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HTC Desire 510 review: A budget device to rule them all?

HTC’s assault on the low to mid-range market continues with the Desire 510, is it cheap or cheerful enough?

It almost gets tedious repeating the same message, but for manufacturers to succeed in the Android market it’s important that they have to have a very compelling set of low to mid-range devices – just having fantastic flagships isn’t enough. HTC have been the most guilty of ignoring this reality in recent years – they have delivered fantastic products like the HTC One (M7) and the HTC One (M8), but in doing so they appear to have taken their eye off the ball when it comes to the devices that really have the potential to sell in large volumes.

The good news is that they have finally woken up to this fact and they are trying to do something about it, courtesy of the refreshed Desire range. We’ve reviewed the Desire 816 (which is about to be superseded by the Desire 820), a surprisingly good 5.5” device and also the Desire 610, a reasonable effort hampered mainly by its overly optimistic price tag.

So here we have the Desire 510, which sits below the 610 with a RRP of only £149.99. This is both good and bad news. It’s good because it’s a great price-point to come in at and it’s bad because it’s pitted against one of our very favourite devices of recent times, the mighty Moto G 4G.

Without doubt the most interesting aspect of the Desire 510 is that it includes a new processor, the Snapdragon 410 from Qualcomm. The headline feature of the chip is that it is a quad-core 64-bit processor, but at the moment (pre-Android L) the 64-bit compatibility is irrelevant. The fact that it replaces and also bumps performance compared to one of Qualcomm’s finest processors in recent memory, the Snapdragon 400, certainly is good news. The CPU is accompanied by 1GB of RAM, which is the minimum we would expect on any device now.

That’s the good news – unfortunately, it goes downhill a bit from there on. The Desire 510 has a 4.7” screen, which we’re told is symptomatic of market demands for ever-larger displays. Indeed, the refreshed Moto G announced at IFA Berlin packs a 5” screen. Big screens are all well and good, but you do need the quality to back them up. The panel on the Desire 510 is a FWVGA (that’s 854×480 folks!) non-IPS unit and unfortunately it’s just not up to par. HTC are famed for their great screens and if the screen were good enough perhaps resolution might be less critical (the 720P 5.5” on the Desire 816 looks excellent for example), but here it is a serious let-down.

With that new CPU on board, a relatively low number of pixels to drive around and the latest Android 4.4 with Sense 6, as you’d expect the device feels responsive in use. We noticed very few slowdowns, so the usage experience is actually pretty good, provided you can look past the display.

LTE is included in the device, something that is very much filtering down into the low end now, and wireless performance in general is very good – this is one benefit we frequently encounter of having a plastic bodied phone.

Building a really great non-flagship phone is all about making compromises in the right places. Motorola got the formula spot on with the original Moto G and unfortunately HTC seem to have missed the mark both on the Desire 610 and the Desire 510. The phone is probably better than the ultra low end (and admittedly around 50% cheaper) Motorola Moto E, but to make serious inroads into the market that they neglected for so long, HTC will need to be much more aggressive on price or quality than they are here.

For further reviews on the latest Android devices, make sure to check out the latest issue of Android Magazine.