HTC Desire Eye review

The ultimate selfie-phone?

HTC Desire Eye review
The camera to tap into your soul, attached to the front

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I liked the Desire Eye. Which surprised me. At first I thought it'd be too plasticy and too big – and I think there's still something in the second reason. A 5.2-inch smartphone is going to be too big for some, no matter how well it's made.

But trust me, it's very well made. In fact, HTC's got the promotion of this device all wrong. It shouldn't be about the 13MP cameras, which aren't better than you'll find elsewhere, but about the build quality.

HTC Desire Eye review

The shift to a polycarbonate chassis doesn't diminish quality

We liked

HTC has always nailed design. The metallic premium casing of the One series was very well received and I'd be surprised if the Desire Eye doesn't get a similar reaction. The construction of the phone's chassis is excellent. It feels comfortable in the hand, it's durable and waterproof and it looks really good.

Then there are the specs. Suffice to say there's a lot more power here than we've ever seen from the Desire range before. It's on a par with some of the flagships from earlier this year certainly makes a case for surpassing those from last year. We're looking at the HTC One in particular.

HTC Sense is also a good way to differentiate the company's phones from the other Android offerings and some features, like BlinkFeed and the battery saver, are really useful.

We disliked

For a phone sold on the strength of its cameras, they're really not all that great. The rear-facing camera doesn't offer a knockout feature like OIS and the lens is easily obscured by your finger. The front-facing camera meanwhile chooses a wide angle over better low-light performance. They're not bad cameras, by any means, but they're definitely not the reason to buy the phone.

Storage seems like a bit of a weak point to pull the Desire Eye up on, considering it offers a microSD slot – but I'd still liked to have seen a 32GB option.

Likewise, it seems like I'm labouring the point a bit, but this is quite a large phone. Not just the screen, either. It's got a bulky chassis that, while excellently designed, isn't going to play nice with skinny jean pockets and small handbags.

Final verdict

Rather than pushing the camera features, HTC should have focused on the fact they've crafted a handset with great build quality and specifications approaching most flagship phones.

The front-facing camera doesn't cope as well in low light as the HTC One M8 or the iPhone 6. But then the polycarbonate casing looks good, the phone won't break if you drop it in a sink full of water and it's not as expensive as the flagships.

It's difficult to know exactly where to put the Desire Eye because of this. It's certainly one of the best "mid tier" handsets I've ever seen. Don't believe the marketing HTC is pushing on you, but do consider it if you want a good all-rounder at a reasonable price.

First reviewed: October 2014