HTC Desire 500 review

Quad-core packing HTC Desire 500 aims to shake up the mid-range

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Bright display

  • +

    Sturdy build

  • +

    HTC Sense is inoffensive

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Not cheap enough

  • -

    Horrible accent colours

  • -

    Meagre resolution

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Going to go head to head with the Motorola G, Nokia Lumia 625, Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini the HTC Desire 500 boasts a quad-core processor

Last year, Google released the Nexus 4, redefining the whole category of 'bargain' phones in the process. Last month, its successor - the Google Nexus 5 - was announced, again cramming a whole load of tech, into a package that you would normally expect to pay top whack for.

The Nexus devices are cheap, but then Motorola came along and took the wraps off the Moto G. For £160 you get a well-designed device, with a 720p display and a guaranteed update to the new version of Android, 4.4 Kit Kat.

The point we're trying to make is that you can now get a serious amount of phone for your buck, but that doesn't mean all companies are taking this same direction. The HTC Desire 500, which will you set you back around £220, sort of feels like it's stuck in the bargain phone old days, where that cheap price represented well, less value for money

HTC Desire 500: Size and build

While the Samsung Galaxy S4, S4 Mini and S4 Zoom did nothing to prove plastic phones feel good in the hand, the iPhone 5c, along with the Nexus 5, showed that good quality plastic could still make for a solid device.

The HTC Desire 500 is also plastic - pretty much completely plastic. The glossy white back (it's also available in black) is a fingerprint magnet, with it takes just a few seconds to get completely covered is greasy residue, though it's more comparable to the iPhone 5c, rather than the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Remove the plastic shell and it really is strong, a nice touch.

While it's not an ugly phone, the curvy nature and bright accent colours (again, available in a few colours - blue, red and black) make it feel a bit like a toy, though a toy that is at least sturdy and tough.

That curvy design does help with something, though. The HTC Desire 500 feels nice to hold and sits comfortably in the hand; it also feels really light, weighing just 123g. It's thin as well, with its measurements coming in at 131.8 x 66.9 x 9.9mm. For comparison, the Moto G weighs 143g, while the Nokia Lumia 625 comes in at 159g.

A few details, like the precision-drilled speaker grilles in the top and bottom of the rear, hark back to the industrial design we loved so much on the HTC One, but with the Desire 500, you can definitely tell which the cheaper device is.

HTC Desire 500: Features

The Desire was once the main weapon in HTC's arsenal, so it seems only fitting that it's equipped the Desire 500 with quite a few of the features found in the brand's newest top dog, the HTC One.

There's Blinkfeed - a visual list of social network status updates and news buzzes – Beats Audio and an array of camera software tweaks.

There's also staples like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and DNLA streaming, however, no sign of LTE compatibility, a shame as we've seen this more frequently in bargain phones recently, the Nokia Lumia 625 for example.

The brilliant Boomsound speakers from the HTC One are, probably predictably, missing, leaving you instead with a really tinny speaker.

Android 4.1.2 comes as standard, overlaid with HTC's Sense 5 skin. Both of these are now outdated, especially the version of Android. While we aren't expecting Kit Kat 4.4 compatibility just yet, we would have much preferred to see at least 4.2 rock up on the HTC Desire 500.

The lack of Sense 5.5 isn't quite as annoying, but it's never nice buying a phone that's already outdated. There are enough features here to keep many happy, though nothing stand-out or unique.

HTC Desire 500: Screen

We're spoiled for choice these days with phone displays, and that's not just with the top of the line models. The Motorola G has a crisp, sharp 720p 4.5-inch display, for example. While the resolution on HTC Desire 500 is fairly meagre at just 800x400 pixels.

It's not all bad: yes, icons appear jagged, text is blocky and trying to read a book will no doubt soon leave you with a headache, but brightness levels are really quite impressive.

Jack it up high, hold the phone away from your face and you'll forget about that low resolution, well until you start using the phone again.

At 4.3 inches, the screen size is on the smaller end of the market, with even the Nokia Lumia 625, another budget smartphone, boasting a 4.5-incher. In normal use, the screen size is fine; it's actually quite nice having something a little smaller. A big issue though is the size of the lower bezel, which really shouldn't be so thick.

HTC Desire 500: Camera

Most people just use their phone cameras for snapping the odd shot of their mates, then posting it to Facebook or Twitter, or applying a filter and sticking it on Instagram. If this is you, the 8-megapixel shooter on the back of the HTC Desire 500 will be perfectly acceptable and it even produces some nice shots in good conditions.

720p video is onboard too, plus you can take a photo while recording, which is always a feature we never thought we would use, but in practice we actually use it a fair bit.

Photos taken with the camera lack detail, and often look a bit washed out. Oh, and please don't use the flash, or try and take night photos - they're unusable.

HTC Desire 500: Performance

Android has never really dealt that well with lower specced devices and this has forced companies to cram in quad-core processors to try and achieve a stutter free experience.

The HTC Desire 500 has one of these quad-core processors - a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 to be precise, which is paired with just 1GB RAM.

We were a little disappointed with the performance of this device; it seemed to stutter a lot - from scrolling through homescreens to opening up the menu.

Even the stock HTC clock widget seemed to struggle changing numbers, though this was only noticeable on a few occasions. Most of the time it was fine, but with a quad-core processor, it should be better.

Call quality is in line with what youíll find on most phones. Conversations are clear, while we never had a problem with people hearing us.

Light gaming was good, even more processor-hungry games played ok, though the real issue is the paltry amount of on-board storage this thing has.

At just 4GB, you can barely install two graphically intense games, like Asphalt 8 or Call of Duty: Strike Team, it's just not enough. A Micro-SD slot is present, which is nice for media, but it's not the same as having at least 16GB of internal storage.

HTC Desire 500: Battery

The 1,800mAh battery may sound small, but due to the fairly low res screen it should theoretically be fine. In real time usage we managed a full day, though only just. It seemed like the battery would deplete a lot suddenly, and then stick around the same percentage for a while. The Power Save feature helps out towards the end of the day, though you'll definitely struggle if you fall asleep without plugging in.

HTC claims you should get 12 hours talk-time, which really does seem overly generous.

HTC Desire 500: Verdict

Who's going to buy the HTC Desire 500? Well, we're not entirely sure. If you love the software on the HTC One, but don't have wide enough pockets then it could be for you. But, if you're solely focused on price, the Motorola Moto G is a clean Android and cheaper, while for around £80 more you can get a Nexus 5 with an amazing spec sheet and 4 times the internal storage, plus LTE.

The HTC Desire 500 is a good phone, but we feel it's a few years too late and easily outdone by other similarly priced devices on the market. If you have to have Blinkfeed head this way, but for everything else, keep on moving.

HTC Desire 500 release date: Out now

HTC Desire 500 price: £200