When it comes to mid-range devices, few seem to take more pride in build quality and design than HTC. In fact, several of HTC’s mid-range devices feel more like flagship products, even if the specs generally aren’t anywhere near that level.
In our latest review we are going to be taking look at HTC’s Desire 820, the newest mid-ranger in HTC’s stable. Does it live up to the build/design rep of HTC’s other mid-range offerings? What about the specs? Join us as we take a look.
The design of the Desire 820 may look somewhat familiar to you, and with good reason, as the device is considered to be the spiritual successor to the Desire 816, which arrived earlier this year to critical acclaim. Like the 816, the 820 is still made of glossy polycarbonate with rounded corners and sides, but this time around it’s completely unibody in design, and in turn, is significantly thinner. Whether plastic or metal, HTC knows how to make a quality phone and they’ve done it again with the Desire 820.
My favorite part about the design of the 820 is the accent colors, because it really makes the phone stand out and gives it a little bit of extra flair to what would otherwise be a very plain looking phone.
The only potential downside to the Desire 820 is that it is a bit on the slippery side, though it still feels very solid and manages to be rather light considering its overall size. The phone also has some pretty big bezels, though not so massive that you’d consider them an eyesore.
Taking a look around the device, you’ll find a power button and volume rocker on the right side. The volume rocker is choked up a little higher than I would like, but the placement of the power button on the right side was a much needed improvement over the 816.
Everything else is in it’s usual place with the 3.5 mm headset jack up top, micro USB port along the bottom, and a single plastic flap on the left side that houses the SD card slot and 2 sim slots. As is typical of HTC products, there’s also Boomsound front-facing speakers, which produce extremely good sound, just like you’d expect.
The Desire 820 packs a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 720p. Due to the size of the screen, the display isn’t exactly the sharpest, but the panel still looks fairly decent with a nice amount of brightness, natural and accurate colors. The viewing angles are also very good, as is outdoor visibility. Sure, the panel isn’t going to impress anyone, but — unless you are an HD buff that needs the best possible — it’s still a more than passable experience considering this is a mid-range device.
The HTC Desire 820 might be a mid-range handset but its SoC still manages to stand out for one big reason: the Desire 820 is one of the few Android devices currently on the market that offers up a 64-bit processor. The 64-bit capable Snapdragon 615 is an octa-core processor that packs a pretty solid punch, accompanied by 2GB RAM and an Adreno 405 GPU. Unfortunately, Android itself doesn’t truly support 64-bit just yet (not until Lollipop rolls on out), but at least that means the Desire 820 is a bit future proof in that regard.
Performance right now, however, is what matters most to those thinking about picking up the handset sooner rather than later. Thankfully, the Desire 820 is actually very snappy and responsive. Even though this is technically a midrange phone, the experience feels very high end. Whether it’s doing something basic like opening up apps to more demanding things like web browsing, multitasking and playing high-end games, the Desire 820 handles everything with relative ease.
Ironically, the Desire 820 actually has a higher megapixel count than the flagship HTC One M8. That said, there’s more to a good camera experience than the megapixel count. So how well does the 13MP sensor (with LED flash) handle? It depends.
You can take some pretty high res photos here with a good amount of color, at least if lighting conditions are right, though more often than not exposure and white balance are way off causing a lot of detail to be lost. Photos are either completely overexposed or underexposed causing lights to be way too bright and darks to be way too dark. HDR does help alleviate the issue some by creating a much more balanced shot and bringing out more detail. It doesn’t get much better in low light, resulting in a lot of noise, making it virtually impossible to take a usable photo in dim lighting conditions.
As for the front-facing camera? HTC pushes the selfie angle by giving the handset an 8MP camera. The end result is a pretty solid experience for a front-facing camera.
When it comes to the camera’s software, the interface hasn’t changed much from previous devices, giving us a clean interface that is easy to use, though there are some manual controls for ISO, white balance, exposure and all the usual stuff you’d expect. There are a few changes introduced with the Desire 820 though, like a couple new shooting modes such as split capture, which let’s you take a photo with the rear camera and the front camera and it stitches them together.
There’s also Photobooth and it’s exactly what you might think it is. This new mode takes several photos in succession and stitches them together just like you would get from a photo booth. Zoes is also still available but if you want to compile them you’ll have to do it through HTC’s own Zoe application.
The Desire 820 offers a 2600 mAh battery that isn’t horrible, but not exactly great either. During my testing, I found it would get anywhere between 13 to 16 hours, with 3.5 to 4 hours of screen time. In other words, the Desire 820 can make it through a full day, but that’s about it.
The Desire 820 runs on Android 4.4 KitKat with Sense 6, like all other modern HTC devices. Basically if you are familiar with HTC devices like the One M8, you’ll feel at home here as well. Sense is a fan favorite when it comes to custom skins, simply because its features aren’t overbearing and the experience is actually very speedy.
Some of the biggest features here include Blinkfeed, a social and news aggregator that is somewhat akin to Flipboard. You can connect to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and several other news sources. Another favorite is Zoe, as already mentioned briefly in the camera section above.
If you’re a fan of HTC products but don’t want to spend top dollar on a flagship product, the HTC Desire 820 is certainly worthy of your consideration. Aside from the display, the experience here is more than above average and nearly at ‘flagship’ level.
Right now there doesn’t appear to be any plans for a U.S. launch, though it isn’t that hard to find online for around $400 to $500 dollars unlocked — of course that’s not that much cheaper flagship devices like the LG G3 and HTC One M8.For those in other parts of the world, you will likely be able to get the handset for even cheaper.