HTC Desire 816 review: Classic HTC style with plenty of power

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0

Average User Rating

5 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The HTC Desire 816's plastic body is well built. The brilliant 5.5-inch HD display has excellent viewing angles, and the quad-core processor runs smoothly, with hardly any lag.

The Bad The glossy plastic rear is a fingerprint magnet, which is especially noticeable on the darker models. The lack of a removable battery is disappointing, given its relatively small capacity.

The Bottom Line The HTC Desire 816's combination of solid design and quality performance strikes all the right chords to make it a compelling phone for its price.

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Meant to be a best-in-class midrange phone, HTC's Desire 816 lacks the fancy aluminum body of its more expensive sibling, the One M8. But this plastic-clad beauty keeps most of the style and a good share of the features too. Like the One Mini, it only cuts the right corners, ditching a few fancy extras that add to a smartphone's price, while keeping the essentials that make a mobile reliable, attractive, and useful.

Announced earlier this year at Mobile World Congress, HTC's Desire 816 was a real surprise. In fact, HTC itself seemed somewhat caught off guard -- the Desire 816 phones on display at the company's booth in Barcelona were non-functional prototypes. But now, almost three months later, the Desire 816 is ready for prime time.

The Desire 816 delivers a lot for a reasonable price -- around $400, £300 or AU$400 without a contract, and $299 in the US with prepaid carrier Virgin Mobile . For now, HTC is only releasing the Desire 816 in Europe and Asia, but you may be able to buy it in other regions online. It's expected to go on sale over the next month, with UK retailers listing early June as the expected date.

Design

HTC is unifying its range with a standard look, with the Desire 816 a prime example. The rounded edges do a good job of mimicking the One M8, despite being made of plastic.

Like the One M8, the 816 has front-facing BoomSound speakers, but instead of the fine laser-drilled grilles of its fancier sibling, the Desire 816 has several larger holes, which are really distinctive. The front-facing speakers make watching videos on the phone a much better experience, as you don't need to cup the speakers with your hand to redirect the sound to your ears.

htcdesire81606.jpg
The front-facing speakers look less distinguished than those on the One M8. Aloysius Low/CNET

The 5.5-inch HD screen is brilliant, with great viewing angles. While it's not a Full HD display, the 1,280x720-pixel resolution is more than sharp enough.

The 816 may not have the premium feel of the One M8, but its plastic chassis has its own charms, without the cheaper feel of some Samsung products. Just be aware that the back cover attracts fingerprints much too easily.

Instead, HTC seems to have taken inspiration from Apple's iPhone 5C, and the 816 sports a familiar shiny and glossy plastic rear. To make sure the phone doesn't slip from your hands, HTC has made the edges of the phone matte. Honestly, with the fingerprint issues, the Desire 816 would have been better served if the entire phone was covered in a similar finish.

Located on the left side is a flap that hides the microSD and nano-SIM card slots. There also appears to be another SIM card slot, but that's blocked up. HTC said that instead of creating a different model for the dual-SIM version of this phone, the company uses a unified design that can be tweaked for different features as needed, hence the unusable blocked slot.

htcdesire81605.jpg
While there are two nano-SIM card slots, one is blocked. Aloysius Low/CNET

Overall, the phone feels well-constructed and solid. It's slightly heavier than the One M8 at 5.8 ounces (165g) but the weight is properly balanced and quite comfortable to hold with one hand.

The Desire 816 is powered by a 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, has 8GB of onboard storage and 1.5GB of RAM. If 8GB doesn't sound like much space, fret not, as the phone has a microSD card slot. Connectivity wise, it comes with 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but there's no NFC.

Software and interface

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Where to Buy See all prices

HTC Desire 816 (grey)

Part Number: HTC Desire 816
Low Price: $204.98 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Service Provider not specified
  • Weight 5.82 g
  • Diagonal Size 5.5 m
  • Sensor Resolution 13 pixels