There’s been a little flurry of Archos handsets recently with the dual-Sim Archos 45 Platinum most recently coming to my attention. As well as the Platinum series, Archos also has a Titanium series of smartphones, and an Oxygen moniker which so far only has one model available.
The 50 Oxygen is only single Sim while the Titanium and Platinum are dual-Sim, but nonetheless the Oxygen is the flagship handset. Archos gives away the screen size in the naming of its handsets – there’s a 5in display here. Its price of £300 puts this smartphone in competition with the likes of the Nexus 5, which starts at the same price for the 16GB version and has a 4.95in screen. It’s a tough competitor to pit yourself against – but the good news is that Archos comes out very well indeed.
First impressions are quite positive. The build is certainly robust – I couldn’t bend or flex this phone in my hands. The all-black front makes the Archos 50 Oxygen reminiscent of the Nexus 5’s plain design. The back is where you will find the Archos branding, along with a promising looking dual LED flash for the camera. The back is slightly curved which helps this relatively large phone sit nicely in the hand, and the finish on the rear is rubbery to help with grip. So far, so good.
However, two things bothered me about the build. First, the screen sits in a surround that protrudes from the main part of the chassis by about 1mm all the way around, and this lip is indented from the handset’s edges. It’s not a hugely annoying factor as far as using the phone is concerned, it just looks a bit jarring.
The lip also helps disguise the fact that the bezel is quite wide along the long edges. There’s also rather more space than seems necessary above and below the screen. Does this matter? Not hugely, to be honest. If you compare the dimensions of the Archos 50 Oxygen with those of the Nexus 5 you get my point: 143 x 70.5 x 9.9mm for the former plays 137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59mm for the latter. Size is not likely to be a deciding factor if you find yourself torn between these two phones, but design might be.
And there’s that second thing that bothers me about the build of the Archos 50 Oxygen to consider – namely, that the back is not removable, so your microSIM fits under a flap on the top edge of the chassis. Most unusually, this comes completely away rather than being hinged. Of course I dropped it on the floor the first time I removed it, and it wasn’t easy to find under my desk. The sliver of good news is that it’s magnetic so you can hover the handset close to where it dropped and hope it gets picked up.
One thing I do like about the design of the Archos 50 Oxygen is the under-screen touch buttons. They’ve been given a distinctive dot pattern design rather than the usual boring look. You’ll have to remember which button does what, of course, but that’s really not going to be a hardship, and it’s nice to see something a little different here.
That 5in screen is a 1,920 x 1,080 IPS panel and it is sharp and bright. The screen is very reflective, though, and if you are interested in a direct comparison between it and the Nexus 5, I found when using the two side-by-side that the latter was a bit less reflective.
There’s 16GB of storage built in to the Archos 50 Oxygen, and of that there’s just 8.9GB available for your use. That’s rather less than you might expect, and it is worth noting that there’s no microSD card slot for expansion. Still, it’s enough for a few higher end games, and the MediaTek quad-core 1.5GHz processor is a powerful beast. I found the handset speedy under my fingers and perfectly able to cope with the tasks I asked it to perform.
There’s no skinning on the Archos 50 Oxygen, and while the default wallpaper is rather vile there are plenty of others on board which are more toned down – and of course you are free to use your own photos. Android 4.2 has been left pretty much vanilla, and so Archos has been left to make its mark with its own apps.
There’s not a lot bulking out Android here. There is an FM radio and a file manager, but the biggest selling point is a range of apps designed to help you make the most of video and music called, would you believe it: Archos Video and Archos Music.
There’s a broad range of audio and video codecs supported including the lossless OGG Vorbis. Streaming is supported and I streamed music and video from my own home computer with ease. It is perhaps a little confusing that you also have the standard Google music and video playing apps on board, but that’s not going to be a major concern for most.
It’s great to see a front camera that can take a serious photo, and here you get a 5-megapixel camera that, rather unusually, makes photos that include yourself worth the bother of sharing. The main camera shoots stills to 13-megapixels and again the quality is good enough for sharing. That dual LED flash is nice to see, although it still doesn’t mean the camera does wonders in darker lighting conditions. I did find some shutter lag and that was a bit annoying when trying to take shots of moving objects, so take care on that front.
The 2,300mAh battery performed surprisingly when it came to keeping the Archos 50 Oxygen going for a day of my average usage pattern, which usually involves plenty of mobile email and web browsing as well as a bit of gaming and music playing.
If you are still weighing up the pros and cons of the Archos 50 Oxygen against the Google Nexus 5, then here are a few considerations to throw into the mix. The Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4 while the Archos 50 Oxygen runs version 4.2. The Nexus 5 has NFC and 4G while the Archos phone has neither. The Archos 50 Oxygen has somewhat better cameras front and back, and a somewhat less capable processor on paper, though the CPU is probably good enough for most people. The Archos 50 Oxygen has an FM radio where the Nexus does not. Their batteries are matched for capacity.
If you are currently weighing up whether to buy a Nexus 5 or not, the Archos 50 Oxygen gives you another handset to consider. In the end, this flagship Archos model might not do as well in the marketplace not because it is less capable than the Nexus 5, but because it’s less well known. Make no mistake, though, this is one impressive mid-range handset which is well worth considering.
Manufacturer and Model
Archos 50 Oxygen
1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek 6589T
5in, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
70.5 x 9.9 x 143mm (WxDxH)