HTC U12 Plus Review

June 17, 2019 | Amy Davies |

Introduction

The U12 Plus is the latest smartphone from HTC. At the time of writing, it’s extremely highly rated by independent experts DxO for its cameraphone – beaten only by the Huawei P20 Pro and the iPhone XS Max.

It gets a score of 103, making it the best rated dual camera setup when it was first scored (it has since been overtaken by the iPhone XS). The U12 Plus has dual cameras on the rear, as well as dual -cameras on the front of the phone.

The rear cameras are a 12 megapixel and 16 megapixel set up, with one wide-angle lens and one telephoto lens. Other specifications include UltraSpeed Autofocus 2, the option to shoot with “bokeh effects”, HDR Boost 2, 4K video recording and optical image stabilisation.

At the time of writing, the HTC U12 Plus can be bought for around £629 sim free. A variety of different contract deals are also available.

Ease of Use

HTC U12 Plus
Front of the HTC U12 Plus

The HTC U12 Plus has a 6-inch Super LCD with Quad HD+ (2880 x 1440 pixels) resolution. We’ve been using the Translucent Blue version of the phone, but there’s also Ceramic Black and Flame Red available. The overall effect is very slick, with attractive rounded edges. Unlike many other phones currently on the market, the HTC U12 Plus doesn’t employ a notch at the top of the display. That will be good news to those who don’t like them, but it does mean you lose a little bit of the display. There’s also a fairly large bezel at the bottom of the screen, too.

To get straight to the camera app from the lock screen, you can swipe up from the bottom right hand corner of the screen. There you’ll find yourself automatically in the native camera app. If you’re accessing the camera this way, you’ll be able to see any photos you shoot in your current session, but if you want to see older photos you’ll need to fully unlock the phone.

HTC U12 Plus
Rear of the HTC U12 Plus

By default, the app loads in the standard photo option, which is what we’d recommend for taking most photos. Along the top of the screen you have a number of options to choose from, including switching the flash on or off, accessing AR (augmented reality) stickers, switching the timer on or off, choosing from four different resolutions (1:1, 4:3, 16:9 or 18:9), and switching HDR either on, off or to Auto mode.

You’ll also see that there is a “1x” in a circle – tap this and you will switch to using the “2x” telephoto lens. Alternatively, you can hold and drag the circle to zoom beyond 2x – up to 10x digital zoom is available. You can also hold and drag to zoom back out when you’re done, too.  Other than that, in this mode you’re afforded very little control – you can adjust brightness by tapping an area on the screen to set the focus point, and then dragging your finger up and down the screen to increase or decrease brightness.

HTC U12 Plus
The HTC U12 Plus In-hand

At the bottom of the screen, there’s a virtual shutter release button, as well as the option to switch to video recording. You can also engage the selfie camera.

“Bokeh” can also be added in this mode. At the bottom of the app, near the virtual shutter release, there’s an icon to tap which allows you to either have no bokeh at all, to let the phone decide what bokeh to apply, or for you to manually choose more or less bokeh. After you’ve taken a shot with this effect, you can edit it, changing the point of focus, and therefore the area of bokeh, if you wish.

As the bokeh option uses both the telephoto and wide-angle lens, when it is engaged, you’ll see a tighter crop of the scene you’re photographing.

HTC U12 Plus
The HTC U12 Plus's Camera Mode

If you’d like a little more control, you can head to the “Pro” mode, which is found by tapping two lines in the top right hand corner of the camera app. Other modes found here include Panorama, Video, Hyperlapse and so on.

In the Pro mode, you’ve got a very good level of control. You can adjust white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, and focusing type. In order to make changes, you simply tap on each of the options, then use a slider to make your choice. Each of the options also has an “Auto” option, so you could have a mix of some parameters controlled, and some automatic. In this mode you also have the option to shoot in raw format – you can tap a raw icon to choose between raw and jpeg, though if you choose raw, then you’ll be shooting in both. The raw format is the universal DNG format, which can be opened on a number of different programs.

HTC U12 Plus
The HTC U12 Plus's Shooting Modes

You can still utilise the 2x zoom lens while in this mode, but digital zoom is restricted to just 4x. In Pro mode, you’ll still be able to access the timer, and the flash, as well as choosing between different resolutions. One thing which is missing from the Pro mode is the ability to take advantage of “bokeh” options.

Clicking a cog icon in the mode menu can change further settings. Options include switching a composition grid on or off, shutter sounds, switching on touch to capture and so on.  A useful feature here is the ability to allow you to use the volume button to take a picture – as opposed to using the virtual shutter button.

Other shooting modes are on the whole fairly self-explanatory. Panorama requires you to sweep the phone across the scene to take an ultra-wide-angle shot, while there’s video options such as Hyperlapse (for creating timelapse videos) and Slow Motion (for creating videos with slow motion effects applied). You can also choose to use the front-facing camera for normal photos, videos or a selfie panorama – a fun way to put yourself at the centre of the action.

HTC U12 Plus
The HTC U12 Plus

In the video mode, you’ve got options to switch between different video resolutions (including HD, Full HD and 4K). You can also switch on the flash, adjust audio options and add AR stickers.

The HTC U12 Plus has a microSD card slot, which you can access using the special tool provided in the box. It’s next to the SIM card slot, and since it’s not something you’ll likely to want to change regularly, it’s worth picking up the biggest capacity card you can afford and just leaving it in there. Alternatively of course, you can just opt to use only the phone’s memory – but there is only a 64GB option available, so those who like to take a lot of photos and videos may find it fills up pretty quickly.

On the whole, focusing is quick and accurate, with it being rare for the phone to show either a false confirmation of focus, or to pick the wrong thing entirely to focus on.