The HTC Desire 816 measures 156.6 x 78.7 x 8mm meaning it's decently thin and not too tall either, considering other HTC phones are typically the tallest in their segment due to the stereo BoomSound speakers. The weight of 165g makes this one of the lighter 5.5" phablets.
The LG Optimus G Pro, another 5.5" phablet, is just 150.2mm tall and LG's skill at slimming down bezels culminated in the G Pro 2, which is a tad taller than the Desire 816 but packs a 5.9" screen.
The Desire 816 loosely follows the basic floor plan of HTC's premium One family but, being a Desire member, it takes a more budget-minded approach to build materials. There are some changes to the design that we mostly like.
Despite having some of the tallest phones, HTC keeps putting the Lock key on the top where it's hard to reach. With the Desire 816, a rather tall device, the company moved the Lock key to the left side where in theory it's easier to reach. Putting it above the volume rocker, near the very top, however, means it's still a stretch and you don't have tap-to-wake to help you.
Anyway, the phablet is deceptively light for its 165g and it's on the edge of being too wide to hold comfortably without crossing over.
We have to say we have mixed feelings about the plastic that makes up the exterior of the phablet. The matte plastic that circles the sides and covers the BoomSound speakers is quite pleasant to the touch and good-looking.
The entire surface of the back, however, is the type of glossy, fingerprint magnet plastic we've grown tired of. It's very prone to scratches too, ours is already showing signs of wear after just a few days spent mostly sitting on our desks.
The Lock key and volume rocker are metal, painted to match the rest of the phone's body with only their borders showing the shiny metal underneath. They sure do look good but the volume rocker in particular is so wobbly it feels disappointingly cheap.
In the end the HTC Desire 816 is a mixed bag - the base design is attractive and the execution is decent but a few elements bring down the overall impression. It just feels a bit cheaper than it should have (and than it actually is).