The Desire 816’s 5.5-inch Super LCD2 display has its advantages and disadvantages. Its 720 x 1280 resolution offers a pixel density of 267 ppi, which is slowly ceasing to be even a midrange standard (and is downright puny with flagship 5.5-inchers like the LG G3 offering twice as many pixels altogether). In practice, image sharpness falls in line with that on solid midrange devices up through a few months ago — a certain lack of detail is evident when objects quickly move across the screen and when sharp lines change angles. Another shortcoming is the fact that there’s no protective layer over the display, forcing you to be extra cautious not to scratch it. The brightness level here could be a bit better too, as you’ll mostly have to turn it up to the maximum setting in order to see everything as clearly as possible.
Fortunately, the display has its pluses as well. Its IPS tech offers excellent viewing angles and above-average contrast ratios. Black tones are quite black, whites are satisfactory (once the brightness is cranked all the way up, that is), and colors are appropriately saturated and pleasant during everyday use. When exposed to direct sunlight, that contrast isn’t as sustainable as it is on an OLED display, naturally, but it’s still above average for a midrange phablet. There aren’t a ton of midrange phablets currently on the market, of course, but for its price and device range, it’s good enough.
Apart from its design, the Desire 816’s biggest deal-maker is its chipset, which performs wonderfully. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 SoC is under the hood here, and per usual it comes with a quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex A7 processor and an Adreno 305 GPU. It’s joined by 1.5 GB of RAM. The phone has only 8 GB of internal storage, which is microscopic, but it isn’t all bad because up to 128 GB of space can be added with a microSD card.
With Android OS 4.4.2 (KitKat) and the relatively undemanding HTC Sense UI, this chipset offers fluid performance, almost on the level of a higher-end flagship. Scrolling through heavier websites, loading larger video clips, running demanding games — all of this is done swiftly and without glitching on the Desire 816. This is most certainly a phone that can handle more than most other midrange devices.
Outside of those internals, HTC’s BoomSound speakers are also worth shouting out, as they only further the sense that the Desire 816 offers more value than its price connotes. It’s clear at this point that super high-fidelity sound cannot be expected from smartphone speakers, but like the other HTC devices blessed with this same speaker setup, the Desire 816 sounds more natural and pleasant than almost any other phone.
Unfortunately, the Desire 816 doesn’t offer flagship-level results in the battery life department. The 2600 mAh pack included here proves to be too small for a device this big. Considering that it’s the same size as the battery found within the smaller One (M8), it’s safe to say that there was enough room for a larger battery with greater capabilities here. Even worse, the battery you are saddled with is completely irremovable.
The Snapdragon 400 is not the most demanding chipset energy-wise, the 720p screen is even less demanding, and Android 4.4.2 has been optimized in the energy department to a solid degree too, but the Desire 816 just can’t last as long as other phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or LG G Pro 2. Battery life is supposed to be an area where phablets soundly trump ordinary smartphones, but in the Desire 816’s case, you’ll have a difficult time getting through a whole day without your charger handy.