The same Sense UI 6 skin that HTC laid over Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) on the HTC One (M8) and HTC One mini 2 has been installed on the Desire 816, so the user interface here is almost identical to what we’ve reviewed before.
In short, this means that much of the OS works just like pure Android, only with a look that isn’t as intrusive as it has been in years past. Many of HTC’s additions are genuinely useful, like BlinkFeed, which is located to the left of the main homescreen at all times and offers a stream of personalized information collected from social media and news sites. Sense can be modified quite a bit — BlinkFeed can fully be removed or set as the default homescreen, for instance — while various HTC widgets are also available. It’s transformed into one of the better Android skins over the years.
What’s different with the Desire 816’s version of Sense UI 6 is its camera app. This device does not come with the so-called “UltraPixel” sensor of the One (M8) and its enlarged pixels, instead opting for a more standard 13-megapixel unit. As a result, the camera app lacks many of the One (M8)’s additional functions, such as the fun HTC Zoe editor.
However, photos from the Desire 816 turn out surprisingly well. A slight lack of focus can occasionally become a problem, but images’ exposure, noise levels, color saturation, and other such factors usually come out at an exceptionally high level. The photo quality and detail here is amongst the best for any midrange phone, regardless of size, and can almost measure up to top-tier devices like the iPhone.
The HTC Desire 816 is a midrange phablet which, despite several obvious shortcomings, leaves the impression of an above-average product. It is an instant leader in the rather barren midrange phablet market, largely due to its harmonious mixture of dependable design and powerful performance, which no other phablet in its price range can match at the moment. Its 13-megapixel rear-facing camera is an equally welcome surprise. Only a low-res display and a battery better suited for a smaller phone can really hold this phone back. If you can stomach those flaws and you want to join the phablet craze without breaking the bank, you’ll be exceptionally pleased with the Desire 816.
- Dependable performance
- Well-built, smooth plastic body
- Above-average main camera
- Low pixel density
- Poor battery life
- Misplaced capacitive keys