HTC Desire 610 review: watered-down HTC on the cheap

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HTC has certainly seen better days. Despite its valiant efforts last year with the One M7, it couldn’t seem to reclaim the high status it once held in the smartphone realm. It’s fought through serious competition, dwindling revenues, and shrinking market and mind share. It’s tried to be bold, to be different, and to continue to maintain the utmost quality possible.

vzw-one-m8-review-12Finally, it seems to have started to pay off for the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, HTC posted the first profits in some time. It also hit its quarterly earnings estimate.

All of this is likely due to the love its latest handset – the One M8 – has received. Both from Pocketnow and practically the rest of the web, the One M8 received mostly positive reviews, and it’s seemingly a fan favorite, as well.

The M8, however, is hardly the only smartphone HTC has announced this year. At Mobile World Congress it revealed two new additions to its Desire lineup, and more recently it announced the One mini 2, a smaller, lower-end version of the M8.

This time around, we’ve got the Desire 610 in our review labs. How does it fare? Is it worth the buy? Or should you hold out and spend the extra cash on another HTC handset?

We’ve been putting the Desire 610 to the test for some time now. Here are our findings.

Specs & Hardware · Software · Camera · Performance

 Pros/Cons · Pricing/Availability · Conclusion · Scored For Me

 

Specs & Hardware

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Taking a gander at the inside, the Desire 610 is clearly not geared towards the power user.

desire-610-review-3The first telltale sign is the display. At 4.7 inches, it only bears a quarter HD resolution – or 960 by 540 pixels – for a pixel density of just 234ppi. That’s low by today’s standards, but resolution isn’t the only sore point of the display. Saturation is actually quite impressive, but the black levels are very milky, contrast is low, viewing angles are quite bad, the temperature of the display is noticeably warm, and the surface is extra reflective. The result is a display that has this mirror effect where colors – especially dark colors – change completely at slightly different angles.

The rest of the specifications aren’t particularly noteworthy, either. They’re mostly in line with other budget-friendly smartphones. The phone offers 1GB RAM and 8GB fixed storage, with a microSD card slot that supports up to 128 additional gigabytes. It has an 8-megapixel camera fitted to the back, a 1.3-megapixel front camera, Snapdragon 400 SoC with a quad-core CPU clocked at 1.2GHz, and a 2,040mAh battery.

These specifications are more or less comparable to smartphones like the Moto G from Motorola, or even HTC’s own One mini 2.

The major differences between the One mini 2 and the Desire 610 are appearance and build quality. The Desire 610 is made entirely of plastic. The front speaker grilles and edges are a matte plastic, while the backside has a glossy finish. And unlike the One series from HTC, this particular phone feels very crude and … unpolished. The bezels around the display are quite large, the styling is noticeably dialed down from the One M8 or One mini 2, and the phone doesn’t impress us like other HTC smartphones of late have.

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But to dwell on such things is to miss the point of the Desire 610. It isn’t meant to wow us or blow us away. It’s meant to target emerging markets with an affordable phone that offers incredible value. We can’t say that hasn’t been done before, but we will say we’re not immediately turned off by HTC’s attempt at true, barebone value.

The Desire 610 manages to provide a full Android experience not all that different from its higher-end siblings. Its in-hand feel may not leave a lasting impression, especially when compared to other HTC devices, but when you experience the whole package, its yet another nice budget phone from HTC.

As far has hardware goes, out biggest complaint is the display. Frankly, there is no reason even a budget smartphone should come with such a low-res screen. The Moto G, for example, sells for roughly half the price of the Desire 610 and bears a 720p display, which has better viewing angles, colors, and a much higher density. In other words, if display is your top priority, the Desire 610’s panel should give you some pause.

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Otherwise, the phone’s worth a look. Just remember to wash your hands first and not to sit it on anything even remotely abrasive: it’s a fingerprint and scratch magnet.

Index

Software

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The big fuss, especially with budget phones, is usually software. Budget phones are all about value, or boosting the user experience through things that don’t cost money. After all, manufacturers are trying to pad their pockets while allowing consumers to be more frugal, so rather than bumping specs, the focus is shifted to software differentiation.

Fortunately, the software experience on the Desire 610 is almost identical to what you would get on the One M8. It comes loaded with Sense 6 atop Android 4.4.2 KitKat. To the left of your main home screen resides BlinkFeed, a social reader where you can add various feeds – Instagram, Google+, Faceook, LinkedIn, and more – as well as different news sources.

desire-610-review-home

desire-610-review-blinkfeedYou also have access to all the HTC apps, like the custom Gallery app, HTC Guide, HTC Backup, Parent Dashboard, Stocks, and Zoe – though Zoe still says “Coming soon…”

desire-610-review-powerWhen you pull down from the status bar with two fingers, you get HTC’s customizable settings toggles. Out of the box, you will also notice a spearmint green accent around the UI. Within the Settings application you can change this accent color to orange or purple by changing the Theme under Personalization options. Changing this theme will also change the colors in different applications, such as BlinkFeed, TV, and People.

Also like the M8, you get all the power saving modes under the Power submenu – Power saver, Extreme power saving mode, and Sleep mode.

The major software features missing on the Desire 610 are the Dot View app and motion gestures. In other words, you cannot wake the Desire 610 up from sleep by double-tapping the display when it’s off or sliding from one of the edges of the display. This is mostly a limitation of the phone’s Snapdragon 400 SoC.

HTC managed to replicate the same software experience of its higher-end smartphones on this budget device, for the most part. A few odds and ends are missing – especially in the camera application – but almost everything has remained intact. For that, we commend HTC and the Desire 610.

Index

Camera

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When you fire up the Camera application, the viewfinder looks very familiar. It’s the same UI as the one found on the One M8 and One mini 2. Settings are neatly tucked away in the lower left corner, the flash toggle is quickly accessible in the top left, the shutter button lets you know what mode you’re in, and a shortcut to Gallery is in the upper right corner. Swiping from the edges swaps between the front and rear cameras. And the Mode selector is in the bottom right corner.

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Behind the Mode button is where the biggest discrepancy appears between this camera and other HTC models. This one has only three quick select camera modes out of the box: Camera, Video, and Selfie. However, by digging through the settings, you can create quick shortcuts to even more shooting styles (Sweep Panorama, HDR, Night, Macro, etc.) by saving them as different custom camera modes.

Moving past the software side of things, we already explained in an editorial and a comparison how HTC’s UltraPixels are better than run-of-the-mill megapixels. Like the One mini 2 and Desire 816, the Desire 610’s camera is definitely not one of its selling points. Even in well-lit scenes, the camera produced washed-out images that were rather bland. Despite the 8-megapixel resolution, edges are soft and detail is lacking.

Not every picture turned out awful, but in comparison to most average smartphone cameras these days, the Desire 610 is definitely below par. It’s too quick to overexpose, it often produces a soft focus, and, with the exception of just a handful of photos, they all turned out lifeless and dull.

Low light performance is even worse. Details disappear, focus becomes even softer, and most low light pictures turn out with the dreaded oil painting effect. Point blank, low light photography is awful on the Desire 610.

Video quality is also disappointing. Upon first switching to the video capture mode, we immediately noticed the same issue from still capture – overexposure. Video was either overexposed or underexposed and it was constantly in and out of focus. Audio was passable.

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There isn’t much to say about the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. It has a very narrow field of view, it’s noticeably low-res, and stills taken with it are going to lack in detail. Colors aren’t bad, but just about the only thing you’ll want to do with this camera is video chat and maybe take a selfie or two for Instagram.

Index

Performance

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desire-610-review-benchmarkWith a Snapdragon 400 inside, the Desire 610 isn’t meant to be a performance machine. However, it does manage to hold its own through most mundane tasks. Web browsing, opening and closing apps, scrolling, and even light gaming are no problem for the phone. However, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make the phone hiccup and stutter through task switching. Also, with just 1GB RAM, we noticed the phone closed applications in the background more aggressively than some other models with more memory.

While updating a few applications and switching between a few lightweight tasks, we noticed some performance stutters, especially when returning to the home screen or an application that hadn’t been opened in a few minutes. The phone would pause for a second or two while appearing to catch up with what we were doing. It certainly isn’t the worst performing phone we’ve used, and benchmarks should corroborate those findings. Still, this phone definitely isn’t for the power user.

Being a phone marketed mostly at European markets, the Desire 610 does not have proper band support for T-Mobile here in the States, meaning we have been stuck on EDGE the entire review period. That also means we can’t fully comment on battery metrics or network performance.

desire-610-review-7We can say, however, that the battery performance, even on EDGE, didn’t impress us. We were lucky to last an entire day on a single charge without the aid of the Power saver mode. The 2,040mAh battery will likely power most users through a single day of use, but on heavier days, a mid-afternoon bump charge may be necessary. (Again, keep in mind we’re using a phone on a network it’s not optimized for, so your mileage will most definitely vary.)

Call quality was actually above average on the Desire 610. There was ample volume in the earpiece speaker. We had no problems hearing callers and they reported that we sounded crisp and clear. There was a bit of distortion in the audio coming from the earpiece and it was notably tinny, but that’s par for the course in the budget smartphone market.

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The upshot here with the Desire 610 is BoomSound. Like the M8, One mini 2, and Desire 816, the Desire 610 comes with dual-front-firing speakers with amplification chambers. The speakers produce a louder and more full sound than other smartphones in the same price range.

Index

Pros

+ Affordable pricing
+ Sense 6 is a pleasure to use
+ BoomSound speakers are loud and full

Cons

The display is poor and low-res
 Camera is sub-par
 The body is a fingerprint and scratch magnet

Index

Pricing and Availability

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Announced at MWC in February, the Desire 610 was slated to go on sale in various European markets in May. It’s currently available for purchase, but availability is hit or miss. Right now you can find the phone through third-party retailers, such as Clove, which has the Desire 610 priced at £190.00 (or roughly $325 USD). It also comes in three colors: navy, coral, and white.

For official band support of the Desire 610, see below.

2G/ 2.5G – GSM/GPRS/EDGE:
850/900/1800/1900 MHz

3G/3.5G – WCDMA:
850/900/2100 MHz with HSPA+ up to 42 Mbps

4G – LTE:
EMEA: 800/900/1800/2600 MHz
Asia: 900/1800/2100/2600 MHz (700 MHz only for Taiwan & Australia)

Index

Conclusion

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desire-610-review-18All things considered, the Desire 610 is a nice budget entry from HTC. It isn’t the biggest, baddest smartphone on the market, and it’s not even the best value around; both the Moto G and Moto E are seriously tough competitors when it comes to what you get for your money.

The biggest drawbacks of the 610 will be the display and camera experience, both of which are particularly bad. Oh, and it’s a pretty serious fingerprint magnet. But performance, storage options, and even the build of the phone are straight down the middle of the road, which is perfectly in line with the price point of this handset.

If what you’re after is a fully-fledged HTC smartphone experience on the cheap, the Desire 610 is definitely your best bet. The One mini 2, which offers slightly better specifications and a much nicer design, will cost you some extra dough, as will the larger Desire 816.

Index

Scored For Me

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+