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HTC Desire Eye review: If you've ever wanted a 13-megapixel selfie, look no further

Similarly in this shot above, the focus is poor. It's evidently using a slow shutter, which has resulted in a very blurry image.

HTC Desire Eye front-facing camera test, with flash (click image to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Again, even with the flash switched on, the camera has done a poor job of focusing, making this unusable. If this happened to be the one selfie I took with a passing celebrity, I'd be extremely unhappy. Not that I'm into that kind of thing.

Okay, that is more than enough of my face. Let's look at the front camera. It's certainly able to capture some good shots -- and at a higher quality than you'd get from most front cameras -- but it seriously struggles in low light. Shots on the top of a sun-drenched mountain will no doubt look great, but in bars, clubs and at gigs, it won't cope as well.

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HTC Desire Eye camera test, without HDR (click to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The rear camera gave similar results outdoors in the shop above. There's plenty of detail in the scene, but the bright sky has been blown out.

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HTC Desire Eye camera test, with HDR (click to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The HDR mode has done a good job at rescuing the scene in the shot above though, darkening the clouds and bringing out more detail in the trees on the right.

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HTC Desire Eye camera test, without HDR (click to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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HTC Desire Eye camera test, with HDR (click to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This canal scene similarly benefits from the HDR mode.

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HTC Desire Eye camera test (click to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This was taken in regular automatic mode -- it's got a great even exposure and there's plenty of detail to allow for cropping in, if you want to.

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HTC Desire Eye camera test (click to see full size). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The rear camera did a fair job in this low-light scene. There are crisp lines around the writing on the bottle, although at full screen, it's possible to notice image artefacts.

HTC has added some new camera features too, to help get more from the front camera. Most interesting among which is the mode that lets you take pictures of your face and a friend's, letting you merge the two together to see what your lovechild would look like. It sounds bizarre -- and it really is -- but it's a lot of fun. It was an instant hit in the office as I merged various people's faces together to create some pretty disturbing pictures.

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The two original faces of my handsome XCAR colleagues, before merging. Brace yourselves... Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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"Oh Andy, I didn't brace nearly hard enough for this!" I hear you shout (click to see full size. Although don't) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's a split-screen mode too that takes pictures with both sides and shows them side by side, a beautification mode that digitally smoothes your skin (as with other phones that have this feature, if you overuse it, you just look bizarre), and a feature that cuts you out from your scene on the front camera and pastes you onto the image from the rear -- letting you put yourself in a picture with friends.

HTC also has software to help video calling. Its software sits over the top of video-calling apps -- meaning it will work with Google Hangouts and Skype and you don't need to install anything extra. The software applies digital image stabilisation, lets you use the front-facing flash to illuminate your face in the dark and also let you share your phone's screen with your calling companion.

The quality isn't brilliant (particularly over Skype) so don't ask your companion to read pages of shared text, but it's handy for an overview -- perhaps to run through a slideshow with a colleague one more time before presenting it to your boss.

Android software and processor performance

The phone comes with the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat software, over which HTC has slapped its Sense 6 interface. If you've ever used Sense on the One M8, or even the older One then there'll be no surprises as the software is basically identical. It uses the same structure as regular Android -- multiple homescreens, an app tray and so on -- but it's a neat interface with simply arranged app icons and an easy to navigate settings menu.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

HTC's Blinkfeed sits off to the left of the homescreens, which pulls together news feeds from a variety of sources as well as all your social networks, giving you all updates in one place. You can get rid of it if you're not keen though. Sense is easy to use, even for Android beginners, and is probably my favourite of the Android skins -- I certainly find it easier to navigate than Samsung's rather bloated TouchWiz interface on the Galaxy S5 .

The phone runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, backed up by 2GB of RAM, which is a decent engine and in fact is the same heart found in the M8. I found it extremely capable. Navigating around the Sense interface was smooth and swift, apps opened with little delay and 3D games like Asphalt 8 played well.

It's got more than enough power for all of your everyday social networking, emailing and Instagramming and won't shy away from more demanding tasks either.

Battery life

The battery is a 2,410mAh affair, which is a fair sized cell, although with a huge, bright screen to power, it has its work cut out. After almost 2 hours of video streaming, the battery had dropped from full to 69 percent remaining, which is about average. That might seem like a big drop, but it's a demanding test that involves keeping the screen brightness on max.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If you want to squeeze every last drop of power from the battery, make sure you keep the screen brightness down (that's always the biggest drain), avoid gaming or video streaming and turn off Wi-Fi and GPS when they aren't needed. If you use it reasonably carefully throughout the day, you should be able to get a whole day of use from it. As with all smartphones, you'll want to give it a full charge every night.

The battery isn't removable so if you want to carry a backup, you'll need to get an external battery pack like the Mophie JuicePack.

Conclusion

With a whopping 13-megapixel camera and dual LED flash stuck to its face, the Desire Eye is unquestionably aimed at those of you who take your selfies extremely seriously. It's annoying, then, that the front-facing camera struggles so much to take shots in low light. Still, the flash does at least make you visible in dark bars, where other phones wouldn't be able to shoot at all.

If capturing your face for Instagram in even the gloomiest of nightspots is your chief concern for a phone, the Eye is certainly worth checking out. Even those with just a passing interest in narcissistic photography still have plenty to keep them happy however, with the good quality full HD display, the colourful, waterproof design and the powerful processor.

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