HTC currently has three Desire models on the go, and the Desire 300 is the lowest priced of the trio at just £175 SIM free.
At that price it is in a pretty crowded place, and of course the handset it has to fight the hardest and with most gusto is the Motorola Moto G whose 16GB version is a similar price.
It’s a really tough spot to be in, and unfortunately HTC has not come up with a handset that can compete.
There’s not a lot wrong with the design. This is a smallish phone by modern standards. Its 4.3-inch screen sits in a chassis that’s narrow enough to be held comfortably by quite small hands – though there is a lot of bezel above and below the screen and particularly at the bottom, which makes it a relatively tall phone.
There are both black and white versions of the Desire 300. The backplate wraps around all four edges, so that the white version looks rather stylish. This wraparound design, and the fact that the backplate is quite sturdy and thick means the backplate is a bit tight and tricky to remove.
But on the plus side it also helps the phone be solid and robust. microSD card and microSIM live under the backplate, and you can get at the microSD card without removing the battery.
If you do go for this handset you probably won’t be wanting to swap the microSD card much, though, as you’ll likely be using it for data storage such as photos and video taken with the camera.
You can make a setting to always use microSD as the default storage, and you will probably opt for that because there’s just 2.2GB free from the 4GB of storage that’s on board.
That shortage of memory is just one of several disappointments with the HTC Desire 300.
The processor is a last generation Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 with a meagre 512MB of RAM supporting it. It struggles. Even the standard pre-installed apps can load slowly. If you’ve got any experience of better specced devices at all then you’ll find using this to be a frustrating exercise.
The screen has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels which is very low for all but the cheapest handsets these days. Inevitably text can look quite fuzzy. You’ll notice this most when reading web pages or emails, though images look OK.
Looking at the competitor we mentioned at the start of this review, the Motorola Moto G you’ll find a 4.5-inch 1,280 x 720 pixel screen that is in a different league.
The camera shoots stills to 5 megapixels, which is actually more than HTC’s flagship One series, but there’s no ‘Ultrapixel’ trickery going on here: the quality of output is strictly average. There’s no camera flash so close up-indoor shots don’t get the benefit of an extra burst of light. The maximum video resolution is a mere 800 x 480 pixels.
The HTC Desire 300 runs Android 4.1 putting it three versions behind the latest, with no sign as yet of plans to bring it up to date. On top of this sits HTC’s own Sense skin, now at version 5. Sense includes a feature called BlinkFeed which brings your social news and external news sources together on a home screen.
BlinkFeed is not a new feature, and it has been refined since launch, but there are still issues with it, most notably that the wider news feeds can’t be augmented by sources you personally like. Instead you have to select from a pre-defined set.
You can’t take BlinkFeed off a home screen, but you can relegate it to one at the outer reaches if you don’t like it.
Overall, the HTC Desire 300 disappoints. The lackluster technical specs and an outdated version of the Android OS are classic signs of a budget device, yet even in this area the 300 doesn’t compete as well as it needs to. There are plenty of high quality Android phones within reach of budget buyers these days, so shop around.
Written by Sandra Vogel