The HTC U Play is a beautifully-designed midranger, with a decent camera and premium build that makes it a rather eye-catching alternative to the more powerful HTC U Ultra. It’s well-priced at S$548, sporting a superb camera and polished look, but its performance and battery life could definitely use some work.
The HTC U Play separates itself from other smartphones with a metallic frame and glass front. It’s sleek body is coated with a gorgeous pearlescent ‘Liquid Surface’ glass on its rear. The front on the other hand, doesn’t look too different from other smartphones, but we liked the fact that the HTC symbol has been removed from the front to give it a cleaner and tidier look compared to the likes of other manufacturers such as Samsung.
The right frame of your delicately-thin 8mm device holds the textured power/lock key as well as your volume control buttons, and on the top of your smartphone, you will find your SIM/MicroSD tray.
This thin U Play is also rather compact, even for a smaller 5.2-inch display smartphone, with a dimension of 146 x 72.9 x 8mm. Hence, the U Play is easy to hold with one hand and it also feels incredibly light at 145g.
Under your display, you will also find a digital fingerprint sensor that’s very fast as well as touch-sensitive multi-tasking and back keys buttons on the left and right side of the fingerprint sensor (which also acts as the home button).
The U Play has a detailed Full-HD screen, with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and a pixel density of 428 ppi. It utilises Super LCD technology capable of showcasing 16M colours and hence, the contrast and colour reproduction on the device was more than satisfactory.
The U Play has a chipset slightly more powerful than your standard midranger. It comes armed with a MediaTek Helio P10 chipset and a generous serving of 4GB RAM. On paper, this means that the U Play should be able to handle multi-tasking and productivity applications easily. This held itself well, being largely absent of lags other than when trying to be used to open multiple intensive applications at once.
HTC’s user interface is rather lovely in my opinion. It flows seamlessly with its physical design and appears rather fluid just like its liquid metal body. It’s minimalistic and definitely user-friendly.
I got a score of 50,361 when I ran the Antutu benchmarks, which was a satisfactory number for a midrange phone. Not spectacular, but definitely not shabby either.
I did like some special features you can find on the U Play such as the ability to wake your screen by double-tapping it, the interesting Blinkfeed that gives you your daily news summary of the day and swiping down twice when the phone screen is off to launch the camera.
Gaming on the other hand, is not highly-recommended for midrange smartphones such as the HTC U Play. It does lag when you try running intensive games like Clash Royale and Asphalt 8 in multiplayer mode, so competitive online gaming is definitely not its strong suit.
3DMark gave the device a score of 419, which is on the mid-bottom range of GPU performance.
The HTC U Play really shines when we come to both its 16MP front and rear camera. It has very useful Auto-HDR features, a nice speedy autofocus and excellent optical image stabilisation. I definitely noticed that the device was more than capable of capturing very sharp images with popping contrast. Quick sensors on the camera also allowed for the device to shoot many photos in rapid succession.
Macro shots were done well at close range with a nice background blur to finish it off.
The device has a 2,500mAh battery, which is lower than the industry average. In reality, the device is capable of holding up a standard work day, perhaps lasting about 8 hours before going flat on me. Most other Android devices tend to give me a 10 hour battery life on average. So I definitely recommend carrying around a portable charger if you’re carrying the U Play out an entire day. You can think of its low battery life as a trade-off, because it uses a Full-HD screen, which gives you a better viewing experience, but at the same time, consumes more battery power.
For an average consumer, the HTC U Play is a decent choice worth considering, especially if you don’t need a lightning-quick phone, and you favour a good design and snappy camera above all else. However, if you crave more speed and an enduring battery life, you might be better off looking at other midrangers.