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HTC U Play Review

One of HTC’s upcoming offerings in its return in the Philippines is the HTC U Play. It sports a build and design similar to the U Ultra but in a smaller package with a 5.2-inch display, MediaTek Helio P10 processor, and 16MP camera. Find out what else this mid-ranger has to offer in our full review.

Design and Construction

As mentioned earlier, the HTC U Play comes in a smaller package compared to the HTC U Ultra phablet. For starters, it has a 5.2-inch display with Full HD resolution. Placed above it is the earpiece and 16MP front camera. Down below are the fixed capacitive Home key/fingerprint scanner, and two lit keys for Back and Recent Apps.

Like the U Ultra, it has a curved Gorilla glass on top which blends almost seamlessly to the black glossy frame. It actually reminds me of the kind of quality exhibited by the iPhone 7 or the Huawei P10.

Similarities with the U Ultra doesn’t end here as it also has a curved metal frame. Found on the right are the volume and power/lock buttons, the top houses the hybrid SIM tray and microphone, while down at the bottom are the microphone, USB Type-C port, and loudspeaker.

Turn it on its back and you will be greeted by the same glossy and highly reflective “liquid surface”, along with the protruding 16MP camera and dual-tone flash. The Sapphire Blue color really stands out, but just like the U Ultra, it is prone to fingerprints and smudges. Micro scratches are also one of the concerns but good thing HTC included a clear case in the package.

On the hands, the U Play is more wieldy and comfortable. It has the same thickness as the U Ultra at 8mm but the smaller frame makes it lighter, and easier to grip and navigate even with one hand. All in all, the U Play is an attractive, reasonably-sized, mid-range smartphone in a premium package.

Display and Multimedia

The U Play is equipped with a 5.2-inch Super LCD display with Full HD resolution, and a pixel density of 428ppi. That said, it has the smallest and lowest resolution among HTC’s U devices. Still, a 5.2-inch screen is more than enough for most users as it can be easily navigated with one hand. It is also of good quality with its punchy yet accurate colors and wide viewing angles.

When it comes to audio, the U Play sadly doesn’t feature dual speakers like the U Ultra, hence no BoomSound feature. The lone down-firing speaker is loud, however, the sound is hollow and lacks bass. It’s good for hands-free voice calls but a bit disappointing when it comes to music listening.

Like the U Ultra, the U Play doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio port and uses USB-C port for wired listening. It also comes with an HTC USonic earphones and packs the same audio feature as its bigger brother.


The U Play’s imaging department is handled by the 16MP rear shooter equipped with OIS, Phase Detect Autofocus, and dual-tone flash.Selfies are handled by the 16MP front fixed-focus wide-angle camera with screen flash. It has plenty of in-camera features like Pro Mode, Panorama, Zoe camera, Hyperlapse, Selfie Video, and Selfie Panorama.

Camera performance is decent while images produced are of average to good quality. Images have rich and accurate colors with sharp details and good contrast. However, those details tend to smudge when there’s not much light like when shooting indoors. The same can be said with the front camera so we’d recommend shooting in daylight.

When it comes to its video recording capabilities, it can shoot 1080p clips at 30fps. Quality is far from the HTC U Ultra as details are soft and a bit lacking in dynamic range. Watch sample below:

OS, UI, and Apps

If you have read our review of the HTC U Ultra, it’s the same affair with the U Play when it comes to the software and user interface. It runs Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC Sense.

It has the usual Google goodies pre-installed along with TouchPal, Under Armour Record, and News Republic. HTC’s apps like the Sense Companion, Viveport, and Zoe Video Editor are also present.

Storage-wise, it has 64GB of memory with 51.28GB left for the user. It’s sizeable but if you need to bump it up, you can install a microSD card of up to 2TB capacity but at the expense of the SIM 2 slot.

Performance and Benchmarks

Powering the U Play is a MediaTek Helio P10 octa-core CPU clocked at 2.0GHz, Mali-T860MP2 GPU, and 4GB RAM. So far the hardware configuration has proven itself capable when it comes to all the task we throw at it including gaming with the likes of Marvel Contest of Champions and Mobile Legends in High settings. Warming can be at the top by the camera area but not so much to be of concern.

Check out the benchmarks below:

  • AnTuTu – 52,667
  • Geekbench – 755 (Single-core), 2,974 (Multi-core), 1,997 (RenderScript)
  • Vellamo – 3,196 (Multicore), 1,588 (Metal), 3,065 (Chrome)
  • AndroBench – 218.77 MB/s (Read), 163.97 MB/s (Write)

We noticed from the benchmarks, that the U Play scored better compared to the Helio P15-powered Moto M in AnTuTu (49,537). Read and Write speeds are also significantly slower compared to the HTC U Ultra.

Connectivity and Call Quality

Connectivity-wise, the U Play has all the bells and whistles like WiFi, DLNA, Miracast, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, Fingerprint sensor, and USB-C. There’s also 4G LTE with support for FDD: Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, and TDD: Bands 38, 40.

So far, everything work’s well. Mobile data is fast while calls are loud and clear. GPS also works fine as we never had issues while using Waze on the road.

Battery Life

This is where the U Play comes out a bit disappointing as it only has 2,500mAh battery. So far it was able to last us for around 8 to 9 hours with mixed usage consisting of constant WiFi connectivity, heavy social media use, and moderate photography. We only get half of that when we throw some gaming and mobile internet in the mix.

When it comes to benchmarks, PC Mark rated it at 7 hours and 10 minutes, while our video loop test yielded 11 hours and 32 minutes of playback. It’s something we’d consider decent but we definitely recommend bringing a power bank when you go out with it.


All in all the HTC U Play is one attractive device that performs well in its class. It’s not as powerful as its other siblings but it’s got a capable hardware like the Helio P10 CPU, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage. For those who like taking photos, the 16MP rear and front camera can do its job well.

If there’s one area that disappoints us, it would be the battery. A device likes this begs to be used heavily, and the 2,500mAh battery is inadequate. Lastly, the price. So far HTC is yet to announce its SRP in the Philippines, but if they can price it right, the HTC U Play can definitely stand a chance.

HTC U Play specs:
5.2-inch Full HD Super LCD display
Corning Gorilla Glass
MediaTek Helio P10 octa-core CPU
64GB storage
up to 2TB via microSD (uses SIM 2 slot)
16MP rear camera, 1um pixels, OIS, PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, dual-tone flash
16MP front camera, 1um pixels, Ultrapixel mode, f2.0 aperture
Dual-SIM (hybrid)
FDD: Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28
TDD: Bands 38, 40
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
DLNA, Miracast
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS, A-GPS, Glonass, Beidou
Fingerprint sensor
USB 2.0 Type-C
Dual-mic w/ Noise Cancellation
Android 7.0 Nougat w/ HTC Sense
145.99 x 72.9 x 3.5 ~ 7.99 mm
145 g

What we liked:
* Beautiful design
* Solid build
* Good performance for its class
* Decent camera
* Comes with a USonic earphones and clear case

What we dislike:
* Small battery

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