Camera

Capable 16 MP shooters are marred by some soft-looking imagery

There's an optically-stabilized f/2.0 16MP camera with phase-detection autofocus at the back of the U Play. Although its resolution is larger than the 12MP UltraPixel shooter of the U Ultra, it has smaller 1µm pixels, which tells us that it might have worse low-light performance, in theory at least. The selfie front camera is also a 16MP one that can snap wide panorama selfies of both you and your clique. The front cam also has the so-called UltraPixel mode that lowers the resolution, and apparently increases light sensitivity this way up to four times.


The camera app interface is greatly simplified, with the most used modes and filters present with big fat buttons, and only a handful of settings hidden a menu deep. It does have a Pro regime, though, where you get a full suite of manual controls, including preset shutter speeds. The HTC Zoe photo diary is another option to spice things up, while the phone offers an automatic HDR option that will measure the scene and choose whether to shoot in HDR or not. HDR shots takes a bit longer from shot to finish, though.


As for the pictures, they don't have the usual warm, flashy colors some other phone makers go with, and thus look a bit closer to reality. They are not bland by any means, but most folks prefer their reality spiced up with oversaturated hues and higher contrast. The photos are exposed mostly accurately, especially if the HDR mode has been employed during the shot. They are are often quite softish looking, though, in particular if there is less than ideal light amount splashing the scene, like on a cloudy day or indoors, where bright spots usually get overexposed, too. The selfie camera may soak in more light when it is in the UltraPixel mode indeed, but that usually results in overexposure in daylight, so we'd stick with the 16 MP resolution which returns decent selfies.

The U Play maxes out at 1080p video with 30fps, and is optically stabilized, so your hand shake gets compensated for well. The videos come out with enough detail, credible colors, and no artifacts, save for some rolling shutter. Exposure adjustments are rapid while panning around, and continuous autofocus works sufficiently quickly when moving between near and far objects.


Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
HTC U Play 1.4
3
326
359
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 1.8
2.9
No data
No data
Honor 8 2.1
2.2
No data
No data
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 1.8
2.6
1118
669

Audio


On the audio front, HTC has had the courage to get rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack. The onboard USB Type-C port is to be used for audio playback, and, thankfully, the device comes with a rebranded version of the HTC USonic adaptive in-ear headphones that came along the HTC Bolt and 10 Evo a couple of months or so ago. These adapt to your ears and aim to provide a better audio-listening experience for each individual user. This would only work via the USB-C connector, though, and those adjustments aren't valid for your Bluetooth headset, for instance, or third-party sets. The sole loudspeaker at the bottom of the U Play is surprisingly strong, and with fairly clean and full sound for a phone speaker.

Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
HTC U Play 78
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 75
Honor 8 73.3
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 77.6

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