Recently I have been having a blast with mid-range phones. Right now this is the most interesting and satisfying area of mobile phone technology. As we have discussed at length on our Podcast mid-range phones are where all the action is, best value for money and most innovation. Lately, we have looked at efforts from Honor, Vodafone and Huawei. Each of which has been superb and highly recommended. Crazily, I’ll have to extend this status to the Archos Diamond Alpha, by far and away the best phone they have ever released.
Archos makes no secret that they didn’t build this. The phone is actually a rebranded Nubia which is a sub-brand of ZTE. If you think of Huawei and their sub-brand Honor this is a similar set up to ZTE. Seems quite bizarre that Nubia would use a partnership with Archos to enter the UK market, however, it is not a partnership I am going to question in any way as it’s given Archos a wonderful phone to add into their catalogue.
Certainly, the phone is not without its faults however they are easily overlooked when you actually pick the phone up and feel the quality of the build. Looking around the phone on the top we have a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a microphone hole.
To the right are a volume rocker and a power switch.
On the bottom are two speaker grills, the right of which contains a mono speaker, and the USB type-c connection. The mono speaker at the bottom is notable as it is quite loud and contains a decent fullness to its sound, ordinarily I would gloss over the speaker, however, this one deserves a little bit of attention as it’s slightly better than normal.
To the left is a little SIM card tray which contains a dual SIM setup or a micro SD card slot plus a single SIM setup.
Around the back are the dual 13-megapixel autofocus cameras with an LED flash. These cameras have a 1.25-micrometre pixel size, geo-tagging, touch Focus, face detection, HDR service and panoramic function. It can also capture video in 4K at 30 frames per second. Under here we have an obligatory fingerprint sensor.
On the front is a 5.2 inch IPS LCD touchscreen with a 424 PPI pixel density. The resolution of the screen is 1080 x 1920 and it looks pretty gorgeous. Above this is an ear speaker alongside a 16-megapixel selfie camera with an f stop of 2.2.
Underneath are 3 capacitive buttons, in the centre is a red ring that glows when you have a notification and also acts as a home button. Either side of this is two configurable red dots that act back and menu buttons.
The whole thing has a severe iPhone 7 feel to it, looking at the pictures I’m sure you’ll agree that the layout is very similar and easily inspired by Apple’s offering. The rear is a form of plastic, however, is very high quality, possibly a little too smooth but altogether pleasing to the touch.
Inside the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor, backed by an Adreno 510 GPU and 4 gigabytes of RAM. This phone is no slouch, the 652 is roughly equivalent to the Snapdragon 820 from a couple of years back with better power management. And whilst this phone will hardly make a dent in the benchmark race the average user is going to suffer no slowdown whatsoever. It handles day-to-day tasks with ease and comfort. There also 64gb of storage and with the expandable storage reaching 256gb, you won’t be running out of space very quickly.
On the software side, things are a little disappointing as the phone is running Android 6.0 marshmallow. This is a little bit off set by the fact that Nubia has added a full launcher to the experience and it’s actually quite good. It is fairly heavy, removing the app drawer and replacing the notification shade, settings menu and adding a lot of features and tools. However much like Honor, a lot of effort has gone into it with various additions being somewhat useful for example Edge gestures, dual instances of various applications like Twitter, screen projection and a decently featured screenshot tool.
I did, however, find problem with notifications in that I haven’t received any for a while and I haven’t quite worked out why. The lock screen is quite difficult to have things interact with, for example, Spotify widgets do not appear on the lock screen by default and need to be added. My issue with notifications is that they don’t appear anywhere and I have to manually check in various social networks and email clients to see if there is actually any new content. There must be some setting in either of the original base version of Android or perhaps the Nubia launcher that I am missing however initial checks seem to confirm that notifications and widgets should be appearing on both the lock screen and the notification shade. As this device runs Android 6.0 there are some features of Android that are not available to the user, for example, Android pay.
The camera application is fully featured with lots of interesting additions to enhance the experience. There are various filters and modes to enjoy the likes of slow shutter photography like star tracking, slow motion and time lapse. There are a few more difficult to use features such as 3D photography and zoom Blur.
When it comes to the camera it has to be said that the quality of the pictures is a little cold. Colours are not as vivid as I would have appreciated from the standard automatic settings. Also, the faster action tends to be somewhat pixelated and sometimes misses the crucial action. For all the metering that goes on when trying to get a fast action shot you come away with a blurry, colder image. That’s not to say that the camera is useless, far from it, the Alpha easily delivers a medium quality output, however, it could do with a little more adjustment to bring those colours out. There is a little Sony in the mix for the camera, however, I don’t feel that it has been fully realised and certainly doesn’t show in the final shots.
My time with the Diamond Alpha has been an incredibly pleasant one and I will be saddened to have to give it back to Archos. I have a flagship phone waiting to be reviewed, however, I’m not willing to put this down at the moment to switch my focus to the other phone right at the moment.
There is an awful lot of liking this phone the build quality is superb, however, Marshmallow and the camera bring it down a peg. With work on these two features and you will have something that can easily rival the excellence of the Honor 8. Right now this is a marvellous phone that will appeal to some. I would love to see this device succeed and put Archos solidly back on the map.
For more information and purchasing options head to the Archos website.