BQ Aquaris M5 full review

The BQ Aquaris M5 is a budget smartphone which offers premium features at no extra cost. The Aquaris M5 offers a pleasant stock Android experience, plus fantastic sound quality and an impressive camera. Read next: Best budget smartphones 2016.

BQ Aquaris M5 review: UK price and availability - Where to buy the BQ Aquaris M5, best BQ Aquaris M5 deals

The BQ Aquaris M5 comes in three variants. You’ll find it with 16GB internal storage and 2GB RAM for £209.90, or with a 16GB or 32GB of storage with 3GB RAM for £229.90 and £239.90 respectively. The phones can be purchased from various resellers in the UK, including BQ’s very own site and the likes of Amazon UK, which also stocks the phone. We received the 32GB version with 3GB RAM.

The phone is not currently available on contract, but does come with an impressive five-year warranty. This can be upgraded through BQ Plus for £23.90 a year to cover screen damage, moisture damage, impact, falls and even theft. Read next: Best SIM-only deals 2016.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Phone Design

The Aquaris M5 faces stiff competition from various phone manufacturers across the world that also offer similarly priced and specced phones. Smartphones such as the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua can now be found for £148.99, the Honor 5X for around £169.99, the Samsung Galaxy A5 for £210 and the Honor 6 at £249.99.

There are two other models in the line-up. The BQ Aquaris M5.5 has a bigger 5.5in screen, but also features a higher-capacity battery and a different rear camera (Samsung S5K3M2 as opposed to the M5’s Sony IMX214). As for the Aquaris M4.5, it’s an entirely different phone that’s aimed at the lower-end of the market. Read next: Cheapest 4G smartphones of 2016.

BQ Aquaris M5 review: Design and build quality

The Aquaris M5 comes with a 5in full-HD (1920x1080) display that has an impressive 440ppi, which means for sharpness it rivals the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 (431ppi) and even the iPhone 6 Plus (401ppi); text is clear and images are well refined. Also see: Best MiFi 2016.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Text Image

The phone’s overall brightness levels are impressive, and in sunny conditions it is able to produce a bright image that isn't washed out or hard to see. However, if you’re looking for a dim screen in lowlight conditions, you might need to install a third-party app such as Lux Auto Brightness.

With an IPS display, colours are accurate. With the help of Quantum Color + technology the screen achieves an impressive 90% NTSC colour gamut, which allows the phone to produce a wider array of colours than traditional IPS screens.

In real-world applications, we found the screen vivid and able to produce vibrant colours, without being over saturated. When viewing photos, movies and even playing games we were happy with the overall screen reproduction and contrast ratio, which made images pop. However, we found the BQ Aquaris M5 has a slightly reddish screen.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Viewing Angle

The phone’s viewing angles are impressive, and we didn’t have any problems viewing it at even the most extreme angles.

The screen is protected by Asahi Dragontrail Glass, which is scratch-resistant; however, it's not fingerprint-resistant. We found ourselves regularly cleaning the Aquaris M5 of fingerprints after short periods of usage.

The screen itself is flat and covers a good portion of the phone; we think the top bezel could be reduced to bring down the overall size of the phone.

We found this 8.4mm-thick phone slightly chunky in our hands and the accentuated sides could have been rounded off, to make it feel more comfortable in-hand. In comparison to the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and the Honor 5X, the Aquaris M5 felt less premium as it is entirely made out of plastic. It should also be noted that the phone isn’t waterproof.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Build Quality

On the plus side, at the back of the phone there is solar UV protection and anti-fingerprint coating, which prevents the phone attracting fingerprints and from heating up in sunny conditions. There is also a dual-LED flash alongside a 13Mp main camera, which sits flush to the case. The rear panel is non-removable, leaving the battery inaccessible.

A micro SD card slot on the right edge accepts up to 64GB of additional storage. Under this is a volume rocker and power button, which are located slightly lower than on most smartphones. This design element aids one-handed operation, especially for those with small hands.

On the left hand-side, BQ has added two 4G micro-SIM slots, which operate in dual-standby mode. At the top of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and at the bottom a micro USB slot and a single downward-firing right-sided speaker. Also see our dual-SIM buying advice.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Front Camera

Around the front is a 5Mp camera, which also has an LED flash that is useful for taking selfies in low-light conditions. There is also a speaker grille for calls, and capacitive buttons (back, home and the multi-task button). 

BQ Aquaris M5 review: Core hardware and performance - How fast is the BQ Aquaris M5?

The Aquaris M5 is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 Octa Core A53 64-bit processor (quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 and quad-core 1.0GHz Cortex-A53). Powering its graphics is the Qualcomm Adreno 405, which is clocked up to 550MHz. The BQ uses the same processor as many of its competitors, such as the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.

We found overall performance fluid, with no noticeable stutters or visual problems, even with light-gaming and fast-paced videos. The only noticeable lag came when we took multiple photos at a time. The M5 wasn’t able to quickly process the image before moving onto the next one. This is the sort of thing that could potentially be fixed with a software update.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Multi-Tasking

In our benchmarks the Aquaris M5 beat the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and Samsung Galaxy A5 in Geekbench 3, and outperformed the Samsung in GFXbench. Performance is about right for a mid-range phone. Read next: What's the fastest phone.

Browser performance is also good; we tested in Chrome using Jetstream.

The BQ Aquaris M5 has two storage options, with 16GB or 32GB, which have 11.8GB and 27.8GB of usable storage out of the box. If you require more storage, you’ll be able to add a microSD card, which can offer you an additional 64GB. At this price point, we feel the option to expand the storage is a great addition to the BQ’s features. Read next: How to get more storage in Android.

Battery life through its 3120mAh battery is adequate, and we didn’t run into any problems using the phone for a full day with medium usage. But, in Geekbench 3 the phone lasted 6:02hrs. In comparison, the Honor 5X lasted 5:12hrs. The BQ is slow to charge, able to accept only 1A, and has no support for Quick Charge or wireless charging. Read next: Best power banks 2016 UK.

BQ Aquaris M5 review - Battery Life