HTC Desire 610 Australian Review

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HTC’s mid-range Desire 610 offers 4G connectivity, dual speakers and a decidedly “cheap” feel. That’s never a good thing.

Budget phones are, as I’ve noted many times, exercises in compromise. If, like Queen, you really do want it all, you’re going to have to spend it all on a premium handset, but if your budget is a little more modest, you’ll have to scale your ambitions down just a touch.

It’s that kind of market that HTC pitches the Telstra-exclusive HTC Desire 610. There was a time when the “Desire” brand was HTC’s premium offering, but a lot of dilution, not to mention a number of years has seen it slide down into the space where it’s a budget designation for HTC.

The Desire 610 is a LTE-capable phone with 700Mhz compatibility, giving it a modicum of future-proofing on Telstra’s networks. Telstra’s yet to formally launch 700Mhz LTE, but it’s triallling it right now, and having a device that can work with future networks is no bad thing.

A very blue phone. Although it doesn't seem to be blue tick certified.
A very blue phone. Although it doesn’t seem to be blue tick certified.

The core handset I’ve reviewed came in a dark navy blue colour. It’s quite striking, and I’m struggling to remember a phone in this particular hue before. Dark blue gives it an almost business-like finish, as though it was an iPhone 5c in a suit, although it’s clearly also borrowing design notes from the much nicer HTC One M8. More on that thought later.

The issue with the HTC Desire 610’s design is that while it looks quite striking from a distance, once you’re holding it you’re almost instantly made aware of the fact that this is a plastic phone through and through. It has the same “BoomSound” speaker arrangement as the classier HTC One M8, but in a plastic body they just plain don’t sound as good. They’re certainly loud if “boom” is your thing, but they’re notably less clear than the comparable M8 speakers.

"Loud" is not automatically the same thing as "good"
“Loud” is not automatically the same thing as “good”

4G LTE is nice, and it looks good on a desk, but under the surface there are some serious hardware compromises considering the HTC Desire 610’s asking price.

The HTC Desire 610 runs on a Quad-Core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM, comparable to many other mid to entry level phones, with a 4.7 inch display screen at a resolution of 540×960. That’s depressingly low resolution, and while you’ll feel that most if you’re jumping from a higher resolution model, it’s still quite noticeable in regular usage.

For those who adore benchmarks, the HTC Desire 610 managed a score of 1136 in Geekbench 3, bearing in mind always that Android benchmarks are notably wobbly creatures. In real world usage, the HTC Desire 610 responds how you’d expect a mid-range phone to do, with some lag if you’re pushing it hard with more intensive applications.

Blinkfeed is part of the HTC Desire 610’s software offering, and like other HTC phones that use it, it’s part of the launcher and you’re stuck with giving up an entire homescreen page to it. I’m not a fan, if that wasn’t obvious.

Plus bonus Telstra apps, although with exclusive phones, exclusive bundled apps are often the norm.
Plus bonus Telstra apps, although with exclusive phones, exclusive bundled apps are often the norm.

Unlike the HTC One M8, there’s little in the way of fancy camera hardware on the HTC Desire 610, which sports an 8MP rear camera and 1.3MP front facing camera. It’s an adequate camera for the money, but nothing to get excited about.

The thing with compromises for budget devices is that you can reasonably expect those compromises to be reflected in the overall asking price. This is where the HTC Desire 610 stumbles, because while it’s not a bad phone per se, there are some serious issues with its asking price, especially on a contract.

Its outright asking price of $312 isn’t too bad, but if you’re after a contract, the current cheapest Telstra contract that the HTC Desire 610 sells on comes in at $55/month with $550 “worth” of calls, unlimited texts and 500MB of data per month for a minimum 24 month cost of $1320.

The plastic version of a much better premium phone. Where have I heard that story before?
The plastic version of a much better premium phone. Where have I heard that story before?

That doesn’t sound too bad, were it not for the fact that Telstra currently offers the premium HTC One M8 on a $65/month plan with (you guessed it) $550 “worth” of calls, unlimited texts and 500MB of data per month. That extra $10/month does mean that the minimum 24 month cost of an M8 is $1560. But the question as to whether the M8 is worth $10 more of your money per month is an astonishingly easy one to answer, because it very resolutely is.

As a budget handset the HTC Desire 610 is reasonable but ultimately unexciting if you’re looking at it from an outright perspective. If you’re looking at it from a contract viewpoint, however, it stacks up very poorly.

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