Hands on: Archos 55 Platinum

Yes, it's a $115 smartphone, but that's no excuse for tragic battery life and wheezy game performance

Weak tea is the worst. The component aspects are often right: A nice mug, hot water, your preference of tea-filled bag, and perhaps even an environment conducive to relaxation. But if the tea isn’t steeped just right, the end result is disappointing, and the cup of tea is less than the sum of its parts.

That’s the problem with the Archos 55 Platinum, a phone that on the basis of the specs and the astonishingly attractive price, should be better than it really is. We tried it out for a few days, to see if modern smartphone addicts can be satisfied with a phone that costs five times less than the top-of-the-line, most desirable models out there.

The Archos 55 Platinum costs about £80 in the U.K., or about $115. For that measly amount, you get a 5.5-inch screen, a quad-core processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a MicroSD card slot, and a relatively slim and light device. It’s rather good-looking, too, with a soft touch rear cover — in a fetching blue on our test device — with some metal inserts running down the sides. The volume control rocker is contoured, the speaker cutout is small and inconspicuous, and the sleep/wake key falls easily to hand.

The 55 Platinum certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap piece of hardware. It’s comfortable to hold and light enough to slip into a pocket, but it really is a fingerprint magnet on the front and the back.

First impressions are good, but the 55 Platinum begins to disappoint the more you use it. The large 5.5-inch screen has equally large bezels, and some irritatingly unresponsive soft keys below, which stay unlit until you stab away trying to locate them. They’re lower down on the front of the phone than on many other devices, so they’re easy to miss. The screen resolution is 1,280 x 720 pixels, so icons look blurred and streaming video is disappointing. Still, at this price, one shouldn’t expect a Full HD screen.

Not a gaming phone

However, the screen, while not fabulous, is one of the 55 Platinum’s better features. It’s the device’s overall performance that drags it down. The processor isn’t a Qualcomm chip, or even a MediaTek processor, but one made by Spreadtrum, and we don’t encounter those chips very often for a reason. It runs at 1.3GHz and is paired to 1GB of RAM. That’s low, and it really, really shows.

The good news is Android is almost untouched by Archos, with little to no pre-installed apps.

We often use Crossy Road, Danmaku Unlimited, and Riptide GP 2 as test apps to judge performance. Only when we turned the graphics settings down to the minimum did the games actually work at all. Even with the graphics at mid-level on Riptide GP 2, the game stuttered, paused, and proved impossible to play.

An older version of Android 5.1 Lollipop is installed on the phone, so it’s already out of date, and it took a while to open apps, share pictures, and do general phone-related tasks. That’s going to get worse as apps get more advanced, and without software updates, it runs the risk of being open to security flaws.

If all you plan to do is check Twitter, use Gmail, and a few very ordinary games — Hill Climb Racing was fine, for example — the 55 Platinum just about does the job, but you’ll need to be patient. Ask it to do anything more taxing, and you’ll quickly become frustrated. The good news is Android is almost untouched by Archos, with little to no pre-installed apps. There’s even an option to refuse them when you setup the phone, and there’s no noticeable skin over the top of Lollipop.

The camera does go some way to redeeming the 55 Platinum. No, it’s not challenging the LG G5 or Galaxy S7, but it does capture some decent shots, with plenty of color and detail inside. It’s not keen on overcast days, though, and quickly washes out the sky. The phone uses the standard Google Android camera app, which comes with an HDR mode and the chance to change the exposure manually. For a cheap smartphone, it took pictures that one would be happy to show around, but they were hardly great quality.

Terrible battery life

When quick-testing smartphones, we rarely need more than a single battery charge in the first couple of days. The Archos 55 Platinum needed two or three, if we include the first charge when it arrived. That’s awful. On a full day of use, with gaming, photos, benchmarks, and some GPS use, we got ten hours from the battery. Remember, this isn’t an octa-core monster phone with a Quad HD screen, so the battery life really shouldn’t be that poor.

It’s a good thing the phone has a removable battery, because you’re going to need to carry around a dozen or so extras. The only thing worse was the recharging speed, which took more than three hours to complete. That’s truly terrible for a 2,400mAh cell. It’s so below our expectations for a device like this, we question whether there was an issue with our test phone, because the software is almost free of bloat or apps that may drain the power unnecessarily.

The battery woes are a problem for the Archos 55 Platinum, because outside of this, it really did work as we’d expect a phone that costs $115 to work: with some slowdown and poor screen quality, but useable. It’s a shame it doesn’t connect to 4G networks, either. It can only manage HSDPA 3G speeds from its dual-SIM configuration.

However, no one will be buying the 55 Platinum because it’s their dream phone, but rather because they’ve only got $115 to spend. In that respect, it’s decent value, but the battery life is shocking for a fairly basic phone. You need be aware of what you’re getting with the Archos 55 Platinum, and don’t expect any phone with Android 5.1 installed now to still be acceptable in a year’s time.

We’d recommend budget hunters save up a bit more for the Moto G instead, which costs £128 or $180 on Amazon, or the Huawei Honor 5X, which will run you £190 or $200.

Highs:

  • Simple, attractive design
  • Good build quality
  • Removable battery
  • Decent camera

Lows:

  • Tragic battery life
  • Poor game performance
  • Old version of Android
  • No 4G connectivity
Smart Home

Picture this: The Aura packs thousands of photos in a single frame (for a price)

Are you one of those people who miss the good old days of flipping through photo albums to see each and every favorite photo? If so, you might love the Aura digital photo frame. We tested the device and came away impressed.
Product Review

Fewer pixels, better camera? The Nikon Z6 shows the beauty of restraint

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Mobile

Sharp doubles down on the notch trend with Aquos R2 Compact

As if one notch wasn't enough, Japanese manufacturer Sharp unveiled a new smartphone that has two -- one teardrop style notch at the top, and a bigger notch at the bottom. Here's what the world's first dual-notch smartphone looks like.
Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Mobile

Leak shows a third, budget Google Pixel 3 with a Snapdragon 670, headphone jack

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 device that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.
Mobile

Use multiple phone numbers on one device with Verizon’s ‘My Numbers’ app

For those who have separate phone numbers and devices for your work and personal lives, Verizon wants to help you get more organized. With its new "My Numbers" app, you can use up to four additional phone numbers on a single smartphone.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Mobile

Instagram tool accidentally exposes user passwords. Were you affected?

Instagram's Download Your Data tool accidentally exposed the passwords of a small number of users. Here is the explanation on what happened, and how to find out which Instagram accounts were compromised.
Mobile

New iPad Pro’s durability in question after it fails YouTuber’s bend test

The new iPad Pro models failed a bend test that was carried out by popular YouTuber JerryRigEverything. The result raises questions about the durability of the tablets, especially since customers are also reporting bending issues.
Mobile

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Deals

All the best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…