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November 08, 2015

Unboxing & Review: HTC Desire 826


During CES 2015, HTC announced the Desire 826 update to make sure their mid-ranged phones has all the bits and pieces to go heads on against the competitors. They took the design cue from the Desire Eye and upgraded the screen panel to 1080p Full HD, viola, a refreshed phablet is born. Being a 5.5 incher and equipped with Snapdragon 615, let see if this mid ranged phone has what it takes to be your perfect mid-ranged phablet.

Retails for RM1159.00 at DirectD.

Specifications Overview

General

  • Dimension: 158  x  77.5  x  8 mm (6.22  x  3.05  x  0.31 in)
  • Weight: 183 g (6.46oz)
  • Body: Polycarbonate Unibody
  • SIM: Nano-SIM
  • Connectivity:
    • GSM / HSPA / LTE
    • Wi-Fi 802.11ac
    • Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Display

  • Size: 5.5 inches
  • Resolution: 1080  x  1920 pixels (~401 ppi) IPS LCD
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Under the hood

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, Octa-core (Quad 1.7 GHz A53 + Quad 1.0GHz A53)
  • GPU: Adreno 405
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 16 GB, supporting MicroSD up to 128 GB
  • Battery: Non-removable 2600 mAh Li-Ion

Camera

  • Rear:
    • 13.0 MP, auto focus
    • ƒ/2.2 28mm lens
    • LED flash
    • 1080p video
  • Front:
    • 13.0 MP
    • ƒ/2.0 lens 28.2mm lens
    • 1080p video

Software

  • OS: Android 5.0.1 Lollipop (upgradable to 5.0.2 Lollipop, Android 6.0 coming soon)
  • UI: HTC Sense 6

Packaging

HTC's clean, rounded and environmental friendly packaging is always a plus for us.





In the box:
  • HTC Desire 826
  • 3pin USB charger (1A)
  • USB cable
  • In-ear earphones
  • Product guides and warranty
Pretty standard package except that HTC still bundles earphone with their phones which is quite rare nowadays.

Design


Some of my friends saw me using the Desire 826 and asked me if it is the HTC Desire Eye I reviewed a couple months ago. You can't really blame them due to the fact that HTC is using the same design language throughout their Desire product lineup especially that the Desire 826 has the almost similar front facing camera as the Desire Eye.

Even though they might look similar, but they are not the same camera. The Desire Eye has a 13.1MP sensor with 22mm wide angle lens, meanwhile the Desire 826 has a 13.2MP sensor with 28mm lens. Not to mention the difference in the guts where the Eye has Snapdragon 800 compared to 826's Snapdragon 615.

The phone falls under phablet category considered that it has enormous footprint. It is taller than the Samsung Galaxy Note5, yet the screen is 5.5 inch compared to Note5's 5.7 inch.


There are only 2 available colour options - Blue Lagoon and White Birch. I mean, HTC seriously need to step up their game in picking a couple sets of unique yet attractive colour options.

Not to mention that the polycarbonate back panel has glossy finish which your fingerprint absolutely loves.

I don't hate the design though, the team just got some of the ingredients wrong. In fact, I like how the phone feels in the hand when I first handled the Desire Eye and hoping that HTC would continue improve the design for their upcoming devices. Especially the phone's grippy soft-touch finish at the outer rim.


Audio jack at the top.


Volume and power button at the side. The power button has metallic finish instead of being real metal.


Dual SIM and MicroSD card support. Take note that this phone takes Nano-SIM only.

Not to forget about the valuable MicroSD card support especially this phone comes with 16GB storage only.


Micro USB port at the bottom.


The front camera as well as proximity sensor & ambient light sensor.

Not to forget the dual front facing BoomSound speaker is cleverly hidden in between the screen panel and frame.


The HTChin. (sorry, I have to)

You can clearly see where they hide the BoomSound speakers.


The rear camera comes with single LED flash.

That tiny little hole is a secondary microphone for noise cancelling.

Software

Out of the box, the phone runs Android 5.0.1 Lollipop. Just a brief moment I got the phone connected to the internet, it prompts me an upgrade is ready to be installed.


Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and HTC Sense 6.0. Definitely not the latest iteration, neither the Android OS nor the HTC Sense.


If you're following the latest news in mobile realm, you would have heard that HTC is committed to update their devices as soon as there are new updates being released. I took the liberty and Googled for HTC's Android 6.0 Marshmallow update roadmap, and this came up.


HTC BlinkFeed, HTC's own news aggregator that always standing by at the left of your screen. Unlike Google Now which targets to supply on-the-go information, BlinkFeed however is geared more to latest updates and highlights on your connected social media and news media. I do miss Google Now Cards at times, but getting aggregated updates is not bad at all.


System wise, there isn't much difference in terms of the user experience. However I do noticed that Desire 826 do not come with Motion Gesture such as double tap screen to wake phone etcetera.

System on Chip - Snapdragon 615

Being a mid-ranged phone, the SoC is no surprise - Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 Octa-core processor. The Snapdragon 600 series is considered a midranger even if it has a 8 core processor and 2GB of RAM is large because of the chip's architecture itself.

Typical ARM big.LITTLE architecture would pair a cluster of high performance but power hungry chips along with another cluster of lower performance but power efficient chips. The system will enable whichever cluster that required for the task for better performance & battery life balance. For example, Snapdragon 810's quad A57 (2.0ghz) + quad A53 (1.55ghz).

However, the Snapdragon 615 is no big.LITTLE architecture. Instead of heterogenous cluster pairs, the Snapdragon 615 has 2 clusters of identical A53 cores at different clock speed - quad A53 (1.7ghz) + quad A53 (1.0ghz).

On top of that, instead of selectively activate a cluster, the Snapdragon 615's all 8 cores can be all active at the same time, but that doesn't overcome the fact that A53 is still slower than A57 and no apps would take advantage of all those 8 cores at the same time.

That being said, having 2 clusters of not-so-power-hungry cores definitely has its advantages - power efficiency. I'll talk more about the actual usage and performance at the end of this review.

Camera

Then the camera, it is not very good.

First, the rear 13MP camera has a 28mm wide angle lens with f/2.2 aperture, then the front 13MP camera with same 28mm wide angle lens, albeit the aperture is slightly larger at f/2.0. The specification screams "ordinary". But what about real life usage?

It all boils down to the amount of lighting you have.


This was shot on a rainy afternoon with cloudy overcast. The sun is not harsh but as you can see, the photo looks pretty normal at this point.


Even it looks fine at indoors, just that you start to notice the motion blur due to slowed down shutter speed to accommodate the slow f/2.2 aperture. However one thing I notice with the lens is, it produces a rather terrible magenta flare when you point it at a bright light source.


It become even obvious at night times...

I'm not sure if this only happens on my review unit or what, but one thing for sure, this is an unacceptable flaw if it happens at mass.

More photos.





Final Thoughts - Actual Usage & Battery Life

"Any good with this phone?"
"Does it lags?"
"How's the battery life" 
- I got these questions a lot.

Short answer - Yes, it is good.

Long answer - Well, it depends on your usage and requirements.

I have to clarify that I wasn't expecting much from this phone when I first received it. I even worried that if I would stand using it after getting used to flagship devices all these years. But after spending almost a month with the phone as my daily driver, I have to say that the phone exceeded my expectations in various ways.

First - battery life. The Desire 826 comes with 2600mAh battery which is a joke for a phone at that size. Nonetheless, thanks to Snapdragon 615's high power efficiency, I manage to pull a 12 hours heavy messaging usage without plugging in. I can't imagine the battery life if HTC had larger than 3000mAh battery installed in Desire 826 combined with the power sipping Snapdragon 615.



The drawback of the Snapdragon 615 however is the occasion slow down moments. Although it doesn't always happens but there are few moments when the phone would hesitate for half a second as if it went into daydreaming mode. But most of the times I have no trouble scrolling long web pages or switching apps and it would be extremely snappy and responsive.

Second - media consumption. Bright and sharp 1080p display with stereo front facing BoomSound speakers, perfect for multimedia contents on your phone. The combination gives you the full visual and audio experience while gaming in landscape or watching your favourite cat videos on YouTube.

Is this phone for you?
If you're looking for a mid-ranged phone with reasonable price and performance ratio, then YES.

Pros:
  • Clean packaging
  • Unibody design
  • Good performance
  • Good battery life
  • HTC BoomSound speaker
  • MicroSD card support

Cons:
  • Colour choice
  • Glossy back
  • Humongous size for 5.5 incher
  • Slow charging
  • 2600mAh battery for a phone at that size
  • Sub-par camera performance
  • No Gyro, No NFC
  • Price

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