Tuesday

HTC Desire V Review


Another challenger in the game of dual-SIM Android smartphones is HTC’s new creation, the Desire V. It features a 4.0-inch LCD screen, Beats Audio enhancement, dual-sim capabilities as well as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich — sounds good so far, but does it have what it takes to beat the other players within this segment?












Design 


The ‘V’ has inherited its looks from the Taiwanese smartphone giant’s popular line of Desire devices and it certainly shows. The slim body, plastic and aluminum construction, hardware touch buttons and the discreet ‘chin’ all work together to give off a somewhat familiar HTC design cue which is not at all that bad but, It’s not a good thing either.
In our opinion, HTC’s phones [almost] all look the same. Well, the One series is a step above the rest but still, it’s the inconvenient truth, HTC needs to follow Motorola’s radical design leads (their transition to the Atrix and Razr are living proofs).
On top of the Desire V is where the 3.5mm headset and power/lock button are found, on the right is the volume rocker (nothing else), the opposite side of the phone houses the micro USB 2.0 slot and at the bottom is nothing other than a pinhole for the microphone.
The volume and power/lock keys offer very little travel and feels rubbery when pressed, we’re guessing it’s due to the way it’s been designed since the buttons are molded directly on the back shell. The phone’s front is covered by an edge-to-edge glass panel, it looks great and the three touch keys below it are very responsive, on the upper right corner is where the tiny LED notification light is found.
Right at the back is where a 5 megapixel camera lies, which [thankfully] is flush with the back of the phone so it’s not as prone to scratches, on top of it is the bright LED flash — an added bonus, the rubberized rear shell also covers some parts of the phone’s sides which is a plus. The phone feels very solid overall.
Upon holding the phone, we kept scanning it for a nail scoop/indentation so that we could lift the back cover and insert our SIMs but to no avail. After a lot of head-scratching and hair-pulling, we soon found out that the cover was easily removed by ‘peeling’ it right from the top part (behind the earpiece) using our nails — completely dumbfounded just because we were too lazy to read the documentations.

Display

The V’s display for the most part is pretty average, colors are accurate, blacks aren’t washed out but viewing angles aren’t as impressive as the cheaper Lenovo P700‘s IPS panel and — in our humble opinion — the back lighting needs a little boost, the screen is pretty dim even at max brightness which is really disappointing since we could hardly see what’s on the screen in broad daylight. Maybe we were expecting too much from the Desire V, we’re not really sure.

Performance
As for gaming and overall performance, you guys can forget about it. We could barely play Temple Run on this phone without crashing onto trees or falling at the end of a path because it could hardly keep up with our swipes, even the sound effects skipped while collecting coins. Lags, freezes and dropped frames were everywhere. Scrolling through GMail, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds (one of the main reasons for purchasing a smartphone) proved to be a challenge for the Desire V, it even lags whenever we receive an SMS while scrolling through a webpage.

Messaging/Calling


Speaking of SMS, the stock HTC keyboard was responsive and worked pretty well (except for the ‘hide keyboard’ button on the lower left instead of symbols) but after a few hours of use, we ended up downloading the ICS keyboard anyway. It’s good that HTC has made it easy to send SMS using our preferred SIM/network by placing dedicated ‘send’ buttons within the text box — better than Lenovo’s solution (dragging down the notification bar).

HTC has made it convenient when choosing a network on which to call a contact, just choose SIM 1 or 2 when tapping on a phonebook entry and you’re done. Call quality was alright, nothing astounding, voices on our end sounded a little peaky at times which made us squint. People at the other end of the line all said that our voices came through loud and clear — albeit, slightly nasally. Background noise was one of the main complaints from the people we talked to, the mic was so sensitive, even the silent hum of the air conditioner could drown out our voices, HTC could have at least bundled some active noise cancelling with this thing. The loudspeaker was weaker than usual and lacked warmth/mids, vocals were weak and very sibilant making the people we talked to sound weirdly tinny. It’s best to use it exclusively for alert tones, music didn’t sound good either.

Browsing


Using this phone as a daily driver for a couple of days was more of a chore. Given that HTC has lent us a pre-production Desire V, we weren’t at all surprised with the annoying lags and crashes we’ve encountered with the phone. Ironically, scrolling through the homescreen/application drawer was smooth most of the time so we’re not sure if this was due to the buggy software or lack of optimization.
Browsing on the Desire V is doable but not necessarily great. Scrolling was a bit laggy, the keyboard froze often while typing in URLs, panning was slow and playing Flash videos was close to impossible — we had to disable plugins to make sure we could browse in desktop mode as smooth as possible. We really can’t say a lot about it since we weren’t able to browse much to begin with. HTC has also skinned the Android 4.0 so extensively (including the browser) we couldn’t help but think of it as the main reason why the 1GHz processor is being bogged down. We couldn’t recognize the Ice Cream Sandwich ‘goodness’ on this phone, we actually thought we were using Gingerbread on a 600MHz processor the whole time.
We hope they’ve ironed out all these kinks in the final version otherwise we have nothing good to say about the Desire V’s general performance.

Media and Connectivity


We thought that the Beats Audio branding was more of a gimmick but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Audio playback on the Desire V is good enough to replace the iPod touch or my iPod Nano 6th gen. It’s not audiophile-level good but we would definitely mistake this thing for a Creative Nomad PMP if we were subjected to a blind test.
We kept the Beats Audio enhancement activated the whole time, turning it off made the output seem ‘weak’ and ‘thin’. Playback through the built-in audio jack using the Marshall Major FX headphones (review soon) was like heaven.
Highs pumped out by the Desire V was controlled, clear but not peaky or hissy, the mids are clear and not muffled/muddy — doesn’t get overpowered by the bass but once the bass rolls of, the vocals can get pretty harsh for some reason, this has something more to do with the audio chip than the headphones we’re certain of that.
Bass on the other hand, is there, it’s not incredibly rumbly or thunderous but it’s satisfyingly existent without being too ‘in-your-face’ if you know what we mean, the bass actually has a certain character to it. “Hey Baby” by Pitbull and T. Pain sounded fulfilling and so did Mike Posner’s “Please Don’t Go”. Toni Braxton’s classic “Another Sad Love Song” sounded wider and clearer than we’re used to which is great! Whatever DAC chip that HTC has used on the Desire V, kudos to them for not sacrificing sound quality.
The Desire V’s 5 megapixel camera takes pretty good shots and the shutter speed as well as the autofocus are quite fast but the aggressive image sharpening is apparent, it ruins the overall image quality.
You’ll notice it right away upon clicking a larger version of the pictures taken from the phone. The gallery app’s animations were smooth and quick which we loved, scrolling/zooming on photos was a breeze as well. For this price, we were expecting a front-facing camera in tow but it didn’t have it.
The phone does not record HD videos despite the capable image sensor, another letdown since some phones within this price range are not devoid of this feature. We weren’t able to take sample videos using the Desire V due to time constraints unfortunately — It’s not worth watching really so don’t get disappointed guys.
Movies did not show up on the [buttery smooth] gallery app which is common for some Android smartphones, It’s nothing that a simple download from the Play Store can solve (which we did), upon downloading MX player, movies played a little choppy when the hardware decoder was used, switching to fast mode S/W decoder did the job which made video playback smooth as silk. The screen’s response time was actually pretty good, we’ve noticed, unfortunately, a responsive panel is useless if the OS, UI and the phone’s hardware are not working in synergy.
Network reception is pretty average, similar with what the Galaxy Note and Blackberry Curve was able to achieve indoors (2 to 3 bars), we’ve experienced some choppy phone calls but no drops. WiFi signal is pretty good, on par with most of our mobile phones at home but Bluetooth is particularly impressive. Using the Desire V with our Sony Smart Headset Pro (review soon) was a breeze and we didn’t experience choppy audio playback, connectivity was very stable and the battery drain was hardly noticeable, probably since both devices were using the energy-efficient Bluetooth 3.0 standard.

Benchmarks


The Desire V is not exactly a multi-media powerhouse and performance is underwhelming, either way, the 1GHz processor and Adreno 200 GPU are worth benchmarking just for curiosity’s sake, go on and take a look below.
The Desire V got 2,736 on Antutu, 1,989 on Quadrant and 19.4fps on Nenamark2 which isn’t impressive, decent enough but we couldn’t help but wonder why the phone lagged so much when it was able to achieve scores almost similar with that of the zippy Lenovo P700. It’s true, software optimization is everything.

Battery Life


We weren’t able to take a screenshot of the Desire V’s battery stats when we first drained it from a full charge but here’s a screenshot of the phone with very minimal usage and mostly audio playback via Bluetooth and WiFi
The 2-day usage usage indicated above includes a few short phone conversations, some SMS, tons of Bluetooth audio streaming, lots of WiFi, app downloads/updates and some benchmarks.
Overall the Desire V was able to last us throughout a day with our usual light-moderate usage. Bluetooth on all the time, both networks active, frequent switching between WiFi and mobile data, hundreds of SMS, a few minutes of calls and quite a lot of emails. We unplugged the phone at 8am and by around 11pm the 1,650mAh battery still had about 11% worth of juice which is pretty good given the abuse we’ve thrown at it.

Conclusion
We really don’t see anything impressive about the Desire V apart from the fact that this is HTC’s first dual-sim phone and that the audio quality is above-average. The Desire V is well built, yes, but it is more of a niche product in our opinion.
The HTC Desire V has a suggested retail price of Php16,990.

HTC Desire V specs:
4.0-inch LCD @ 480×800 pixels, 233ppi
Qualcomm MSM7227A Snapdragon 1.0GHz Cortex-A5
Adreno 200 graphics
512MB RAM
4GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD card
dual-SIM: 2G (SIM 1 & 2), 3G (SIM 1)
HSPA
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP
GPS w/ aGPS support
5MP rear camera
Beats Audio
FM Radio tuner
Li-Ion 1650mAh battery
HTC Sense UI 4.0
Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich

What we liked about the Desire V:
● Dual-SIM on an Android
● Good build quality
● Decent to good battery life

What we did not liked about it:
● Sluggish
● A bit expensive for its specs