HTC U Ultra, U Play First Impressions & Camera Samples

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HTC Today launched the U Ultra & U Play for the Indian market, at a price of Rs. 59,990 for the base variant (64GB storage) and Rs. 39,990 (3GB RAM with 32GB Storage) respectively. At the launch event, we were able to spend some time with the phone to get a feel for whether HTC missed the mark with the pricing, as they sometimes have in the past. Our first impression of the device, as it turns out, is extremely positive.

The HTC U Ultra is a phone with a 5.7 inch display sporting a 2560×1440 resolution. It is powered by a Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB RAM and the demo unit we used had 64GB of on-board storage. The U Ultra supports microSD cards to expand the storage up to 2TB. On the back is a 12 megapixel camera featuring HTC’s UltraPixel 2 technology, optical image stabilization and PDAF. It’s a very well spec’d phone, so its obvious we wanted to try it out.

The phone is made of glass, but HTC’s design team has ensured that the finish is neither slippery, not a fingerprint magnet. Don’t get us wrong, the back will get stained after prolonged use, but we found that it wasn’t as clingy to your prints as screens typically tend to be. The back very gently curves into the screen, making for one solid, seemless hunk of premium feeling device. For someone with small hands (mine are 6 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide) the device is slightly on the bigger side, but the weight distribution is very well managed. The phone doesn’t tip over with one handed use, but one handed use is a little difficult for those with smaller appendages.

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The HTC U Ultra has a number of interesting features. Their Sense Companion, a built-in AI system was not available on the demo devices. Then there is the fact that the U  Ultra doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but instead routes audio through the on-board USB-C port. We weren’t able to test the fidelity of the USonic headphones or BoomSound, but what we did briefly get to try out was the HTC U Ultra’s cameras.

Right off the bat, the primary camera is extremely responsive, regardless of the lighting conditions. The venue was poorly lit in most parts and had really bad blue/pink lighting in others. Autofocus systems typically struggle to lock focus in such situations, but the U Ultra had no problem locking on to any area of our choosing. We didn’t experience even a single failure to lock AF in the 15-odd photos we shot. The image quality from the primary camera is surprisingly good, with little JPG compression and good handling of low-light noise. The front camera was equally good, with quick response to shooting, however, photos displayed significant JPG compression and loss of detail. It is possible that the devices on display were prototypes and that the algorithms are not final.

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The HTC U Ultra left us with a very pleasant feeling, one worthy of the flagship moniker. While our initial impressions are extremely positive, we would recommend waiting for our in-depth review of the phone before deciding on whether to buy the device or not when it becomes available on March 6 2017.

The HTC U Play is the company’s mid-range device, but features a MediaTek Helio P10 chipset. while it may have slightly toned down insides, the U Play shares its premium build and finish with the U Ultra. We’ve seen HTC utilize build and design as means of justifying their eemingly high price points, and the U Play is no different.

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Testing out the camera on this one, we found that the 16 megapixel primary camera has a little more evident JPG compression than that of the U Ultra. The camera was unable to lock on to our subject a total of two times out of fifteen, which is still a fairly impressive number. The OIS was effective in keeping the shots in low light stable and the detail in the images is good. The front facing camera again suffers from significant compression, but we feel that the 150-degree selfie mode is going to be a massive hit with whoever buys this phone.

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The front camera on the HTC U Ultra and U Play can shoot 150-degree selfies

Overall, we feel that while the HTC U Play has amazing built and design, a well performing camera, some users might find it hard to justify the Rs 39,990 price point for a phone powered by the Helio P10 chip and 3GB of RAM. However, it is entirely possible that despite the P10 SoC, the phone is able to perform past expectations, but we’d recommend waiting for our review to see if that is the case. The HTC  U Play will go on sale at the end of March starting at Rs. 39,990.