HTC has yet to announce a flagship phone in recent months though they have filled in the void by offering an affordable pair of Desire series phones dubbed the Desire 12 and Desire 12+; we had the privilege of testing the latter.
The HTC Desire 12+ is the larger sibling of the duo and is otherwise similar in terms of hardware bar a slightly larger battery, a larger display, a slightly better specced Snapdragon 450 SoC and a dual rear camera.
Externally, the Desire 12+ strikes a very polished look about it belying its asking price with a mirrored rear finish once exclusive to HTC’s U-series flagships from last year. The entirety of the rear is taken up by a reflective finish polished to a mirror sheen with the camera tucked in the upper left corner and a rounded fingerprint reader set just above the HTC logo. While it’s pleasing to look at and functions as an ersatz mirror, the finish is also an absurdly effective fingerprint magnet that requires constant wipedowns.
The sides are pleasantly rounded and finished in a matte black plastic with a hybrid SIM card slot on the left and a power button and volume rocker on the right. The base of the phone still retains a 3.5mm audio jack, a microUSB charging port and a series of holes for the mono speaker. The inclusion of a microUSB port versus a Type-C port is likely a pragmatic decision based on its intended target market as an entry level to midrange phone which is understandable. The front of the Desire 12+ is dominated by the large 5.99-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio HD+ display which has slim side bezels and modestly sized top and bottom bezels. The front lacks any physical buttons at the base of the phone with the top set aside for a camera, a mic and an LED flash.
When held, the phone felt fairly sturdy and reasonably well built, due also in part to its polished backplate. On casual inspection, it certainly looks more premium than what its price tag would indicate which bodes well for users looking to adopt this rather posh looking device.
HTC Desire 12+ Performance
The HTC Desire 12+ comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 1.8GHz octacore processor running Android Oreo 8.0 out of the box backed by 3GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. If one were to peek under the hood, the Snapdragon 450 is the latest of Qualcomm’s 400 series processors and is one of the first of the line fabricated at 14nm with a set of eight ARM Cortex A53 CPUs and an Adreno 506 GPU. The newer Snapdragon 450 has slightly better capabilities in supporting dual higher resolution rear cameras and modest improvements in battery efficiency versus its predecessors.
Overlaying Oreo on the phone are two mainstays of HTC’s user interface – their Sense Companion and BlinkFeed. The latter is essentially a content aggregator that feeds you interesting news and posts from your social media while the former is an AI assistant of sorts that was once only available on the U-series flagship phones and which offers suggestions based on the time of day and location that’s integrated somewhat with Google Assistant. To wit, Sense Companion is able to advise you on nearby restaurants and other points of interest, the daily weather forecast as well as destination and arrival ETAs to some degree. Both are pleasant if non essential additions to the phone. The rest of the user interface is otherwise a clutter free affair with a minimal amount of bloatware and the option to create or download a variety of themes to jazz up your phone.
When subjected to synthetic benchmarks, the Desire 12+ delivered fair results for a budget phone. In 3D Mark’s Slingshot Extreme test, it yielded a score of 442 in the OpenGL ES 3.1 test and 393 in the Vulkan test. In PCMark, it got a modest score of 4,582. In GeekBench, it got a single core score of 773 versus a multi-core score of 3,932 while in Antutu 3D it got a combined score of 70,358.
In practical terms, the phone does a serviceable job for everyday use with modest expectations. Day to day tasks like opening up browsers for web surfing, sorting and answering emails and the like as well as streaming videos from YouTube or iFlix were handled in a fairly smooth fashion. Where it falters is in more demanding tasks like gaming. Player Unknown Battlegrounds Mobile is playable albeit at low settings and loading times spanned several minutes. Fortunately, the screen is up to task with good colours and reasonable detail viewing its HD+ resolution though it does not fare as well under bright sunlit conditions even with the brightness cranked all the way to maximum.
Still, gaming is a minor quibble if you’re on a budget as the Desire 12+ handles everything else expected of a phone in a competent fashion while tossing in a large sized 18:9 aspect ratio display.
HTC Desire 12+ camera
The main draw to the HTC Desire 12+ is its rear dual camera array that integrates a primary 13-MP camera with an f/2.2 aperture with a secondary 2-MP camera for depth data as well as an LED flash. Combined, this setup allows the phone to capture up to 1080P video and 13-MP snaps in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Oddly enough, there’s only one 16:9 aspect ratio available at 4-MP. On paper, the rear camera is a marked step up from a many equivalently specced phones that either have a single rear camera or place far more emphasis on the front.
In terms of settings, the phone comes with the usual gamut of artistic filters, a tweakable beautify mode that lets you manipulate skin softness and whiteness as well as the usual bevy of modes. Like many other entry to midrange phones, it also has a HDR mode that has to be manually enabled for it to work. Putting HDR as a separate mode means some fumbling about when you’re taking a backlit or low light shot. The rest are fairly standard including a landscape mode, a sports mode, a night mode and a portrait mode to bokeh the background when you snap portraiture. The odd thing is the lack of a dedicated manual mode. Instead, you have to go into the settings to manually tweak ISO, exposure and white balance though these options are selectively grayed out depending on what mode you use. It’s a bizarre implementation of user interface design that requires some getting used to.
Persevere and you’ll find that the Desire 12+ has a competently made rear camera with the ability to render up some pleasantly shareworthy shots on Auto mode with good colour saturation and detail in brightly lit conditions. With portrait mode fired up, the phone was able to deliver some convincingly defocused backgrounds while keeping subjects reasonably crisp and in focus assuming there’s sufficient distance between the subject and the background for the effect to kick in. Low light shots are on the poor side with quite a bit of softness and noise which is understandable at this price level.
The front selfie camera isn’t going to deliver results that will knock your socks off but at arms length distances , it will serve up decent detail, fairly accurate skin tones and the provided beautification mode works best on subjects of the fairer sex with rather aggressive beautification and skin whitening algorithms.
Battery Life, Price and Conclusion
The HTC Desire 12+ comes with a slightly larger battery than the Desire 12 though it’s still comparably smaller than equivalent competing phones packing similar Snapdragon 450 processors. Even so, the phone still manages to yield the equivalent of the better part of a day’s worth of battery life on account of the efficient processor with moderate use needing a top-up by sundown.
In terms of pricing, HTC’s budget phone strikes a middle ground with a modest premium on account of the polished finish and dual rear camera while running Android Oreo out of the box. The cheaper Redmi 5 has a slightly smaller screen, equivalent hardware running slightly older Nougat and a poorer rear and front single camera though it has a slightly larger battery. The more premium Vivo V7+ from awhile back commands a significantly higher premium in exchange for slightly more RAM and storage and a better front camera.
If you’re doing most of your shooting with the rear camera and appreciate the delights of a good looking phone without having to fork out a huge wad of cash, you’ll appreciate the features that the HTC Desire 12+ offers. It’s not going to run circles around pricier phones but a combination of a posh looking finish and the capable dual rear camera make it a phone worth considering for those on a tight budget.
What we Liked Nice mirrored finish, good rear dual camera, solid build quality
What we Didn’t Rather pedestrian specifications, archaic camera interface, finish is a fingerprint magnet
We say A highly polished looking if modestly specced phone for those looking for an affordable entry level option with a decent rear camera.
Display 5.99-inch LCD, 720 x 1,440 pixels
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 1.8GHz
OS Android Oreo 8.0
Memory 3GB RAM/ 32GB +microSD card
Camera 13-MP f/2.2 + 2-MP w/ LED flash (rear) / 8-MP f/2.0 w/ LED flash (front)
Size/Weight 158.2 x 76.6 x 8.4 mm /157g
* Review unit courtesy of HTC Malaysia