The HTC Windows Phone 8S and the Nokia Lumia 820 are the cheapest Windows Phone 8 handsets around.  The 8S has an understated two-tone design. At 10.3mm thick it is far from the thinnest phone around, but it doesn't feel bulky and at just 114 grammes, it IS pretty light.  

The Lumia 820 is bigger and heavier than the 8S. Despite Nokia's claims, it's slightly thicker than the 8S at 12mm and it's also heavy at a hundred and 75g.

The 8S benefits from a 4in Super LCD Gorilla Glass display. Its resolution of 480x800 pixels means a desnsity of 233 pixels per inch. It's perfectly usable and Windows Phone 8 looks as bright and cheery as ever. For the Lumia 820 Nokia has opted for a slightly larger screen size of 4.3in. The resolution is similar, but at 480 x 800 on a slightly bigger screen the pixel density is around a third lower at 217ppi.  

Below the screen, the bottom strip of the Windows Phone 8S is a different colour to the rest. In our case most of the phone's body is black, with a white section at the bottom, but we've also seen it in black and blue. It's a nice touch, making the Windows Phone 8S a little different from the norm.

At the back is a removable cover. Push down and away from the rest of the phone, and this panel comes away to reveal a SIM tray and microSD card slot. This mechanism feels robust but, unlike a SIM tray, it does also leave you open to losing the cover. Replace the flip off cover and you can use the microUSB connector.

Nokia has gone for a very rounded pebble-like design for the Lumia 820. The 820's matt finish and more shapely curves make it our favourite white phone ever.  

It also has a removable cover, but the 820's build quality is good. Once the shell is clipped into place the entire device feels solid and robust. It's not the kind of phone that makes you hold your breath if you drop it. The problem with the build quality is the weight of the phone. Nokia really should have spent more time making sure it was lighter.  The much lighter Windows Phone 8S has curved edges that give the impression of slimness. Factor in the solid plastic construction and that rubbery finish and you won't feel that you need a case, either. The screen does attract a lot of finger marks, however.

The HTC Windows Phone 8S sports a 1GHz dual-core processor, and 512MB of RAM. It completed the SunSpider JavaScript web-browsing benchmark in an average time of 1408ms. This is a middle-of-the-pack result, placing the HTC well behind other Windows Phone 8 devices such as the Lumia 820. We didn't find that web browsing with the 8S was slow, however, just not noticably zippy.

General performance is similar: there's nothing wrong with the HTC Windows Phone 8S, it's just not super fast. The Lumia 820 boasts a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. As you'd expect, it performs better than the 8S - in fact the 820 performs just as well as the more expensive 920. We found general performance to be smooth on the whole. In the SunSpider JavaScript test, the Lumia 820 was marginally slower than the speedy Lumia 920 with an average of 940ms, but that's still a lot faster than the 8S.

Overall, then, the Lumia 820 wins on performance.

HTC Windows Phone 8S vs Nokia Lumia 820: storage and battery

With the HTC 8S You get only 4gig of onboard storage, but there's a microSD slot for adding an extra 32GB  The Lumia 820 Lumia 820 doubles the internal storage at 8GB, - around 2GB is taken up by the system. The 820's microSD slot accepts cards with capacities up to 64GB.

The HTC's battery is relatively tiny. In our experience it just about gets through a day with moderate use. By contrast we were pleased with the performance we got from the Lumia 820's bigger battery. Over a period of 24 hours, we still had 40 percent of the battery remaining. A lot of users should get a couple of days' use out of the Lumia 820.

HTC Windows Phone 8S vs Nokia Lumia 820: camera

The HTC Windows Phone 8S has only a single camera - a 5Mp snapper on the back.  

At 8Mp and with a Carl Zeiss lens and LED flash, the main camera on the Lumia 820 sounds impressive. There's a low-resolution front facing camera, too, which most people will use for Skype calls.  

We like the fact that there's a dedicated camera button to launch the camera app and take photos. Overall, though, we were disappointed with the images from the main camera compared with the Lumia 920's shots.  Video can be recorded at 1080p, and we found it to be detailed and smooth.  

The HTC 8S has a decent camera, but despite our reservations, the Lumia 820 has useful rear- AND FRONT-facing cameras, and could well replace your compact digital camera.  

HTC Windows Phone 8S vs Nokia Lumia 820: verdict

The HTC Windows Phone 8S is the first Windows Phone 8 handset to fit into the mid-range price category. As such it's not quite the performer of the high-end Windows Phone 8 devices such as the bottom-of-the-high-end Lumia 820, but it's not so poor as to make it a bad deal. It offers solid performance and features for a reasonable price. Whether you prefer it to a similarly priced Android phone will depend on your own subjective preference of platform.

The Lumia 820 is a smaller and cheaper version of the 920. It doesn't pack the same punch as that high-end Windows Phone, especially in key areas such as the screen and camera. But we like the interchangeable covers and decent battery life. It's a better phone than the HTC Windows Phone 8S, but it costs more - to buy outright, at least. In Windows Phones, you get what you pay for.