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HTC Desire 626 review: An attractive handset let down by lacklustre performance

Katharine Byrne Thomas McMullan
3 Apr 2017
HTC Desire 626
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
250
inc VAT (SIM-free)

HTC's Sense 7 interface is wonderfully flexible, but the Desire 626's mediocre camera and so-so performance don't do it justice

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (9GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 147x71x8.2mm, Weight: 135g, Operating system: Android 5.1

When HTC first launched the Desire 620 in 2015, it was barely out of the gate before the HTC Desire 626 arrived. Unsurprisingly, there's not a huge amount of difference between each phone. They both share the same basic design (albeit with differences to weight and size), they both have a 5in, 1,280 x 720 resolution display, and they're both powered by the same chipset. 

In fact, the only real upgrade you're getting in terms of the phone's specification is a larger 13-megapixel rear camera and more storage, as HTC has bumped it up to 16GB (9GB of which is available to the user) compared to the Desire 626's rather measly 8GB. 

However, while its tech specs haven't really moved on much, it's the Desire 626's software that really makes it stand out, as it was (at the time) one of the first handsets outside of HTC's flagship One M9 to come with its new Sense 7 interface. Running off Android 5.1 Lollipop, Sense 7 is not only much cleaner and easier to use than HTC's now-ageing Sense 6 UI, and it also offers more opportunity to customise your smartphone to suit your personal style, whether it's using one of the custom-made themes available through the Theme store, or your photos as the basis for your own unique colour scheme.

Display

Despite sharing the same screen size as the Desire 620, HTC seems to have used a different panel this time, as our colour calibrator showed it was displaying 81.9% of the sRGB colour gamut rather than the Desire 620's measly 76.5%. While still not brilliant – I normally expect to see at least 85% coverage, if not 90% – images still looked decent when I compared it side by side with the Moto G. However, colours were noticeably cooler on the Desire 626, which is likely due to its strong blues and lack of warm colour coverage to round it out, making the Moto G the more appealing display overall. 

That said, blacks were still good at 0.31cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1,211:1 helped provide just about enough detail in darker shadow areas. The screen is reasonably bright, too, as I measured a peak brightness of 399.83cd/m2. You'll probably need to have it on max brightness in bright sunshine, though, as the screen can get a little difficult to see clearly outside at lower brightness levels. 

Battery Life

Of course, having the screen on max brightness will have a negative effect on the phone's battery life, but it should still be able to last for most of the day. In our continuous video playback test, for example, its 2,000mAh battery managed 10h 07m when the screen brightness was set to 170cd/m2. This puts it on par with the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, but the Moto G still has the edge with its 11h and 12m in the same test.

Camera

More disappointing was the Desire 626's 13-megapixel rear camera. Not only were images exceedingly dark, echoing the exposure problems I had on the One M9, but there wasn't a lot of detail present either. Switching to HDR helped correct the exposure balance, but photos still looked overly cool and finer details on nearby buildings were practically non-existent.

HTC Desire 626 camera test

^ Like the One M9, the Desire 626's camera left a lot to be desired, as nearly all of my outdoor photos looked very dark and dingy when set to Auto mode

HTC Desire 626 camera test HDR mode

^ HDR mode helped bring a bit of colour back into each photo, but images still looked very cool and there wasn't a lot of detail on show

Indoors wasn't much better either, and it really struggled in low lighting conditions. Colours were relatively rich, but there was grainy, rainbow-speckled noise prevalent throughout, even when our external lamp was switched on. The flash did help sharpen up object outlines, but it also transformed our white background into varying shades of blue, making photos look even worse overall.

HTC Desire 626 camera test indoors

^ Colours looked better indoors, but there was still a lot of noise present and object edges were very blurry

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