With the mid-range segment having been redefined by the likes of Xiaomi, Yu and Lenovo, it was high time players such as HTC would also start offering competitive solutions in this segment. HTC had launched the Desire 210 and the Desire 310 earlier but they weren’t priced sensibly with regards to competition at the time. With the Desire 526G+ sporting an octa-core processor, an 8MP rear camera and priced under Rs 15k, HTC seems keen on capturing this market as well.
Build and Design: 7/10
HTC is known for its beautiful metal-body designs, but since the Desire 526G+ is targetted at the mid-range segment, HTC had to employ plastic in the construction. The Desire 526G+ comes in four different colour combinations - glacier blue, laquer black, stealth black and fervor read. We got the stealth black model which has a black glossy plastic rear cover, a dark gray glossy edge and a black front.
The design of the Desire 526G+ is slightly different from the rest of its brethen thanks to the two front firing speaker sections located on the top and bottom of the front face. It seems like the display is floating on top of a large speaker section. The bezels are much thicker on all sides. The power and volume rocker buttons located on the right hand edge tend to protrude out a bit, and has decent feedback which lends well to blind usage. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack on top and a microUSB port on the bottom edge.
Removing the back cover, which is quite flimsy, gives you access to the dual SIM card slots and the microSD card slot. The battery is removable. The Desire 526G+ weighs around 154 grams and is 9.8mm thick. But despite the glossy surface, the Desire 526G+ gives a good overall grip. The display is a smudge magnet though.
Aimed at the mid-range segment, the HTC Desire 526G+ has specifications which cater to this segment. It sports a 4.7-inch qHD display with a 960 x 540 pixel resolution and comes in a dual-SIM configuration. The device houses a MediaTek MT6592 which has Cortex A7 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz along with a quad-core Mali 450 GPU. It runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS with the SenseUI 5.0 skin atop it. The SenseUI skin brings along with it some proprietary software, which we will take a look at under Software section.
The Desire 526G+ supports 1GB of RAM and has around 16GB of total storage of which 11.97GB is available to the user. You also get an 8GB variant of the 526+. Thankfully, it supports a microSD card slot to expand your storage to up top 32GB. On the camera front, you get an 8MP rear camera which is capable of shooting full HD videos and a 2MP front-facing camera which can shoot HD videos.
Just like most HTC phones, the Desire 526G+ also comes with the Sense UI skin on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS. This comes with its own set of proprietary software and apps. Unlike the higher end Desire series phones, the number of additional apps is kept at the minimum. Blinkfeed, which is HTC’s answer to Flipboard, can be reached by swiping to the left most home screen. This feature gives you the news and social media updates in a single feed. HTC has included apps such as Video Highlights, which basically helps you create slideshows with musical backgrounds with your stills and videos. Polaris Office 5 is another useful app that comes bundled with the Desire 526G+, basically helping you to open and edit office related documents.
There’s an MTKLogger service, which has more to do with GPS tracking. It runs in the background and can keep logs of network, mobile and modem. We didn’t really find any direct relevance to the end user, so we disabled it.
In the app drawer, you can change the arrangement of apps from alphabetical to custom to the most recently used ones. Settings menu interface is similar to stock interface. There is an option called ‘Get content from another phone’ which is the only new thing we saw. This allows you to transfer your data and contacts from another phone via Bluetooth.
The HTC Desire 526G+ has great call quality. The earpiece speaker is loud enough and does not tend to distort the voice. I did not experience any call drops.
The octa-core processor ensures that tasks run smoothly. Switching between apps was slightly sluggish, but that is alright given the Sense UI 5.0 skin on top of the OS. In the benchmarks test, we got scores which are comparable to the Xiaomi Redmi Note variants. It performed most tasks thrown at it with elan. There was no issue playing back different video file formats, but the .AVI format did not playback the audio on the default video player. Watching a 720p and 1080p clip wasn’t an issue, but playing back a high bit-rate 1080p movie can be problematic.
Playing games on the Desire 526+ was fun. I was quite impressed with the smooth lag-free response while playing Asphalt 8. The heat generation was also kept under check while playing heavy games which is good. The dual front-facing speakers are loud and I did not experience any distortion of sound even at higher volumes.
Having a qHD display on a 4.7-inch display ensures that the pixel density is 235ppi. Although that may not seem like much, it is good enough. Of course if you observe the phone from a close distance, you will see pixillation. The IPS display ensures good viewing angles. Since it is an LCD display, one does come across some backlight bleeding during watching dark movie scenes. The black levels are not the best. Colours are slightly muted although I did not notice any colour tinging towards the warm or cool tones.
HTC Desire 526G+ comes with an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP front camera. The camera user interface is a vanilla Android one with still photo, live photo, portrait scene mode and panorama modes on the left hand side and a small settings button on the right hand side - when you hold the phone in the horizontal orientation. The camera gave an impressive output while shooting in the daylight. The colours turned out quite natural and there wasn’t any colour tinging. It did tend to overexpose in the highlight regions. The chromatic aberrations are well controlled. It offers decent sharpness and images are good enough to share online. It is only on pixel peeping that you will notice slight dithering around the edges of sharp objects. Low light shooting mode isn’t that impressive and is affected by chroma noise. Video mode is good as long as the camera is held steady because panning causes rolling shutter.
PS: All images below have been resized for the web. Please click on them to see the full resolution images on Flickr. Additionally, you can also check out the HTC Desire 526G+ photo album on Flickr.
Battery Life: 6/10
HTC Desire 526G+ houses a 2,000 mAh battery. For the 4.7-inch qHD display that is a decent battery capacity. With the PC Mark for Android we got around 6 hours 24 mins with the phones. In a regular use-case scenario, the phone should last you for 8-10 hours easily. Sadly there isn’t any dedicated battery saver mode on the 526G+.
Verdict and Price in India
HTC Desire 526G+ is a good phone and does most of the regular tasks without a hitch. Gaming enthusiasts will like the 526G+’s smooth response. Although the phone comes with the Sense UI 5.0 skin, HTC has thankfully not added on unnecessary bloatware. The dual SIM capability is another plus point.
But at Rs 11,400 for the 16GB variant, HTC has got the pricing a bit on the higher side. Even the 8GB variant is still slightly over Rs 10,000. By HTC standards these are decent price points for what is on offer, but one needs to remember that there is a lot of competition from phones such as Yu Yureka (at Rs 8,999) and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G (Rs 9,999) which come with a larger display and better resolution. So at a Rs 10,000 plus price point, I find it difficult to recommend the Desire 526G+.