You know how, sometimes, you can buy something so explosive that it’ll be delivered to your house wrapped in brown paper? Some outlets will do it for you on purpose, so you don’t spoil the Christmas surprises, and there are places that will disguise your er… packages… so the neighbours don’t think you’re a massive weirdo. Weirdo.
Well, the standard-looking HTC Desire 626 isn’t disguising some exciting and unusual phone beneath its rather plain exterior. Hopefully I haven’t gotten your hopes up. What you see is what you get and what you see is a quite unimaginative smartphone from HTC aimed at the folks who can’t afford one of the company’s high-end metal-bodied handsets. Whether you get it… that’s up to you.
Comes In Vanilla
The HTC Desire 626 is an almost boring take on the intelligent slab that doesn’t ever stay at home. Another way to put it? It’s ‘classic’ or ‘understated’ or even ‘minimalist’. We had one of the plain white Desire 626 units to play with, which is just a stock colour broken by a coloured strip around the edges. Ever open a tub of Bar One ice-cream? A little like that, but with much cleaner lines. It’s still all vanilla, though.
There’s only a volume rocker and a power button on the upper right, a slot for your SIM and microSD beneath them, and a headphone jack and microUSB port on the top and bottom edges respectively. The rear casing is a textured plastic which curves around to the front of the phone. Pop it in a lineup and you’d be hard-pressed to pick the white Desire from a set of its peers. There’s nothing that makes the phone stand out from anything else on the rack.
Could Have Been Worse
HTC’s 5-inch, 720p-screened smartphone is a midrange device through and through, but it could have been worse. Either that or the American website has some very incorrect specifications on display and nobody’s told them. Instead of the Snapdragon 210 quad-core, which is totally a thing, we’ve got a Snapdragon 410 quad to play with. It’s backed by 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Again, nothing to really write home about. You can add another 32GB of storage if you like. Does that count?
There’s a 13-megapixel camera in the back, a 5-megapixel camera up front, and a 2,000mAh battery running the whole show. Stock equipment on all fronts. Still nothing that grabs our attention, but also, nothing that offends our midrange smartphone sensibilities, either.
The 720p screen is attractive enough and the processor/RAM combo is competent, but more on that below. The camera performance is so-so, which, again, is to be expected in this class of handset. As with most things in life, it could have been far worse. Scant consolation, we know.
The Snapdragon 410 (which could quite easily have been the lesser Snapdragon 210 so best we don’t complain too much) and that 1GB of RAM are quite similar to other handsets on the market. It’s not called the midrange for nothing. At times like this, when we’re beset on all sides by the same specs, we have to call upon our trusty benchmark programs.
The HTC Desire 626 posts 497 for single-core performance in Geekbench 3, ramping up to 1,487 for multi-core performance. The score squeezes the phone ahead of the likes of the Wileyfox Swift, the Xiaomi Redmi 2 (the benchmark for budget handsets), and even the Motorola Moto E. But those handsets have other items to recommend them, aside from raw performance.
Taking a look at the AnTuTu score, the Desire 626 clocks in at 25,465. It beats out the Moto E and the Xiaomi here, but the Wileyfox Swift actually beats it in this regard. Make of that what you will.
Through The Len(s)
HTC are known for their phone cameras, in low-light terms at the very least. But though the Desire 626 packs a 13-megapixel main camera, it’s not the company’s best effort. Ideal conditions produce ideal images but if conditions are just a little off you’re going to know about it. The exposure will be off, in either direction, and low-light conditions guarantee wonky results. You can get a good snap with the Desire 626, but it takes a lot of manual fiddling and patience or perfect light.
The 5-megapixel front-facer seems to do a little better, though the make-me-pretty filter is a little bit too good at its nightclub Photoshop job. The front cam is more forgiving of shoddy conditions, perhaps because HTC knows what’s important in a camera these days.
You’re going to be paying about R4,000 or so for the HTC Desire 626, which is actually pretty expensive for a midrange handset considering the sub-R3,000 you’re asked to shell out for the Moto E, Wileyfox Swift, or Xiaomi Redmi 2. The slight bump in performance isn’t enough to make you want to tack an extra grand onto the total and the Desire 626 is also far too dull to justify.
Even if you’re a diehard HTC you’re going to get a better deal elsewhere. HTC’s flagships continue to impress, but if that’s beyond your means you’re going to have to be pretty loyal to settle for the 626’s lack-lustre design.