HTC Desire 626 review

The HTC Desire 626 is stylish, but other budget phones perform better

HTC’s latest budget handset is like too many modern phones: good looking, but blown away by the competition.
HTC’s latest budget handset is like too many modern phones: good looking, but blown away by the competition.
HTC’s latest budget handset is like too many modern phones: good looking, but blown away by the competition.

Highs

  • Stylish design
  • Decent battery life

Lows

  • Poor processor
  • Poor camera
  • Poor battery life when running video or playing games
  • No quick charging

DT Editors' Rating

HTC unveiled a number of low-end to mid-range devices last month, and among them was the Desire 626. It just landed on AT&T for $185 off contract or as low as $6.17 per month on Next 24. Verizon Wireless is also expected to offer the Desire 626, but the carrier hasn’t officially announced anything yet.

The Desire 626 is obviously aimed at the first-time smartphone buyer with its amazing price, but the budget handset market has gotten very competitive — so many manufacturers, all trying to do the same thing.

HTC hasn’t set the world on fire with its flagships. How will the company fare with this latest budget offering?

A solid design

I’ve always loved the design and craftsmanship of HTC’s smartphones, and the Desire 626 is no exception.

This is a budget phone, so you won’t find any metal, but the polycarbonate unibody is very appealing. HTC gave it a soft touch, which feels great in the hand. Most budget phones are boring in the sense that they are just a solid white or black brick, but the Desire 626 has a little flare. The edges are of a contrasting color, which gives it a more appealing look.

HTC offers the phone in a variety of colors, but it appears that AT&T is selling only one model: Marine White, which is white with a blue trim. Strange. What of the other colors?

The Desire 626 has a 5-inch display, which means it isn’t too big for one-handed use, and the fact that the soft touch back isn’t slippery helps in that cause.

Once again, HTC designed a good looking phone, but failed to power it with the right stuff.

The left side has a cover for the MicroSD slot, as well as the nano SIM slot. The fact that you won’t need an ejector tool is a nice plus, but the cover could easily break off with a lot of use. Thankfully, there isn’t a need to open it all that often, so it will probably hold up.

Another nice touch is the dual front-facing speakers that you will find at the top and bottom of the phone. HTC has transitioned to a lower profile look on high-end devices, but you can clearly see the speaker grills on the Desire 626. They do add to the overall size, but as I mentioned previously, the phone is very comfortable to hold.

The back of the device has the rear camera, but it sits at the top left corner and can be a problem. I found that my left middle finger would constantly cover the lens when taking pictures. I suppose you’d adjust to it eventually.

The Desire 626 comes in at 8.2mm thick, which is much thinner than the Moto G 2015 (11.6mm). However, the Desire’s battery is much smaller — more on that later.

Sluggish processor

The design of the Desire 626 might be a home run, but the processor is a strike out. HTC went with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210, which isn’t necessarily an old processor, but it’s pretty low on the hierarchy pole.

HTC Desire 626
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

The Snapdragon 210 is a 1.1GHz quad-core comprised of Cortex-A7 CPUs. HTC would have been better off with the Snapdragon 410, which is also a quad-core but built of significantly speedier Cortex-A53 CPUs. One might argue that the average person won’t be able to tell the difference, but the 210 is not as efficient with the battery (more on that later) when running labor intensive applications like games or watching video.

A nice display with good sounding speakers

The Desire 626 features a Super LCD 5-inch screen with 720p (1,280 × 720) resolution. Just like most HTC displays, I found it to have good color accuracy and great viewing angles. While some might argue that 720p is low for a 5-inch phone, the trade off in battery life wouldn’t be worth the upgrade.

HTC was the first manufacturer to get behind dual front-facing speakers. These dual speakers are often labelled BoomSound on HTC phones, but that’s not the case with the Desire 626. It just means they don’t have as much bass, but they sound much better than the majority of other phones that feature one speaker.

Great battery life, but…

My battery tests resulted in something I’ve never seen before. I always run a video rundown in which I loop continuous video while the device is connected to 4G LTE and the display brightness is set to about 66 percent. The Desire 626 was only able to last about 6 hours and 10 minutes, which is pretty dismal and surprising. The 2,000mAh battery is a little small, but I was expecting better than that since the display is only 720p.

The design of the Desire 626 might be a home run, but the processor is a strike out.

Although your average day probably isn’t watching movies all day, this test usually gives us a good indication of how well it will last with basic use. I usually get about double the result from a video rundown test for a typical day, more like 12 hours. I had no problems getting through a complete day without ever needing to charge the device, however, and there was usually about 30 percent left at bedtime.

The only thing that I can attribute this issue too is that the Snapdragon 210 isn’t all that efficient when running constant video or gaming.

An average camera at best

If there is one area in which HTC has severely lagged, it’s the camera. Even using the company’s flagship, the HTC One M9, we weren’t blown away by photo quality despite a 20-megapixel camera. Unfortunately, the Desire 626 follows the same pattern. The 8-megapixel rear shooter does a decent job when outdoors in sunlight, but it can’t handle low light or motion well. A too-slow shutter speed is one of the biggest problems; trying to time an action shot is nearly impossible, since it can take an extra second or two after pressing the shutter button.

The camera software is pretty straightforward and simple to use, but I was surprised that it lacked HTC’s Eye Experience features. I understand that some of those features might be processor-intensive, but something as simple as Photo Booth makes sense for this phone since it sports a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Photo Booth combines four selfie images into a “photo booth” style collage.

Probably the coolest feature is Video Highlights, which is often referred to as Zoe. You can easily create a short movie combining all your videos and pictures from an event or any time frame you desire. It’s probably the most underrated feature that HTC offer on its phones.

Sense 6 with the most recent version of Android

The Desire 626 comes with the most recent version of Android, 5.1.1 Lollipop. (Yes, Marshmallow exists, and we like what it brings to the table, but you can’t get it outside of Google’s phones just yet.) HTC also adds its own skin on top of that, which is called Sense 6. Most of the software is the same as that you’ll find on flagship HTC devices.

BlinkFeed sits at the left most home screen and is your custom news feed. You can pick categories that interest you or add custom feeds from your favorite websites. You can even add your social networks. It works really well, and you can turn it off if you don’t like it.

Sense Home is a widget that shows you the most used apps by location. For example, if you often use Facebook at home, then it will appear the minute you get in your driveway, whereas an app like Foursquare will show up when you’re out and about.

Zoe is very similar to the Video Highlights feature found in the Gallery app, except you can create an account on HTC’s cloud service for additional sharing and collaborating with other Android and iOS users.

Then there’s the Theming capability, which lets you change the look of the user interface. This can be done by your own modifications or by downloading themes created by other users via the Themes store. Each theme includes a wallpaper, specially designed icons, and various colors for the core apps. You can also easily create your own theme based on any image from your Gallery. It’s very slick.

A new app called One Gallery allows you to pull in your photos from several other cloud services like Facebook, Google Drive, and Dropbox. It’s meant for only viewing as you cannot upload pictures from your device or share pictures from one service to another. It can be a little confusing, but some people like a one-stop-shop approach.

Conclusion

Once again, HTC designed a good looking phone, but failed to power it with the right stuff. The display and battery are good enough, but the processor and camera are well behind its competitors.

The Moto G 2015 is priced the same, but it’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 and has a 13-megapixel rear camera. The Desire 626 does have 0.5GB more RAM and 8GB of additional storage, but both devices have a MicroSD slot for expansion. The Moto G 2015 is also customizable through Moto Maker, and the back cover can be easily swapped for a different color.

To me it’s a no brainer. The Moto G 2015 is the better buy. And sadly, there isn’t much to “desire” about the Desire 626.

Highs

  • Stylish design
  • Decent battery life

Lows

  • Poor processor
  • Poor camera
  • Poor battery life when running video or playing games
  • No quick charging
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