Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: HTC Desire 816 – For the Love of Photography!

Pros: 13MP primary camera + 5MP secondary camera with BSI sensor, HTC  Sense 6.0, Front firing amp powered stereo speakers, Design, Dual Sim with 3g support, Screen quality.

Cons: Tad pricier, No Gorilla Glass protection, Slightly big in size

The HTC Desire 816 has been launched in India in June 2014 with a price tag of Rs. 25,000. The mid range flagship phablet is powered by Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 chipset, Adreno 305 GPU, 1.5 GB RAM, 8GB Internal memory with SD card support upto 128GB, Dual SIM support (3G), 13MP primary camera + 5MP secondary camera with BSI sensor, 5.5 inches Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen and Android 4.4.2 KitKat Operating System coupled with HTC Sense 6.0.


The mid-range smartphone segment is flooded with number of devices but there are very few phones which demands attention from the consumer. With a budget of 25k Nexus 5 is still the best choice in the segment with class apart hardware and guaranteed software updates convenience. But Nexus 5 suffers from average battery life and camera quality. If anyone is in market with a budget of 25k and wants a phone with extremely good camera then Nexus 5 will disappoint. HTC Desire 816 is a dual sim phablet with not a stellar  hardware configuration but comes with brilliant front and rear camera. So in the game of mind versus heart i.e. Nexus 5 versus HTC 816 – heart won. The HTC Desire 816 is most eligible android phone in 25k category when it comes to a good camera as a prime requirement.

Screen & Build Quality

With screen real estate of 5.5inch HTC Desire 816 is actually a phablet which doesn’t actually feels like one. It is quite light weight considering the category to which it belongs. Like most HTCs, 816 is a unibody design though instead of metallic body this one is of fine grade plastic. Design of the phone is inspired from HTCs flagship M8 and from a distance both looks quite a same. With dual speaker grills on the front and please all offend none design strategy HTC Desire 816 is a gorgeous phone. After Apple, HTC has the best looking phone out in the market. The build quality is at par but it could have been a lot better if it was provided with a metallic enclosure. HTC 816 looks and feels absolutely premium and there is hardly any complaint in this regard. There is a 5MP front camera placed above the screen along with a sensor. The screen is complemented with two stereo speakers placed at extreme opposite panels surrounding the screen. It weighs around 165 grams and measures at 78.7x156.6x7.9 mm. It is thin and light weight but being a phablet quite noticeable when carrying in trousers/jeans pockets. 

HTC 816 has a 5.5 inch Super LCD2 capacitive multi-touchscreen with 16M colors, 720 x 1280 pixels resolution and ~267 ppi pixel density. Disappointingly and strangely, 816 is not provided with Gorilla Glass protection. So one must better use a good quality screen protector and possibly a flip cover for extra screen protection. Touch response is pretty decent with daytime visibility at par. Viewing angles are also quite decent. Now being a phablet, HTC 816 offers great reading, watching photos and movies experience. Color and contrast saturation levels are good. Screen brightness levels can be adjusted via widget in quick settings menu section. The home, back and menu buttons are on screen type which facilitates extra screen real state by doing away with physical capacitive touch buttons for the same.

Camera, Buttons & Call/Audio Quality

Powered by 13 MP primary camera and 5 MP secondary camera, HTC 816 is one of the best phone in upper mid range android smartphone category. The primary 13 MP f/2.2, 28 mm Lens captures images at max 4160 x 3120 pixels. Both front and back cameras are supplemented by BSI sensor.    Other camera features includes autofocus, LED flash, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, simultaneous HD video & image recording and HDR. Video recording is supported at 1080p@30fps, 720p@60fps. Secondary 5MP front camera is also powered by BSI sensor and can record videos at 1080p.  Both cameras offers brilliant picture quality. Colour reproduction, saturation levels in pictures are respectable. Compared with the camera of Nexus 5, HTC 816 has stellar camera. Much ahead in terms of image quality. Though it doesn’t has a dedicated camera button but the volume rocker and power button can be customised to do the dedicate photography functions including clicking and zoom out & zoom in. Front camera can record broadcast quality videos. Some of the sample shots are shared in the review.

HTC 816 comes with dual front stereo speakers. Both speakers are powered by amp which assures exceptional audio quality. Coupled with a 5.5 inch screen, HTC 816 is like a mini TV when it comes to watching movies, playing games and doing similar stuff. The sound quality is very nice with each beat and string audible. The speakers are way better than many external USB powered speakers and laptop speakers. Call audio quality is also nice and loud at both ends. Desire 816 has power button and volume rocker buttons placed on the left side of the phone and sim card/sd card tray opening on the right side of the phone.

Sample indoor shots in low cfl light

OS/Performance and Battery

HTC desire 816 comes with a Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 chipset, Adreno 305 GPU, 1.5 GB RAM, 8GB Internal memory with SD card support upto 128GB, Dual SIM support(3G) and Android 4.4.2 KitKat Operating System coupled with HTC Sense 6.0. Now on paper, the specs might appears to be modest but real world performance is at par. There is zero lag or hitch during app switching or playing games. Though when playing high end graphic intensive games the frame rate drop will be a little significant. Games like real racing and asphalt plays pretty fine on 816. The device does gets a bit warm upon extended period of gaming. 816 scores respectable numbers on quadrant and antunu benchmark apps.

HTC has promised to deliver updates of the next android iteration within 90days of official release so one can expect Android L on this device pretty soon once it is released. HTC Sense 6.0 makes Android 4.4.2 even gorgeous with its brilliant offering in terms of Blink feed, HTC widgets and more. HTC has provided lots of pre installed apps out of which many can be disabled. Overall Android EcoSystem is nicely maintained with more than half of the system resources free most of the time. Standard HTC music player provides ‘BoomSound’ audio enhancing feature just like Beats Audio which came in earlier versions of HTC phones. Dialer app looks very nice and functional. Same is for the SMS app. Default HTC web browser is pretty capable. One will not miss Chrome. Camera app has lots of settings and functionalities to play around including lots of features like make up mode which enhances picture quality and many picture enhancement tools.

 Coming to the battery life, considering the fact that Desire 816 is a phablet with decent hardware and powerful camera, battery life is quite satisfactory. On a full charge it will easily last you for a day with enough juice left to survive another day with average use of the phone. HTC 816 has a non-removable  Li-Po 2600 mAh battery. HTC provides 1 year manufacturer warranty for Phone and 6 months warranty for in the box accessories.


 HTC Desire 816 ticks most of the boxes which includes decent performance, exceptional camera & speakers and phablet screen experience.  It could have been a couple of grands cheaper and came with a slightly powerful GPU chipset to support full-fledged gaming experience. If someone is in market looking for a dual sim phablet with good camera quality as prime requirement, HTC Desire 816 should be on their shopping list.

Ratings (out of 5 stars)

Build Quality ****
Screen ****
Camera *****
Performance ****
Value for Money ***

Overall *****

Specs at a glance

5.5 inches Super LCD2 capacitive multi-touchscreen with resolution of 540 x 960 pixels and ~256 ppi pixel density

Qualcomm MSM8928 Snapdragon 400 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 chipset
Adreno 305 GPU
1.5 GB RAM
8 GB internal memory with microSD support up to 128 GB
13 MP Primary camera + 5 MP Secondary camera
Network Type
Dual SIM, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 GPS,HSDPA,DLNA, Hotspot, 3G, FM Radio
Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery
Android 4.4.2 KitKat
156.6 x 78.7 x 7.9 mm
165 grams