HTC U11 review
|Review: September 2017
In a nutshell: The U11 is HTC's flagship phone for 2017. Top features include the Quad HD display, 8-core processor, 64GB of ROM, and the impressive camera. It's water resistant too, and comes with a unique squeeze function. But the U11 costs more than the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7, and we don't see why it should.
Design & looks
The U11. Nice phone. But there's a disconnect between the phone that HTC believe it has created and the U11 in reality. Like the HTC U Ultra, the U11 uses HTC's new manufacturing technique to create a "3D liquid glass surface" on the rear of the phone.
"By layering highly-refractive precious minerals across the phone's back cover, we've created stunningly vivid new colors that transform light with every movement you make." - HTC
Forgive us, but we didn't notice any of that. The phone looks like its made out of shiny plastic. There's a noticeable seam where the glass rear coating meets the edge of the phone. We prefer the glass construction of mid-range phones like the Samsung Galaxy A5. The U11 is nothing special, although to its credit it does feature water resistance. It's a very heavy phone too, although slim.
The screen measures 5.5 inches, and that's a lot of screen - the same as the Google Pixel XL or iPhone 7 Plus. The Super LCD display is bright and super sharp, with a Quad HD resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels giving it an incredible pixel density of 534ppi. But it's not a match for the AMOLED display of Samsung's Galaxy S8.
Beneath the screen is a touch home button that includes a built-in fingerprint sensor. The phone comes in a choice of colours - Black, Blue or Silver.
The U11 does have one unique feature. Squeeze. Or as HTC prefers to call it, "Edge Sense." Squeeze the phone's edge and it does things. Take a photo. Launch a favourite app. Squeal loudly in distress. It can do those things. Cool, we guess.
Android with HTC Sense Companion
The phone runs Android Nougat 7.1 with HTC Sense, and the new HTC Sense Companion. Sense Companion makes suggestions based on things you do. Suggestions might include weather forecasts, route changes, battery optimisation and so on. You can tell it whether such suggestions are useful, so that it learns what you like.
The U11 also lets you launch the Alexa voice service by saying "Alexa." Alexa can help you with various tasks. The Google Assistant is on hand too, so there's no shortage of help with the U11.
Snapdragon 835 processor
There's no doubting the power of the U11. With an 8-core Snapdragon processor running at up to 2.45GHz, it's one of the fastest phones around. 4GB of RAM makes multi-tasking fast too.
Storage is a very generous 64GB, and this can be expanded with a microSD card.
12 & 16 megapixel cameras
HTC claims that the U11 is the best smartphone camera available, but it's been making similar claims for years now. The rear camera on the U11 has a 12 megapixel sensor, wide f/1.7 aperture to let in more light, HDR mode. The camera has a very fast PDAF laser autofocussing system. It can record 4K video and has optical image stablisation to remove camera shake.
There's no doubting that it's a good camera, but the best? It's possible. This is certainly the best camera we've seen on a HTC.
The front camera uses a 16 megapixel and is capable of recording 1080p HD video.
The U11 is a 4G phone with fast dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and a USB Type-C connection. Sensors include a compass plus GPS, GLONASS and Beidou positioning.
There's no 3.5mm audio jack. The USB socket acts as the headphone jack, although the phone comes with a USB to 3.5mm adapter. The headphones supplied with the phone are top quality however, so this probably isn't a problem.
The U11 comes with a 3000mAh battery. There's respectable for a phone of this type, but by no means generous. That Snapdragon processor is hungry for power. And the Quad HD LCD display is even more ravenous. Battery life is acceptable, but not a strength. You'll be charging every day if you choose this phone heavily.
It's good to be different, and we applaud HTC's willingness to experiment with its squeezy Edge Sense feature and its novel construction technique. But being different in itself isn't enough for us to recommend a phone. The camera is a key strength, but in other ways the phone lags behind others - the LCD screen and middling battery life for instance.
There's a simple rule that applies universally - if you're the underdog, you can't charge more for your product than the market leader, unless your product does something incredible.
And while the U11 is a very good phone, it's by no means exceptional. We can't say that we'd prefer to own this phone instead of a Galaxy S8, and the U11 costs more.
HTC U11 features include:
- Operating system: Android 7.1 with HTC Sense
- 12 megapixel HDR camera with autofocus, BSI sensor, optical image stabilisation and dual-tone LED flash; 4K video
- 16 megapixel HDR front camera with BSI sensor; 1080p video
- Display: 5.5 inches, Super LCD, 2560 x 1440 pixels
- Processor: Snapdragon 835, 64-bit, 2.45GHz x8
- Memory: 64GB plus microSD card (up to 2TB), 4GB RAM
- Sensors: Ambient light, Proximity, Motion G-sensor, Compass, Gyro, Magnetic, Fingerprint, Edge
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, DLNA, Miracast, USB 3.1 Type-C, DisplayPort
- Positioning: GPS, GLONASS & Beidou
- Networks: 4G LTE, HSPA/WCDMA, GSM/GPRS/EDGE
- IP67 water protection
- Sim card size: Nano
- Size: 154 x 76 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 169g
- Battery: 3000 mAh
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