HTC Desire 626 Review: affordable, but it falls short of awesome
What do you do when you want to build a phone that has the perfect blend of price, design, and specs? If you’re HTC, you create a Desire phone. We’ve been fairly pleased with how well the HTC Desire lineup has been performing recently and we’ve even gone as far as calling them “a mid-tier phone with flagship DNA” and “a phone with a midrange name and flagship performance”. Does the HTC Desire 626 live up to the expectations set by its predecessors? Let’s dive right into the HTC Desire 626 review!
Video · Specs/Hardware · Software · Cameras · Performance
Before we dig in too deeply, it’s worth mentioning right up front that there is more than one phone that carries the “Desire 626” name. The internal model name for the phone is the A32. The version that AT&T just released is the A32e. There’s also another version that was released in Taiwan earlier this year. Depending on who you ask, each version has similar performance, but they each have significantly different internals. So to be clear, the model we’re reviewing here is the Desire 626 for AT&T – the A32e.
The Desire 626 feels solid in the hand. Its rounded corners look nice, and its edges are also rounded over for a comfortable but secure grip. Unlike the One M9, the Desire is made of a semi-matte polycarbonate, not hyper-glossy aluminum. Unlike previous Desires, which were great at fighting off fingerprints, fingerprints can be easily seen on the opalescent coating of the Desire 626.
Rather than a rounded back, like the One series flaunts, the Desire 626 is an elegantly flat slab that is very stable on your desk. Opting for polycarbonate rather than the aluminum unibody of the One means the Desire 626 has a little flex to it, but nothing to worry about. Weighing in at 140g, it’s no lightweight, but it doesn’t feel particularly heavy. Despite its svelte 8.13 mm thickness, measuring in at just under 147 mm x 71 mm it does feel somewhat large in the hand – not wide, but tall. To accommodate its height, HTC put the power button under your right thumb, and the volume rocker above it. That took quite a bit of getting used to.
Turning to the front of the phone, we really love the front-firing speakers – or, rather, “the speaker”. Despite having two front-facing grills, only the top grill has a speaker behind it, the bottom one hides the microphone, but balances out the phone’s aesthetics. We’re disappointed that there is no BoomSound, but at least what sound there it has is loud and front-firing.
The screen on the Desire 626 won’t win any awards either. Colors are washed out, the screen is fairly dim, and it only has a pixel density of 293.74 ppi. To counter those, blacks are fairly deep and contrast is very good thanks, in part, to the 5-inch HD (1280 x 720) LCD panel that HTC opted to use.
HTC included Android 5.1 (not 5.1.1 and Sense 7.0 on the Desire 626. We’ve talked about Sense UI 7.0 many times before, and there’s really nothing new to add here. Sense UI, along with HTC’s own suite of software, doesn’t fight stock Android; it complements it, for the most part. HTC has done a tremendous job unifying both their operating system environment and their preloaded apps such that everything feels like it belongs together.
AT&T decided to preload some of its own software on the Desire 626, about twenty titles in all. Some of these apps are extremely helpful, while others just take up space. None of them seem to fit in with the whole unified look and feel that HTC’s software offers.
When using the main camera on the HTC Desire 626, stills were crisp and clear, and colors were decent. Blurry pictures were the exception rather than the rule, but without OIS, they happened more often than we’ve gotten used to. The main camera sports an 8MP resolution with a single LED flash. The front camera is 5MP. Both can shoot 720p video.
Pictures taken in bright light looked best, as one would expect, but they all turned out darker than we thought they would. Pictures taken in low-light situations without the flash were fair, but not outstanding, and HDR+ was nowhere to be found.
In everyday use the HTC Desire 626 isn’t particularly fast, but it’s not what we’d call “slow” either. We noticed hesitations when launching pretty much any app, and when switching between them. That performance is thanks to a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 clocked at 1.1 GHz with 1.5GB RAM. With specs like those, we’d almost expect the Desire 626 to be a smartwatch, not a phone.
On the flip-side, using the Snapdragon 210 makes the 2,000 mAh last for days. We left the phone on our nightstand for a week, and it still had most of its charge left. That was a delightful surprise. Screen-on time was equally impressive – with heavy use, we were able to get almost two solid days between charges.
We’ve gotten used to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology to help quickly replenish our batteries. Not so in the Desire 626, which doesn’t include Quick Charging abilities at all. To add insult to injury, there’s no Qi wireless charging either. You’ll just have to get used to a “use it all day, charge it all night” routine.
+ Great battery life
+ Good size and elegant design
+ MicroSD slot for external storage
– Cameras were good, but not great
– Despite looking like two, there’s only one front-firing speaker
– Low resolution screen
– Below average performance
Like we mentioned earlier, the HTC Desire 626 that we reviewed is an AT&T exclusive, though another version exists for certain prepaid carriers. Off-contract, the Desire 626 will run you just under US$185, but if you’re willing and able to agree to a 2-year plan through the carrier, AT&T will let you have it for under a buck (not including taxes and fees).
Typically, when we review a phone out here in the Pocketnow Utah offices, we carry our daily driver alongside the review device. This time, the review device was good enough, though not particularly fast, to accomplish all our daily activities. If you’re looking for a cheap phone that will do what you need it to – but not much else – the Desire 626 is worthy of your consideration.