- Vanilla crapware-free Android
- Uninspired design
We review the Archos 50 Helium 4G smartphone, a 5-inch LTE mobile rocking an 8-megapixel camera and HD screen – but can it do enough to stand out from the mid-range crowd?
French company Archos is still striving to make a name for itself in the mobile market, and the Archos 50 Helium 4G probably won’t help much. From its lacklustre design to its disappointing display, it’s hard to recommend this smartphone over other competent mid-range mobiles.
Archos 50 Helium 4G design: Blackberry-esque
While the likes of Huawei and Nokia try to inject some fun and vibrancy into their mid-range mobiles, Archos has stuck with a plain black design for the 50 Helium 4G instead.
This phone actually reminded us of the BlackBerry Z10, with its rubbery grey band beneath the screen and overall austere appearance. Thankfully Archos’ mobile is put together more solidly, with a soft-touch back that snaps cleanly into place. It only flexes under serious pressure, and the weight is comfortable to wield.
If you don’t like big phones, however, we’d say try something else. Not only is the Helium a mighty five-incher, the wide bezels make it just as huge as the 5.2-inch Sony Xperia Z2. You’ll really feel it sat there in your pocket.
Archos 50 Helium 4G user experience: Full of Beans
Forget about full Android KitKat for now, as the Archos 50 Helium 4G runs ye olde Android Jelly Bean 4.3. Thankfully Archos decided not to mess with the OS, leaving a pretty vanilla Android experience, similar to Google’s Nexus smartphones.
Archos hasn’t packed the phone’s limited storage with crapware either, restricting itself to just a couple of apps. Archos Video and Archos Music do pretty much what you’d expect, acting as portals to all of your media, and they’re perfectly functional with a decent range of features. We’re glad there’s no excess rubbish packed in, as the phone only came with 4GB of space for apps and media (despite being advertised as an 8GB model), but you can thankfully expand via the microSD memory card slot, so it’s no big deal.
You won’t find NFC support, but the Helium does come with LTE support, so you can enjoy 4G web browsing here in the UK – not a massive shock given the name of the phone.
Archos 50 Helium 4G screen: Media magic?
Archos’ legacy lies in portable media devices, so you’d naturally expect the 50 Helium 4G to come packing a gorgeous screen, right? Sadly, the phone’s 5-inch display lacks any real punch, and is merely adequate.
The IPS display comes with a 1280×720 pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 294ppi. That’s not bad for a mid-range mobile, although HD movies look better on the similarly-priced Nexus 5, and the cheaper Motorola Moto G. Even Android’s desktops look crisper and cleaner on the Nexus phone, while the Archos suffers from murky whites even on top brightness.
That said, the Helium’s screen produces bold colours, and it’s bright enough to read in harsh sunlight, plus sharp enough to comfortably browse the web and edit documents. It’s just a shame that a company so devoted to media has had to compromise so heavily when it comes to visuals.
Archos 50 Helium 4G performance: Smooth sailing
The Helium’s 1.2GHz quad-core processor is exactly what you’d expect of a mid-range handset, and ably handles not just Android but also any apps you throw at it. We stormed through intensive action and racing games with no issues, and apps in general loaded quickly and cleanly.
Use the Archos sparingly and you’ll easily get a day of battery life out of it, but that quickly drops when you start playing games or streaming media. We enjoyed just over four hours of video from a full charge, a poorer result than we expected. Similar phones usually enjoy at least five hours of movie playback before dying.
Archos 50 Helium 4G camera: Stop…shutter time
An 8-megapixel camera with LED flash sits jutting from the rear of the Helium, and it’s a perfectly functional snapper. There’s full auto-focus as you’d expect, although there is a brief delay between tapping the on-screen shutter button and your photo being captured, while the lens hones in on your subject.
The Archos 50 Helium 4G’s camera app is easy to use, rather than packed with features, although the settings menu is laid out in a strange manner, making it hard to find some of the manual controls.
Some of our photos looked quite dark when viewed back, both indoor and outdoor shots, but using the HDR mode or manually fiddling with the settings helps to clean things up a bit. Lighting problems aside, our photos looked sharp with realistic colours, definitely more than good enough to share online or keep as mementos.
Archos 50 Helium 4G verdict
The Archos 50 Helium 4G is by no means a bad phone. We found it could handle the basics just fine, and even processor-pounding games didn’t give it too much grief. However, the design is dull compared to rivals such as Nokia’s Lumia range, the screen is a disappointment coming from a media monster such as Archos, and there are no exciting features to speak of beyond the 4G support.