HTC Desire S review:

HTC Desire S

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
Typical Price: £400.00
Compare These

The Good Fantastic unibody design; HTC's Sense user interface keeps getting better; smooth performance.

The Bad Some of the specs are outdated; no HDMI output.

The Bottom Line The HTC Desire S isn't the most powerful Android smart phone on the block, but it offers a terrific design and intuitive software. Overall, it's a seriously appealing device.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall

Review Sections

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That seems to be the thinking behind the HTC Desire S. It's very much an evolution of last year's massively popular Desire. Instead of attempting to massively outperform its predecessor, the Desire S simply builds on what has gone before to create a thoroughly accomplished Android smart phone.

The HTC Desire S is available for around £25 per month on a contract, while SIM-free prices hover around the £400 mark.

Metal case

The original Desire was hardly an ugly device, but the Desire S makes it look positively dumpy by comparison. The Desire S boasts an aluminium 'unibody' chassis, like the HTC Legend. That means its entire body is machined out of one complete piece of metal, giving it a reassuringly solid feel. There's a plastic slide-off cover, so you can insert a SIM card and external memory card, but this takes up only a small part of the casing and doesn't really affect the phone's robust build quality.

The Desire S' unibody design means HTC has had to be inventive when it comes to providing SIM card and battery access, but the solution is elegant.

While the Desire S' new bodywork makes it feel like a completely different phone to the original Desire, the same can't be said of the touchscreen. Its size and resolution remain unchanged, at 3.7 inches and 480x800 pixels respectively.


Those of you expecting something along the lines of the Desire HD's massive 4.3-inch touchscreen will be disappointed, but 3.7 inches will be enough for most people. The screen may not rival the iPhone 4's razor-sharp display in terms of resolution, but it's larger in terms of size.

Although the screen hasn't changed, the buttons which run along its bottom have. Instead of physical keys, the Desire S has touch-sensitive buttons, similar to those seen on the Google Nexus One and Nexus S. Another alteration is the removal of the optical trackpad, although we can't imagine many people will shed a tear about this -- we've always found this sort of trackpad rather redundant on Android handsets.

Snapdragon chip

Beneath the gorgeous aluminium exterior, the Desire S offers only a handful of improvements on its predecessor. The Snapdragon processor remains clocked at 1GHz, but this time it's a second-generation model and is aided by 768MB of RAM. This ensures a smoother, faster user experience, but, in terms of raw power, the Desire S is outmatched by the raft of dual-core monsters that are making their way into the market, such as the LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix.

The physical buttons and optical trackpad have been removed in favour of touch-sensitive controls.

Although it may not be the most powerful phone on the block, the Desire S is up to date in terms of software, running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. This means the phone benefits from a whole host of embellishments, such as better memory management, myriad performance boosts and built-in video-call capability. The latter function is facilitated by a front-facing camera that sits alongside the earpiece at the top of the handset.

Sense user interface

Sitting atop Gingerbread is HTC's proprietary Sense user interface, seen here in its 2.2 guise. Few could fail to be impressed by Sense's intuitive and useful functionality. Unlike some skins from other manufacturers, it makes genuine improvements to the default Android software.

  • Samsung Galaxy S8

    But we're still waiting on the Siri-like AI.

  • Motorola Moto G5 Plus

    The Moto G5 Plus puts premium smartphone features like a metal body, new shortcuts and...

  • OnePlus 3T

    Starting at: £479.00

    Our favorite mid-price phone gets revamped with a faster processor and a bigger battery.

  • LG G6

    With the G6, LG ditches the mod life and goes conventional. It's boring, but it works.

  • Google Pixel

    With the help of an Assistant, Google's first in-house designed Pixel phone makes a kickass...

This week on CNET News

Discuss: HTC Desire S (black)

Please log in to CNET to comment
Post Comment As...