HTC Desire Eye Review: A Mid-Range Flagship?

HTC Desire Eye Review: A Mid-Range Flagship?

By Rich W Woods

As I tell people when I write these reviews, I don’t go to events and I don’t sign NDAs. I don’t sugar coat my reviews because I don’t have to. Because of all that, my reviews tend to come out a few weeks later than everyone else’s.

When the NDA was lifted on the HTC Desire Eye, I read the reviews posted on The Verge, Engadget, etc. They all described it as a mid-range phone. After all, Desire has historically been HTC’s mid-range line of phones. This was strange to me though because it is powered by a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor. The specs are exactly the same as HTC’s flagship HTC One M8 but with a higher resolution camera

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HTC Desire Eye: Specs

Processor 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801
Display 5.2″, 1080p, 424 ppi, LCD
Body 151.7×73.8×8.5 mm, 154 g
Camera 13 MP, 4208×3120, 13 MP Front with Flash
Video 1080p – 30 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps
Aperture F/2, Front F/2.2
Focal Length 28 mm, Front 22 mm
Storage 16 GB, Expandable to 128 GB
Battery 2400 mAh
Price $599


As I said, a mid-range phone with a Snapdragon 801 is unheard of. This is a flagship phone. It uses a 1080p display, which is more than adequate for a user to not see any pixilation. The HTC Desire Eye feels like an HTC One M8 and acts like one.

There is one thing about the HTC Desire Eye that is lacking from the HTC One M8. It only records video at 1080p at 30 fps. The HTC One M8 records 1080p at 60 fps and the reason that the HTC One M8 doesn’t record 4K is because it’s a 4 MP camera. 4K requires 8.3 MP at 16:9. The HTC Desire Eye has the specs but HTC didn’t include it as a feature. 4K video recording with the HTC Desire Eye should be possible by rooting for those that know how to do that.

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HTC Desire Eye: Camera

Both the rear camera and the front camera on the HTC Desire Eye are a 13 MP resolution with dual LED flashes. This is not to say that they are the same. One could say that this is the flaw in the HTC Desire Eye’s marketing. It is marketed as a phone with the same camera on the front as on the back; however, we know that the amount of megapixels in an image has the least to do with the quality of an image than all of the camera specs.

While that is the flaw in their marketing, it is not a flaw in the phone itself. The rear camera has a larger aperture than the front camera, coming in at F/2 while the front camera comes in at F/2.2. While the difference between F/2 and F/2.2 is negligible, it makes sense for the aperture of the front camera to be smaller than the aperture of the rear camera.

Aperture is literally the opening of the lens. A smaller aperture means a larger depth of field. A larger depth of field means that the background of the image is more focused. It makes sense for the background to be more focused in a group selfie but not as much in a photo with a subject.

There is another thing I want to add about the camera on the HTC Desire Eye. It has a physical camera button, my favorite feature on a smart phone camera; however, the physical camera button doesn’t seem to work very well. It’s not quite sensitive enough. You don’t want a physical camera button that’s hard to press because it will shake up the photo. Of course, there’s a chance that I just got a bad unit.

The HTC Desire Eye is missing the Zoe feature that comes with the HTC One M8. This is a feature that allows the user to take a small video and pick a frame from the video to take a picture. This could be because of the higher resolution that it’s harder to capture these separate frames.

Please note that in order to enlarge the photos, simply click or tap them. To view the full size images, there is a link in the gallery. Also, I realize that some of the photos aren’t perfect. None of these photos are edited. This is why I provide so many samples. It’s to give you a good idea of what the real world usage is like.

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Rear Camera

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I will say this. The rear camera on the HTC Desire Eye is one that I have fell in love with. The HTC One M8 takes brilliant photos. The colors are vibrant because it uses HTC’s ultrapixel technology. It saturates the images. The HTC Desire Eye seems to have that effect but without the restrictions that come with a 4 MP camera.

Another thing I’ll say about the rear camera is that it doesn’t do a great job of focusing. It doesn’t focus as quickly as the HTC One M8, which makes sense because it’s such higher resolution, but when the user taps to focus, the square shows up on the screen and it acts as if it has been focused before it takes another second to focus.

Front Camera

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The front camera on the HTC Desire Eye is great and has a super high resolution but it’s not the best on the market. Take a look at the camera comparison of the HTC Desire Eye and the iPhone 6 or the OnePlus One and you’ll see what I’m talking about; however, it does have a flash.

The HTC Desire Eye has a lot of cool features for taking selfie. This is called the Eye Experience and it is not exclusive to the HTC Desire Eye. It will also be available to supported HTC devices such as the HTC One M8. In fact, some HTC One M8s have received thhe update already.

The Eye Experience gives the user lots of options for easily taking selfies. For example, the user can use voice commands to take a selfie. He can also simply hold still and when the facial recognition recognizes his face, it will turn green and take a photo.

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HTC Desire Eye: Body and Display

HTC has some really great designers. They hit a home run with the aluminum unibody of the HTC One line of phones and now they’ve done it with plastic. The HTC Desire Eye has a plastic unibody with two tone colors. It comes in two colors: dark blue with a light blue border and white with a red border.

The display is as good as LCD gets. It’s a beautiful 1080p display, but if you put it next to something with an AMOLED display, such as a Moto X, Nokia Lumia 930, or a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, there will be a noticeable difference.

There is another thing I should note about the body of the HTC Desire Eye. Many people find the huge front facing camera to be rather unsightly. It doesn’t bother me but some do.

HTC Desire Eye: Boom Sound

As is HTC’s trademark, the HTC Desire Eye uses their Boom Sound, the brand that they put on their speakers ever since they sold Beats. It uses dual front facing speakers; however, they are easy to miss. They are tucked in on the top and bottom of the display.

I’m not one to play music on my smart phone using the speakers in the phone. I’m more of a headphone guy. From what I could tell in my comparison of the sound between the HTC One M8 and the HTC Desire Eye, there is no noticeable difference. They both provide excellent quality sound.

HTC Desire Eye: A Mid-Range Flagship?

Normally, after discussing the camera, the display, and the body, this would be the part of the review where I discuss the preinstalled apps that are specific to that particular OEM. HTC does not have a competitor to S Voice or Moto, S Health, or S Note that Samsung phones have. They do have Zoe; however, Zoe isn’t exclusive to HTC phones anymore. The camera is the feature of the HTC Desire Eye.

If you read most reviews about the HTC Desire Eye, they’ll call it a selfie phone. I disagree. The main reason for this is because it makes sense for the front camera to be the same resolution as the rear camera and it makes sense for the front camera to have a flash. It doesn’t make it a selfie phone.

Considering that I reviewed the HTC Desire Eye in parallel with the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, the HTC Desire Eye was an absolute pleasure to use. I used an HTC One M8 from April until September for personal use and I loved it. The HTC Desire Eye is an improvement on that. It’s not a mid-range phone, it’s not a selfie phone, it’s just a great phone.

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.