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HTC Desire 820 review

 Review: February 2015  

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The HTC Desire 820 gives a lot for your money - a powerful octa-core processor, a big 5.5 inch screen and an 8 megapixel front camera. But it's too big to become a mainstream phone.

Today's best buy: HTC Desire 820 SIM-Free Smar ... from Amazon (£130)


Design & looks

The HTC Desire 820 is in many ways a cracker of a phone, so it's a shame that it looks rather ordinary on the outside. Indeed, place it next to the mid-range Desire 620 and you might not notice much difference, apart from the size. The Desire 820 is larger, to accommodate a big 5.5 inch screen, and it's a couple of millimetres slimmer too, but apart from that the rather plain looks are the same. It's quite a sleek look, with a plastic unibody construction in a two-colour finish. Some colour options work better than others. Let's be generous and call it "understated".

There's no getting away from the fact that the phone is big though. It's bigger than HTC's flagship One M8, and perhaps it's too big for a lot of people. It's not the heaviest phone we've ever lifted, but it's quite a solid weight in the hand.

It's all because of the big screen of course. 5.5 inches is quite a size - bigger than most high-end phones and very nearly a match for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Is it a phone? Is it a phablet? Is it suffering from some kind of identity crisis, rather like Sony's Xperia T3? Whatever it is, it's not a phone that everyone will want to lug around with them.

The screen is a good one - a HD LCD display that's bright enough to read in sunlight, and fairly well saturated in colour. But the 267ppi pixel density isn't quite as sharp as we'd like. There's a cool colour cast too. Nevertheless, for general use, it's a brilliant screen and definitely one of the key advantages of the phone.

The design of the phone incorporates twin stereo speakers with built-in amps. The speaker grilles are less iconic here than in the HTC One M8, but they will still produce high quality audio.

An 8 core workhorse

Whether you plan to use the Desire 820 for business or pleasure, you won't find it lets you down with its 64-bit Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor. This unusual configuration consists of four cores running at 1.5GHz and another four at 1GHz. An Adreno 405 GPU provides graphics processing. There's plenty of power available for multimedia, and battery life can be assisted by using the lower-powered cores when less work is needed. The device comes with a large 2GB of RAM too. It's a good set-up, giving an overall capability somewhere between a mid-range phone and a high-end superphone - probably towards the higher end for most tasks.

The onboard memory is 16GB and there's a microSD card slot, allowing expansion by up to 128GB.

The operating system is Android KitKat 4.4.4 with HTC Sense and BlinkFeed.

Impressive dual cameras

The Desire 820 has caught selfie fever, and comes equipped with two impressive cameras.

The main rear camera has a 13 megapixel BSI sensor, an LED flash, autofocus and can record 1080p HD video.

The front camera has an unusually large 8 megapixel sensor, so you can record shots of yourself in superb detail. It also has BSI, although it lacks a flash. Like the main camera it can record 1080p video.

The phone comes with the HTC EYE Experience, giving a clean interface for both cameras, and plenty of toys to play with.


With 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, DLNA and a headphone jack, the phone covers all the connectivity options that we would like, apart from NFC. A-GPS and GLONASS positioning are present though.

Battery life

A big phone needs a big battery, and the Desire 820 comes with a larger-than-average 2,600mAh battery. It's hardly massive though. You'll be pushed to get a whole day of continuous use on a single charge.

Conclusion - capable, but very large

The Desire 820 is in many ways a capable device, and certainly very impressive for the price. It's arguably the most powerful smartphone you can buy for £300 or less. But the extra large size won't be for everyone. There are niggles too - the screen, although large, isn't quite as sharp or crisp as we'd like. Battery life could be better too. But if you're looking for a phablet that doesn't break the bank, the Desire 820 could be the one. If you can stretch to it, the Galaxy Note 3 offers a more polished overall experience.

HTC Desire 820 features include:

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HTC Desire 820 user reviews

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Average rating from 1 review:

Reviewed by ian from uk on 25th Apr 2015
Great phone, Huge screen but does look and feel really cheaply made. That's why I gave 4 star's instead of 5.

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