One smartphone for the high-end segment, one for the mass market: this strategy was chosen by HTC with the new U line. We already tested the smartphone U Ultra , which showed compelling results, although not enough to take the first place in the rating. But what about HTC U Play? Yet it contains two strengths than a more expensive model.
On the one hand, we get a stylish case with a lot of glass. On the other hand, support for Sense Companion, which should improve the comfort of working with HTC U Play smartphone. But for some functions, there are significant differences between the two smartphones. However, this is not surprising, considering the difference in the price of 300 euro between HTC U Play and U Ultra. On what did HTC save? At least, this did not affect the colors. U Ultra can be purchased in black, blue and white colors, the same goes for HTC U Play. Our test lab received a black model.
We publish this review for several weeks after the U Ultra announcement and the middle-class model, but the reason is simple: the Sense Companion artificial intelligence system became available only in mid-March . But, as practice has shown, even two weeks of use for its assessment is not enough. Therefore, we will publish the corresponding review later, and we will also capture U Ultra.
As for the price, HTC U Play has fallen in price since its announcement. The recommended retail price is 449 euros, but now in Europe it can be purchased for 420 euros.
Components on which HTC walked with a red pencil, at first glance are not visible. However, everything becomes clear if you work with your smartphone for a while. Inside the processor is MediaTek Helio P10, from which you can hardly expect miracles in performance.
SoC was introduced at the end of 2015, it follows the basic structure of direct competitors, although the eight cores of Cortex A53 and the graphics unit Mali-T860 MP2 leave no hope for high results. In tests of single-threaded performance HTC U Play can somehow compete with competitors, but in multithreaded tests, it gives up its position. Perhaps the most important rival of Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) showed in tests Geekbench 3 and 4 about 40% higher level of performance.
A similar situation we get with the GPU. Although the Mali-T860 is nominally positioned above the Mali-T830, widely used in the middle class, the MediaTek Helio P10 chip does not benefit from this. To increase performance, you need to use more than two clusters (MP2), but for now the Mali-T830 MP2 remains faster. What is visible on the same 3DMark and AnTuTu, as well as in specialized tests of the GPU.
As a result, HTC U Play takes a position only in the middle of the rating, yielding to direct competitors. In everyday scenarios, this is also noticeable, because the interface is not always smooth. We also encountered slowdowns in demanding applications or when opening “heavy” sites. Part of the reason lies in the slow internal memory, which provides a performance of about 70 and 43 MB / s for reading and writing. And 3 GB of RAM does not help here.
However, if you use a smartphone for messengers, social networks, e-mail and similar tasks, then performance will be quite enough.
However, on the rest of the equipment HTC relied on generally accepted standards. The modem supports LTE Cat 6 networks, download speed is up to 300 Mbit / s, downloads – up to 50 Mbit / s. In our tests, the connection was stable, we did not detect the loss of the network signal or frequent switching. Thanks to two microphones, the smartphone effectively suppressed extraneous noise during telephone conversations, the sound quality could be called convincing.
If you plan to use the second speaker, which is located at the bottom end, then the sound quality will be average. On the other hand, the maximum volume is quite high. Unfortunately, HTC did not use both speakers together to play music – although this effect was not so convincing for U Ultra . USonic technology is supported to optimize the sound for the user, but it only works with complete headphones. As in the case of U Ultra, we did not notice a significant effect on audio quality.
HTC U Play supports WLAN 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC, so with wireless data transmission technologies everything is fine. Unless the cable connection is made only through USB 2.0, even HTC has installed the Type C jack. But you will not get a 3.5mm audio jack. Like the ability to play content directly through AirPlay. It is left behind the “senior” model.
The built-in memory has a capacity of 32 GB (models with 64 GB are available), it can be expanded with microSD cards up to 2 TB. Because HTC supports Adoptable Storage (the Taiwanese manufacturer of Flex Storage), an additional memory card can be used in two ways.
Finally, HTC U Play inherited the U Ultra fingerprint scanner. It is also located below the display, in our tests the scanner showed a high recognition speed. However, unlike the same Huawei, the sensor can not be used for additional functions except for the Home button.
Where HTC U Play could bypass U Ultra , this is the quality of the display. Still, the 5.2 “diagonal is noticeably smaller, which makes the whole smartphone more compact.
But HTC, along with the diagonal, also reduced the resolution. The IPS panel gives 1.920 x 1.080 pixels, the density of 424 ppi is more than enough for daily work. The maximum brightness of 462 cd / m² is sufficient for most scenarios, although the Boost mode similar to U Ultra is not here. If you use HTC U Play in direct sunlight, you’ll have to put up with the poor readability of the screen. The contrast of the 1.550: 1 display is pretty good, as are the saturated colors. Although the color temperature, we were not able to reduce the slat 6.800 K.
It’s interesting to make a direct comparison with the Galaxy A5 (2017). The smartphone provides the same diagonal and resolution, but the test results were higher only in contrast. A higher brightness Samsung smartphone can provide only in automatic mode, and even then for a short while. Also the colors are very cold, we could not reduce the color temperature below 7.800 K.
The second display, which U Ultra could use to launch applications and call contacts, HTC U Play does not have.
The problem with the SoC is not only limited performance, but also battery life. Helio P10 is made on 28-nm technical process, which can not be called modern. Therefore, the chip loses more fresh SoC. HTC also went on sacrifices on battery capacity, the smartphone is equipped with a battery capacity of just 2.500 mAh, which is not enough for a 5-inch smartphone of the middle class.
Not surprisingly, the battery life in our tests was not the best. Under the PCMark load, HTC U Play smartphone lasted almost six hours, in the cyclic video playback test – only about four hours. The worst results in our test lab. Why under the PCMark load we got a higher battery life – it’s not quite clear, it usually happens vice versa. The repetition of the test did not change the alignment of forces.
Somewhat better, HTC U Play proved itself in practical scenarios. We made several phone calls a day, browsed the sites through WLAN and LTE, and also worked with two mail accounts. The smartphone lasted from one charge a little more than a day and a half. We disconnected the smartphone from charging in the morning, after which it was required to charge it on the evening of the next day. If you use the smartphone intensively, then it will have to be charged every day – despite the different energy saving measures undertaken by the manufacturer.
A little disappointing is that it takes a lot of time to charge HTC U Play. The power of the charger is only 10 watts.
As proved by the same Honor 6X , even an average smartphone can give quite decent pictures. Samsung also made the first attempts to improve the camera with a smartphone Galaxy A5 (2016) , but optical stabilization in the new version was sacrificed to the budget. Therefore, HTC U Play may well stand out as a feature among competitors, as HTC did not abandon optical stabilization.
But the remaining characteristics remained very modest. Neither the diaphragm (f / 2.0) nor the size of the pixels (1 micron) makes the main camera stand out.
The sensor at 16 MP gives even higher resolution than the more expensive U Ultra . Also note a flash Dual LED and a focal length of 28 mm. For fast focusing, the phase comparison method is supported.
If the lighting is sufficient, then the camera of the smartphone allows you to get good or even very good pictures, at which sufficient sharpness and detail. The shades and subtle color transitions are transmitted quite convincingly. But when the illumination is reduced, the quality drops noticeably. Despite the small pixels, the noise remains moderate for a long time, but HTC U Play has problems with light sources. In the pictures they are too bright, they light up areas where parts and colors are lost. In general, the quality of pictures and videos remains above average.
Experienced users can be recommended Pro mode, in which you can configure the most important shooting parameters. You can also save photos in RAW format, which makes it convenient to process them later on the computer. It was nice to get and automatic activation of HDR – unfortunately, many smartphones do not have this feature. As in the case of U Ultra smartphone, HDR mode works quickly, but the user learns about its activation only after shooting.
The front camera here is the same as U Ultra , it has a resolution of 16 MP and aperture f / 2.0. Also in the middle class switched mode UltraPixel. It allows you to combine four pixels into one, which visually improves the quality of the images. As a result, the quality of Selfie can be named above average.
The videos were not so convincing anymore. With colors, details and sharpness everything is, it seems, good, but sometimes artifacts appear. In addition, the resolution is more than Full-HD with 30 frames per second is not supported, in Time Lapse mode shooting is limited to 720p.
The camera application was transferred from the U Ultra smartphone, except that some hardware features were removed. In principle, the application interface is simple and straightforward, but some options are “buried” too deeply.
Stand out among the competitors – this was the credo of the two U models. Indeed, U Ultra managed to stand out visually, so it’s nice that the HTC U Play design has not changed much. Again, the basis of the visual component was the glass, which HTC processes according to the company’s “recipes”.
A few fused layers of glass lead to the fact that the backdrop whimsically poured at different viewing angles. Looks smartphone is really impressive. However, it is worth noting the rather high strength of the glass, despite the apparent fragility. The smartphone will certainly survive the fall without a case, although scratches and chips may still appear. But the design is interesting not only for bizarre reflections, but also for the rounded shape of the backdrop. If you believe HTC, it took the company quite a lot of efforts to develop 3D design U Ultra . The camera on HTC U Play stands out slightly less than the older model. However, it works less efficiently.
The glass fits well with an aluminum frame into which the volume and standby buttons are integrated. The antenna isolators are not allocated, and the front panel was also rather modest, without direct instructions to the manufacturer.
The quality of the workmanship is generally good, although our test sample showed transitions between the frame and the card tray, as well as between the frame and the insulators.
Thanks to the back, rounded to the sides, the smartphone lies well in the hand. But, unfortunately, the smooth glass is not held as well as the rough surface. The right buttons can be easily reached, but still one-hand operation with the display of this diagonal is unlikely to work. Moreover, it occupies only 70% of the front panel. Dimensions of the smartphone are 146.0 x 72.9 x 8.0 mm, weight – 145 g. As a result, HTC U Play can not be called too thin or light.
New smartphones HTC U line were introduced to the market at the same time, but they are equipped with different versions of Android. With HTC U Play again clearly seen that with the requirements of the new operating systems Google is not all good. In the case of U Ultra, Android 7 is installed, the middle-class smartphone has to be content with version 6. The reason lies in the driver for SoC MediaTek, which was not provided on time. But we are waiting for the system update.
As a result, HTC U Play lost some functions, including improved power management. However, the user is unlikely to feel the most recent Android system, because HTC hid it behind the Sense brand interface. Externally, the changes are not noticeable, although some menus have more options than the “pure” Android. It’s nice that the Taiwanese manufacturer did not install two or even three applications for the same tasks. For example, a user will receive only one browser and one mail client. This approach not only saves memory, but also is more honest with respect to clients. With the smartphone HTC U Play also turned to the users: when our solutions are better, we install them; Otherwise leave Google applications. Peru Taiwanese companies, in particular, own telephony applications and cameras. And the same browser and photo gallery are taken from Google.
In the section dedicated to the software, we also wanted to share the sensations from the work of Sense Companion in everyday life. But after two weeks of testing, we are not ready to share anything more than the first impressions. Perhaps the artificial intelligence system takes more time to analyze the user’s habits. As it is possible, and the fact that it simply does not work correctly. Although the application constantly gives some advice, practical help was only in the recommendation to remove installed applications that are not used. Therefore, in the case of HTC U Play, we will publish a conclusion about the Sense Companion later.
The smartphone U Ultra was able to revive the upper segment of the market, HTC U Play promises to do the same on the mass segment. Of course, for this it is not enough to reduce the diagonal of the display and copy the stylish glass case. Still, the smartphone must be bribed and internal qualities.
HTC managed to stand out with the camera, which for this price can be called one of the best, and the general equipment of the smartphone is pretty good. The display in many ways convinced, although the additional brightness it would not interfere. It is a pity that at its price HTC U Play is equipped not with the most recent SoC, which limits the performance of the smartphone, and also leads to too little battery life. If you plan to take your smartphone with you on a trip, then do not forget the external battery. I would like to criticize and install the old operating system Android 6, although HTC explained the reason. As a result, buying HTC U Play costs those users who appreciate a good camera and a very unusual case.
If you only need one item from the two mentioned, then in the market you can find different alternatives cheaper. Above we have already mentioned the same Honor 6X . But in terms of the overall rating in the middle class, the new HTC smartphone is not impressive. Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) shows itself, in general, better, and it is much cheaper – from 350 euros. At a similar price, you can buy Honor 8, as well as Huawei P10 lite . If you are ready to pay, then Huawei P9 ( 430 euros) and Samsung Galaxy S7 ( from 450 euros) are added to potential competitors of HTC U Play.
In general, HTC U Play, despite all the criticism, can be called quite a decent mid-level model due to the original design and a good camera.