You won’t find all the latest flagship smartphones on Virgin Mobile, but its selection and quality are on the rise. The HTC Desire ($279.99 list) marries smart design with solid midrange specs to great effect. Add in 4G LTE support and BoomSound front-facing speakers and you get a pretty compelling Android option on Virgin. There are bigger or faster options out there, but the HTC Desire feels like just the right amount of phone at just the right price. The Virgin Mobile Supreme earns our Editors’ Choice, though, with its expansive 720p display, faster performance, and sharper camera.
Design, Network, and Call Quality
The Desire looks part HTC One Mini and part HTC One X+, with faux-brushed metal panels lining its façade and soft-touch rubberized plastic around back. It’s a really good-looking midrange phone, though at 5.3 by 2.67 by 0.39 inches (HWD) it’s a bit tall. There’s a headphone jack and Power button on top, with Volume buttons on the right and a micro USB port on the bottom. The back pops off to reveal the SIM and microSD card slots and the removable 2100mAh battery. We’re still running battery tests so we’ll update this review when the results are in.
It’s not HD, but the 4.5-inch 960-by-540-pixel display on the Desire looks good. It’s reasonably sharp at 244 pixels per inch and has a nice wide viewing angle. The screen gets bright enough for outdoor use and colors look accurate, with clean whites and good contrast. Above and below the display are stereo front-facing BoomSound speakers—they’re not on the same level as the HTC One, but they blow most midrange and even high-end phones out of the water. Jack the volume up too high and you’ll hear crunchy distortion, but it’s perfect for sharing YouTube videos with friends.
Virgin Mobile runs on Sprint’s nationwide network, and the Desire supports CDMA (800/850/1900MHz) and 4G LTE (1900MHz). Having the latter is big, as Sprint’s 3G network is woefully slow, but it’s important to note that the Desire doesn’t support the carrier’s new tri-band Spark LTE. It’s still plenty fast, though, as tests in New York City yielded speeds around 5-10Mbps down and 3-5Mbps up. I saw peak speeds of 13Mbps, which is very fast, but we’ve seen Sprint’s Spark network eclipse 30Mbps before, so you’re not getting the absolute fastest speeds possible here.
Call quality isn’t particularly strong, but it’s good enough. Voices in the earpiece sounded muffled in the earpiece during tests, and maximum volume was a letdown after hearing just how loud those front-facing speakers can get. Transmissions through the mic were clean and callers on the other end of the line said my voice sounded full and natural. Noise cancellation worked well, making street noise barely perceptible. Speakerphone volume is a bit disappointing considering the max output of the front-facing speakers, but the limitation keeps distortion in check.
Performance, Android, and Camera
Powering the Desire is a dual-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 1GB RAM, which is common in the low-to-midrange smartphone arena. It outperformed the similarly equipped LG Optimus F3 in overall system benchmarks and felt pleasantly zippy in day-to-day use. There’s still a slight delay when launching apps, but that’s pretty typical for phones in this class. Graphics performance was pretty average and loading up a visual impressive game like Asphalt 8 yielded stutters and dropped frames that dragged the gaming experience down.
The Desire is running Android 4.2.2 with HTC’s Sense 5 skin. That means a healthy heaping of HTC features like BlinkFeed and Zoe, as well as the same look and feel as the company’s flagship One line. Thankfully, all of the customizations don’t seem to bog down the Desire, but if you weren’t a fan of HTC’s Sense before, then there’s nothing new here to sway you.
Virgin Mobile forces its Mobile ID app on the Desire, which includes pre-loads and recommendations for new users. You can’t disable or uninstall Mobile ID, but you can remove individual apps that come with the starter package. This includes apps like Virgin’s The Feed, which is a pretty redundant news and social media aggregator, and Virgin’s app discovery widget.
Of the 8GB of total internal storage, 4.04GB is available out of the box. You can expand internal storage using a microSD card and our 64GB SanDisk card worked fine. The Desire had no problem playing nearly all of our media test formats, including OGG and WAV for audio, but it doesn’t support DivX video.
The 5-megapixel rear-facing camera is low on pixel count and pixel size—these are not the same “Ultrapixels” used on the HTC One. Despite its deficiencies on paper, the Desire performed respectably as a camera phone. Shots outdoors looked sharp and vibrant with good dynamic range. Indoors and under low light the camera struggles with noise, but that’s true of pretty much every smartphone in this range. Video tops out at 1080p with solid frame rates in good lighting, but there’s no stabilization to speak of and under low light frame rates start to drop and make footage stutter.
There are a few routes you can take when choosing a smartphone on Virgin Mobile. On the high-end, you can grab an iPhone 5s for $499.99 or a Samsung Galaxy S III for $399.99, the latter of which is a year old. You can also grab the LG Optimus F3 for $179.99 or the Samsung Galaxy Ring for $149.99. The HTC Desire lands somewhere in the middle at $279.99, offering more screen real estate, more storage, and faster performance than the F3 and Galaxy Ring. It still doesn’t beat out the ZTE-made Supreme, which packs a bigger 720p display, faster performance, and a 13-megapixel camera. Not everyone can handle that big of a phone, though, and the Desire’s combination of good design and solid features make it a top choice for Android smartphones on Virgin Mobile.
|Phone Capability / Network||CDMA, LTE|
|Screen Resolution||960 x 540 pixels|
|Dimensions||5.3 x 2.67 x 0.39 inches|
|Video Camera Resolution||1080p|
|Available Integrated Storage||4.04 GB|
|Processor Speed||1.4 GHz|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400|
|Total Integrated Storage||8 GB|
|Screen Type||IPS LCD|
|Operating System as Tested||Android 4.2.2|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP Rear|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||244 ppi|
|Bands||800, 850, 1900|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Screen Size||4.5 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc