HTC kicks off IFA with a revamped hero device for its mid-range lineup
At IFA 2014 in Berlin today, HTC unveiled its latest mid-range flagship, the Desire 820. Building on the Desire 816 — a phone barely six months old — the 820 slims things down, improves the design with a new plastic construction style with bright, prominent accents. It's also a landmark for HTC and Qualcomm, being the first handset to use a Snapdragon 615 SoC — a new octa-core, 64-bit capable chip.
From the outside, the Desire 820 is clearly identifiable as a member of HTC's mid-range family of devices. Like its predecessor it's flat and rectangular with wide, rounded corners, and HTC's trademark BoomSound speakers flanking a 5.5-inch 720p display. And while the pixel density is relatively low compared to current high-end stuff, colors are plenty vibrant and the display is extremely bright when maxed out.
The chassis itself is a mostly glossy plastic affair with HTC's new "double shot" styling, which adds bright secondary colors to the whites, pinks, greys and reds of the main body. It's noticeably slimmer than the Desire 816, with narrower bezels to boot, and HTC's rearranged that phone's frustratingly-placed buttons; between all these changes it's noticeably easier to one-hand than the earlier model.
A flatter, slimmer Desire with a new 'double shot' design.
Around the back is a 13-megapixel camera — again, encircled with the accent color — that gives the phone a slight camera bump. We'll have to spend some more time with the phone before we make any judgment on camera quality, but any improvement over the 816's camera would be welcome. Around the front, HTC's shipping its highest-resolution "selfie" camera — an 8-megapixel unit that ties into new software features in Sense. The 816 can swap and merge faces in photos, with results ranging from amusing to terrifying.
The whole package is powered by Qualcomm's new 64-bit-capable mid-range chip, the Snapdragon 615. This is an octa-core chip combining four 1.5GHz cores and four 1.0GHz cores, paired with 2GB of RAM. The Desire 816 isn't exactly a slow phone, but in our brief time with the Desire 820 its performance seemed very close to that of high-end Android competitors. Part of that can be attributed to HTC's speedy software — Sense 6 has made it across to the 820 mostly in one piece, though as we've seen in other mid-range HTC devices, many of the higher-end features like Motion Launch haven't made the cut.
The HTC Desire 820 will ship globally beginning in late September. It's a solid improvement on the 816, boasting faster performance, improved camera capabilities and easier one-hand use, however it remains to be seen whether it'll be able to repeat the 816's success in Asia on a wider scale.