“Here’s a short review of the affordable variant of HTC’s popular mid-range phablet.”
How do you capitalise on a popular product in your portfolio? If you’re HTC, you introduce an affordable alternative to the device, which keeps what’s unique about its progenitor, and removes what doesn’t affect its usability. The smartphone we’re talking about is the Desire 816 – the brand’s second phablet (after the One Max), which has been topping the popularity charts in its price range of under-Rs 25,000 since its launch. To make the most of the demand, the Taiwanese brand has revealed its sibling, the Desire 816G (first impressions), which is a similar product with a cheaper price tag.
We’ve already covered the HTC Desire 816 extensively, with FAQs, camera performance, a quick pictorial review and of course, the full review. Since the Desire 816G is a near-identical device, we’re going to focus on how the few differences impact its day-to-day usage.
Specs at a glance
- 156.6 x 78.7 x 8mm
- 5.5-inch display, 1,280 x 720 pixels (~267ppi)
- 1.3GHz quad-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB onboard storage, expandable up to 32GB
- 13-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash
- 5MP front-facing camera
- Dual-SIM support with 3G compatibility on first slot
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS
- 2,600mAh battery
- Android 4.4 with HTC’s Sense customisation
What’s the same: design, display and cameras
Phablets are in vogue these days, and the Desire 816G falls in the same category with its large 5.5-inch display. The display bears a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels and offers excellent visuals, even though the pixel density is slightly on the lower side at 267ppi. In terms of design, the device is a carbon copy of its sibling, with the front being home to the display, flanked by BoomSound speakers at the top and bottom.
All the buttons are placed on the left edge, whereas the right spine hides slots for the SIM cards and a microSD card behind plastic flaps. Since most of the devices offer the power button on the right side, it takes some time getting used to this placement on the Desire 816G. It’s also quite difficult to reach for when the smartphone is being used one-handed, since it’s placed high up on the side. Even though it’s a phablet, the 816G’s weight makes you believe otherwise, since it is well-distributed, tipping the scales at 158g – 7g lesser than its sibling. It’s also quite thin at 8mm. The unibody smartphone fits well in the hand, although the glossy finish makes it quite slippery.
The camera duo on both the phones is also the same, with a 13-megapixel sensor at the back and a 5-megapixel camera in the front. The camera app’s interface in the Desire 816G is also same as the 816, allowing you to choose between different modes and manipulate settings like ISO, exposure, etc.
Both the snappers result in decent photographs. Here’s a look at a few of the images captured with the Desire 816G.
What’s different: hardware and connectivity
Interestingly, while both the devices run Android KitKat 4.4 as the underlying OS, it seems that their Sense overlays stand at different versions. The Desire 816 features the latest Sense 6 customisation, whereas the 816G gets the older version. It doesn’t impact the usability at all, but we’re still wondering why the brand has gone with the older Sense iteration on the newer device.
To make the Desire 816G more affordable, HTC has traded the Snapdragon 400 chipset in its sibling for a MediaTek MT6572 SoC. The MediaTek chip is a popular choice amongst Indian manufacturers for their budget offerings, and houses four cores running at 1.3GHz. The RAM has also been reduced to a gigabyte from 1.5GB.
But that’s not to say you should be worried about the performance. The phablet offers a smooth user experience, with no lags encountered in normal usage. There were no problems while switching between different tasks or browsing a heavy website either. However, one area where we felt the phone didn’t do full justice was on the gaming front. In more intensive titles like Riptide GP2, we noticed that the rendering wasn’t as smooth as it should be. For some reason, there were also instances where the game started looping between two frames constantly. Like all MediaTek-powered phones, the device heats up in minutes when playing a game.
Internal storage remains the same as 8GB, out of which the end user will be able to access 4.33GB. There’s also an option to extend it further up to 32GB via a microSD card. In comparison, its pricier brother supported memory cards of up to 128GB. With the USB OTG support, you can make use of flash drives to connect to the HTC Desire 816G.
There’s also a difference in the two handsets when it comes to the connectivity aspect. The Desire 816 is one of the best smartphones if you’re looking for CDMA compatibility. The Desire 816G on the other hand, has the usual cellular connectivity with support for 3G on the first SIM slot and the other SIM compatible with 2G networks. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS round off the connectivity department.
The change in internals does seem to impact the battery life of the phablet. Although it delivered a day’s worth of backup on moderate usage, in our standard battery test, the HTC Desire 816G churned out an average result of six hours and 30 minutes when we played back a 720p video on loop.
Compared to HTC of 2013, this year the brand seems to be willing to make more bets. It has jumped on several trends like selfies, 64-bit processing as well as launching a number of variants of its products. Phablets being a hot category these days, HTC took an interesting approach to reach more consumers by introducing a lower-priced variant of the extremely popular Desire 816. What’s further appreciable is the fact that the Desire 816G doesn’t come across as a watered-down variant of its sibling. Although there’s some reduction in performance, it doesn’t affect the day-to-day usage.
HTC has priced the Desire 816G at Rs 18,990, which is Rs 5,000 cheaper than its predecessor. Going by prices online, both the devices are available for slightly cheaper. However, there’s still a considerable difference in price between the two, which ensures that both products cater to different price segments.
In its price range, the Desire 816G has some tough competition from the ASUS Zenfone 6 (review) and Micromax Canvas Gold A300, both of which outdo the phone in a spec-by-spec comparison. However, if you’re looking for a good-looking phablet with a nice camera and decent performance, the HTC Desire 816G is a sensible choice.
Price: Rs 18,000
Editor’s rating: 7 / 10
- Good design
- Good imaging experience
- Glossy body
- Slightly low on performance compared to its sibling
Photos by Pratik Vyas