The HTC One M8 stormed its way to a glowing review from CNET editor Brian Bennett thanks to its ultra-luxurious metal design, superb high-definition screen and oodles of power. It’s a formidable flagship phone, and comes with a price to match. If your budget is a little smaller, but you still want the HTC name in your jeans, cast your eyes over the Desire 610.
Like the M8, it has the dual, front-facing BoomSound speakers, 4G LTE and the same attractive, easy to use Sense 6 software. It has a plastic, rather than metal, body though and has drastically cut-down specs in order to keep the price down.
The Desire 610 can be picked up now, SIM-free, directly from HTC’s site in the UK for £240 (which converts to $410 or AU$440). It’s yet to be given an official launch date in the US and Australia, but it’s expected to hit the US, at least, in the next month.
Those of you looking for a luxurious feeling phone with cutting-edge style should keep on walking, towards the all-metal HTC One M8. The Desire 610 is constructed entirely from plastic, which makes it look and feel like a much more budget-orientated device. It’s rather like the difference betweeth the iPhone 5C and the more expensive iPhone 5S .
In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the iPhone 5C. It has rounded corners, with a mostly flat back that curves around at the side, rather than the arched back of the One M8. The dual BoomSound speakers above and below the screen on the front tell you immediately that it’s from the HTC family. They don’t provide as big a sound as the flagship M8, but their position and large chambers allow them to give more punch to movies and podcasts than many phones’ speakers.
The back of the phone is a plain expanse of plastic — in this case, a dark, navy blue colour — broken only by the camera lens and flash at the top. It’s hardly the most thrilling of designs (I imagine a hot pink or lime green version would be more eye-catching) but I’ve seen far worse. A thick, black bezel surrounds the display, which doesn’t help at all. It makes the screen look rather squashed in and shatters any illusion there may have been that this is more expensive than it is.
The bezel also means the body is a little larger than it needs to be. It measures 71mm across, which I found just a bit too big to comfortably use with one hand. It’s only 9.6mm thick though, which is easily slender enough to slide into a pocket. On the bottom of the phone is the micro-USB port, with the 3.5mm headphone jack sat on top.
The nano-SIM card and microSD card slots are hidden underneath a plastic flap on the side. I’m glad to see expandable storage here as the 610 only comes with 8GB of space as standard, which you’ll quickly fill up with apps, games and music.
The 610’s 4.7-inch display offers a 960×540-pixel resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 234 pixels per inch (ppi). That’s really rather disappointing, even with its affordable price. The 4G Moto G ‘s 4.5-inch screen has a 720p display, with a pixel density of 326ppi — and that can be picked up for only £150.
The display, unsurprisingly, isn’t very crisp. Icon edges and text don’t have the same clarity you’d find on the Moto G, or indeed the full-HD HTC One M8. While it’s more affordable than its flagship brother, the 610 really isn’t cheap enough for this low a resolution to be acceptable.
It’s not a particularly bright screen either. Even under moderately bright lighting conditions I found myself staring back at the reflection of my own face. Under vivid outdoor sunlight, it’s an even bigger problem. It does at least have decent, natural colours, but if you want to experience a Netflix movie at its best, find a darkened room to enjoy it in.
The Desire 610 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is almost the most recent version of Google’s mobile operating system. HTC has applied the same Sense 6 interface that you’ll find on the One M8 over the top, so it’s visually very different from the Android you may have seen on other, non-HTC handsets.
I’m quite keen on Sense 6, thanks to its minimalist appearance. It has the same basic architecture as any version of Android, but the app tray uses well-spaced icons and can be easily customised, making finding your essential apps a breeze. The settings menu is much easier to understand than the Galaxy S5 ‘s never-ending lists of options and the pull-down settings bar lets you easily change critical settings.
You’ll also find HTC’s BlinkFeed news aggregator sat to the side of the home screens. It pulls together your social networks and news articles from a few select sources and presents it in a constant stream. It’s basically the same as Flipboard. It’s on your home screen as standard, but a recent change to Sense 6 allows you to remove it if you’re not keen.
On the back of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera. Those are eight regular megapixels, rather than the physically larger “Ultrapixels” you’ll find in the One M8’s camera. I took it for a spin and had mixed, but generally decent results.
I was impressed at the overall exposure on my first shot, looking towards London’s Shard building. The sky is bright and under control, and there’s still visible detail in the shadowy buildings on the right. The colours are a little weak, however, giving it an almost vintage look, and there’s image noise to be seen in the dark areas.
Similarly, looking at St Paul’s Cathedral, the 610 achieved a good exposure overall and there’s a decent level of clarity at full screen.
This riverside scene is less impressive, with the bright sky forcing the camera to plunge the footpath into darkness.
With HDR mode activated, the scene is much more balanced, although it does look a little unnatural.
The same is true of this photo of a pub. In auto mode (top) the pub is slightly shadowy and although the HDR mode has helped raise the brightness, it’s made the scene a little surreal.
HDR mode hasn’t helped keep the sky under control at all in this shot of a building, although the building itself has been made brighter. It’s not a bad camera by any means, but, like the One M8, it’s not superb in areas of high contrast. It’s more than adequate for Facebook snaps, however, and the simplistic interface makes it easy to play with settings and apply effects. Below are a few more example shots.
The Desire 610 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. It’s a quad-core chip, chugging along at 1.2GHz, which I found perfectly adequate for most tasks. It scored 1,317 on the Geekbench 2 benchmark test, which is about what I’d expect for a mid-range phone. It’s miles below the nearly 4,000 the Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 achieved, but it’s a similar score to the 4G Moto G, which I also found to be enjoyably capable.
Navigation around the Sense 6 interface was swift and lag-free and it was able to play the 3D racing game Need For Speed: Most Wanted fairly smoothly. Opening the camera was fast too, and shot-to-shot time in auto mode was speedy (although HDR rendering added a few seconds delay).
There’s a 2,040mAh battery tucked inside, which HTC reckons will provide up to 15.8 hours of talk-time over 3G. Based on my own tests, I reckon that’s a little on the optimistic side. The phone managed to keep my video-looping battery-drain test going for almost 10 hours, which is only average. By comparison, the Galaxy S5 lasted around 15 hours, while the LG G2 Mini achieved almost 13.
With less demanding use, you should be able to squeeze a day out of it though. Keeping the screen brightness down, turning off Wi-Fi and GPS and avoiding gaming or video streaming are all good ways to eke out the last drops of battery life.
Although the Desire 610 is affordable, its uninspiring specs — in particular, its low-resolution display — means it’s still not cheap enough. It offers very little over the Motorola Moto G, which also has Android KitKat and a quad-core processor, but has a higher resolution screen and a much cheaper price tag.
Unless you desperately want the BoomSound speakers or the slightly better camera, the Moto G is the much more sensible option.