I usually associate HTC with classy looking smartphones. Their flagships have always been one of the best metal sculpted handsets for years. Their refined design language isn't limited to high-end offerings, which is great. However, their lower tier of smartphones, essentially the Desire line, has always been a mixed bag.
I am not saying HTC makes bad mid-range smartphones, it's just that none of them have made a strong footprint. Probably the only Desire smartphone that I can still remember from the recent past is the Desire Eye, which came with a front and back 13MP cameras.
The latest in the series is the Desire 10 Pro which was announced a couple of months back in India along with the HTC 10 Evo. I used the handset for a week or so to see if it is 'desirable'.
Body and design: 8/10
As I mentioned, HTC leaves no gaps when it comes to design. The Desire 10 Pro has an all plastic build and a glass panel up front. Surprisingly it feels light, considering the size, and definitely premium. Yes, I said there is plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap. The back has a matte finish flanked by golden accents all around. I'll admit, it is a bit of a 'bling' phone.
While I got to review the white version, there is also a black variant which offers a more rubberised texture.
It offers a fairly slim profile making it easier to hold. There's a chrome rim around the edges and the camera ring and even the antenna bands have a golden finish, albeit a bit softer.
Going around the smartphone, the volume and power buttons sit on the right edge. While the power button offers a distinctive textured finish, it feels too flush with the body. On the left edge is the SIM card tray. It offers a hybrid design so you can either use two nano SIM cards or one nano SIM and a microSD card.
The top has the headphone jack and at the bottom is the microUSB port, microphone and the loudspeaker. Moving to the front, you have the 5.5-inch display along with capacitive navigation buttons at the bottom. Yes, they are back-lit. Above the display is the front camera, the earpiece, some sensors and a notification LED. At the back you can see a very prominent camera lens on the top left corner with a dual LED flash and laser AF system placed below it. There is also a secondary microphone, a fingerprint scanner and the HTC moniker.
I am not very sure how many people will like the plastic finish, but I quite liked the finish of the Desire 10 Pro. It was definitely a refresh after looking at all the boring metal clad smartphones that were launched last year.
The smartphone comes with a 1.8GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6755 Helio P10 processor paired with 4GB of RAM and a Mali-T860MP2 GPU. It offers 64GB of inbuilt storage, which is expandable using a microSD card of up to 256GB in capacity. There is a 5.5-inch Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) IPS LCD display with 400ppi pixel density and Gorilla Glass on top. In the camera department you get a 20MP rear BSI sensor with laser auto-focus and an f/2.2 aperture and on the front there is a 13MP camera with an f/2.2 aperture.
There is a 3,000mAh battery to provides the juice and there is a rear mounted fingerprint scanner as well. Connectivity options include dual-SIM card slots, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, GPS/A-GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth, NFC, FM Radio and microUSB 2.0. Running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow it comes with Sense UI on top and offers HTC’s BoomSound audio technology.
The display measures at 5.5-inches and offers a Full HD resolution translating to 401ppi. This size has become very common, despite being a bit larger to use with one hand. Anyhow, HTC has used an IPS LCD panel which looks pretty good. It has a slim black border around it although the bezels are pretty standard. There is a lot of space above and below which could've been avoided and would've made the overall design more ergonomic. There is Gorilla Glass protection on top although HTC hasn't mentioned which version.
Coming to quality, I honestly had no complaints. The panel offers enough brightness to use it outdoors, even under sunlight. Colours are quite accurate and can be adjusted to a warmer or cooler tone in the display settings. Viewing angles are quite good and you won't notice any colour shift. I believe a 1080p resolution is sharp enough for a smartphone display but since I own a Nexus 6P I could feel a difference. I am not saying it's bad, I found the display to be excellent, but there are better display panels out there.
Touch response is perfectly in tune and your fingers just glide over the panel, something which I've noticed in a lot of HTC handsets.
Like most of the high-end smartphones from HTC, it also offers some gestures which can be used when the screen is locked including double tap to wake and sleep, and a bunch of swiping gestures to open the camera, Blinkfeed and so on.
HTC made a bold decision last year when it completely changed its Sense UI for its smartphones. It removed almost every HTC app replacing them with default Google apps like Play Music, Calendar, Photos and more. The Desire 10 Pro comes with the same software. Based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it's very clean and runs smooth. I did see apps like Hungama Music, and for some reason the Under Armour Record health app but both of them could be removed. Other apps like like Zoe, Weather, TouchPal Keyboard are also present and cannot be removed.
You also get HTC's Blinkfeed homescreen that resides on the left of your main homescreen. Over the years Blinkfeed has gone through some changes and is still one of my favourite features to have on a smartphone. If you haven't used or seen an HTC smartphone in the past, Blinkfeed consolidates your social media channels as well as news sources into a neat looking dock. While earlier versions allowed you to choose your news sources, now you can only choose topics when are then fetched from 'News Republic'.
Personalisation options give you some peppy looking wallpapers and a Themes app which offers a decent variety that can be downloaded.
Overall the software experience on the smartphone was good. I didn't face any performance issues and everything worked pretty smooth for me. It's close to stock experience with a few HTC elements. Comparing to other UIs, it doesn't offer a whole lot features but if you are someone who prefers a stock experience, then this will not disappoint.
I usually like to divide my performance analysis into two sections, one is the actual usage experience and the other includes benchmark numbers. Let me start with the latter first.
The handset runs on a MediaTek MT6755 Helio P10 SoC which comes with an octa-core processor (four 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53 and four 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53 cores) along with a Mali-T860MP2 GPU to handle the graphics. There is also 4GB of RAM on board. This configuration is available on smartphones priced at Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000. Selling this at close to Rs 27,000 is a gamble. Benchmarks likes Quadrant and Antutu scored 12,592 and 38,710 respectively. Compare that to the OnePlus 3, which is priced at Rs 27,999, scored 42,017 in Quadrant and 137,335 in Antutu. Need I say more?
As for the experience part. Less intensive tasks like texting, sending emails, streaming videos are all done efficiently. Gaming was an average experience as I played CSR2 and Asphalt 8 for 40 minutes each. Both the times I was left with a heated smartphone. The games were also not very smooth as there were visible frame drops. Since I play a lot of Pokémon Go, I tried that as well. It didn't have any major issues although opening some menus would see a bit of lag.
Audio quality is something that I was looking forward to because ever since last year, HTC's audio experience has been rather disappointing. There is a mono speaker at the bottom which offers a fairly good amount of volume and there is a tiny bit of bass to it. Audio through the headphones jack is pretty good as you get HTC's BoomSound tech which offers a few sound profiles built for different type of earphones.
Call quality, and network performance was in perfect order. Plus, having a plastic body always allows a more seamless experience.
HTC has had some troubles in the camera department but it is slowly and steadily getting the hang of it as it was visible on the HTC 10. For the Desire 10 Pro, HTC has used a 20MP BSI sensor at the back with an f/2.2 aperture lens, a dual-LED flash and laser auto-focus. It can shoot 1080p videos at 30fps. On the front there is a 13MP camera with an f/2.2 aperture lens which can also shoot 1080p videos and comes with Auto-HDR mode.
The camera app offers a clean UI. You get modes like panorama, pro or manual mode, video, hyperlapse, selfie photo, selfie panorama and selfie video. Apart from offering exposure controls the manual mode also lets you shoot in RAW. Zoe camera takes a small clip at a fast image shooting mode, something like a live photo on the iPhone. The selfie panorama mode lets you add more people to your selfies by letting you tilt the camera and capture more. Hyperlapse is time-lapse mode that can speed up videos up to 12 times.
I mostly shot on the jpeg mode and pictures in daylight were usually good although when I zoomed in, details were a bit low, at times over-sharpened. Using HDR mode produced way better results. Move indoors or shoot in the evening and you are left with slightly lower quality and low-light leads to blurry and grainy images.
Certain images turned out to be over saturated, you can see this in some of the flower shots in the gallery below. I was a bit annoyed with the auto focus as well, especially when shooting macro or in low light as it kept failing to focus.
HTC has tried making the camera a good shooter, but has definitely left plenty of room for improvement. I hope they can fix a few issues by updating the camera software in the upcoming Nougat update.
Battery life: 7/10
The smartphone comes with a 3,000mAh battery and supports fast charging. I used a 2.0 Amp charger (not the bundled charger) to charge it and the battery went from 0 to 100 percent in about an hour while a standard charger took 90 minutes. As for the battery life, I could use the handset all day with about 20-25 percent charge left at the end of my day, which is pretty standard. The results on the PCMark Work Battery life resulted in a healthy 9 hours and 9 minutes, although this is lower than the OnePlus 3's score, which also has a 3,000mAh battery unit.
Verdict and price in India
HTC needs to set its priorities right. While I was happy with how good the smartphone looks, its performance is as good as a budget device. Selling such a phone in the territory of the OnePlus 3 is a bad idea.
With an asking price of Rs 26,490, it is an over-expensive smartphone. It would have been acceptable had HTC priced it below Rs 20,000.
The OnePlus 3 is a cracker of a phone and it sells for just Rs 1,500 over the Desire 10 Pro. Not only does the OnePlus 3 offer a better performance package, it is a handsome looking device. It is also getting a faster software support (at least, it's better than HTC).
I would only suggest this smartphone over any other phone if that other phone was not available easily. Apart from the OnePlus 3/3T you can look at the Xiaomi Mi5, Lenovo Z2 Plus and the LeEco Le Max 2.