Archos made its name with media devices and took to Android right from the off. If you visit the company’s website today you could be forgiven for thinking it has only ever worked with Android. A solid range of tablets has recently been augmented with a move into the world of smartphones. However, this is a really crowded market now, and Archos is very late to the party. The company has to offer something really good to stand a chance of competing.
Archos has two Android based smartphones in its range. The 53 Platinum has a 5.3in screen, and the 50 Platinum, which I am reviewing here, has a 5in display. At a price of £209 it’s pretty attractive at first glance – but does that remain the case when you dig deeper?
One of the really interesting things about the Archos 50 Platinum is that it accommodates two Sim cards. This is still quite a rarity, and often dual Sim handsets compromise something along the way, so it is nice to see some more choice in the dual Sim market. Both Sim slots are full size, but as is usually the case only one caters for 3G – the other is 2G. The slots are very clearly marked so you know which is which.
You get to pick which Sim you want to use when making calls – but they’re marked as Sim1 and Sim2, and you can’t change their names. Only in Settings can you see which network each Sim is on, which, as long as they’re not both on the same network, will help you differentiate between them. The Settings menu doesn’t tell you which one is 2G only – though you can work that out if you go deeper into the dual Sim settings area. It would have been nice to have a few more controls and a bit more detail here.
Archos has got the design of the 50 Platinum just about right. The phone doesn’t feel like a million dollars in the hand but the build is sturdy. Archos has not plastered its branding on the front of the handset and that means it has a really slick look – all black with just a trace of three softkey buttons underneath the screen (these light up when you tap them).
Side buttons and ports are sensibly placed. The headset slot is on the top along with the microUSB port. The power switch is on the upper right edge where it is easy to find by touch alone. The volume rocker is on the left edge. Both buttons are black. It’s a good move by Archos not to succumb to using a silvery finish for the buttons, as such finishes can look a bit cheap and nasty on handsets which are made from relatively inexpensive materials.
All four edges curve gently into backplate – which is where you will find the Archos branding. The camera lens sits on a raised area that looks a little distinctive and helps you avoid covering the lens with your fingers when you’re taking a photo. If I have a gripe here it’s the shiny black plastic of the backplate. I think this could be prone to scratching, and it is slippery to grip. A more matte surface would have been better, and particularly so given that this is quite a big phone.
The screen delivers 960 x 540 pixels putting it way below the leading edge, and its 220dpi is nothing much to write home about. The screen itself is sharp and bright enough though, and viewing angles are good. I rather enjoyed web browsing and streaming video, and would be happy to watch some catch-up TV and other media on the screen.
On the other hand, while it was generally responsive to taps and sweeps, the screen was a real pain as far as text input is concerned. I had a problem getting onto Wi-Fi because the handset simply refused to deal with long presses to get numbers for my login code. On a long press I’d get five or six repeats of a letter key rather than the number I wanted. Eventually I wimped out and used the separate number row instead. If that issue appears in all retail units it is going to be a big problem. Let’s hope Archos can fix it via a software update.
Importantly for Archos – the company is, after all, a media specialist – sound quality is good. It is always annoying when handset speakers are on the back of the chassis as is the case here, because sound gets muffled if the phone is sat on a table. But even given that, the volume goes quite high and doesn’t get seriously distorted.
The provided earphones are a nightmare, though. They are the flat type that don’t stay in my ears very well and they were difficult to plug in – they just felt like the plug was the wrong size or shape. The good news is that my own earphones, with a shorter plug, fitted much better. This is an issue that should never have been allowed to get to retail.
There are two cameras. On the front is a 2-megapixel affair, while the main camera shoots to 8-megapixels. Oddly enough, video shooting tops out at 720p. Quality is okay but not outstanding, and Archos has not invested greatly in the camera and video features.
With a quad-core processor supported by 1GB of RAM the Archos 50 Platinum felt speedy enough under my fingers – those keyboarding problems notwithstanding, but there is a big disappointment in that there is only 4GB of storage, with just 1.2GB of that available.
Android 4.1 has not been skinned, and Archos has just added a couple of apps of its own. Archos Music and Archos Video are rather nice players that include the ability to link to media servers and any shared folders on your network. There’s an FM radio too, but what’s here is pretty much vanilla Android.
Dual Sim phones can be great if you need to keep work and home use separate, or if you travel and want to bung a local SIM into your phone for a while and retain your main SIM too. If you only need the one SIM, it is easy to ignore the second slot.
Looking at all the other features I have to bear in mind that this handset gives you a good quality 5in screen for around £200 which is not to be sniffed at. The build is nice too. Archos may have serious keyboard issues, so watch out for a software update to fix those. Putting that to one side, this is definitely a phone to consider if money is tight and you want a big screen.
Manufacturer and Model
Archos 50 Platinum
SIM 1: 2G (GSM/GPRS/ EDGE 900/1800/1900 MHz)
SIM 2: 2G/3G (WCDMA 900/2100)
1.2GHz quad -ore
5in, 960 x 540
143.4 x 72.4 x 8.9mm