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HTC Desire 601 review

 Review: February 2014  
 

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The HTC Desire 601 shares the good looks of the more expensive HTC One Mini, but in a plastic shell to cut costs. It's very smart to look at and is one of the highest spec mid-range Android phones you can buy. Recommended!

Best buy: EXOGEAR ExoMount Touch Air H ... from Amazon (£24.95)



 

Introduction

The mid-range Android phone sector is stuffed full of instantly-forgettable clone phones with crud cameras, sluggish processors and underpowered batteries, so it's both surprising and exhilarating to discover a phone that's affordable, looks good and - on paper at least - ticks all the right boxes. Let's take it out for a spin!

Design & looks

So, the Desire 601 looks like a cross between the HTC Desire 500 and the HTC One Mini. That's a very good start, making it one of the best-looking phones in the mid-range. On closer inspection, we find that the Desire 601 is made from plastic, not the aluminium body we really wanted, but the effect is similar. The 601 is slightly larger than the One Mini, and that's because it has a larger screen. At 130g it's slightly heavier too, but it's certainly not a heavy phone. It feels solid and well built, and doesn't give away its low-cost origins except under careful scrutiny.

One of the features we like is the speaker grilles covering the stereo speakers. It's a nice touch, borrowed from the flagship HTC One, and it's both classy and practical. The dual speakers come with HTC BoomSound and built-in amps, and music definitely has more punch on this phone than on most mobiles.

Moving on now to the screen, it's the largest of any mid-range Android phone, measuring 4.5 inches from corner to corner. It has proportionately more pixels too, with 540 x 960 pixels giving it close to HD resolution. The pixel density of 245 ppi is firmly in the mid-range though, falling behind the 341 ppi of the HTC One Mini and not even matching the 329 ppi of the budget Motorola Moto G. But when compared with most phones in this price bracket we really can't fault it.

Android plus BlinkFeed

The Desire 601 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with HTC Sense on top. In particular, this gives it the BlinkFeed home screen (pictured), which we like very much at S21. BlinkFeed replaces the usual dull Android home screen with a dynamic feed of all your social media updates and interactions. You can see what's new at a glance, and it's a practical tool as well as nice eye-candy.

Dual-core power

There's no quadcore beast lurking in the heart of the Desire 601. Yet the dual-core processor is fast, running at 1.4GHz - that's certainly a lot faster than most phones at this price, and is fast enough for typical apps. It comes with a Adreno 305 graphics processor as well. Don't push it too far however, or you may notice its lack of grunt. Once again, we have to point out that the exceptional Motorola Moto G does more and costs less, but taken on its own terms the HTC is ahead of most rivals.

Onboard memory is 8GB, which is modest, but at least there's a microSD card slot so you can easily and cheaply add up to 64GB more storage.

5 megapixel camera

It looks as if HTC has decided not to push out its ultrapixel camera across the whole of its range, and as far as we're concerned that's the right decision. Instead, the Desire 601 comes with a conventional but competent 5 megapixel camera equipped with a BSI sensor for improved low-light performance. With a sensor size of 1/4 of an inch, this is fairly typical of mid-range camera phones, and picture quality is in line with our expectations. We obtained good results down to fairly dark scenes, with image quality deteriorating as lighting levels get low.

The camera is fast in operation and supports continuous shooting mode. It also comes with HTC Zoe, which captures a 3 second video along with each still, and a suite of camera functions. Video recording is pretty good too, with 1080p full HD shooting possible.

One downside is the rather poor front camera, which can shoot only in VGA format, making it fairly useless.

Connectivity

The Desire 601 will run on almost any network, with support for 4G, 3G and GSM. It also comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB and DLNA networking. That makes it capable of connecting with most devices, including wirelessly streaming to compatible TVs. NFC is missing though.

Battery life

The Desire 601 is equipped with a fairly heavy duty 2100mAh battery. To put this in perspective, it's larger than the battery in the HTC One Mini or the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, and it ought to give 2-3 days of use between charges, although continuous heavy use would drain it one day.

Conclusion

Taken on its own merits as an affordable mid-range smartphone, the HTC Desire 601 stands out from the crowd. It's good-looking, with a large screen, above-average audio quality, a fast processor and adequate memory, plus 4G connectivity and strong battery life. There's nothing missing from the package.

However, we do keep comparing it to Motorola's stand-out entry-level phone, the Moto G, and finding that even though the Motorola costs less, it often gives more. That's not a criticism of the Desire, but a recognition of just what exceptional value the Motorola offers. The Motorola has a better screen, a faster processor and the latest Android 4.3. On the other side, the HTC has smarter looks, a microSD memory card slot and 4G connectivity. If you're spending less than £20/month on an Android phone, you won't find better than the HTC or the Motorola.

It's your money - it's your choice.


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HTC Desire 601 user reviews

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Average rating from 2 reviews:

Reviewed by Anthony from United Kingdom on 22nd Jun 2016
I cannot get any answerphone messages.
Rating:

Reviewed by James from Ireland on 14th Feb 2014
Bought this phone exactly one week ago today and I have to say it is an excellent piece of kit. Very pleasing to the eye, very good screen, good camera and very smooth and fast to operate. I'll mention battery life separately : one word, excellent ! Even off its first charge when I brought it home I got just over 3 days. Plenty of texts, calls, browsing, email & Facebook updating. Pleasantly surprised. If I had one gripe it would be that i can't seem to regulate the volume for incoming texts separately to calls. When I turn down the volume on incoming texts, the ringer volume for incoming calls is also turned down and vice versa. One other thing, task manager ?
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