battery keeps the screen on for about 4 or 5 hours each day, which is enough to see you through until bedtime.
Whats not so good?
If the phone has one Achilles Heel, it is the way the screen looks under sunlight. When standing outdoors with the X Sleek, the screen becomes impossible to read. All screens suffer this in some way, but with the X Sleek it is a considerable drawback.
It is up to you whether you feel this will impact your use too much. But we found that taking photos outdoors and trying to read emails were tasks made extremely difficult with visibility of the screen as it is.
As much as we love the way the X Sleek looks, we do find that the tapered steel edges as a but sharper than we'd like. Not sharp like they might cut you, but sharp in a way where you can feel them drag against your skin a little.
It's also worth pointing out that while we enthusiastically compare the X Sleek to the likes of the iPhone and Galaxy S7, you can still tell the difference.
The screen, for example, while being excellent for this price range, is still noticeably duller than a top-end phone; both in terms of colour and sharpness. It's 720p pixel resolution (1280 x 720) is great for everyday use, and the viewing angles are great, but you can see the difference if you look closely enough.
But these are minor nitpicks compared to the value that is packed into the X Sleek. When you compare it to phones at the same price, or even a couple of hundred dollars more, the X Sleek is leagues ahead.
Who's it for?
You know how you look at the $1100 price tag on a new iPhone and think "that seems like a lot of money"? The Optus X Sleek is for you.
You want a solid, reliable, fashionable smartphone, but you also have other things you need to spend your money on as well as your monthly phone bill.
The X Sleek would also make an awesome first phone. It has everything you need at a price that you can replace if it gets smashed up like everything else in a teenager's school bag.
What else can I buy?
Samsung Galaxy J2
For about the same price, Samsung's J2 is a decent buy. Available from Boost Mobile, the J2 gives you a similar smartphone (if not as good as the X Sleek) but with the option of using the Telstra network rather than the Optus network.
For about $100 more, Optus will sell you the F1s on similar prepaid terms. For the extra coin you'll get a larger 5.5-inch screen, fast processing and a handset that look uncannily like an iPhone 6s Plus.
iPhone SE 16GB
If you're not a fan of Google Android, you can step up to the baby of the iPhone family, but be warned: you will pay over four-times more for the privilege. That said, the iPhone SE is no slouch in any department, and is more than capable of keeping up with the larger iPhones in regards to power and performance, just in a smaller package.