Although not a household name, Archos has a long history in producing budget-orientated Android devices, but has yet to have a real breakthrough phone. The 50b Platinum is the latest device to come from them and from the outset it’s a positive experience. The predominantly plastic design feels robust and there’s a range of colourful accompanying backplates that can be interchanged at the user’s discretion. It’s not too heavy either, considering the 5” display, but the slight curved edges of the device make it uncomfortable to hold in one hand.
Removing the backplate shows some of the 50b Platinum’s defining features. First and foremost, the 1900mAh battery is removable, and there’s also room for dual-SIM cards and expandable memory through a microSD card slot. Many of these features are left out of pricier devices, so it’s a nice surprise that Archos made it happen here.
The problems with the 50b Platinum start when you first turn on the device. In general use, the device suffers from some noticeable lag. It’s important to note that it isn’t apparent in all areas, but multitasking puts the MediaTek processor under severe strain. The 512MB of RAM is considerably low for a device of this size, especially when Android 4.4 is a pretty intensive OS update. The lag continues into the eight-megapixel camera, where although quality is generally good, it’s a slow process to not only shoot photos, but also edit them. When you do manage to get your photos into the editing suite, there’s a wealth of options on offer, however.
This isn’t a device with a superb display either. Where before we could forgive budget devices for pixilation and dodgy ppi – the Archos 50b Platinum sports a 260ppi display – nowadays when the £130 Moto G produce phenomenal screens, there are really no excuses. One area that we’re always highly critical of is where manufacturers insist on putting their own custom skin on to their device. Archo’s offering isn’t the worst we’ve seen, but it’s a fairly clunky affair that includes several bloatware apps that you’ll never want to use. The bloatware can be removed if you so wish, and we’d recommend it, as the 4GB of internal storage will soon be eaten up otherwise.
Unfortunately for Archos, times where we could forgive major cutbacks in budget devices has faded away. Motorola and HTC are constantly striving to bring high-end specs to those on a strict budget, and the 50b Platinum just feels a little too late to the party to compete with the big boys. We implore them for bringing dual-SIM capabilities and a removable battery to a sub £200 device, but it’s pointless having them when both the processing power and display just aren’t up to scratch.
For the latest phone reviews, make sure to check out the new issue of Android Magazine.