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    HTC U23 Pro review

    Those of a certain vintage may hear the word ‘HTC’ and reminisce fondly about the early days of the smartphone revolution, when the Taiwanese company appeared to be the only one capable of taking on Apple.

    The company is now a considerably smaller power, having sold much of its smartphone business to Google and moved its attention to virtual reality with the Vive headsets. HTC still has a modest presence in the smartphone market, and the HTC U23 Pro is a surprise and intriguing new mid-range rival.

    Design & Build

    • Flat, angled plastic rim and plush plastic rear
    • Somewhat hefty at 205g and 8.9mm thick
    • IP67 rated

    HTC was formerly known for its boundary-pushing smartphone design work, but the HTC U23 Pro is all about cost-effective dependability. Its flat plastic rim, plastic back, and flat display evoke memories of the HTC One M7.

    There are flourishes in this piece, but they are fairly modest. For example, the flat rim is slightly inclined, creating the appearance that the back of the phone is little smaller than the front.

    That plastic back also features a soft-touch surface that feels pretty velvety and looks quite luxury, especially in the unique Coffee Black color that my review model comes in, which stains dark brown in the light. You can even grasp the phone in a more traditional Snow White fashion if you choose.

    The display of the U23 Pro is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, which is rather durable for a mid-range phone. An IP67 rating provides virtually flagship-level dust and water certification.

    As subtle as this design is, it cannot conceal the reality that the HTC U23 Pro is a huge, weighty phone. It’s 8.9mm thick and weighs 205g, neither of which makes it difficult to transport.

    The extra thickness allows for the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top edge, as well as a pair of powerful (though slightly tinny) stereo speakers. A fingerprint sensor located within the power button on the right edge handles authentication, which is reliable though not particularly fast.

    Screen

    • 6.7in FHD+ 120Hz OLED
    • Colour accuracy way off the mark
    • Auto-brightness flaky

    HTC equipped the U23 Pro with a 6.7in OLED display with a Full HD+ resolution and a refresh rate of 120Hz. That’s a competitive feature set, and it’s especially nice to see 120Hz activated by default rather than having to dig around in the options menu.

    However, this is one of the most repulsive exhibitions I’ve seen in a long time. It’s mostly due to the screen’s extremely brilliant colors.

    The three color modes (Natural, Boosted, and Adaptive) are all excessively aggressive and oversaturated, making everything from site content to video footage seem garish. Maybe it was the nostalgia of the HTC name, but it reminded me of the early days of Android smartphones, back when Samsung’s initial OLED panels went a little crazy with the colours.

    Running the HTC U23 Pro through a routine colorimeter test proved that none of these settings could be considered color correct, at least in terms of the common sRGB color space that most material is calibrated for.

    With auto brightness turned off, it achieves a respectable brightness of 488 nits. When I turned on auto brightness, the screen went from too bright to too dark in mixed lighting circumstances.

    With an obvious absence of HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatibility, the HTC U23 Pro display feels like a lower-quality OLED component than we’re used to seeing in the £500 range.

    Specs & Performance

    • Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 processor
    • 12GB of RAM
    • 256GB storage, microSD slot

    The HTC U23 Pro is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, a mid-range CPU that hasn’t been seen in many devices previously. The Xiaomi 13 Lite, with which the HTC U23 Pro competes directly, is perhaps the most high-profile recent example. It’s also included in the Motorola Razr 40.

    The HTC U23 Pro, like that other Xiaomi mid-ranger, runs well, thanks to an astounding 12GB of RAM, allowing you to flit between apps and navigate menus at a fluid 120Hz. As previously said, unlocking the phone with the fingerprint sensor is not the quickest approach.

    Wreckfest, a physics-heavy console racing, runs nicely (if not flawlessly) on medium-to-high settings.

    In terms of CPU performance, the HTC U23 Pro outperforms the Xiaomi 13 Lite, ties with the Nothing Phone (1), and falls well short of the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion and Poco F5. In our standard GPU benchmarks, the HTC ties with the Xiaomi 13 Lite and the Nothing Phone (1), but gets annihilated by the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion, Poco F5, and even the Pixel 6a.

    HTC U23 Pro benchmarks

    In conclusion, the HTC U23 Pro performs admirably within its category, although gamers can get considerably quicker for comparable or even significantly less money.

    One final notable feature is the inclusion of 256GB of internal storage as standard, with the option for extra through a microSD card. HTC, congratulations for going the additional mile here.

    Cameras

    • 108Mp main camera with OIS
    • 8Mp ultra-wide, 5Mp macro, 2Mp depth
    • Struggles with lighting extremes

    The camera setup of the HTC U23 Pro is unmistakably mid-range. That may seem OK for a mid-priced phone, but with the Pixel 7a (and already reduced Pixel 6a) available for much less, it’s unlikely to excite many.

    It’s a rock-solid setup, led by a 108Mp primary sensor with OIS (optical image stabilisation) and EIS (electronic image stabilisation) and a wide f/1.7 aperture. In good illumination, this yields in fairly crisp, pleasingly natural-looking images. HTC does not oversaturate colors, as many mid-range manufacturers do.

    as shooting on a sunny day, its limits were clear as everything appeared washed out and blurry since the U23 Pro failed to adjust. In other images where the brightness didn’t detract too much from the landscape, I noticed traces of overexposure in the backdrop.

    When attempting to get a close-up of a beer glass in front of a less bright harbour setting, the U23 Pro got the tone correct but required three attempts to latch on to the foreground subject.

    There are also problems at the opposite end of the brightness scale. Low-light images with the specific Night mode enabled produced a lot of grainy artifacts, which were especially noticeable in black sky. OIS might be at work here, but the sensor is clearly not large, and HTC’s image processing doesn’t appear to be on par with the best mid-range competitors.

    The secondary cameras aren’t much better, with an 8Mp ultra-wide sensor being the sole one of interest. The 5Mp macro and 2Mp depth sensor aren’t worth more than a passing glance, with the macro in particular being too hit-or-miss – with much more misses than hits. They are, as is customary, there to increase the number of cameras in an attempt to impress.

    There’s a 32Mp selfie camera on the front, but despite its pixel density, it’s not a good performer. All of my selfies were incredibly soft, with overexposed backgrounds, and portrait mode produced a bunch of strange artifacts around the subject’s edge.

    Battery Life & Charging

    • 4600mAh battery yields mediocre battery life
    • Slow 30W wired charging
    • 15W wireless charging support

    Given the HTC U23 Pro’s large, hefty frame and heavy usage of plastic, the fact that it only has a 4600mAh battery comes as a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a regular 5000mAh cell.

    Sure enough, I was disappointed with the phone’s endurance. I noticed the phone decreasing to 38% after a day of quite light usage (14 hours off charge, little over 3 hours of screen on time). In such a circumstance, it’s not uncommon to have a solid half-tank remaining to play with.

    The HTC U23 Pro performed poorly in the basic PCMark Work 3.0 battery test, scoring an unimpressive nine hours and three minutes. That’s five hours less than the Poco F5, and nearly two hours more than the Pixel 7a, a phone not exactly known for its long battery life.

    It performs somewhat better than the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion and slightly worse than the Xiaomi 13 Lite, but both of those phones have far smaller batteries.

    Although HTC did not offer a charger, the U23 Pro supports up to 30W cable charging. I tried another brand’s 66W charger, which produced the dreaded “Charging rapidly” sign but only got the phone to 24% in 30 minutes. It took almost two hours to charge completely.

    All of this sounds very bad, however the HTC U23 Pro’s charging setup has one significant saving grace. It allows wireless charging up to 15W. That’s not as unique a mid-range feature as it once was, with the Pixel 7a and the Nothing Phone (1) including it, but it’s still not the usual.

    Software

    • Stock-like Android 13 experience
    • Handful of stand-alone Vive apps
    • No big update guarantees

    The HTC U23 Pro runs a pleasingly vanilla version of Android 13. This is Android basically as Google intended, with menus, layouts, and app icons that any Pixel or Motorola user would recognize.

    HTC includes a few extras, such a clock widget that nods to the company’s more storied history, but nothing too elaborate.

    Indeed, one might argue that HTC could do with a bit more bling. There are no subtle lighting upgrades or gesture-based shortcuts, for example. You also don’t receive any of Android 13’s fantastic Material Design. For whatever reason, you have color customization choices.

    Bloatware includes a few HTC Vive-themed apps, a reference to the brand’s new status as, first and foremost, a VR enterprise. I couldn’t test these because I didn’t have a Vive headset. In any case, these are stand-alone programs that may be ignored and even removed.

    HTC doesn’t appear to be making any dramatic promises regarding continuous software or security upgrades in this press release. Given the company’s recent retreat from smartphone market prominence, this is perhaps reasonable, but it’s worth noting if you plan on keeping your next phone for several years.

    Price & Availability

    At £499/549$, the HTC U23 Pro costs £50 more than the Pixel 7a, the Poco F5, and the Xiaomi 13 Lite. It’s technically the same price as the stylish Motorola Edge 30 Fusion, but given the age of that phone you can now get it for well below RRP.

    You can buy the HTC U23 Pro direct from HTC’s online shop as well as Amazon UK or Amazon US.

    Specs

    • Android 13
    • 6.7in, FHD+, OLED, 120Hz, flat display
    • Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1
    • 12GB RAM
    • 256GB storage
    • 108Mp, f/1.7 main camera
    • 8Mp ultra-wide camera
    • 5Mp macro camera
    • 2Mp depth
    • Up to 4K @ 30fps rear video
    • 32Mp front-facing camera
    • Stereo speakers
    • Dual-SIM
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6
    • Bluetooth 5.2
    • 4600mAh battery
    • 30W wired charging
    • 15W wireless charging
    • 166.6 x 77.1 X 8.9mm
    • 205g
    • Launch colours: Coffee Black, Snow White

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