Low-res display with extremely poor viewing angles
Dull design with excessively thick bezels
Camera takes hazy, off-color photos
With no notable strengths and plenty of better low-cost options, the Desire 610 isn’t worth your consideration.
Early in 2014, HTC declared it had concentrated too much on achieving greatness with the HTC One, and not enough on making cheaper phones. Speaking to Reuters, the company promised a slew of mid-range handsets this year, aimed at revitalizing sales.
This initiative is presumably what led to the HTC Desire 610, a phone that seems to exist only because HTC’s bean counters think it should. At $350 unsubsidized, or free with a two-year contract, it helps round out the lower end of AT&T’s smartphone lineup. But compared to other mid-range phones, the Desire 610 brings nothing to the table.
No one expects a budget phone to look stunning, but the Desire 610 is exceptionally bland. Matte plastic around the edges of the phone give way to glossy, smudge-loving plastic on the non-removable rear cover. On the front, gray panels flank a black bezel that’s among the thickest you’ll find on a modern handset.
It gets worse when you turn on the 4.7-inch display. HTC skimped big time on the quality of the screen, so the slightest tilt makes the colors wash out. And with a resolution of just 854-by-480, you’ll see individual pixels without even having to squint. There are plenty of low-cost smartphones that aren’t a constant reminder of their own cheapness, but the Desire 610 isn’t one of them.
For a budget handset, the Desire 610’s Snapdragon 400 processor and 1 GB of RAM are a reasonable combination, and the phone performed well enough at video playback and at 3D games such as Minecraft and Asphalt 8. Still, you’ll feel some sluggishness when multitasking, with a slight freeze on the screen every time you switch apps through the recent apps button.
At least HTC’s software doesn’t feel cheap. While the low-quality display doesn’t do it justice, Sense is a sharp-looking take on Android, with some useful add-ons like a customizable quick settings menu and the BlinkFeed news ticker on the home screen. The usual suite of AT&T bloatware is on board, but it’s not any worse than what you’d find on other Android phones from the same carrier.
The phone has an advertised 8 GB of storage, but the amount of usable space is a little under 4 GB. Thankfully, HTC managed to fit in a MicroSD card slot.
Like HTC’s high-end handsets, the Desires 610 includes a pair of speakers on the front panel. But despite the use of “BoomSound” branding on the spec sheet, the quality of these speakers is nowhere near that of an HTC flagship. They’re loud enough, but too tinny for listening to music.
For battery life, the Desire 610 has a 2040 mAh battery with up to 15.8 hours of advertised talk time. In our standard video playback test, the phone lasted for 6 hours and 11 minutes on a charge. For reference, flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 have lasted over 10 hours in the same test.
A camera that can’t compete
Though you wouldn’t know it from the spec sheet, the camera is another major point of failure for the HTC Desire 610. Despite having an 8 megapixel, backside illuminated sensor, nearly every photo I took had a foggy, almost dreamlike quality to it, as if the camera was applying vintage Instagram filters under its own volition. The problem was especially pronounced outdoors, where colors seemed washed out, faded, or just plain wrong.
Oddly enough, the Desire 610’s front-facing camera seemed to take slightly better pictures in terms of color reproduction, despite just a 1.3 megapixel sensor. But for a selfie cam, the field of view is too narrow, barely able to fit in two people at arm’s length.
No shortage of better options
There was a time, back in Android’s early days, when any $350 phone that worked reasonably well would have been a triumph. But those days are long gone, and if you’re looking to save money on an AT&T-supported phone, you have several better options than the HTC Desire 610.
For the same $350 price, the Nexus 5 has a sharper, larger, higher-quality display, double the storage, a halfway decent camera and one of the best software experiences of any Android phone. You could also spend just $180—a little over half the price—and get the Moto G, which is also superior in every way except the lack of 4G LTE. (The first-generation Moto G with 4G LTE is a fine option as well, at $210.) And if you’re balking at the up-front cost, AT&T has several exceptional phones that—like the Desire 610—are free with a two year contract, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the first-generation Moto X.
With the Desire 610, it’s as if HTC worked in a vacuum, certain that it needed to make mid-range phones but blissfully unaware of the competition. It’s the only way to explain how a phone with so little value made it to market.
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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.
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