HTC has two Android based handset ranges right now. The One range takes the high-end ground, with the HTC One, One Max and One mini offering three differently sized options. Meanwhile the Desire range sits lower down the scale and also boasts three models. The Desire 300 failed to impress me last week, being just too cut-down to justify its price, and while the higher end Desire 500 fared better late last year it still didn’t blow me away. So, can the top of the Desire range, the 601, do better?
Well, if you scrunch up your eyes and look at the HTC Desire 601 you could mistake it for a member of the One range. Unlike the other Desire models it has the same pair of grilles above and below the screen that the One range has (the 300 and 500 just have a grille above the screen). If you think that arrangement means stereo speakers you’d be right. The handset also has HTC BoomSound capability – but don’t get too excited.
The speakers certainly offer plenty of volume, but the overall sound quality doesn’t compare to the One range. Treble tones predominate particularly as you ramp up the volume. It’s not a disaster, and it’s probably good enough for having on in the background, but you need to connect a good pair of headphones to really get some impressive sound quality.
Again, going back to our scrunched-eyed viewing, the silver areas top and bottom on the front – where those speaker grilles are – give the impression of metal but the illusion doesn’t hold much water. If you look with your eyes wide open it’s very easy to see that the silver parts are plastic.
Turn the handset over and if you go for the white version (which I reviewed) the backplate will look great – better, actually, than the front of the phone. It is brilliant white, not cream coloured, and is matte with a rubbery finish which just looks appealing. The black version is more “meh” sadly. There’s also a red version which O2 has just announced. The curved edges help the Desire 601 sit nicely in the hand, and the backplate wraps around the sides of the phone adding strength as well as removing the need for a strip of something (tacky plastic?) round the edges.
Volume controls are on the right edge. The now quite usual single long rocker isn’t here, abandoned in favour of two separate buttons. They’re silver plastic and won’t fool anyone into thinking they are metal. The same goes for the on/off switch on the top. The headset slot and microUSB port are top and bottom respectively. I guess you’ve spotted the plastic trying to look like metal theme by now.
HTC continues its approach of offering just two touch buttons beneath the screen, Back and Home. Running apps are accessed if you double tap the Home button. That’s not a problem, but I’m not a big fan of the HTC logo that sits in between the buttons. I’ve said this before, but its location gives the impression that it should be a touch button.
That pair of front facing speakers make the HTC Desire 601 into quite a tall handset, and there’s a fair bezel on the long edges of the screen too. It means that the 4.5in screen doesn’t have quite the same appeal that screens do in more edge-to-edge designs, but that’s not its biggest problem. HTC has decided the Desire 601 doesn’t need a particularly high resolution and has given us just 960 x 540 pixels here.
For the most part it is not a huge issue. But, just as with the low resolution Desire 300, text can look fuzzy and if you do a lot of reading of emails, eBooks, and even web pages, then you might do better to look elsewhere for your handset. You won’t have to look too far – there are plenty of phones which offer higher resolution screens, and many are less expensive than the Desire 601. Consider the popular 1,280 x 720 pixel Motorola Moto G for example. I know I keep mentioning the Moto G, but the handset deserves it!
This is a 4G handset, and that really does make a difference if you do a lot of downloading. This doesn’t have to be hefty stuff like movies or email attachments either. I used HTC’s music app in preference to the stock Android one because I like its ability to grab lyrics and update artist images – and the lightning fast data downloads were appreciated!
There’s 8GB of internal storage, but just 4.4GB is free for your own use. There’s a microSD card slot you can use to add more storage and that’s under the backplate. You can hotswap cards as you can get to the slot without removing the battery.
A key reason so much storage space is occupied right out of the box is that HTC augments Android 4.2 (yes, that version is a bit behind the times) by adding its Sense interface on top. That gives access to a host of extra usability features and it is a key reason for people picking HTC handsets. A major aspect of the current version of Sense is BlinkFeed, HTC’s social aggregation client that takes up an entire home screen and brings together your social feeds and a number of news feeds.
BlinkFeed needs to grow up and add more flexibility before it will appeal to me. To give just a couple of examples: My favourite sport is not listed as a news feed choice, and categories like “celebrity” and “TV” are way too broad for me. I might want news on specific people or shows, and while I am interested in some of the general news headline sources on offer, I’d like to add my own favourite sites to the relatively small range. I want to add ITProPortal to the tech news sites, for example.
The HTC Desire 601 is responsive to screen presses and apps run efficiently. I didn’t notice any pauses or stuttering. The 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor is a long way from the leading edge, but it seems to cope well, and having 1GB of RAM in support is a good thing.
The main camera is just a 5-megapixel offering and that will disappoint some, but its shots are passable for sharing and uploading, and HD video (1,920 x 1,080) is supported. I do wish HTC would revise its camera interface as it’s fiddly scrolling through the menu system to find the setting you want. You get HTC’s Zoe of course, which can automatically create a 30-second movie of your day for sharing online. There is a front-facing VGA camera.
HTC seems to have done a better job with the battery in the Desire 601 compare to the Desire 300, and it got me through a day of my average use without a problem.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the HTC Desire 300, the model which sits at the lower end of the Desire range. This flagship Desire 601 smartphone does a bit better. Offering 4G will be a big plus point to some and the battery life is acceptable, but the screen resolution is a downer and plastic pretending to be metal is a bad move. HTC could have chosen a colour other than silver for the plastic parts to avoid that faux pas. While this is an okay handset overall, HTC really needs to up its game with the Desire range.
Manufacturer and Model
HTC Desire 601
1.4GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
4.5in, 960 x 540 pixels
66.7 x 9.88 x 134.5 (WxDxH)