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Hands-On: HTC Desire 820

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Sep 4, 2014, 2:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC picked a good name for this mid-range hero device. The 820 is a significant improvement over its predecessor and brings some novel features to the fold. Here are Phone Scoop's initial impressions.

HTC's Desire range sits below the One range in terms of specs, performance, and price, but it hardly feels like it. As far as mid-range devices go, the Desire 820 ranks pretty high with its impressive feature list and thoughtful design.

HTC makes no bones about pouring its heart and soul into each phone it creates. The Desire 820 - a successor to the 816 - carries over the hallmark features of its predecessor, but makes significant improvements along the way. To start, the design has been spruced up a lot. The 820 uses polycarbonate to form the rear and sides in a strong shell. The polycarbonate has two colors, with accents rimming the exterior. Rather than simply painting the colors on, HTC merged two different plastics in a new manufacturing process called Double Shot. The result is accent colors that won't fade, chip, or get scratched up. Think of it as the equivalent to the chamfered edges of the One (M8).

I do think the polycarbonate shell is a bit too glossy and slippery. For all the care HTC put into the design, it doesn't feel as good as it looks. The Desire 820 is thin and sleek, but very large. It is every bit a phablet, which means it often requires two hands to use properly rather than just one. I had a hard time reaching parts of the screen with my thumb for sure.

The screen, at 5.5 inches, is quite large. The 720p HD resolution is somewhat disappointing in theory, but in reality it looks quite good. HTC knows how to design a good LCD panel and the Desire 820's looks great, even though it is stretching fewer pixels across a larger space.

 

820

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Buttons and controls are kept to the bare minimum. There are no buttons on the front, as the phone use the on-again, off-again control buttons from the Android platform. There's a large hatch on the left edge that protects the SIM card and memory card slots. I had no trouble peeling it back to access the slots. The screen lock button and volume toggle are both on the right edge. Both buttons are rather slim, but I thought they offered good travel and feedback. The screen lock button is the lower of the two, making it easier to reach given the phone's large footprint. The microUSB port is on the bottom and the stereo headphone port is on the top.

The user interface is of course HTC Sense 6.0, which includes BlinkFeed and the HTC camera. I found the UI to be incredibly quick and snappy thanks to the octa-core engine powering the phone. The camera has some cool new tools. Since the 820 places such an emphasis on the selfie camera (8-megapixels), it added some funs ways to interact with them. There's a photo booth app for creating image collages, a way to merge two faces into one, and an automatic touch-up tool that adds makeup to people's faces.

The HTC Desire 820 is a very nice mid-range handset. None of the U.S. carriers have said they'll offer it, but perhaps it will show up later this year.

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