If you want an inexpensive smartphone with a sense of style, HTC seems to have an attractive option in the Desire 626. This Android handset ($185 from AT&T) has a crisp 5-inch display, a sharp 8-megapixel camera and multiple color options, so you can own a device that best expresses your personality. But while the Desire 626 is a solid device at an affordable price, its battery life is way too short.
The HTC Desire 626 has the company's signature slab design with rounded corners. Its pearlized back is smooth and pristine, featuring the HTC logo in the middle, and the camera lens and the flash are in the top left corner. My unit was white and had a dark, grayish-blue stripe on its side, but the 626 comes in multiple colors, including pink, light blue, beige and gray. The device has only two physical buttons — the volume rocker and the power button — both of which are slightly raised on the right edge. On the left is a pop-out piece that reveals space for the SIM card and microSD slot.
Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom's GuideAside from the accent colors, the bulk of the Desire 626 is made of a matte plastic colored in white, gray, blue or black. That matte color extends to the front of the handset, where you'll see speaker grilles on its top and bottom.
Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom's GuideThe Desire 626 measures 5.7 x 2.7 x 0.32 inches and weighs 4.9 ounces. It's just slightly taller, yet lighter, than the $179 Moto G (5.5 x 2.8 x 0.45 inches, 5.45 ounces) and taller than the $179 Blu Life One (5.6 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, 4.3 ounces).
Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom's GuideThe Desire 626's 5-inch, 1280 x 720-pixel display produces rich colors and was a pleasure to use when I was playing games and watching videos. The trailer for the animated movie Hotel Transylvania 2 looked almost 3D on the screen; the translucent green body of a monstrous blob had enough clarity that I could practically see through him.
The display is nice and bright, notching 459 nits on our brightness scale. That falls into a sweet spot — brighter than the category average (388 nits), but dimmer than the Moto G (463 nits) and the Blu Life One (525 nits).
The 626's panel also shows a wide range of colors, rendering 109 percent of the sRGB color gamut scale. That's better than the Moto G (103.3 percent) and the Life One (104.1). Moreover, the Desire 626 scored 2.78 on our color accuracy test (closer to 0 is better). That's better than the smartphone category average (4.29) but not as good as the Moto G (0.85).
Being a budget phone, the Desire 626 is equipped with a lower-end 1.1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 quad-core processor and 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Only 5GB of that space is available to the user, but you can increase the storage to 200GB using a microSD card.
The Desire 626 never stalled on me, but it ran slightly slower than I would have liked. While it took a somewhat leisurely 10 seconds to load Candy Crush Saga, the game ran smoothly during the five levels I conquered (after work, obviously).
I wasn't surprised when I found that the Desire 626 wasn't up to snuff in our benchmark tests. In the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the Desire 626 scored 993 — lower than the Moto G (1,591) and the Blu Life One (1,449).
The HTC redeemed itself a bit in our video editing test, which involves converting a 204MB, 1080p video to 480p in the VidTrim app. The Desire 626 took 6 minutes and 42 seconds to complete the task, which is faster than the Moto G (8:24) and the Life One (10:04).
The Desire 626's graphics performance was only slightly lower than that of the value-priced competition. It scored 4,268 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, placing it just behind the Moto G (4,467) and the Life One (4,433).
Software and Apps
The Desire 626 runs Android Lollipop with the HTC Sense UI on top. The bottom bar remains the same as on other Android devices, with a home icon in the middle, hugged by the back and task switcher icons. Directly above those are essential apps, including Phone, Messages, HTC's Web browser, Camera and an icon to reveal all of your installed apps.
I enjoyed the Scribble app, which let me write and draw with my fingertip on the display as if it were a piece of paper, with different utensils available, like paint, pencils and markers. It even has its own selection of emoji and emoticons, featuring characters that look like they were plucked out of "Where the Wild Things Are."
Too bad AT&T piles on the bloatware: The Desire 626 comes with the whole suite of the carrier's apps on it, including AT&T Family Map, AT&T Live, AT&T Mail and AT&T Navigator.
The 8-megapixel rear camera on the Desire 626 takes sharp photos with good detail and color. In one shot, minute accents of Brooklyn homes were clearly visible, and the vibrant colors of murals on the sides of buildings came through with depth. However, in the shade, clusters of tree leaves became a little muddy.
This phone's 5-MP front camera took selfies with accurate skin tones, but they were easily blurred by a too-quick hand movement. Also, the fine strands of hair framing my face looked faded.
The Desire 626's 2,000-mAh battery is the one reason not to get this phone. It lasted only 4 hours and 6 minutes on our battery test, which involved continuous 4G Web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness. That's much less than the smartphone category average (8:28), the Moto G (9:00) and the Blu Life One (7:49).
At first, the $185 HTC Desire 626 seems like a great deal. It has a big, bright LCD display; a crisp 8-MP rear camera; expandable storage; and a customizable design that lets you stand out. But the dismal battery life means you should probably look elsewhere.
Overall, the $179 Moto G is a better investment, as it offers faster overall performance, longer battery life, stock Android and a friendly design that's fully customizable with Moto Maker.