HTC HIT LOW & FAST WITH U PLAY

SmartHouse - - CONTENTS - Writ­ten by Fer­gus Hal­l­i­day

While HTC did po­si­tion their U Ul­tra as the pre­mium tier of their new mo­bile of­fer­ing, there’s a case to be made that the U Play is the more solid prod­uct. On pa­per, it might lack some of the fancy ad­di­tions that sit at the front and cen­tre of the U Ul­tra propo­si­tion. How­ever, in re­al­ity, this is a leaner and cleaner in­car­na­tion of all the as­pects of the U Ul­tra that do work. HTC have more-or less stuck to what works here and the U Play is all the bet­ter for it. Taken on its own mer­its, the U Play is a pretty solid lit­tle pack­age of a smart­phone. Spec­wise, it's got a Me­dia Tek He­lio P10 oc­ta­core pro­ces­sor and 3GBs of RAM. This keeps things chug­ging along nicely, even if it lacks the snap factor of the U Ul­tra. Dur­ing our time with it, we found the U Play was a hand­set that proved ca­pa­ble of most use-cases – al­beit it slug­gishly if mul­ti­task­ing got out of hand.

How­ever, that per­for­mance does come with a cost when it comes to bat­tery life. While my dis­sat­is­fac­tion with this as­pect of the hand­set was prob­a­bly in part due to me com­ing off the ab­nor­mally high charge-life of the Moto Z Play, it is still fair to call it one of the phone's weak­nesses. It re­mained a small but ever-present source of ir­ri­ta­tion dur­ing my time with the hand­set, even if is some­what-eased by the U Play's fast-charge ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

In terms of the cam­era, the U Play makes for a pretty close coun­ter­part to the U Ul­tra. It can't shoot 4K but it's gets sur­pris­ingly close thanks to a 16-megapixel sen­sor and ad­vanced laser fo­cus and op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion tech. All told, it's not quite pack­ing the best smart­phone cam­era you can find but it's pretty damn close and good value for the ask­ing price.

HTC's lat­est ef­fort echoes the U Ul­tra on the de­sign front as well. The U Play em­bod­ies that same me­tal­lic liq­uid sur­face form-factor found in its com­rade. Though, oddly, it ac­tu­ally works a lit­tle bit bet­ter with a 5.2-inch dis­play. While I did still en­counter some small is­sues with heat build-up dur­ing lengthy down­loads, the de­vice didn't feel nearly as jit­tery as the U Ul­tra.

The aes­thetic caveats tied to the liq­uid sur­face body also re­main. Like the U Ul­tra, you're torn be­tween ei­ther let­ting the slick back­side of the de­vice gather smudges or at­tach the clip-on case and watch the scratches build up. Ei­ther way, it still feels like the de­vice wears much faster than it should.

CON­CLU­SION

At the end of the day, this is a smart­phone that's dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate with­out ref­er­enc­ing or com­par­ing it to its part­ner-in-crime. For bet­ter or worse, it feels eas­i­est to de­fine the U Play through con­trast – and the big­gest omis­sion here comes in the form of the sec­ondary ‘ticker' dis­play. How­ever, even af­ter spend­ing a con­sid­er­able amount of time us­ing the Ul­tra, this ab­sence was barely felt in any mean­ing­ful way be­yond the $400 dif­fer­ence it makes to the price-tag.

With that in mind, the U Play is a much, much eas­ier de­vice to rec­om­mend than the U Ul­tra. Per­for­mance can oc­ca­sion­ally leave a lit­tle to be de­sired and the Sense Com­pan­ion still doesn't do quite enough to jus­tify the trade-off in pri­vacy but the U Play is still a pretty solid buy over­all. There are cer­tainly a few im­per­fec­tions to be found but they're much more for­giv­able at the lower pri­ce­point. When it comes to An­droid smart­phones, it doesn't shine the bright but it does still shines.

RAT­ING 7.5/10

The HTC U Play ar­rives at an RRP of $799 out­right through JB Hi-Fi and Har­vey-Nor­man or through a plan via Voda­fone.

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