Hands-on with HTC's affordable phablet

Desire 816 goes on sale for sub-$400

HTC originally showed off its Desire 816 at the Mobile World Congress in February. A lack of promotion caused us to worry that Australians could miss out on the promising smartphone. Fortunately, HTC Australia has broken its silence after signing an exclusive deal with Optus last week.

Who is it for?

Prevalent throughout the Desire 816 is the sense HTC is trying to push its dollar — and not the technology — as far as possible. This is a value-for-money smartphone designed for the masses, but at no stage does the smartphone feel cheap.

The Desire 816 retains HTC’s sense of styling, save the premium materials. The body is made from glistening plastic, and the speaker grilles, although attractive, don’t have the same attention to detail modelled by the One (M8). It’s tall at 157mm, thin at 8mm and light compared to other large-screen smartphones at 165 grams.

Much of the “phablet’s” charm comes from the screen. It spans a large 5.5in and has a low 720x1280 resolution. The resulting 267 pixel-per-inch density can’t compete with what’s on offer from Full HD flagships, but it serves the inexpensive Desire 816 well. More often than not pixels are indistinguishable, and that’s exactly what you want.

Is it powerful?

Signs the Desire 816 was made on a budget can be found inside. It features a Snapdragon 400 chipset, with a 1.6Ghz quad-core CPU, 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. A microSDXC memory slot can further expand storage by 128GB.

The vast white back is largely unblemished, apart from housing a 13MP camera and a complementing LED flash. It has a commendable f/2.2 aperture and, like the front 5MP camera, it can record videos at Full HD resolution.

A suite of connectivity features makes this Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone sociable. It has Wi-Fi 802.11n, DLNA, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0. Beneath the non-removable back is a 2600 milliamp-hour battery.

First thought

Read more: Sony Xperia T2 Ultra review

Between the big screen, powerful imaging and the front-facing stereo speakers, the Desire 816 proves ideal for multimedia enthusiasts. Much of its charm brings to mind Sony’s Xperia T2 Ultra and the Nokia Lumia 1320, but whereas we found these large-screen phones intimidating to hold, the Desire 816 has a design that is kinder to live with day-by-day.

Optus is selling the Desire 816 exclusively on its $35 plan with a $5 monthly instalment over 24 months, or outright for $398.

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