While HTC's flagship One smart phone might steal the headlines with its metal body, Full HD display and powerful components, it's pretty expensive if you only want a phone for the basics.
If you'd rather have cash in the bank than a top-end phone in your pocket, cast your eyes over the HTC Desire 500. It's a 4.3-inch phone with an attractive plastic shell, HTC's easy to use Sense 5 software and a decent screen.
Should I buy the HTC Desire 500?
The Desire 500 tackles the essentials well, doesn't cost the Earth and has a more interesting design than most budget smart phones. It also looks cool, its processor tackles social networking, Web browsing and light gaming well and at £200, it's well priced.
If you want a more luxurious design, the HTC One Mini has a great metal body, but it will set you back around £100 more and if you're happy to spend that much, you could go for the new Nexus 5 -- its Full HD display and searingly fast processor are normally only found on phones way above the £300 price. The Desire 500 is 3G only too, so you'll need to look higher up if you want faster 4G speeds.
If money is your chief concern though, take a look at the Nokia Lumia 620. It's available for around £160 on pay as you go, has colourful, interchangeable covers, a great screen and easy to use Windows Phone 8 software. You will have a much smaller selection of apps to choose from though.
Design and build quality
With its glossy white back and colourful bright blue accents, the Desire 500 is one of the most attractive budget handsets I've seen in a while. It's eye-catching, fun, and above all stands out from the usual slew of black and grey mobiles that you'd typically find for this price.
It's available in white, with red accents too if blue's not your thing, or you could ditch the colour completely and opt for the all black model -- but that's just not as fun. The shell is made from glossy plastic. It doesn't have the same luxurious aesthetic as the all-metal HTC One, but it does cost a lot less, so it's probably a fair compromise. It feels pretty sturdy though and I find the design generally falls on the side of stylish, rather than cheap.
It measures 132mm long and 67mm wide, which is quite big, considering its 4.3-inch display. That's due to its fairly wide bezels and large amount of room above and below the screen. The space above the screen houses what looks like the same front-facing Boomsound speaker from the HTC One, but it's only the speaker for making calls, rather than the loudspeaker for playing music.
The loudspeaker for music is around the back. It bears the Beats audio name and I found it to be sufficiently loud for YouTube in the kitchen, but you'll want to use headphones to get decent sound quality.
Built into the blue edging on the right hand side are the volume buttons. They sit flush with the surround, so they're quite difficult to find by feel alone, particularly when the phone's in your pocket. You'll find the usual 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port on the top. Under the plastic case is a microSD card slot, which allows you to expand the meagre 4GB of internal storage. Thankfully, you can move some apps to the SD card too.
The 4.3-inch display has an 800x480-pixel resolution, which isn't amazing, but about what I'd expect on a phone of this price. It naturally doesn't have anything like the same pin-sharp resolution as its top-end sibling -- small text and icon edges look a little fuzzy -- but it's perfectly adequate for most tasks like tweeting and posting updates to Facebook.
It's not the brightest display I've ever laid my hands on, but it was at least bright enough to counter some of the reflections from the CNET UK office lights. It might not stand up too well to the bright summer sun, but if you don't plan on leaving England, that's not going to be a problem for you.
It has fairly decent colours -- perfectly fine for some Netflix shows -- and its viewing angles are good. It's certainly among the better quality displays I've seen on budget phones.