HTC Desire 500 review
The Desire 500 has a similar front-end to the HTC One (M8) and a good camera, but battery life and performance are both poor
Review Date: 29 Apr 2014
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £151 (£181 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The HTC One spent much of 2013 as our favourite smartphone, but if you don't fancy spending big on a flagship handset, HTC's Desire 500 has you covered.
Naturally, it can't hold a candle to the One's sumptuous design and 4.7in, 1080p display, but for a sub-£200 phone the Desire 500 is uncommonly good-looking. Its glossy white plastic frame is set off nicely by a metallic blue strip that surrounds the edge and seamlessly encompasses the volume buttons along the right-hand edge.
It's slim, too, at 9.9mm thick, it weighs only 123g, and its gently rounded rear panel and corners make it comfortable to hold. The Desire 500 trumps most low-cost Android phones when it comes to design.
Front and centre is a top-quality 4.3in screen. We measured maximum brightness at a huge 444cd/m2 – the best of any sub-£200 smartphone we've tested – and a contrast level of 1,388:1 ensures deep, inky blacks. A bog-standard resolution of 480 x 800 means it isn't as crisp as the Motorola Moto G and Alcatel Idol S's 720p displays, but you have to look pretty hard to tell the difference with the phones side by side.
Where the Desire 500 begins to fall behind its rivals is in performance. It has a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, but it's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 – a step below the Snapdragon 400 employed by most of its rivals – and it's outscored by them as well. A result of only 4.5fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD test indicates this isn't a phone for the gaming enthusiast.
In casual use, this lack of performance isn't too much of a problem. Sense, HTC's heavily skinned version of Android, is responsive, with only the odd stutter when transitioning from one screen to another. We like HTC's software: it looks cleaner than standard Android, and its BlinkFeed homescreen is great for anyone who wants news and social networking updates in one place. Sources are a little restricted, though: you can get updates for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr, but not Google+.
Battery life, on the other hand, is most certainly an issue. The Snapdragon 200 is built using a 45nm process, whereas the Snapdragon 400 uses a 28nm process, so we expected the former to be less efficient. So it proved, with consistently higher drain rates across our three battery tests than phones with the Snapdragon 400.
During demanding games, the phone swallowed a huge 44% of its battery capacity per hour; 720p video playback consumed 29% per hour; and 3G audio streaming used up juice at a rate of 10% per hour. These are poor results.
Perhaps the Desire 500's strongest aspect is its 8-megapixel camera, which produces detailed, balanced snaps full of rich colours. It doesn't suffer unduly from lens flare, as many rivals do. Even low-light shots look okay.
The camera is one of many things we like about the HTC Desire 500. It has a great display, it's slim, light and good-looking, and we like the Sense skin. However, it's pricey compared to the Moto G, its battery life is poor and performance is sluggish.
Author: Jonathan Bray
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