The HTC Desire 510 is the Taiwanese company's latest addition to its Desire line up, a range of budget and midrange smartphones that feature some of the latest mobile technology that you'd normally find in more expensive handsets. Previous entries in this series include the HTC Desire 610 and the HTC Desire 816, which are both good – if rather unremarkable – smartphones.
The hook with the HTC Desire 510, according to its manufacturer, is that it is the cheapest LTE-capable smartphone it has made. At £149 (US$248, AU$265) the HTC Desire 510 isn't the cheapest 4G handset on the market, with the EE Kestrel coming in at just £99 (US$165, AU$176). It's pretty much the same price as the Motorola MOTO G 4G, which can be had for around £155 (US$256, AU$276), and quite a bit cheaper than the OnePlus One's price tag of around £250 (US$414, AU$445).
The promise of a blisteringly fast 4G data connection wrapped in an affordable handset is certainly a tempting offer…
4G connection speeds and display
The 4G connectivity of the HTC Desire 510 is the headline feature of this budget handset. It's not alone in the market, however, with the EE Kestrel and Motorola MOTO G 4G also offering 4G on a budget.
I tested the HTC Desire 510's 4G capabilities on the EE network, and was very impressed with the results – the internet and streamed media I tried all displayed incredibly quickly. Due to a rather interesting turn of events, my landline broadband connection went down at the same time I was testing the HTC Desire 510, which gave me the opportunity to test the USB tethering capabilities of the smartphone. It worked brilliantly – and the speeds didn't seem too different from when I use the standard broadband.
With the much vaunted speeds of the HTC Desire 510 proving to live up to its promise, I then turned my attention to the other aspects of the handset. The HTC Desire 510 sports a 4.7 inch display, putting it in the same league as the HTC Desire 610, Moto X and soon, if the rumours are correct (and they probably are), the iPhone 6.
While 4.7 inches might be the magic number, the screen itself is only capable of a resolution of 854 x 480, a rather disappointingly low resolution, and the first clear evidence of the HTC Desire 510's budget roots. In contrast the Moto X may have the same screen size, but it boasts a much higher resolution of 720 x 1280 (also known as 720p), which makes its AMOLED screen look incredibly bright and vibrant.
The HTC Desire 510's screen, on the other hand, can't compete with this, though it does the job. The operating system installed on the HTC Desire 510 is Android 4.4.4, and comes with HTC's own software HTC Sense and HTC BlinkFeed preinstalled.
As with other HTC handsets such as the HTC One Mini 2and the HTC One M8, the Android KitKat operating system has been overlaid with the HTC Sense interface. It's an attractive and intuitive design, though it may take a little getting used to if you're used to using the standard Android interface.
Icons and apps are laid out well and easy to find, and in certain applications the tile-like design is certainly eye catching, but also reminiscent of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system, and it looks particularly nice in the Gallery app. Meanwhile, configuring the Home screen through HTC Sense is quick and easy, allowing you to add or hide widgets.
The HTC Blinkfeed app that comes preinstalled is a handy tool that collates news from a large number of sources on the internet and presents them in an attractive tiled layout that fits in well with the HTC Sense aesthetics. Mixing breaking news from reputable websites such as The Guardian, ESPN, MTV and Vice and news feeds from your social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter gives you a handy overview of what's happening on the internet, and can be quickly viewed by swiping left from the home screen.
While it does a good job of providing you news from around the internet, it isn't immediately obvious how to configure HTC Blinkfeed to only show you news from the sources you want it to.
By using Android 4.4.4, coupled with its impressive processing power, the HTC Desire 510 feels quick and responsive as you're moving through the interface, and the HTC Sense overlay remains a good looking interface.
The 4.7-inch display leads to the HTC Desire 510 having body dimensions of 139.9 X 69.8 X 9.99mm, but it sits in the hands comfortably enough. The body itself has rounded edges and looks similar to the HTC Desire 610's body – though the front-facing camera is located on the upper-left hand corner of the body, rather than the upper-right.
Thankfully the bezel around the screen has been reduced since the HTC Desire 610, which results in the HTC Desire 510 looking sleeker, and not feeling quite so bulky. I found it quite easy to hold the phone whilst using my thumb to scroll over much of the screen, and as with the HTC Desire 610, the power button remains on the top, with the volume controls on the right hand side of the case.
The back of the case is slightly curved, and it is made of polycarbonate material, which unfortunately gives the HTC 510 a bit of a cheap feel to it – but then, to be fair, this is a cheap phone. At first glance, however, the HTC 510 looks great, and is available in two colours, 'Terra' white and 'Meridian' grey.
At 158g the HTC 510 is light enough to comfortably hold in one hand as well. One thing that the HTC 510 case lacks which is present in the HTC Desire 610's case – and in a number of other Android smartphones – is that there is no microSD card port along the side of the case for easy access. Instead you have to take the back of the case off and remove the battery to insert the memory card. It's not a huge problem, but it is inconvenient and a bit of a shame to see that port removed from being easily accessed on the side.
You'll want use a microSD card to expand the storage of the HTC Desire 510 as it only comes with a rather paltry 8GB built-in. While this won't sound like much room, especially if you like taking photos, listening to music, watching videos and installing apps on your smartphone, the reality is even worse. On turning on the HTC Desire 510 for the first time with just the operating system and preinstalled apps there was only 4.25GB left of the internal storage. At least you can expand the storage up to 128GB, so you're not stuck with internal storage like some manufacturers' phones – I'm looking at you Apple.
Performance, camera and verdict
High speed for a low price is the theme of the HTC Desire 510 – and this doesn't just refer to the connection speeds. The HTC comes with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad speed processor that's clocked at 1.2GHz. This is an extremely proficient mobile CPU, and makes navigating the operating system and opening and using apps incredibly fast and smooth. The processing power behind the HTC Desire 510 leads to an impressively responsive user interface that feels great to use.
The HTC Desire 510 comes with 1GB of RAM, which is the same as the EE Kestrel. The lower resolution of the screen helps to prevent the HTC Desire 510 from being put under too much stress.
The HTC Desire 510 comes with two cameras, one at the front and one at the back. As to be expected, the front-facing camera (which can be used by selecting the 'Selfie' mode in the camera app, in a nod to current trends) is a budget unit with a VGA (0.3 megapixel) resolution.
Though I might be tempted to call the quality of the front camera disappointing, in truth these cameras are rarely particularly good – especially on budget phones – so I had rather low expectations for it before I even tried it. Still, it does the job for quick self portraits, but otherwise it's pretty unremarkable.
The rear camera is capable of five megapixels, which used to be par for the course with budget smartphones, however many are now including more proficient snappers – the Huawei Ascend G6, for example, comes with an eight megapixel camera. Whilst megapixel count isn't the be-all and end-all of camera quality, it sadly doesn't seem like the lens in the HTC Desire 510's camera is much cop either, with the shots I took lacking sharpness and clarity.
As you can see from both the portrait and landscape shots I took, whilst on the whole colours are well represented, there is a lack of details that shows that these photos were taken on a budget smartphone. With close up shots this lack of detail is even worse – and this was taken using the HTC Desire 510's 'macro' mode, which is specifically for close up shots.
Rounding out the features of the HTC Desire 510, there's Bluetooth 4.0, wireless N network connectivity, DLNA support for streaming media to and from compatible TVs and computers and a microUSB 2.0 port. The HTC Desire 510 can handle a wide range of media formats and there's an internal GPS antenna for location services.
Throughout this hands on review I mentioned that HTC had a theme running through the HTC Desire 510 – high speed for a low price. The HTC Desire 510 certainly delivered on this front, with both the 4G connection and overall responsiveness of the handset and operating system, along with that promised low price of £149 ($248/AU$265).
However, during the review another theme made itself clear: compromise. While the 4G speeds would be the envy of any smartphone at this price – and even of more expensive smartphones – it is clear that a number of compromises were made to keep the price of the HTC Desire 510 as low as possible.
The screen, for example, may be nice and large at 4.7 inches, but the low 854 x 480 resolution keeps it from looking as good as it could. The 8GB of internal storage also points to corners being cut when it comes to the components of the HTC Desire 510.
Finally, the camera was disappointing and again highlights that this is a budget smartphone. If you just want a phone for taking advantage of the new, super fast 4G network at a low price, then you'll be quite happy with the HTC Desire 510. However, if you want your smartphone to be more than just a portal to the internet, and to watch high definition media and take superb photos, then you'll want to look elsewhere – and probably consider spending a bit more money.