HTC Desire 816 review

HTC recommends you gloss regularly

HTC Desire 816 review
HTC is bigging up the plastic fantastic

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Let's be honest here, the HTC Desire 816 is not primarily aimed at the UK market and it may never land stateside. That doesn't mean that it isn't a smartphone worth considering if you want a big screen and you don't have the budget or willingness to spend big on a flagship.

As a mid-ranger it is inevitably a creature of compromise with a range of highs and lows, but it looks good next to its closest competition in terms of size, specs, and price. If you've got £300 (around $500, AU$550) burning a hole in your pocket then you could do a lot worse than spend it on the HTC Desire 816.

We liked

The front-facing Boomsound speakers are a headline USP for HTC's flagship range, so it's great to see them in a mid-range release like this. If audio quality was top of your list then this is cheapest phone you'll find with good speakers in it.

As long as you ramp the brightness up, the display is great for watching video and it's comfortable to read on. The 720p resolution will be sharp enough for most people.

Low light performance aside, the 13MP main camera is a pleasant surprise in a phone in this category. The 5MP front-facing selfie camera is way beyond what you'll find in most other smartphones, even flagships.

To have almost 7GB free out of the box in an 8GB phone is impressive and testament to HTC's light touch with regard to apps. But it's reassuring to know that the HTC Desire 816 can handle microSD cards up to 128GB in size.

We disliked

For such a big phone, the battery is relatively small. This should be a great entertainment device, but gaming and movies are going to kill the battery a little too quickly and it can't be replaced.

Why would you put the power button at the top of the left spine when every other manufacturer seems to have understood that the right spine is the best place for it? It also makes sense to move it lower down to enable one-handed operation, like Sony has done on the Xperia line.

Coming from a 1080p smartphone the display is going to disappoint, but the brightness is a greater concern. The automatic brightness was never high enough and tweaking it means eating the battery.

Low light camera performance is generally a tricky area, but it's seriously poor on the HTC Desire 816.


The HTC Desire 816 is definitely worth buying if you're dead set on a larger screen and you don't want to break the bank. The speakers are excellent, and in the right conditions, the camera is also a leader in this category.

Performance was surprisingly smooth and stutter-free. For the most part HTC has made compromises in all the right places to ensure that this is still a quality device. If you're willing to spend double the price tag then you'll certainly be able to get a much nicer phone, but it won't be twice as nice.

First reviewed: May 2014