HTC hits the headlines with its high-end handsets like the One Max, but the good old Desire range is also going strong. The original HTC Desire was a really popular handset, and there are currently three phones bearing the moniker in HTC’s UK line-up – the Desire 601, Desire 500 and Desire 300. They get less expensive and proportionally lesser on the spec front as the model numbers descend, so the HTC Desire 300 is, obviously enough, the entry-level Desire handset. It is available Sim-free for around £175.
That price tells you that this phone is at the upper end of the entry-level price bracket – indeed, some would call it mid-range. The obvious competitor for this handset is going to be the superb value for money Motorola Moto G, available in a 16GB version for around £170 as I write, and an 8GB version at around £140.
HTC has modelled the Desire 300 in line with its current design ethic. The Desire 300 lacks the top and bottom curves of the Desire 500, but is otherwise quite similar to look at. The backplate is again a wraparound affair, and while this time it lacks the top lip that extends into the front of the chassis, it is still something of a pain to get off. And you will need to remove the backplate straight off the bat to get your microSIM in place, and then thereafter if you want to get at your microSD card.
Still, the backplate is certainly not flimsy, and once it is in place it helps give the HTC Desire 300 a tough exterior that should cope well with knocks and scrapes. The matte finish to the plastic was a pearly white on my review sample, and the fact that this hugs the edges of the handset makes it look a bit more interesting than the more staid black model that is also available.
There are only two buttons on this phone. The volume rocker is on the right edge, and the on/off button on top. The ergonomics are just right – and because this is a relatively small phone most hands should have no problem with that top-located power button. The headset jack is also on the top and the microUSB connector on the bottom – again in the ideal spots for good ergonomics. On the back the camera lens has an array of concentric circles around it which add to the design appeal – although there’s no camera flash here, sadly.
If you look at the picture of the phone’s rear below, you’ll also notice a small lozenge that is the exit route for the speaker, and the lack of a Beats logo – HTC has ended its relationship with Beats Audio. Unfortunately, you can completely muffle the speaker by accidentally putting a finger over that lozenge. Sound is a bit on the tinny side anyway, though headphones do improve it somewhat. HTC adds its own HTC Music app to the Desire 300, and it allows for the ability to download artist photos and lyrics among other features.
In these days of mega-screened handsets, the Desire’s 4.3in screen seems a tad on the small side, and that impression is reinforced by the huge bottom bezel. My trusty ruler tells me there is 21mm between the bottom of the screen and the bottom of the handset. That’s more than enough space for HTC to fit in the two Home and Back buttons that sit under the screen (you double tap Home to get to recent apps, incidentally). There’s a further 11mm of bezel at the top of the screen.
The screen has good viewing angles, but its resolution is way behind the times at just 800 x 480 pixels. A comparison with the 4.5in 1,280 x 720 pixel Moto G leaves the Desire 300 looking pitiful. For many tasks the screen is okay, but if you like to use your handset for reading eBooks, as I do, or browsing a lot of web content, then you’ll notice that text is fuzzy.
It is when you start looking under the hood, though, that you realise just how far HTC has pared things back with the Desire 300. The Android version is way back in the dark ages at 4.1. HTC Sense 5.0 sits on top of that, so at least you do have the latest HTC skin design.
HTC rearranges the app drawer so that its first screen gives over rather too much space to the current weather for my liking. When I go to the app drawer I am going there for apps, not to find out the temperature. Some apps are pre-filed in folders and this causes the odd anomaly. The default web browser is a shortcut from the home page, and at first you might think Chrome is missing. In fact it is filed away with the other Google apps.
BlinkFeed is a key feature of HTC’s recent handsets. It can pick up your own social updates as well as headlines from a range of different sources. On the plus side those places now include UK news sources, and there are time sensitive additions such as Sochi Olympics feeds, which is available as I write. But you still can’t add your own favourite websites as news feeds, and the whole thing feels clunky – it still needs more work. If you don’t like BlinkFeed, you can’t take it off a home screen to free that screen up. The best you can do is turn all feeds off and relegate it to an outside home screen.
The specifications are disappointing. The last generation 1GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 is assisted by just 512MB of RAM, and the combo simply isn’t up to the job. Some apps seemed to take an age to be ready for my input on their first run. I looked at a blank screen for way too long waiting for the dialler to pop up for the first time, for example. If you are one of those people who turns your handset off overnight you could get quite frustrated.
There’s just 4GB of internal storage and out of the box only 2.2GB of this is free. You do get 25GB of Dropbox storage for two years, but that’s not really the same as having plenty of storage on board. That microSD card slot will certainly be needed, and you can save apps to it so buy a sizeable one from the get-go.
This is a 3G handset. I don’t normally fuss about maximum download speeds, but a low max of 7.2Mbps (HSDPA) has been implemented here, and that’s another sign of cut corners. I’ve already mentioned the lack of a camera flash on the main camera, and shots are mediocre at best, with video topping out at 800 x 480 pixels. There’s a VGA front camera for selfies.
Battery life seems a bit dodgy too. The 1,650mAh battery did not see me through a day with ease too often. If you indulge in media streaming, music playback, GPS or video watching you might struggle to get a day out of it, though light users should be okay.
It is difficult to see who would choose the HTC Desire 300 with so much strong competition on offer. The design is good, and the build is solid, the overall size being comfy in the hand. But the specifications are a real let-down with memory shortage, a below par processor and low resolution screen being the key culprits. Go look at my review of the Motorola Moto G as the first step in shopping around.
Manufacturer and Model
HTC Desire 300
1GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
4.3in, 800 x 480 pixels
66.23 x 10.12 x 131.78 (WxDxH)