We have been testing the bq Aquaris 4.5 for about a week now and we’ve decided its time to let you guys know what we think about this recent arrival on the market.
We’ve all heard about bq in the past few months as they have made it their mission to bring their customers good quality Android devices at the lowest price they can make them, and as such we have the Aquaris 4.5 which is a low budget dual SIM Android smartphone that seeks to help all those that are tired of running around with two smartphones in their hands or bag.
Design and Ergonomics
The bq Aquaris has a minimalistic design all the way around, even the box is as minimal as it could get.
It fits well in hand mainly because of its thickness. Even though it has a 4.5 inch screen you will notice that it has relatively small dimensions sticking to only 137x67x10.25 mm and weighing around 150g.
Don’t be fooled by the low price tag on this device as it is a good-looking one, and bq didn’t spare any expenses when it came down to design costs.
The bq has a familiar plasticky feel to it and it seems robust as well, I wouldn’t expect it to break or fall apart if it happens to fall on the ground.
There are only two physical buttons on the Aquaris 4.5, the volume rocker on the left and the power/lock button on the top. This is not uncommon since most devices nowadays only have these two physical buttons. The novelty here is where the power button was placed, as the majority of brands now seem to think the power button is better placed on the right side of the device.
I’m glad bq decided against that since in those devices you end up pushing the power button when trying to change the volume and vice versa due to the positioning of the buttons on opposite sides of the phone.
On the bottom of the front you have the options, home and back touch back lighted buttons. On the top of the front you will find the luminosity and proximity sensor as well as the speaker and the frontal VGA camera.
On the left side of the Aquaris you will find the micro USB port below the volume rocker. The right and bottom sides of the Aquaris have no disturbances whatsoever. On the top you will find the 3.5 mm phone jack beside the lock/power button.
The back of the device is home to the loudspeaker at the bottom and the 8MP camera and LED flash at the top.
As far as design goes my only concern is the way bq pushed out the camera on the back, which seems to me a way of begging to scratch the camera lens. The physical buttons seem sturdy enough that they’ll never give way, even with constant use. I had an issue with the touch buttons as they seem to not be sensitive enough. This might be due to my habit of handling Samsung’s Note II where the touch buttons are pretty sensitive.
The Aquaris 4.5 has as its name implies a 4.5 inch screen with resolution of 540x960px. It is an IPS qHD screen with 240ppi with great viewing angles.
By now you must be thinking what is the difference between this low budget smartphone and those like the Samsung Galaxy S Duos or the Grand Duos, well if you handled at least one of those, the first difference you will notice is the feel of the touchscreen. You will notice a difference that is mainly due to the material used on the screen and the protective layers, as Samsung phones usually have Gorilla Glass to protect the screen from scratching.
Such protection is not available in the Aquaris. You will notice that pretty quickly as anything will scratch the screen. If you’re planning to buy the Aquaris we seriously advise you to get a screen protector.
The luminosity sensor works brilliantly and brightness is quickly adjusted when light conditions are changed. There’s also a problem with the proximity sensor, but we will talk about that later.
Performance and Software
The Aquaris 4.5 comes with Android 4.0 which is updatable to 4.1.1., a little behind most smartphones at the moment.
Some of you might be expecting an UI overlay by bq but thankfully such thing wasn’t done. Bq had enough common sense to know what most of us like and it stuck to it, the raw Android UI experience, with a simple exception of the notification bar that has three menus on the top, one regarding screen options, another regarding connectivity options and last but not least sound settings. Of course you also have a shortcut to the settings menus and below is the notifications space.
As far as preinstalled applications go you will find nothing out of the ordinary, you have the regular Android applications and a few extras provided by bq such as: ES File Explorer, FB Reader, File Manager, Office Suite and Wireless Input Device.
The latter is a new addition and as such I hadn’t head about it before. This allows you to pair your Aquaris with a Bluetooth device such as, for example in my case, an apple magic mouse. What is the upside to this? Well regarding the mouse I really don’t know since scrolling is disabled and you have to drag everything around. Regarding the usefulness of a keyboard, a stereo speaker or a car’s internal system, well those would be much more useful to pair with, but we had none at our disposal at the time of the review.
Everything else is stock Android, or much like it, so we won’t waste your time with it.
Everything in the Aquaris is fluid, you can go through the different homescreens and menu options without noticing any freeze whatsoever. This is due not only to the processing power of the 1GHz Dual Core Cortex A9 and 1GB of RAM but also to resource management and bq’s decision to keeping the OS with little overhaul. You will notice that the value of occupied Ram is always around 300MB without any user applications running. Keeping it simple pays off sometimes.
Benchmarks wise the Aquaris had a score of 2875 in Quadrant Standard and surpassed the Samsung Galaxy S in NenaMark 2 with 24.5 FPS.
When it came to the AnTuTu benchmark it was last on the graphic with just 8147. Due to storage space we had a little trouble installing 3D Mark but we eventually made it and you can see the score of the regular Ice Storm test below, as it wasn’t capable of running any of the other benchmark tests.
One big no no for me about the Aquaris is the internal memory space of just 4GB. Even though bq provides a 32GB microSD with the Aquaris and you keep moving your applications to the card, they always take up internal storage space and you will eventually find yourself having trouble updating some applications or installing new ones.
Another issue I found with the Aquaris as the call quality, many of the times I wasn’t able to understand others clearly as I kept getting interferences.
When it comes to managing you SIM cards the only thing you have to do is choose which date connection to use and what to do for outgoing calls and messages. You can choose to make calls from one card only or choose which one to use every time you make a call, the same goes for text messages.
I bet you’re asking yourself what use two SIM cards are if you can’t answer two calls at the same time. Well with the Aquaris you can, it has active call waiting, which means that you can be in a call with one SIM card and receive a call from the other SIM and you will be able to answer both of them.
There is a glitch in the proximity sensor that, as you might know, is the sensor responsible for turning the screen off during a phone call to prolong battery life. Well the problem with this one is that it turns the screen off but forgets to turn it back on when you pull the Aquaris away form your ear to end a phone call, thus making me having to press the power button in order to lock and unlock the phone to make the screen turn on again.
I had this issue before with my first Android smartphone, the ZTE Skate, and all I had to do was install an app to calibrate the sensor, so it is not a serious issue but I felt you needed to know about the nooks and crooks of the Aquaris so you know what you can count on if you decide to buy it.
Connectivity and Battery Life
When it comes to connectivity bq made sure we were all set up and thus we can count on Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 3G+ and GPS.
When you think about this you have all the connectivity options you really need on a daily basis, but of course it would have been nice to have NFC or 4G added to the mix.
As far as battery life goes you have a 1.600-mAh battery on board. With regular use of checking emails through WiFi and 3G as well as making some calls and receiving/sending some text messages we got up to 2 full days of use out of the Aquaris. Of course if we push it, like the day of the benchmark testing, after running all the benchmarks as well as playing all the games you see on the review it got from 100% charge at 11am to 50% at 6pm and to 1% at 8m next morning.
As you know the Aquaris has an 8MP rear camera that is capable of taking pretty good pictures if you have steady hands and good lighting conditions. If on the other hand one of those conditions doesn’t match up, be assured you will not be capable of taking a decent picture with it.
When we talk about recording videos, you will find the same applies. If you happen to be in a low lighted room don’t expect the flash to save you, as it doesn’t provide enough light to be captured on camera or to light anything around you.
Take a look at the videos below to see the recording quality of the rear camera on the Aquaris 4.5. You will be able to see that the camera behaves much better in well-lighted environments adapting the image quickly and gracefully when light/color changes occur in the environment.
Outdoor Video Sample:
Indoor Video Sample:
Indoor Low Light Sample:
Indoor Low Light Flash Sample:
- Price tag
- Dual SIM
- Screen build quality
- Call quality
- Protuberant camera on the back
All in all the Aquaris 4.5 is a great device, specially when you take into account the price tag of 180€. If you look at other devices in the market that round that price tag you will find that they either are single SIM devices or they have lower hardware specifications.
Take into account the Samsung Galaxy S Duos for examples, which has a price tag of 200€, it costs more than the Aquaris and only has a single Core 1GH CPU, 1.8GB of internal memory available for the user, a 5MP camera, a smaller 4.0 inch screen with lower resolution, and the list goes on. So, is the Aquaris 4.5 worthy of you attention? Of course, but we deeply advise you to get a protective case and a screen protector right out of the bat so you don’t get disappointed with a newly scratched case or screen.