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htc desire 816 hands

With the likes of the Motorola Moto E and Nokia Lumia 630, there’s no shortage of budget phones around right now. But what if you want something a little bigger, but don’t want to shell out for a flagship?

Then the HTC Desire 816 could be for you. It boasts a massive 5.5-inch screen, but costs well under £300. Which makes it even cheaper than the Nexus 5.

But how does it stack up? Let’s take a look.

First impressions and design

htc desire 816 review 3

Let’s get this out of the way – this isn’t a premium-feeling handset.

If you want the plush metal stylings of the HTC One (M8), look elsewhere.

The Desire 816 is a different beast altogether, both in terms of specs and the materials used.

That’s not to say it feels cheap.

The sides are matte, while the shiny plastic back is very similar to the iPhone 5C’s (so it’s a magnet for fingerprints).

Overall, the handset feels very well put together.

htc desire 816 review 4

Indeed, it’s nowhere near as tacky as the Galaxy Note 3, with its faux-leather back.

It’s not all that exciting to look at, though.

Apart from the BoomSound speakers above and below the screen, it’s a pretty average-looking smartie. Even if it does in five colours: white, black, red, blue and green.

Software

htc desire 816 review 1 front

Android KitKat comes as standard. A few months ago, we would’ve been mightily impressed by that, but KitKat is getting on for a year old now, and accounts for more than 20 per cent of all Android devices.

So to see it on a budget model is nothing out of the ordinary.

HTC’s Sense 6 UI comes slathered over the top.

The upshot of that is you get features like BlinkFeed (a social media and news aggregator), and HTC Zoe, which compiles your photos and videos into a montage complete with music.

The software is basically the same as on the HTC One (M8). That’s very impressive when you consider the Desire 816 costs less than half the price.

But as we’ll see, there are some compromises.

Features

htc desire 816 camera

The 816’s camera is a step down from the One (M8)’s. There’s no Ufocus for one thing, so you can’t change the focal point after you’ve snapped.

It’s a standard 13-megapixel affair too, so there’s none of that ultrapixel business as on the One (M8).

It does have a selfie mode though, and the front-facer is a 5-megapixel effort, so better look your best.

The 816 also doesn’t have the same gesture controls as the One (M8).

The screen resolution of 1,280x720 pixels sounds impressive on paper, but there are much sharper displays around.

Though the viewing angles are very good, helped by the gargantuan size of the display.

8GB of storage comes as standard, and if that isn’t enough, just slot in a microSD card.

Usability

htc desire 816 colours

So what’s it like to use?

The 1.6GHz quad-core processor is more than adequate for day-to-day tasks.

Couple it with 1.5GB of RAM, and you’ve got a device that’ll handle games and apps without breaking a sweat.

The 816’s camera is perfectly capable.

Photos have plenty of detail, if a bit too much graininess for our tastes. But the camera isn’t fantastic in low light.

The screen is also a bit grainy, stretched out over 5.5 inches.

The 267ppi is nowhere near the Nexus 5’s 445ppi, so you’ll have to make do if you want to save money.

Finally, we’re happy to report that the battery lasted a full day with pretty heavy usage.

With this size screen, we were worried it’d conk out by lunchtime.

Verdict

For this price, the Desire 816 is a cracking handset. The screen isn’t as sharp as high-end rivals, and the camera isn’t as impressive. But it’s a very good all-rounder.

If you’re looking to go big without spending too much, this is a real rival for your affections.

Key specs

  • 5.5" Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen
  • 13-megapixel camera with autofocus, LED flash
  • Android 4.4.2
  • Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 1.6GhZ processor
  • 8GB internal storage
  • microSD, up to 128 GB

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