Tuesday, 28 October 2014

SYNAPSE CIRCUIT ARCHOS HELIUM 50

Above: The elegant looking Archos Helium 50 4G 5 inch handset.
SYNAPSE CIRCUIT
REVIEWS:

ARCHOS...
...
HELIUM 50 4G
PRICE: £229.99

Goodhour, Synapse Circuit Readers! As always, it’s great to see you again! I hope that all is well in your world and that your tech is working as it should! Nothing worse than malfunctioning tech! Bah!

You know Archos, right? I know Archos from way, way back on the QVC channel with its famous media players. Those were the days... Then the iPod came along and captured the imagination of the populous! And seemingly out of nowhere came the wonder that is the Android operating system... Other companies have fallen in the quest to keep up with the virulent Android strain of multiple devices but Archos is still standing...

Let’s see how Archos is doing right now!

#Archos #Android #Helium504G #Smartphone #4G

CATCHING UP

Archos has embraced Android when it – along with the iPod – changed the media player market forever! The media player has been replaced by handsets, tablets and, dare I say it, media players from the likes of Samsung whereby they’ve removed the phone component from one of the Galaxy models and transformed the handset concept to the Galaxy Media Player. Yes, it makes sense to have a separate media player in addition to a handset as it prevent battery drainage on the phone! However, I have always said that yesteryear’s handset can easily become a media player with phone capabilities! Use for an old handset no.1!

Anyway, the French company has gone from strength to strength and have brought some great tablets and lately handsets to the mobile device mobile marketplace. Kudos!

DESIGN: FORM & FUNCTION
It’s just a little taller than the second generation Motorola Moto G! There’s a little chin at the bottom to bear the Archos brand. The look and feel is very much like an enlarged version of the Samsung Galaxy S2. The battery cover bears a similar feel to the back of the HTC Desire – remember that handset? The removable cover can only be described as having a matt finish and feels a little velvety to the touch. As a result the design comes across as elegant if a little dated by today’s Android handset standard. It’s not a big deal as the Helium 50 4G feels very premium in the hand. When the quality of the materials is compared to the second generation Moto G one can see how Motorola is able to deliver such a cost effective handset.

The Helium 50 4G has a bit of heft to it as it is slightly heavier than the aforementioned second generation Moto G but not by much. Me? I personally favour handsets with a heavier and thicker build as it means better handling and a high capacity battery. Speaking of the battery, the 2000 mAh battery is removable!

When the battery cover is removed it reveals spaces for the micro SIM and SD card up to 64GB!

To cap off this section I would sum it up, thus so far, in the following manner: Slightly retro design, thick bezels by the latest Android handset trends, premium in that the materials are of good quality and as a whole the Helium 50 4G feels sturdy.

HARDWARE: POWER RATINGS
The display is a 5” IPS with a 1280 x 720 resolution; it’s pretty sharp with a good amount of detail and colour representation. It’s a bit of a shame that the bezels don’t show it off. But it’s not a disaster!

For a handset of this substance it is a little disappointing that the storage capacity is 8GB; still, that stated, I managed to install what I consider to be the base apps: WhatsApp, LINE, Facebook with space for a bit more. Again, as mentioned earlier, there is a slot for a microSD card up to 64GB! However, it would be significant if apps could run from the microSD and I wish that Google would change that in Android. Think about it: if Google are looking beyond handsets and tablets like CEO Larry Page states then why not make the vital changes to Android to let apps run from the microSD card? Now that’s something to think about... Hmmmm...

The Qualcomm MSM 8926 quad-core 1.2Ghz CPU and Adreno 305 GPU pushes things along nicely! Thus making the Helium 50 quite nippy! I played a few of the games preinstalled on it and there was no lag.

To sum this section up: Strong hardware let down slightly by the 8GB internal storage. The 1.2 quad-core CPU is fast but the Moto G 2014 handset is faster with a similar 1.2 quad-core CPU, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB RAM. I will do the camera separately in its own category, Camera. The battery duration was good for a day of moderate use.

SOFTWARE:
ANDROID & DEFAULT APPS

Thankfully, there is no Archos user interface over Android 4.3. Yes, it’s Jelly Bean and not KitKat. To be very honest with you I haven’t really noticed a huge difference in functionality. Here’s what I have observed:-

1. The virtual navigation buttons does not allow for app management; in other words there’s no way of swiping away apps running in the background. But that can be solved with an app management app.

2. The wallpaper screen does not bleed into the notification / battery / network and Wi-Fi area. It spoils the aesthetic if you have been spoiled with other handsets. Jelly Bean just does not support a transparent notification bar. I tried to see if a few launchers would change that to no avail.

3. No voice activated, “OK Google”, Google Now. Again, Jelly Bean does not support that functionality which isn’t a big deal. It’s so funny when ambient TV voices can sometimes set Google Now off!

There was no KitKat update for the Helium 50 unfortunately. It could come... Perhaps version 5, Lollipop is a possibility. I won’t hold my breath. And it could be that be this review model does not support an update. However, the hardware is very similar to the second generation Moto G and that is handset is getting Lollipop!

There are the usual default Google default apps preinstalled: Gmail, Chrome, Drive, Google Search, Hangouts, Maps, Play Games, Play Movies & TV, Play Newstand and Play Music, etc. In addition there are Archos specific apps: Music, Video players and File Manager. Plus there are some games from Gameloft: Little Big City, Total Conquest, Wonder Zoo and World at Arms. The games are very similar in look, feel and play. They ran without lag.

Summary: No user interface (UI), pure Android but it is Jelly Bean and not KitKat. The overall effect is that the interaction is pleasingly rapid but slightly slower than the second Generation Moto G. I can live with that.

CAMERA: PICTURES & VIDEOS
The 8MP camera is, once again, compared to the second generation Moto G, is very similar; the video recording is the same 720p. I think this is where the comparison ends as I found the pictures on the Helium 50 to be of a lesser quality than the 2nd generation Moto G. The results are acceptable – they aren’t bad. But like all cameras it’s a few factors that make for a good picture: lens, pixel count, sensor and software. In good lighting the results are very pleasing. The way the camera works is very much bog standard Google Camera. There’s HDR and a good amount of settings to ensure a good picture is taken from the main or the front.

The Helium 50 camera works so very differently to the Moto G (second generation) which is fully automatic: launch the Moto G camera and point with rapid auto focus, tap the screen and the photo is taken! But the Helium 50 has the traditional camera on it that allows more of a manual control. In contrast once you get used to the Moto G way of taking pictures it’s a little hard to go back. That said, you should be satisfied with the Helium 50 camera. The 8MP will ensure that your best pictures can be printed out if you so wished and it is perfect for the purpose of providing your social networks with high quality pictures and videos. The video aspect is very good. When I get the chance I will post up the pictures and videos.

USAGE: DAY TO DAY
I enjoyed the Helium 50 very much... You should know that I still use my Galaxy S2 everyday and, as I mentioned earlier, the Helium 50 could have been a Samsung design had they kept up with that particular design ethos: black and monolithic. As you know by now a 5 inch handset is no longer considered to be a big handset. Even though it is slightly taller than the second generation Moto G it still feels compact. It slides into my jean and jacket pockets and it feels comfortable.

Watching YouTube video was 90% pleasing because the speaker at the back is nice and clear. Even when placed flatly on its back the speaker resonates off the surface to make it sound oddly better! With the Helium 50 held in the air the speaker doesn’t have that richness of tone but it is still loud enough to be pleasing to the ear. I think that the thick bezels and chin is a bit of distraction; it’s not quite the cinematic viewing experience.

The thickness of the handset makes it so easy to hold when taking pictures; again to compare the thickness to the Moto G (2nd generation) it is about the same 11mm thickness. I do HATE these thin handsets that is a design feature on these premium handsets just for the fact that it makes taking pictures / video cumbersome where I protective case helps with providing sturdiness. And it reduces the battery capacity! I wonder if the big Android hitters i.e. Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, etc will be brave enough to make a 13mm handset to hold a larger battery and quite possibly a more advanced camera lens... Hmmm...

Calls on the Helium 50 are a pleasant experience as the earpiece is very clear.

Productivity is quite pleasing due to the nice 5” screen.

CONCLUSION
I think many folk will dismiss an Archos phone in favour of the bigger names and that will be a great shame. The Helium 50 4G is delightful handset and I would imagine that it would be appreciated by those who just want “good enough”. Here I am envisioning non-technical individuals that aren’t fussed about things such as screen-casting, NFC, and an array of camera functionality. There are many folk out there who would be more than happy with the picture and video quality as they are destined for social networks and those brilliant free messaging apps. For such users the Helium 50 4G will make a fine main – if not only driver!

A power user – someone that gets off on tech will find the Helium 50 4G to be a nice secondary, third or even a fourth handset! I don’t know about you but when my contracts are up I don’t sell the handset on or trade it in – unless I really have to! C’mon, I am NEVER going to trade in or sell my Samsung’s! I have friends on different networks and a small PAYG or SIM only contract allows me to take advantage of free network to network calls and so on; I’ll never get a good price for the premium handsets as a trade in. And, of course, I enjoy tinkering with rooting, installing custom ROMs , etc. I am waffling – as per usual! In short I do like the Helium 50 very much!

I am inclined to think that it is just a tad expensive but bear in mind that you do get 4G LTE speeds so when you’re not at home and not on Wi-Fi you can enjoy HD quality YouTube material! I think 4G LTE runs a lot faster than some cable broadband! Gosh! Anyway, the second generation Moto G is not 4G and the extra £80 buys you the 4G connectivity.

It’s a pity that the £80 couldn’t have stretched to also include latest version of Android which is KitKat at the time of writing with Lollipop imminent! That small detail could make the difference for the true Android fanatic who must have the latest version of the operating system! That said, you still get a nice 5” screen that makes the Helium 50 worthwhile. There’s the Huawei G6 that is 4G but the screen is 4.5” – if I am correct! That currently retails at £120! Oh, boy! You do get quite a decent handset for the price as the hardware pretty much identical: 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 305 GPU, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage! But get this... ...you get a 5MP front-facing camera as well as an 8MP main one! Ta da! But the question for the Android aficionado is: Will it be receiving the Lollipop upgrade? Do you prefer the 5” screen over the 4.5” one? Me? I can’t go back to 4.5” unless I absolutely need a handset in hurry i.e. my main driver is broken beyond repair or it’s too costly to repair and I need a phone to replace it! The answer would be the Helium 50 for the 4G and 5” screen aspect!

That’s the thing with Android: so, so many options and the Helium 50 4G should be up there with some of the best budget 5” 4G handsets!

SCORE
I give the Archos Helium 50 4G a respectable solid silver! It would have gotten gold if it was upgradable to KitKat. Or if it was a tad less than £229.99! Ideally, I would say £190 at the most. Because the Android market today is so competitive Archos has to pay close attention to its pricing! Other than that, it’s a very good effort from Archos!



There you go!

Things to think about!

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