HTC Desire 820 first impressions: big, bold and beautiful

“The Desire 820 and its lower-priced variant, the 820q are the first 64-bit Android smartphones in India”

With the advent of octa-core processors, powerful graphics engines and as much as 3GB of RAM, the phones in our pockets are posing an intense challenge to our desktop computers when it comes to sheer power. Even 64-bit architecture on phones became a reality, with Apple being the first smartphone manufacturer to adapt it for its iPhone 5s launched last year. Not wanting to be left behind, several Android device and SoC manufacturers have also announced their 64-bit efforts since then. However, HTC has became the first company in the world to unveil a 64-bit Android smartphone in the form of the Desire 510. Not only that, the brand also showcased another device at IFA, which is world’s first to be powered by an octa-core processor compatible with 64-bit architecture, the Desire 820.

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The smartphone was launched at an event in New Delhi today, and we were present to witness it. We managed to spend some quality time with the brand’s latest top-end offering in the Desire range and here are our hands-on impressions.

The HTC Desire 820 is quintessentially a phablet with its large 5.5-inch large display panel. In fact, it’s very similar to the HTC’s popular mid-range phablet, the Desire 816 (review | FAQs) not just in terms of the screen size, but overall dimensions as well. However, there’s some differentiation in terms of the design. The device makes use of two different colours, which the brand is referring to as the double-shot design. Our grey demo unit, for instance, had white accents. The device is available in several other dual-tone finishes such as white-blue and white-red, among others. However, frankly speaking, we weren’t really impressed with our demo unit in terms of its design, though it’s a matter of personal choice and other colour choices might sway our minds. Since it’s similar to the Desire 816, handling-wise you won’t feel uncomfortable. At 155g, it’s quite lightweight for its size thanks to its unibody polycarbonate build. It also has a slim waistline of 7.7mm. However, it’s not really ideal for one-handed use, specifically considering that the device is quite large in terms of height because of the BoomSound speakers above and below the display.

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The other design elements are also same as the Desire 816, with the standard audio jack on the top, micro-USB port on the bottom and the volume rocker followed by the power button on the right spine. On the left, a flap gives you access to a pair of nano-SIM slots along with a microSD card slot.

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The rear of the Desire 820 sports the primary camera with LED flash and HTC’s branding. Due to the glossy finish, the rear picks up fingerprints quite easily and is also prone to slippage.

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The display on the phablet bears a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, resulting in a pixel density of 267ppi. The display throws up vivid colours and sharp images. Thanks to a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass, the display is protected against scratches and knocks.

Like all HTC’s offerings, the HTC Desire 820 comes loaded with Android KitKat with Sense 6 overlay. The UI offers the signature features like BlinkFeed, Zoe, and more.

While the primary shooter of the Desire 820 remains the same as the 816, which is a 13-megapixel BSI sensor with f/2.2 aperture, its 8MP BSI sensor at the front is aimed at selfie-junkies. Not just in terms of hardware capabilities, the Taiwanese brand has also added software options such as live makeup and Photo Booth as well to make good use of its secondary shooter for selfies.

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Coming to the calling card of the HTC Desire 820, the smartphone boasts of being the world’s first 64-bit octa-core processor-powered smartphone thanks to the use of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset. There are a couple of things that are worth highlighting about the SoC, with the most important being that it’s Qualcomm’s first SoC which is used in an octa-core configuration as even its high-end chipset (Snapdragon 805) is a combination of four processing cores at the moment. Another fascinating point is that Qualcomm is following the footsteps of Samsung which uses big.Little architecture for its Exynos processors as the Snapdragon 615 also has two separate quad-core clusters. However, there’s a subtle difference as Samsung uses one high-power processing quad-core cluster with the other being a low-power cluster, Qualcomm is using same Cortex-A53 cores at different processing speeds. While the high-power cluster is clocked at 1.5GHz, which is useful for processor-intensive tasks, it can switch to the other cluster for basic tasks, which is clocked at 1.0GHz. Last but not the least, the Snapdragon 615 is compatible with 64-bit architecture, the second offering from Qualcomm after the budget Snapdragon 410.

With the 64-bit architecture, ideally you’d be able to derive twice the power from the processor. However, that’s only if the app is being specifically developed to make use of its power. Another point of contention we have is the fact that the current build of Android doesn’t support 64-bit, and it’s only with the upcoming Android L release that the Desire 820 will be able to show its true power.

Having said that, we didn’t notice any lags with the phablet during our usage and it performed smoothly. To help in the graphics aspect, the Desire 820 is equipped with Adreno 405 GPU. The RAM has also been bumped up to 2GB, instead of 1.5GB in the Desire 816. For storage, it comes with 16GB on-board memory that can be increased with the use of microSD cards of up to 128GB capacity.

To make sure that consumers are able to enjoy the 64-bit processing prowess, the company has also introduced a slightly trimmed-down variant of the phablet dubbed as the Desire 820q. Instead of an octa-core processor, the 820q is fuelled by a quad-core Snadragon 410 SoC sporting four Cortex-A53 cores ticking at 1.2GHz. The RAM has been halved to 1GB. All the other things remain the same in both the devices.

For connectivity, the smartphone supports the latest 4G cellular networks on both the SIMs, along with the usual features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. It sips the juice from an embedded 2,600mAh battery.

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At first glance, the Desire 820 comes as a solid all-rounder along with being future ready and has something for everyone – a large screen, a 64-bit processor, a selfie-centric camera, 4G support and not to forget, HTC’s signature design. However, the brand is staying mum on the pricing details until the time it goes on sale in November. While we are surely impressed with the device, a lot depends upon its pricing, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for that.
Photos by Rahul Gupta.

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