- 4G support
- Camera is 'meh'
We review the Desire 510, HTC’s most affordable smartphone so far.
Things are getting bloody in the cheap 4G phone wars. You can bag yourself a 4G-enabled device for just £79 these days (courtesy of the Alcatel One Touch Pop S3) and big manufacturers such as Nokia and Motorola have their own 4G phones for under £150.
Into the fray stumbles the HTC Desire 510, another £149 4G phone with a few crafty killer features to beat down its rivals. Rocking the same unique BlinkFeed interface as premium phones like the One M8, plus a 64-bit processor, the Desire 510 is certainly an enticing prospect.
But can it deliver on that promise?
HTC Desire 510: Design
At this price point, HTC’s smartphones sadly don’t rock an all-metal body like the One M8. However, the Desire 510 is still a decent looking mid-range machine.
We nabbed both the black and white models, and while we prefer the shiny coat on the glossy white version, we love the different soft-touch finish of the black Desire. You can also grab the Desire 510 in deep navy blue and dark grey.
At 158g, the Desire 510 has a definite heft to it, more so than most mid-range mobiles. It’s a chunky beast too, just a shade under 10mm. Between all that and the jutting lip beneath the screen, the phone is a little tricky to operate with just one hand.
Still, the back cover is thankfully a cinch to prise off, revealing the removable battery, SIM card slot and micro SD memory card slot. It also snaps back on quickly and cleanly, holding firmly in place.
HTC Desire 510: User experience
The HTC Desire 510 uses Android KitKat 4.4, but you’ll barely recognise it as HTC has plastered its own Sense 6.0 interface over the top. You still get a number of desktops (up to five in all) to populate with your apps and widgets, plus HTC’s own BlinkFeed desktop, which you can either set as your home page or remove entirely.
BlinkFeed is as handy as ever, streaming your selected content as a bunch of pokeable tiles. You can have social media updates, headlines and even restaurant recommendations splash up, keeping you fully up to date with what’s going on in the world.
Set-up is a little more long-winded than normal, with a dozen or so steps to go through, but if you’re transferring from another HTC phone then you’ll be relieved to hear you can copy over all your old junk hassle-free.
HTC Desire 510: Screen and media
While the Desire 510’s 4.7-inch screen is just about bright enough to see when the sun’s beating down, it’s rather underwhelming in other areas. Viewing angles are particularly poor, especially compared with cheaper 4G phones such as the EE Kestrel/Huawei Ascend G6 4G – we found the display darkened as soon as we tilted it.
Colours have a more subdued, natural vibe to them too, rather than leaping off the screen as they do with EE’s display.
The 854×480 pixel resolution produces a reasonably crisp image, although again rivals such as the Motorola Moto G 4G are much better for enjoying HD movies. The Moto G 4G sports a 720p screen, and the difference is incredible when kicking back with a high-def video.
Still, for browsing the web and mucking around with apps, the Desire 510 will do the job. That lack of clarity is only really an issue when browsing busy websites, where you need to zoom right in to make out the text.
HTC’s dual speakers (known as BoomSound, which we never get tired of saying) are sadly missing in action, but the rear-mounted speaker does a decent job with music and films, pumping out quite a powerful sound. It’s just a shame it isn’t pointing at your face, and it’s all too easy to accidentally smother it with your palm.
HTC Desire 510: Performance and battery life
This is the first phone we’ve played with that sports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 processor, a 64-bit quad-core chip. If that means bugger all to you, let’s just say that it easily handles Android and all of your apps, providing a slick experience for the price.
We played around with some of the latest games, all of which ran perfectly smoothly. We didn’t see any glitches or drop-outs, a testament to Qualcomm’s excellent low-cost processors.
And of course, when it comes to nippy web browsing or media streaming, the 4G support is great to have.
One of the Desire 510’s greatest strengths is its battery life, which is among the best we’ve seen on a smartphone. We easily got a full day of life from one charge, even with regular use. Try streaming video, and you’ll manage almost seven hours of movie viewing goodness before the Desire dies. That’s well over the average result of five hours.
HTC Desire 510: Camera
The Desire 510’s 5-megapixel camera is simple at heart, starting with the stripped-down interface. You get an on-screen shutter button to take photos, mode switching button and gallery toggle, and that’s it. The rest of the screen is dedicated to the photo preview.
If you want to fiddle under the hood, you can tap the bottom left corner to bring up the settings. This allows you to adjust the resolution, toggle geo-tagging, add a timer and mess around with manual adjustments such as ISO and white balance.
As for the different modes, they’re as simple as it comes – camera, video and selfie mode (which switches to the front camera, a basic VGA effort that’s fine for video chatting and shooting tiny self portraits).
The Zoe mode from the One M8, which allows you to shoot 3-second clips of your day and compile them into a montage at the end, is apparently coming soon as a separate app.
Photo quality is fine, if not spectacular. In bright daylight, we found our photos were just about sharp enough to view back on a larger display like our telly. The lack of an HDR mode means that the lens sometimes struggles with glare, however. We also found that low light performance was poor, producing grainy, ugly photos.
The lack of autofocus means that close-up shots sometimes look rather hazy too.
Most phone cameras around this price point fail to impress, and even the mighty Moto G stumbles when it comes to quality photos. Still, if you just want a basic snapper to shoot social pics, the Desire 510 just about delivers.
HTC Desire 510: Verdict
The HTC Desire 510 is the latest phone to offer 4G for cheap, but with some slick LTE rivals like the EE Kestrel and the Motorola Moto G 4G to contend with, the Desire has a lot to prove.
We quite like the Desire’s design, although it isn’t as handy for one-handed use as the Moto and the Kestrel, and the screen and camera are ultimately a little disappointing. Still, some slick performance and excellent battery life make it a handy portable pal, if you’re not too bothered about watching video on the move.
Read next: The best cheap 4G phones