Hands on: HTC Desire 300

Just enough internal hardware to get by, with much nicer external hardware than you expect for the price

HTC announced the Desire 300 along side the Desire 601 for specific markets back in September 2013. While it isn’t a device that many of us will ever see or strive to own — we’re more drawn to new colors of the HTC One and One Mini— it’s an important phone for HTC to have on offer in places where disposable income for a phone isn’t at the $650 level.

The internal specs aren’t going to blow you away. We’re looking at a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, just 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage (with an SDcard slot). The display, while only 480 x 800, is 4.3-inches and looks great, just as we’ve come to expect from HTC devices. The internals are enough to push around Android 4.1 with Sense 5 (including BlinkFeed) and a scaled-back set of visual features. It stillfeelslike a full-blown set of HTC software, but you can tell where cuts were made to save performance.

Although it may not have widescale availability it can be picked up with little hassle, thanks to Amazon, for $249 (just don’t count on getting 3G here) in the U.S. The Desire 300 is targeting even lower price points where it’s being sold directly, however — we saw it go on sale in Australia for just $179 AUD (about $159 USD) at the end of last year. At those prices, people stop being so critical on the internal specs and simply pay attention to how it feels and whether or not it offers a minimum level of performance.

The Desire 300 offers that minimum level of performance at the sub-$200 price point, and does so without looking generic or feeling cheap. Those are the hardware attributes HTC is known for, and they are executed amazingly on this phone. Even though the soft touch back cover is removable, the device feels solid and looks great — like it costs twice as much as it does — just like other HTC handsets. You get nice design touches of metal, chamfered edges and the same port and button layout as other high-end handsets.
Again understanding that not many of us will ever strive to pop our main SIM card into a Desire 300, it’s certainly worth seeing that this is the level of hardware currently on offer for less than $200 unlocked. Along with examples like the Moto G, these devices aren’t just painful stepping stones on the way to higher-end devices — they’re real, bona fide smartphone offerings that people can use productively on a daily basis.