Review: HTC Desire 816

Big phones tend to come with the issue of needing to spend big money, but HTC’s latest entry seeks to prove that phablets don’t have to cost an arm or a leg.

Features

A new phone for a different market, the 816 sits in HTC’s “Desire” range, a once flagship brand that his been pushed to the side and now represents the mid-range and value end of the market.

For this Desire model, you’ll find some familiar specs from HTC’s Desire handsets, slightly upgraded for 2014, and with a reliance more on the newer smaller nanoSIM size we saw HTC jump to in the 2014 edition of the One (M8).

First is the screen, and for that HTC is relying on a 5.5 inch 720p touchscreen, showing 267 pixels per inch (ppi) with the soft buttons built into the screen thanks to HTC’s use of Android 4.4 “KitKat” which is also here. HTC’s BoomSound two front-facing speakers flank the screen at both the top and bottom.

Android will run on a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.6GHz and running alongside the Adreno 305 graphics chip, working alongside 1.5GB RAM, 8GB storage, with room to move for the 8GB storage provided you throw more into the microSD slot.

Connections are all pretty standard for a mid-range phone, because while you won’t see 802.11ac, you will find WiFi across 802.11b/g/n, DLNA, GPS, 4G LTE, and Bluetooth 4.0 with Apt-X, as well as microUSB for charging and data transfer.

Cameras are also present, with HTC moving away from its UltraPixel technology in this device and sticking with a 13 megapixel rear camera with flash, while the front camera is set to 5 megapixels and has been rebadged as a “selfie” camera. Both cameras can also record video, with 1080p Full HD capable out of both.

Few buttons can be found on the device, with merely a power button and volume rocker on the left edge.

It’s the same situation with ports, as only a 3;.5mm headset jack sits up top and a microUSB port at the very bottom.

The battery on the HTC Desire 816 is rated at 2600mAh.

Performance

Tablet sized phones or “phablets” are known to be a little on the expensive side, as big screens, big batteries, and big speedy pieces of technology often go hand in hand, raising the price considerably.

But what if you could build a smartphone that was big enough, and relied on a decent but not uber high-end set of specs to make something suitable more for the people out there keen to spend less and still feel like they’re getting more?

If you did that, you’d have the HTC Desire 816, an attempt to provide a big screen — a big decent screen at that — to the mid-section of the market with a mid-section price.

That price is just a hair under $400, and for that, you’ll find a relatively up to date set of specs, including a quad-core processor, 4G, 13 megapixel camera, and more, sitting under a big 5.5 inch screen.

Looking at the Desire 816, it’s pretty clear what HTC was channeling when it designed and build this handset.

We’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but with a glossy plastic casing, top left rear camera placement, and buttons on the side, it’s easy to think that HTC was thinking about Apple’s iPhone 5C when it crafted this handset, as the two are very, very similar.

In fact, even if you remove the camera location, it’s really the glossy plastic that gives it away, as HTC has almost always taken a matte approach to its metals, so this is closer to that other other top tiered smartphone manufacturer than HTC normally reaches to.

That’s not to say it’s bad, though, as the plastic body feels strong with no creaks and exhibits a reasonable heft, though it is very slippery, so make sure to grip it accordingly.

Button placement is a little odd, with both sitting at the top of the left edge, making it harder to control with your thumb if you normally hold the handset with your left hand.

Hold it with your right and it doesn’t change dramatically, requiring a very top centric approach to keeping the power and volume buttons close by, and in turn making things a little difficult for a solid grip unless you have massive hands.

We can see why the power button isn’t up top anymore, truly we can, as the size makes this a little prohibiting, but the right side — where the buttons were on the 5.9 inch HTC One Max — seem like an easier place for most fingers to get at, so we’re a little curious as the decision for this one.

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