HTC offers speedy 4G connectivity in a budget handset
The hook with the HTC Desire 510, according to its manufacturer, is that it is the cheapest LTE-capable smartphone it has made. At £149 (around $248, AU$265) the HTC Desire 510 isn't the cheapest 4G handset on the market in the UK at least, with the EE Kestrel coming in at just £99.
It's pretty much the same price as the Moto G 4G, which can be had for around £155 (around $256, AU$276), and quite a bit cheaper than the OnePlus One's price tag of £250 (about $414, AU$445) for the 64GB model.
The promise of a blisteringly fast 4G data connection wrapped in an affordable handset is certainly a tempting offer, but can the HTC Desire 510 surpass its predecessors and not just be a 'good enough' phone, but an excellent one?
The HTC Desire 510 has the body dimensions of 139.9 x 69.8 x 9.99mm, but it sits in the hands comfortably enough.
The body itself has rounded edges and looks similar to the Desire 610 – though the front-facing camera is located on the upper-left hand corner of the body, rather than the upper-right.
The choice of going with the HTC Desire 610's more elegant design compared to the Desire 500's more budget (and outdated) look is a good move in my eyes.
Still, the improved design means that at first glance the HTC Desire 510 doesn't look like a budget phone, and can look good next to more expensive smartphones. Essentially you can whip the HTC Desire 510 out of your pocket without people around you recoiling in horror.
The bezel around the HTC Desire 510's screen has been reduced when compared to the HTC Desire 610, which results in the HTC Desire 510 looking sleeker, and not feeling quite so bulky. I found it quite easy to hold the phone whilst using my thumb to scroll over much of the screen. As with the HTC Desire 610, the power button remains on the top, with the volume controls on the right hand side of the case.
The power button has a nice click to it that feels satisfying and responsive, and its placement (to the left of the top of the case) makes it easy to reach regardless of which hand you use to hold the HTC Desire 510.
The volume buttons don't feel quite as satisfying to use, however, as the shorter travel of these buttons makes them feel softer and less responsive.
The headphone jack also remains on the top of the HTC Desire 510, which may come as a relief to those of you who find headphone jacks at the bottom of handsets (such as on the iPhone 5c and HTC One E8) a rather fiddly and inconvenient trend.
The back of the case is slightly curved, and it is made of polycarbonate material, which unfortunately gives the HTC 510 a bit of a cheap feel to it – but then, to be fair, this is a cheap phone.
The HTC Desire 510 comes in two colours "Terra White" and "Meridian Grey". The review handset was a Terra White version of the HTC Desire 510, and it's an attractive pure white hue that's reminiscent of early Apple products. The "Meridian Grey", is an attractive charcoal grey that also looks very nice.
The HTC Desire 510 is light enough to comfortably hold in one hand as well, yet it still feels substantial enough that you won't feel shortchanged. Even with the plastic-feeling case, when holding the HTC Desire 510 it feels pretty robust.
Though I wouldn't recommend flinging the Desire 510 around, it definitely feels like it could take a few knocks and drops in its stride. Crucially, it doesn't feel like it will shatter the first moment you accidentally drop it.
It certainly feels like a well built bit of kit, especially for the price. Hopefully dropping the 510 won't be too commonplace – though the back of the case is slightly curved, the smooth plastic doesn't feel too slippery.
One thing that the Desire 510 case lacks which is present in the 610's case, and in a number of other Android smartphones, is that there is no microSD card port along the side of the case for easy access.
Instead you have to take the back of the case off and remove the battery to insert the memory card. It's not a huge problem, but it is inconvenient and a bit of a shame to see that port removed from being easily accessed on the side.
The 4G connectivity of the HTC Desire 510 is, the headline feature of this budget handset. It's not alone in the market, however, with the EE Kestrel and Motorola Moto G 4G also offering 4G on a similar budget.
The inclusion of 4G connectivity is big news in a handset at this price range. While 4G speeds will vary depending on a number of factors, including network traffic and signal, it offers huge speed increases over 3G.
I tested the HTC Desire 510's 4G capabilities on the EE network and was very impressed with the results. While the boost to 4G speeds meant that web pages now load incredibly quickly, 4G offers so much more than quicker Google searches.
We're streaming more and more media through our smartphones, be it video through services like Netflix, or music through the likes of Spotify, so a rock solid and fast mobile data connection is increasingly important.
Like a lot of new technology, 4G was at first confined to high end smartphones, so it's good to see it making its way onto more affordable handsets like the Desire 510. It's excellent news for those of us who don't want to (or can't) put money down on an expensive smartphone and contract.
Graphic-heavy websites popped up pretty much instantly, much as if I was using my broadband wifi connection at home, rather than when out and about.
Streaming content from Netflix and the BBC iPlayer also played flawlessly. Intrigued by what sort of speeds I was getting on the Desire 510 I browsed to Broadband Speed Checker to test my connection.
This is a website that runs a quick test on your download speeds. As the name suggests it's really for home broadband, but it gave me a rough idea of the speeds I was getting.
The results told me I was getting 7.4 Mb/s, pretty excellent results in Bath, a city infamous for its sometimes poor network reception. You're able to share the HTC Desire 510's internet connection with a PC via USB, Bluetooth and WiFi. I tried out the USB tethering option and it worked very well, bringing fast internet speeds to my PC.
Another headline feature of the Desire 510 is its large screen. At 4.7 inches it puts it in the same league as the HTC Desire 610, Moto X and the iPhone 6.
While 4.7 inches might be the magic number, the screen itself is only capable of 480 x 854 pixels, a rather disappointingly low resolution, and the first clear evidence of the HTC Desire 510's budget roots.
In contrast the Moto X may have the same screen size, but it boasts a much higher resolution of 720 x 1280, which makes its AMOLED screen look incredibly bright and vibrant.
The HTC Desire 510's screen, on the other hand, can't compete with this. The large screen size and low resolution leads to the HTC Desire 510's screen having a pixel density of 208ppi (pixels per inch). In contrast, the Moto X has a pixel density of 316ppi.
The HTC Desire 510's display does the job though, with a bright and clear display when inside.
When used outside in direct sunlight the screen doesn't hold up quite so well, however, with colours becoming more washed out in bright light.
The Desire 510 comes with a sensor for ambient light, designed to alter the brightness of the screen depending on how bright your surrounding is. This worked fine, though it takes a couple of seconds to adjust the brightness.
The 510's screen might not be immediately impressive, but it does a fine job of displaying information, particularly when used inside.
Alongside the 4G capability and large screen, the other main selling point of the HTC Desire 510 is its relatively low price.
HTC wants to tempt you in with an asking price of £149 ($248, AU$265), cheaper than the rest of its 4G-enabled line up. The midrange HTC Desire 610 can be had for around £175 ($285/AU$305) SIM free, and it's less than half the price of the HTC One E8.
Interface and performance
The operating system installed on the HTC Desire 510 is Android 4.4.4, and comes with HTC's own software HTC Sense and HTC BlinkFeed preinstalled.
As with other HTC handsets such as the HTC One Mini 2 and the HTC One M8, the Android KitKat operating system has been overlaid with the HTC Sense interface. It's an attractive and intuitive design, though it may take a little getting used to if you're used to using the standard Android interface (or the likes of iOS or Windows Phone).
Many smartphone manufacturers have created their own Android interfaces to give their handsets a distinctive feel, such as Sony's Xperia overlay and Samsung's TouchWiz. HTC'S Sense user interface is probably the most popular, as it combines a simple, colourful and easy to use interface with some decent improvements over the standard Android interface.
Icons and apps are laid out well and are easy to find. In certain applications the tile-like design is certainly eye catching, if slightly reminiscent of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 OS, and it looks particularly nice in the gallery app. Meanwhile, configuring the home screen through HTC Sense is quick and easy, allowing you to add or hide widgets.
Some of the big changes between HTC Sense and the stock Android interface include a revamped dial pad and contacts lists that make it simple and easy to call who you want quickly. The home screen is easy to customise and contains four icons along the bottom that offer quick access to the phone, text messages, internet and camera tools.
These quick shortcuts can be easily changed and replaced with your favourite apps. HTC took a "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" approach to the notification drawer, keeping it mainly the same as with the stock Android, but with a few tweaks to make it fit in with the rest of HTC Sense.
The HTC Blinkfeed app that comes preinstalled is a handy tool that collates news from a large number of sources on the internet and presents them in an attractive tiled layout that fits in well with the HTC Sense aesthetics.
Mixing breaking news from websites such as The Guardian, ESPN, MTV and Vice and news feeds from your social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter gives you a handy overview of what's happening on the internet, and can be quickly viewed by swiping left from the home screen.
While it does a good job of providing you news from around the internet, it isn't immediately obvious how to configure HTC Blinkfeed to only show you news from the sources you want to see.
The HTC Backup tool is also included with the HTC Desire 510. This saves settings, passwords and user account information, bookmarks, messages, contacts, and apps which can then be restored if anything happens to the phone. It's a simple program to use, which quietly backs up your data in the background.
A feature I rather liked about the HTC Backup tool is that it will automatically back up your stuff every day, and it will only do that if the HTC Desire 510 is connected to the internet via WiFi, so you don't have to worry about using up your mobile data allowance.
High speed for a low price is the theme of the HTC Desire 510 and this doesn't just refer to the connection speeds. The HTC comes with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad speed processor that's clocked at 1.2GHz.
This is an extremely proficient mobile CPU, and makes navigating the operating system and opening and using apps incredibly fast and smooth. The processing power behind the HTC Desire 510 leads to an impressively responsive user interface that feels great to use.
The HTC Desire 510 comes with 1GB of RAM, which is the same as the EE Kestrel. The lower resolution of the screen helps to prevent the HTC Desire 510 from being put under too much stress.
While the HTC Desire 510 keeps things generally nice and speedy, things begin to slow down when using a lot of apps at once, especially if you're also browsing the internet with lots of tabs open.
In the Geekbench 3 benchmark tests we ran, the HTC Desire 510 scored 1330, which is very respectable for this price range. The EE Kestral, its closest competitor, managed only 1190, proving that the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad speed processor in the HTC Desire 510 is pulling its weight.
Battery life and the essentials
The HTC Desire 510 comes with a removable battery with a capacity of 2100mAh, a fair bit larger than the HTC Desire 610's 2040mAh battery.
The battery also gives the HTC Desire 510 a clear advantage over its cheaper rival the EE Kestrel, which not only has a smaller capacity of 2000mAh, but also can't be removed or replaced.
Meanwhile, the Motorola Moto G 4G offers similar features to the HTC Desire 510 (such as 4G), for roughly the same price, and has a battery capacity of 2070mAh, and is again non-removable. In both cases the Moto G 4G falls short of the HTC Desire 510.
The fact that HTC includes a removable battery in the HTC Desire 510 with a larger capacity than normally found in smartphones of its price range is reflected in the generally impressive battery life when used for day-to-day tasks.
After running our standard battery test, where I played a video for 90 minutes with the screen set to the standard brightness, the HTC Desire 510's battery dropped from full charge to 81% - a marked improvement over the HTC Desire 610, where the test reduced the battery to 74%.
This test confirmed that the HTC Desire 510 offers a very good battery life thanks to a combination of its large capacity battery and not terribly demanding specifications.
As we've come to expect from HTC, a number of battery saving features are included to help stretch out the battery life for as long as possible.
The power saver setting (which can be quickly turned on by swiping two fingers downwards on the screen to bring up the quick settings menu) can be used to restrict CPU usage, reduce the brightness of the screen, turn off vibration and put your data connection on hold when the screen is off.
Turning off these battery-hungry features resulted in a decent bump in the battery life of the handset. You can configure the power saver setting to only turn off certain features, which I was particularly pleased with, as it gave a bit of flexibility to the feature.
There's also an extreme power saving feature that goes even further in its bid to maximise potential battery life. On top of the settings found in the normal power saving mode, this turns off access to all but the most essential apps, which means just phone, messages, mail, calendar, calculator and clock can run.
It's a good start, though the inclusion of the calculator is a bit strange, and checking and downloading your emails is one of the more battery-intensive tasks your phone can do. It's a shame you can't configure the extreme power setting mode to leave this app off as well, if you're not expecting an urgent email.
The mode also completely turns off the data connection when the screen is off, and also shuts down Bluetooth, location settings, auto sync, motion launch and notifications.
This mode can add even more hours onto the HTC Desire 510's battery life, though because it limits the functionality of the smartphone so much, you probably won't want to keep this setting on all the time.
Thankfully you can set this option to turn on when the battery reaches a certain level, which is much more helpful. I set it to turn on when the battery got to 10%, which it did dutifully, giving me some precious extra time to get to a charger.
In light to normal use, where I was making the occasional phone call, sending texts and doing a bit of web browsing, the battery lasted for one day and seven hours before needing to be charged again. For much heavier use, where I was regularly browsing the internet, streaming media, listening to music, using location services and playing games, the battery life was cut to just over one day and one hour, which wasn't too bad.
With the battery saving options on, I was able to get just under two days worth of battery, which is good but does mean you have to limit how much you use the HTC Desire 510 by quite a bit.
When it comes to call quality, the HTC Desire 510 is incredibly good, with both phone calls inside and outside coming through loud and clear. In my time with the HTC Desire 510 I didn't experience any dropped calls either.
One annoyance, however, is that the phone app resets itself if you leave it to go to another app. This happed to me when I found a phone number on a website I needed to call. As the phone number was included in a photo, and not part of the text, I remembered half the number, then went into the phone app and typed in that half. I then went back to the website for the last half.
On returning to the phone app, the numbers I'd already typed in had disappeared, so I had to start from scratch. This might not be a problem most of the time, but when it does occur, it can be pretty annoying.
The HTC Sense user interface brings some tweaks to the phone and contacts app, with big easy to push buttons to dial and an easy to navigate contact list.
Voice commands use Google Voice, and as usual it does a good job of recognising your commands, even when used in noisy environments.
The HTC Sense keyboard is slightly different to the stock Android keyboard, which might take a bit of getting used to. Thanks to the large screen and relatively low resolution the keys are large and easy to hit, but it does make it slightly uncomfortable when typing with just one hand, as some keys require a bit of a stretch to reach.
Typing two handed is a much more comfortable experience, and I found that the Sense keyboard did a good job of keeping up as I furiously typed away. It also offered a good degree of predictive suggestions which helped speed up writing text messages and emails.
Web browsing duties are handled by the HTC internet app, though Chrome is also included. The internet app does a fair job at displaying web pages, and it includes a nice feature where double tapping the web page automatically zooms in and arranges the text to fit the screen, making it easy to read text-heavy websites.
What's not quite so good is the app's habit of occasionally refreshing the page if you've gone to another app or tab, and then returned to it.
This causes you to lose your place on the website. It doesn't always happen, and it usually occurs when you have lots of tabs and other apps open at once, so I'd place the blame of the limited RAM of the HTC Desire 510, which means it can only hold so many web pages in memory.
Camera and media
The HTC Desire 510 comes with two cameras, one at the front and one at the back. As to be expected, the front-facing camera (which can be used by selecting the 'Selfie' mode in the camera app, in a nod to current trends) is a budget camera with a VGA 0.3MP resolution.
Though I might be tempted to call the quality of the front camera disappointing, in truth these cameras are rarely particularly good (especially on budget phones) so I had rather low expectations for it before I even tried it.
If you're just using the front camera to take quick head and shoulder shots to be used in small thumbnails and on social media websites, then the HTC Desire 510's front camera will do the job.
However, if you're going to be using it to take selfies of yourself and friends in front of landmarks and in beautiful surrounds, then you're going to be sorely disappointed with the results.
The rear camera is 5MP, which used to be par for the course with budget smartphones, however many are now including more proficient snappers – the Huawei Ascend G6, for example, comes with an 8MP camera.
While megapixel count isn't the be-all and end-all of camera quality, it sadly doesn't seem like the lens in the HTC Desire 510's camera is great either, with the shots I took lacking sharpness and clarity.
As you can see from both the portrait and landscape shots I took, while on the whole colours are well represented, there is a lack of details that shows that these photos were taken on a budget smartphone.
With close up shots this lack of detail is even worse – and this was taken using the HTC Desire 510's 'macro' mode, which is specifically for close up shots.
During use the camera is able to take photos in quick succession, though fast moving subjects were often blurry. There's also a continuous shooting mode as well, which will continue to take photographs for as long as you hold the button down. You can configure the HTC Desire 510 to use one of the volume control buttons as the shutter button, which I found more comfortable than using the onscreen one.
While the physical camera in the HTC Desire 510 was less than impressive, the camera app of the device is the same found in other HTC smartphones and is actually very good.
It offers a range of options for tweaking the camera, from setting the ISO and EV settings, to applying Instagram-like filters. You can also set what type of light you're taking the photo in, such as under florescent lights, or outside on a cloudy day, to help the camera compensate.
These settings are all easily accessed and applied through the Camera app, and while they won't magically turn the HTC Desire 510's cameras into more capable snappers, with a bit of tweaking you can certainly improve the quality of the photos.
As expected, the HTC Desire 510 can also record video up to 1080p quality. This is done through the same camera app, and you can apply the same settings to your videos as to your still images.
Though the video footage I took with the HTC Desire 510 is still limited by the camera, moving images don't suffer as much from the lack of clarity and detail as the photos, with the 1080p footage proving to be perfectly fine for home videos, though still nothing remarkable.
Most of us use our smartphones to play music, podcasts and videos, and the HTC Desire 510 does a good job at media playback.
For playing music the HTC Desire 510 comes with Google's Play Music service and HTC's Music app.
Whichever one you use will probably be down to personal preference. I found the Play Music app to have more features, especially if you subscribe to its streaming service, though this is an extra monthly cost.
The HTC Music app is simple and easy to use and there are a number of widgets that you can add to the HTC Desire 510's homescreen to make playing music even easier.
The HTC Desire 510 will benefit from a decent pair of headphones, but even with a standard in-ear set sound quality was pretty good.
Using the built in speaker for playing music is also possible, though it's not really ideal, with the sound losing a lot of its detail over the rather tinny speakers. Unlike the HTC Desire 610, which comes with front-mounted 'Boomsound' speakers, the HTC Desire 510's speaker is on the back of the handset, and lacks any special bells and whistles.
Like a lot of the HTC Desire 510's features it does the job, but again it's nothing special. If you want to play your music outside at a BBQ, for example, you'll want to invest in some portable speakers.
Playing games on the HTC Desire 510 was also very good, with graphically demanding games like Temple Run 2 encountering no problems while playing.
Overall the HTC Desire 510 did a good job of playing media and games considering the budget price of the handset.
HTC Desire 610
The close price gap between the HTC Desire 510 and the HTC Desire 610 offers inevitable comparisons between the two smartphones, so what do you get for that extra £25 that the HTC Desire 610 costs?
Both handsets come with the same 4.7-inch screen size, but the HTC Desire 610's screen is capable of 960 x 540 (known as qHD resolution and not to be mistaken with the much higher QHD resolution), giving it a pixel density of 234ppi.
The HTC Desire 610's screen was nothing to write home about but it still beats the HTC Desire 510's screen, which as I mentioned earlier is 854 x 480 (208ppi).
While the slight improvement in screen resolution might not be worth shelling out for, what is interesting is that the HTC Desire 510 comes with a better battery, with a capacity of 2100mAh, compared to the HTC Desire 610's 2040mAh battery. The larger capacity battery coupled with the lower screen resolution works in the HTC Desire 510's favour when it comes to battery life.
One big performance difference between the two handsets is the cameras, both front and back.
The HTC Desire 510 comes with a 5MP main camera, and a 0.3MP front camera, whereas the HTC Desire 610 comes with a more impressive 8MP main camera and 1.3MP front camera.
What this boils down to price-wise is that the HTC Desire 510 is cheaper and has better battery life, whereas the HTC Desire 610 is not that much more expensive and comes with a slightly nicer screen and a much better camera.
When it comes to price, the EE Kestrel has the HTC Desire 510 beat, with a price of just £99 (around $165, AU$176), a good £50 cheaper than the HTC Desire 510.
This means, if you want the cheapest 4G smartphone around, then the EE Kestrel might seem like the obvious choice.
Of course with a price tag that low, it does mean that corners have been cut, though on the whole the EE Kestrel has very similar specs to the HTC Desire 510.
Both come with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.2GHz. The processor in the HTC Desire 510 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 510, a newer and faster version that makes the HTC Desire 510 feel faster than the EE Kestrel.
The battery is another area where the HTC Desire 510 comes out on top, with a capacity of 2,100mAh – a fair bit larger than the EE Kestrel's 2,000mAh.
While the HTC Desire 510's 4.7-inch screen trumps the EE Kestrel's 4.5-inches, the Kestrel has a better resolution of 540 x 960, compared to the HTC Desire 510's 480 x 854, resulting in a crisper image on the EE Kestrel.
Moto G 4G
The Moto G 4G is another very close match to the HTC Desire 510, offering 4G speeds and similar features for almost exactly the same price. The Moto G also comes in a cheaper variant, but without 4G and a microSD port.
The Moto G 4G has similar specs, with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internel storage and a quad-core 1.2GHz processor.
What clearly differentiates the Moto G from the HTC Desire 510 is the display. The Moto G has a resolution of 720 x 1280, much higher than that of the HTC Desire 510.
As the phones are so closely matched in the other departments, the far better screen of the Moto G 4G will probably be the deciding factor for many people.
HTC has a theme running through the HTC Desire 510 – high speed for a low price. The HTC Desire 510 certainly delivered on this front, with both the 4G connection and overall responsiveness of the handset and operating system, along with that promised low price.
However, during the review another theme made itself clear: compromise. While the 4G speeds would be the envy of any smartphone at this price – and even of more expensive smartphones – it is clear that a number of compromises were made to keep the price of the HTC Desire 510 as low as possible.
One of the main selling points of the HTC Desire 510 is its 4G connection, which brings fast mobile data that is almost on par with your home broadband connection.
The HTC Desire 510 handles the LTE connection very well, so if you want a cheap handset for fast mobile internet browsing, you'll be pretty pleased with this smartphone.
The battery life of the HTC Desire 510 is also very good, with even heavy use not draining the battery by too much. HTC has also included a number of power saving features that help give the battery an even longer lifespan.
One of the reasons why the HTC Desire 510's battery lasts as long as it does is that apart from browsing the internet and making calls, there aren't too many reasons why you'd be taking it out of your pocket or bag.
The camera, for example, is particularly disappointing. Though colour reproduction is fine, the level of detail that we've come to expect in our smartphone cameras is just not present in the HTC Desire 510, despite a decent camera app.
The 8GB of internal memory is a bit on the slim side as well, though you can at least expand this with an SD memory card.
If you just want a phone for taking advantage of the new, super fast 4G network at a low price, then you'll be quite happy with the HTC Desire 510.
However, if you want your smartphone to be more than just a portal to the internet, and to watch high definition media and take superb photos, then you'll want to look elsewhere – and probably consider spending a bit more money.