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HTC U11 Review: A Squeezable Speed Demon

The HTC U11 is a gorgeous smartphone that seeks to take on the top dogs in the smartphone industry. It’s liquid metal design, superb camera and ultra-fast processor alongside its impressive HTC Sense companion makes it HTC’s comeback device. However, will it be enough to reverse the tide for HTC? It’s a little tough to say. At its price tag of S$998, the smartphone is a little pricey, but still worth it for its premium specs and build.

Design

The HTC U11 is one really striking smartphone. It’s encased in an entire body of glossy glass with a reflective coat, turning it into an eye-catching phone. Whilst this looks quite beautiful, it turns the device into quite the fingerprint magnet, and smudging the reflective rear of the smartphone is nearly inevitable.

Your HTC U11 holds a sleek little fingerprint sensor in front which is lightning quick, and it has speakers and recorders on both the top and bottom of the smartphone to create a 3D recording effect when you shoot videos.

The bottom frame holds a USB Type C port, but no 3.5mm jack. We are not sure why they didn’t include it considering the dimensions of the smartphone, being 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm in size and weighing 169g (it isn’t extremely thin nor light).

You are thus provided with a USB Type C headphone known as the U Sonic, which I will touch on later, that makes this inconvenient in some ways, worth it actually.

The device is also waterproof and dustproof, with a rating of IP67.

Last but not least, the highlight of the U11’s design is its squeezable edge sensors. HTC’s Edge Sense is capable of launching an app, be set to help you swiftly turn on the flashlight, launch Google Assistant, or do a range of customised actions based on whether your squeeze is a long or short one.

Display

The HTC U11 has a standard 5.5” screen that sports a higher-than-average resolution that’s Quad-HD meaning it’s 2560 x 1440 px. The display certainly looks very detailed and contrast is great. GSMArena gives it a contrast ratio of 1568 compared to Apple iPhone 7 Plus’ 1398. It isn’t a SUPER AMOLED one like Samsung’s Galaxy S8 gives you, but I am already fairly satisfied by it.

Whilst maximum brightness feels just slightly better than average, I like the minimum brightness that’s actually quite low, making it easy to use in the middle of the night in a dark room.

Performance

One of the U11’s strongest point is the inclusion of the Snapdragon 835 processor, the latest in the market and one that’s unrivalled in performance. Coupled with 4GB of RAM, the U11 is very fast and snappy for sure. I experienced absolutely no lags on the device, running video editors and photo editors simultaneously alongside video recording and the device performed just fine. It did heat up a little though, but compared to phones like the Sony Xperia XZs, it was already considered cool in my books.

Gaming performance felt fluid as well, I would even dare say one of the most fluid experiences I have ever encountered as a tech writer.

 

Both the Antutu benchmarks and the 3DMark test revealed that the U11 is indeed a workhorse. It definitely gives Samsung a run for its money here, with scores like and that outdo the latest S8.

The user interface of the HTC device is also very intuitive to use and actually kind of basic barebones Android, which is lovely. You can choose to tweak some features and set some themes, but the general feel is that of a very surreal submarine experience whilst using the software.

The Sense companion is the most significant thing in the UI, but honestly the companion really just reminds me fo Google Now, or its HTC extension. The Edge Sense feature, however, was more useful when I wanted to instantly bring things such as my camera feature up ASAP.

Camera

Now, the U11’s camera is probably one of the best in the market. I absolutely do not deny this after having seen images with my own eyes.

Specifications-wise, the U11 sports a 12MP sensor with a wide f/1.7 aperture on the front, matching the one Samsung’s Galaxy S8 has to offer, and seems to do just as well, if not better than its rival.

Details and clarity are great for a 12MP sensor, and light, as well as colour is captured so well. The only issue is that the interface is rather basic and the camera lacks fun modes to play with, but if all you need is solid photos nearly unrivalled in the Android market, you’re looking at one of the top dogs right now.

The front camera actually has a higher resolution of 16MP with a f/2.0 sensor, which makes it pretty decent as well.

Video

Video quality isn’t something the U11 is well-renowned for and quite rightly so. Although it has a 4K shooting mode available, shooting on the U11 doesn’t feel fluid at all. It lacks the 60fps mode most smartphones have on 1080p as well, which I thought was sorely lacking.

Nevertheless, it makes up for the lack of 60fps recording with its 3D surround sound and High-Res audio-recording to allow for clearer and higher fidelity sound recordings, which is also available in the voice recorder.

Battery Life

The U11 lasted for a standard work day from 9-6 without fail on most occasions, but I definitely don’t recommend leaving home without a portable charger if you are constantly using mobile data since it seems to drain the U11’s battery life afair bit. The phone has a decent 3,000mAh capacity, but bear in mind it has a QHD screen with a higher than average resolution, which means on screen time is going to sap battery faster than compared to a phone with lower resolution.

Verdict

Although it is a matter of personal taste and preference, I must say I really do like the U11’s striking design, although it has some practical drawbacks. Its waterproof design and fantastic photographic, as well as audio performance, makes it a media powerhouse for those who are inclined towards the multimedia side of things. Last but not least, its unparalleled speed makes it one of the best Android phones in the market to use if you are particular about speed, performance, and mobile gaming.

Zayne Seah
A tech geek going beyond specs.

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