HTC Desire Eye review: A fine phone that should be a little cheaper

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 15 Dec 2014

Maybe it’s the name, but I expected HTC’s Desire Eye to be less expensive.

“Desire,” after all, is the name HTC usually reserves for its mid-range phones, the Desire Eye, with its plastic chassis boxy frame, seems like it would fit right in. Yet AT&T is currently charging $150 on-contract for the Desire Eye—just $50 less than flagship phones like the HTC One (M8)—or $550 off contract.

The Desire Eye isn’t a bad phone, even at that price, its 13-megapixel front-facing camera is a unique feature. But overall, it’s a tough sell when better hsets can be yours for just a little more.

I hope you like red

HTC makes liberal use of plastic on the Desire Eye, but in a way that seems playful rather than utilitarian. The front bezels rear panels are white polycarbonate, as opposed to the glossy plastic found on cheaper phones, while red trim runs around the edges. That color accent carries over to the software, appearing in HTC’s BlinkFeed news ticker in various buttons icons. But while HTC offers the Desire Eye in dark blue with light blue trim in other markets, red is the only option on AT&T.

htc back 2 Rob Schultz

The red-on-white color scheme is your only option through AT&T.

The other downside is that the Desire Eye feels chunkier than other large Android phones, even if its 0.33-inch frame is in the same ballpark. That’s because there’s no tapering around the edges to help you cradle the phone in your h.

rformance software

HTC didn’t cut many corners in the specs department. The Desire Eye uses the same 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor 2 GB of RAM as the One (M8), making for smooth animations no noticeable problems with 3D games like Asphalt 8. The phone also comes with 16 GB of storage a microSD card slot.

The 1080p display doesn’t feel skimpy, either. Some other phones have pushed resolution higher, but it’s tough to make out any individual pixels on the Desire Eye’s 5.2-inch display. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that black levels don’t get as deep as they could.

htc front Rob Schultz

HTC didn’t skimp on the Desire Eye’s display.

HTC did shave a bit off the Desire Eye’s battery compared to the One (M8), with a 2,400 mAh battery instead of 2,600 mAh. It showed in our video playback test, as the Desire Eye lasted 9 hours 30 minutes—a half-hour less than the One (M8) an hour 15 minutes less than the Samsung Galaxy S5. To get you out of any low-battery jams, HTC provides a power saver mode that limits C usage brightness while disabling vibrations stby data use, there’s also an extreme power saver mode that limits the phone to just a hful of vital functions.

ke most Android phones with custom interfaces on top, the Desire Eye ships with the slightly-outdated Android 4.4 KitKat. The good news is that HTC’s Sense overlay is among the better customizations you’ll find, with an understated look that doesn’t pester you with cartoonish beeps bloops. You do have to ignore a few superfluous HTC apps, though, including a notepad that’s not as good as Keep , the Zoe photo remix sharing app that has zero chance of catching on.

As for an update to Android 5.0 llipop, there’s no official word from HTC yet, though the company has a strong track record, we’re looking at a nuary to h timeframe according to an unconfirmed report.

An off-color camera

The cameras—note the plural form—are supposed to be the Desire Eye’s headlining feature, with 13-megapixel shooters flash on both the back front. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story, the Desire Eye’s cameras come up short in some areas where they should shine.

In medium to well-lit situations, the Desire Eye’s rear-facing camera does a fine job. Colors can run on the warm side, but that’s not always a bad thing, as I found the Desire Eye’s more vibrant tones preferable to the ione 6 us’ camera in certain photos, even if they weren’t as true to reality. w lighting is a different story. Despite an f/2.0 aperture that lets plenty of light in, I struggled to take photos that weren’t too blurry to discard.


The rear camera shoots solid photos in well-lit situations …


… but low-light photography can be hazy blurry without flash.

My feelings about the Desire Eye’s selfie cam are similarly mixed. You won’t find another front-facing camera that captures this much detail, as every pore eyelash can be held up to close scrutiny, the wide-angle lens can comfortably fit at least three people in the frame at arm’s length. But on the front camera, the color reproduction problems are even more pronounced. Sometimes the camera made my skin pale while accentuating redness on my cheeks lips. ( Other times, it gave me an unnaturally green hue, in low light it bathed me in too much shadow. Flash can help compensate in some of these situations, but the result rarely looks natural.


HTC Desire Eye front camera (left) rear camera (center) vs. ione 6 us front camera (right).

At least HTC’s camera software is top-notch. For selfies, you can have the shutter activate by voice, automatically snap photos when everyone’s smiling or create a “photo booth” image of several sequential photos. Camera settings are easily available along the left side of the screen, if you snap burst photos by holding down the shutter button, you can then pick the best one automatically discard the rest. My only complaint is the shortage of tools in the built-in editor—even basic lighting contrast controls are missing—but this is easily solved with third-party apps like Aviary.

If the Desire Eye was more successful on the photography front, its $150 price tag might be easier to justify. I might have even called it a bargain next to HTC’s flagship One (M8), with small compromises in design battery life. Instead, the Desire Eye’s rear camera lacks the low-light chops of the One (M8), G3, ione 6, the selfie cam’s color issues cancel out the benefits of its high megapixel count.

As such, the phone sits in an awkward limbo between mid-range high-end hsets. If you’ve already budgeted $150 for a phone, another $50 opens you up to a much bigger range of options. The $50 to $100 lscape is much more barren, the Desire Eye could be a champion in that territory. Banking on an eventual price drop might not be a bad idea.

greenbot rating 35 100275730 orig