I have been really interested with the latest HTC products ever since they started with the HTC One. It was about a matter of time before their good android experience reached lower budget devices, and from my short time with the HTC Desire 500, I believe that is exactly what happened!
Quick Spec Sheet
The HTC Desire 500 is actually quite a palmable device, it sits really well in the palm with dimensions of 131.8 x 66.9 x 9.9mm weighing a light 123g in a plastic body that tries to resemble its bigger metal cased brothers. The device’s display is a 4.3 inch display with a resolution of 480×800 averaging around 217PPI. Inside the device beats a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 200, quad-core processor clocked at 1.2Ghz with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage (roughly 2 and a half of which is free) which can be extended with MicroSD cards. It runs on Android 4.2 with HTC Sense 500. Communication is kept fairly straight forward with up to 3.5g (HSDPA up to 7.2 Mbps), Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and DLNA (HTC’s wireless media sharing). The device features an accelerometer, proximity and light sensor. Moving to the back sits an 8 Megapixel camera with a 5 stage LED flash (adjusts depending on available lighting), while the front camera is a respectable 1.6 Megapixel shooter capable of 720p video.
The Desire 500 comes in a nice little box made out of environmentally friendly materials. The box is pretty straight forward and has no print on it either, perhaps this makes the recycling process better.
All model identification is done on the box cover, which makes sense as they can use the same box for all phones that could fit.
The device comes with all the basic necessary accessories expected, a Micro-USB cable, Two piece wall charger and a pair of headsets. The device was white with glacier blue, so it was nice that the accessories were white. Along with the device came a few manuals, warranty information and serial stickers. No HTC stickers though!
Design, Body and Display
As far as budget phones go, design isn’t always a focus and is often a hit or miss. HTC started to really care about design in the past few years and that shows even in their budget lineup.
The device is fairly good looking, and does come in a couple of colors, most of which are white based. The black one is entirely black throughout and looks like a different device all together. The plastics are glossy all around.
Starting from the front, the top of the device is where the sensors are, LED indicator (hiding in the earpiece grill just like in the HTC One & One Mini), front facing camera, and the nice 4.3 inch display. Towards the bottom sits two capacitive buttons; Home and Return.
At the back, in the center and slightly raised from the back shell sits the 8 Megapixel camera with an LED flash underneath. At the bottom of the device sits the Beats audio logo and speaker.
The cool thing about the Desire 500 is that the rear shell isn’t just a rear cover, but it shells the entire phone’s sides and the front’s top. I like phones like that, especially budget phones. If it gets messed up, change it, maybe even get a few colors and swap them based on mood. The only thing that does remain is the blue camera surround. Other than that, the phone can change color without any hassle.
On the top of the phone sits the power button and a 3.5 mm headphone port. I did find that the power button to be a little too slim, perhaps wished it was raised a little more for better use.
The bottom of the device hosts the microphone and the Micro-USB slot. Again, HTC still continues to have them upside down. It is just the way they do it, and I am sure they have a reason for it, somewhere within the HTC headquarters.
So they did care about styling then! Rather than just go around with the blue side ring, they split them at the volume keys, which made them easier to see and feel with the hand. Just small touches worth mentioning.
The device has a glossy finish to the plastic, which although is soft, it can get slippery at times. The blue ring around the device is more of a matte finish so that does assist a bit in grip. Overall, the device fits nicely in one’s hand and one handed operation is quite possible without any fuss. I was able to bring down the notifications panel from the top with one hand with no issue.
The only real concern I had was the screen. As can be seen from the picture above, from the side, the plastic body is actually slightly lower in than the screen itself, which draws some concern if the device is ever dropped, the screen is more exposed. I would think with a removable shell, they would sink the screen in a bit so it gets most of the damage. Overall, not a deal breaker but just raises more caution.
The screen itself is good. Being at a lower resolution of 480×800 while we’re all spoilt with 1080p resolutions, the tiny (barely noticeable and certainly does not matter) pixels do appear with close starring but the quality of the screen is quite good. Colors are sharp, vivid and the screen brightness is more than sufficient. Under the sun it was decent, too.
I do not wish to bring this up a lot during the review but keeping in mind that this is essentially a budget phone being sold here at a maximum of 270$ while offering nearly 60-70% of the experience of phones more than twice its price, its a great start.
Memory and Data
This is an issue I faced with the Desire 500. The built in storage is 4GB which is expandable with a Micro-SD slot. Out of the 4GB the user gets nearly half of that space, which is a tad too limited for a phone, especially a smartphone. There is no Micro-USB provided with the phone so one will have to make the additional purchase.
At the time of review, I had no Micro-SD card (The last one I had disappeared, they’re tiny) and by the time I had most of the applications I use, installed, I had no space to download any large applications (more on that later). On the plus side of storage, the device does give 25GB of free dropbox cloud storage (for two years), which is always a welcomed add on to a device.
The device comes with 1GB of RAM, and with the device’s specifications, it is sufficient for everyday use, multitasking and more. I often had nearly 300-400 MB free which clearly indicated RAM was well managed, I never felt any issues due to RAM being filled.
The camera isn’t fancy on the Desire 500, no fancy names like Ultrapixel, but it is a straight forward 8 Megapixel camera that works really well. For bragging rights, you can always say that the HTC One also has an 8 Megapixel camera, just don’t go into details nor compare the shots..
I took the camera for some real world trial runs and it performed really well, low light shots were decent, but outdoors is where it shined. It has the same interface as with the HTC One, which meant there are plenty of options to go through for that perfect shot. Here are some real world samples.
Outdoor shot, in a very sunny day, captured quite a lot of details.
Indoor, Coffee Shop, medium lighting, not dark, not bright either.
Mall over look, decent mall lighting, quite a lot of details captured as well.
Sunny outside but in shade.
Overall, the camera is quite good (remember, budget phone) and without a doubt I think it’s one of the best budget phone cameras on the market today. The HTC Sense 5.0 interface makes snapping shots really quick and the experience is just super efficient.
The output resolution of the images are 3264×1952 and are sized quite reasonable with most images being between 1-1.5MB. With the limited 4GB on board, it wont be filling up that soon. The camera interface has many options as mentioned before, with plenty of special effects and tools to make imaging more accurate for better results and more fun with filters and other stuff.
I really did not want to get into much detail regarding the HTC Desire 500’s OS. Simply because, it offers nearly identical experience to the HTC One Mini. The resolution is lower, and there is a bit of stutter and lag on some occasions, especially while moving around fast but the overall experience is nearly identical, and smooth.
For more information and details about HTC Sense 5.0’s interface, features and apps, check my discussion of it in my HTC One Review.
All is without fault though, there were a few quirks that I needed to mention. First of which is the WiFi connectivity. Now I am not certain if this is entire OS based or hardware based but I was using a device on WiFi (Same bands as the Desire 500) and when the battery died I decided to continue my session on the Desire 500. It would get the signal but when it would try to connect it would fail because the connection was poor, even though I was on it just fine.
While on the HTC One Mini, The playstore wouldn’t show me applications that were incompatible with the device, such as real racing 3 for instance, but when I looked around on the Desire 500, it showed up! I did not have enough memory on the device to download a 1+GB game and there is no guarantee that such a resource hungry application would run on the Desire 500. I am not too sure what exactly is happening with that but the point I am trying to make is, 4GB is such a low amount of storage today and most of us can fill it entirely with applications before having any data on the phone, and thats before realising we don’t get the entire 4GB in the first place. This does, I believe, pull the OS back from its potential.
As far as features and options go, all the essential tools found on the bigger HTC models are available on the Desire 500 such as Driving Mode, Kid Mode, Blink feed (which I love), HTC’s transfer tool, various productivity and utilities (except for hardware related applications like TV remote functions which the Desire 500 does not have).
Performance and Beats Audio
I am not going to repeat myself once again discussing the general feel of the device, but as a reminder, the device is smooth. There are slight stutters and lags from time to time, especially between applications and switching between things quickly.
Trying some light games, like Subway Surfers and Temple run, the device had no issues handling them at all. After all, it has a quad-core snapdragon 200 processor which isn’t really a slow processor. The end user who would purchase this device would expect much less in terms of performance than what the Desire 500 can offer, and that says it all.
The beats audio is an interesting addition to the Desire 500 being a budget phone. The speaker isn’t anything special, it is placed in the back as ordinary phones and does a fairly decent job of audio playback. Wearing a headset though, does show some of the beat’s effective characteristics where the sound is quite clear and loud. The supplied headphones surely do not do the audio system justice.
Sadly, the screenshots got corrupted so I shall not be able to display screen shot proof this time around, but you’ll have to take my word for it. The battery capacity is good for a device of this size, stated at 1800mAh and in fact, it is the exact battery found in the HTC One mini.
Not only is the battery size similar but the battery life is quite similar as well. I would get nearly 6-7 hours of use on top of nearly 6-7 standby, I would often see the 12-15 hour stated time since last charge which I think is on par with what is expected of these devices.
The HTC Desire 500, simply put, is a budget phone that offers once of the best smartphone experiences on the market today. The device has a good size, look, feel and runs a smooth HTC Sense 5.0 with blinkfeed version of Android 4.2, while offering decent battery life, a very good camera, all packed in a neatly priced package.
I believe it is hard to get a decent budget phone that doesn’t cut back on something or the other, HTC didn’t, and the end result is a device that offers 60-70% of the experience of higher end models at a fraction of the cost.
Device Pros and Cons
– Well priced
– Good camera and imaging features
– Decent battery life (Which is removable)
– Perfect size for one handed use and portability
– HTC Sense 5.0 with Blinkfeed (One of the best Android Experiences offered today)
– Swappable body shell
– Screen protrudes from the body shell
– Speakers are mediocre to be badged Beats Audio
– Limited built in storage
– Power button almost level with the body
– Glossy finish gets slippery