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

HTC Desire 626
Our Rating :
£39.00 from
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


Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280×720, 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.


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.


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

Sense 7 UI

It’s by far one of my favourite Android skins yet, and I much prefer it to Samsung’s TouchWiz and LG’s UX 4.0 interfaces. The Themes Generator is a particularly great touch, as it can analyse colours in your chosen wallpaper, including photos you’ve taken in your own Gallery, and then suggest various different shade and tone combinations to use on your Home screen, Blinkfeed newsfeed and Settings menu. You can also tweak individual settings as well, including the appearance of your app icons, fonts and even the colour of your keyboard and dialler.

HTC Desire 626 Sense 7 interface

It’s incredibly flexible, and I particularly like that you can add another shortcut button to the main navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, adding another layer of convenience to the handset. For instance, as well as the usual Home, Back and Recent apps button, you can also add a shortcut to access your Quick Settings menu or Notifications. Alternatively, you can also add shortcut buttons to turn off the screen, disable auto-rotate or hide the navigation bar altogether when you want to watch a fullscreen video.

Sense 7 also comes with Sense Home, which can learn which apps you use most often at home, work or out and about in order to automatically promote them to the main home screen for easy access. For instance, it showed me my Mail, Calendar, Google Drive and HTC’s note-taking Scribble apps while I was at work, but on my way home these were automatically swapped for Google Maps and HTC’s Music and Car apps. You still have the option to pin apps to the home screen so you don’t have to keep digging them out of the app tray, but it should help cut down on the amount of app clutter clogging up your home screens.


With so many customisation options available, Sense 7 really makes the Desire 626 stand out from other low to mid-range handsets. It’s just a shame that HTC has chosen to give it such an entry-level chipset instead of something a little more befitting its price of £250.

While Qualcomm’s quad-core, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 chip is by no means bad, its respective Geekbench 3 scores of 484 in the single core test and 1,475 in the multicore test are actually slower than the similarly-equipped 3rd Gen Moto G, which is almost £100 cheaper SIM-free. It also pales in comparison to the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua‘s scores of 638 and 2,427, which is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 615 chip, yet costs roughly the same.

HTC Desire 626 side on microSD card slot and SIM card slot^ The microSD card slot and SIM card slot are hidden away underneath a plastic flap on the side

As a result, the Desire 626 feels a little sluggish compared to the competition, and even more so when it comes to playing games. While GFX Bench GL’s offscreen Manhattan test is very demanding, the Desire 626’s score of 111 frames (roughly 1.8fps) is a long way behind the M4 Aqua’s 362 frames (5.8fps) and it visibly struggled in real-world games, too. For instance, Blizzard’s Hearthstone was often very jerky whenever a speech bubble popped up, causing the surrounding environment animations to judder to a complete halt. It’s still just about playable, but this is definitely a phone that’s best suited to simpler, 2D games such as Threes! and Alphabear, as I managed to run these perfectly fine without any problem.

Likewise, with a Peacekeeper score of just 604, web browsing was often quite stop-start, especially on complex news sites like the Guardian. Scrolling up and down was particularly jerky when embedded videos were present, but other websites such as Expert Reviews were much smoother.

HTC Desire 626 side on display

This is disappointing for what’s otherwise a very attractive handset, as HTC’s new, slimmer chassis is arguably even more comfortable to hold than its predecessor. It’s still quite large for a 5in handset at 147x71x8.2mm, but the matt soft-touch plastic feels well-made, and its various colour combinations offer a bit more personality than other handsets available at this price.


Taken together with its lacklustre performance, the Desire 626 just doesn’t do quite enough to rise above the rest of its mid-range competition. At £250 SIM-free, the £225 Sony Xperia M4 Aqua beats it hands down on almost every front, and even paying £170 on O2’s Pay and Go service seems like poor value when the £125 Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 offers so much more for your money. This is a real shame, as I’m a big fan of HTC’s new Sense 7 interface and it’s great to see it appearing on handsets further down HTC’s Desire range. It just needs a better handset to do it justice.

ProcessorQuad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Screen size5in
Screen resolution1,280×720
Screen typeLCD
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera13 megapixels
Storage (free)16GB (9GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.1
Battery size2,000mAh

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