ALDI Medion Life P4502 full review

ALDI is from today selling a budget smartphone in store as one of its Specialbuys, but at £79 is the Medion Life P4502 (aka Lenovo P4502) a deal or no deal? We review ALDI's £79 Android phone. Also see best budget smartphones and best cheap 4G smartphones.

ALDI smartphone: Price and UK availability

The Medion Life P4502 is available in store at ALDI from today (18 December). It's a limited Specialbuy, so when it's gone it's gone. If it takes your fancy then bear in mind that the ALDI smartphone is unlikely to still be in stock after this weekend. Also see: Best smartphones and Best Android phones.

At £79 it's temptingly priced in between the £60 Nokia Lumia 530 and £89 Motorola Moto E. And we reckon it's a better deal than either of those phones. Read on to find out why.

ALDI smartphone: Design and build

Two traditional telltale signs of a budget smartphone are its width and the poor quality of its display. At 10mm the ALDI phone is thicker than many of the latest high-end devices, yet significantly slimmer than the chunky 12.3mm Moto E and 12mm Lumia 530, plus other cheap phones.

Unfortunately, in order to achieve this slimness the screen is raised from the chassis, and the ALDI phone's camera protrudes at the rear, meaning it will rock from side to side when placed on the table. It still looks pretty good for a superbudget phone, but in the hand it lacks that desirable feel.

With virtually no screen bezel the ALDI phone is super-compact, perhaps just a millimetre or two larger than its 4.5in screen. It fits very comfortably in the hand, and one-handed operation is simple. However, the ALDI phone's low weight (142g) and plastic shell make it feel a little toy-like.

The rear panel is removable, snapping on and off very easily and allowing you to access the also-removable battery, plus microSD slot and dual-SIM slots. Despite this the chassis doesn't creak or bend under pressure.

At the bottom of the rear is a speaker. You may find this falls under your hand, muffling the sound, but it's a nice pairing for the built-in FM radio (becoming a rarity on Android phones these days) and MP3 player functionality. You also get a pair of earphones in the box.

The only hardware buttons are a power switch on the left side and a volume rocker on the right. You'll also find a headphone jack at the top, and a Micro-USB charging connector at the bottom.

Three touch-sensitive buttons sit at the bottom of the display, offering Options, Home and Back. To bring up the recent apps menu you'll need to double-press the Home button.

We've seen some marketing material that refers to the display as a Quad HD panel. It's not. It's a qHD - or quarter-HD - display with a resolution of 960x450 pixels, equating to 236 pixels per inch (ppi). That's standard for a budget phone, and in line with both the Lumia 530 and Moto E, but absolutely definitely not Quad HD.

What's more important that this is an IPS display, which makes for rich colours and excellent viewing angles. We found it a little dull out the box, but nothing that ramping up the brightness couldn't fix.

At 236ppi there is a little more fuzziness than we're used to seeing, but overall the screen is fine for a budget phone. One thing to note, however, is that it is a magnet to fingerprints.

ALDI smartphone: Hardware and performance

With a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and Mali-400 graphics, the Medion Life P4502 won't blow the best phones out of the water but it should be more than capable for daily tasks such as checking your email, browsing the web and chatting on social media. It's also faster not only than the aforementioned Moto E and Lumia 530, but also the more expensive Motorola Moto G.

We ran the ALDI phone through our usual benchmarks, recording 356 points in Geekbench 3 single-core, and 1199 points multi-core. In SunSpider the Medion managed 1375ms, and in GFXBench T-Rex it scored 9fps. In comparison to other budget phones that's outstanding. Also see: What's the fastest smartphone 2014/2015.

ALDI smartphone: Storage, connectivity and extras

The ALDI smartphone is supplied with 8GB of internal storage, of which only around 3GB is available - rather a lot of software is preinstalled, plus the Android OS takes up some of this space (we'll talk more about this under Software). The 8GB allocation is twice that of the Moto E and Lumia 530, but fact is the 3GB available is nowhere near enough for your apps, music, photos, videos and documents. It's fortunate that there is a microSD slot for expansion up to 32GB, but be sure to factor in the cost of removable memory. Alternatively, you can make use of the cloud and storage apps such as Google Drive for your documents, Google Play Music for your audio, plus third-party services such as Dropbox.

Connectivity-wise the ALDI phone shows its budget roots. There is no support for 4G cellular networks, NFC, or the latest Wi-Fi. (If you want a cheap 4G phone look instead to the EE Kestrel.) You'll get Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and GPS, and not much else. One thing we particularly like, though, is the dual-SIM functionality, so on this front it once again bests its closest rivals. Check out the best dual-SIM phones.

ALDI smartphone: Cameras

The Medion Life P4502 is fitted with 5Mp rear and 2Mp front-facing cameras. This is quite adequate for a budget phone, and we were impressed by the ALDI phone's ability to pinch to zoom and capture HDR shots, plus its face detection, smile detection and face beauty modes. The face beauty mode is also available using the front camera.

ALDI smartphone: Software

The ALDI smartphone comes preinstalled with Android 4.4.2 KitKat. It's a recent version of the OS, which is good for a budget phone, but we'd be surprised to see the Medion Life P4502 get an upgrade to Lollipop.

It's a standard implementation of KitKat, but with some additional apps. An ALDI app gives you a quick overview of the current SpecialBuys, a mobile shopping list and a store finder; there's also a Media Pack that contains PhotoDirector, ImageChef, YouCam Snap and YouCam Perfect; Softmaker Office apps that are the equivalent to Word, Excel and PowerPoint; McAfee Security; Medion Outdoor Navigation (only a 14-day trial); plus some likely sponsored apps such as HRS Hotels, News Republic and Sports Republic. eBay and Skype are also present, while access to the full Google Play store means you can easily add whatever else you like.

ALDI smartphone: Battery life

We haven't yet had a chance to thoroughly test the ALDI phone's battery. It's a 1700mAh lithium-ion cell, which ALDI claims will last only up to 4 hours of talk time. It's unlikely that you'll be talking on the phone this long every day, of course, and with some reasonably low-power hardware and graphics and a qHD display the ALDI phone shouldn't drain the juice too quickly. As with most Android phones, you should expect to charge this one every day, however.

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ALDI Medion Life P4502: Specs

  • 1.3GHz quad-core processor
  • qHD (960x450 pixels, 236ppi) IPS panel
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • MAL-400 graphics
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB storage (3GB available)
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • 5Mp rear and 2Mp front-facing cameras
  • 1700mAh lithium-ion battery
  • 133x68x10mm
  • 142g