The U11 is HTC’s latest attempt at making a smartphone with a unique feature while bringing back what we loved about HTC devices in the first place, like the M7’s BoomSound.
Whilst other manufacturers are getting carried away with an edge-to-edge or infinity edge display and other features, HTC has been working on a new squeeze feature, 3D audio capture and access to multiple AI assistants.
They have also worked on a new back design that is very pleasing to the eyes aesthetically. It’s shiny and when rotated, it fades into a different colour, giving the U11 that edge and uniqueness when it comes design.
The HTC U11’s Liquid Glass Finish Is Sexy
Its squeeze feature called edge sense allows you to activate apps or Google Assistant just by squeezing the lower third of the device. You can even adjust how hard you have to squeeze to get it working.
The U11’s shiny and slippery liquid glass surface on the back is, as a result, of the use of technique HTC calls Optical Spectrum Hybrid Deposition. Some highly refractive precious minerals are randomly layered across the phone’s back cover, so when you rotate it, light bounces off it, giving a nice finish and look.
It’s also curvy around the edges which make it feel natural in hand, unlike the square look of the Xperia XZ Premium for example. HTC said the curved look of HTC U11 is achieved through heating and then bending the glass using extreme pressure resulting in a 3-axis symmetry. What that means is that the U11 will appear and feel slim no matter which way you hold it.
The U11 Is Designed With The User Experience In Mind
My first impression of the U11 is that HTC wasn’t trying to be like anyone else, they have created a device that’s taken each aspect of the phone, and made sure it’s done 100% properly. User experience is clearly at the forefront of U11’s design and down to its software too.
Elsewhere, you get the usual bits; USB C down the bottom with a speaker port next to it, power button and volume rockers to the right, no 3.5mm headphone port but you get an adaptor in the box with amp built into it, and sim card + microSD card slot to the top of the device.
There’s also a fingerprint reader integrated into the home button and two touch-sensitive keys; one for opening background apps and the other for returning to a previous app.
Although the 3D glass used means the U11 is slippery in hand and also prone to smudges, it’s actually durable, rated at IP67 for water and dust resistance. I would still recommend getting a case for the U11 just to keep it neat and safe from accidental drops.
Performance Is Top Notch In Every area
Whether it’s battery, processor or camera performance, the U11 definitely earns its spot up there with other flagship devices like the Galaxy S8, LG G6 or the iPhone.
Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, the same found in some variants of the Galaxy S8 – it’s powerful, built on a 10nm process technology meaning it’s more energy efficient or better for battery consumption.
With the new processor chip also comes fast charging to get up to speed in minutes and super fast CAT16 LTE modem. HTC says you should also see a 45% increase in battery performance when browsing the web and 30% when listening to music.
When running multiple apps, the processor couples up with the U11’s 4GB RAM to ensure smooth performance and for graphics or gaming. For example, there’s an Adreno 540 graphics chip which again just works. Gaming is a pleasure with no hiccups, lag or even glitches.
The U11 comes with a 3000 mAh battery, but don’t fret because, with a 10nm manufacturing process used to make the processor, apps run more efficiently, thereby ensuring good battery life. You could also quickly charge it back up anyway with fast charging feature. During our time with the U11, it got us through the day with a little bit left.
Camera performance deserves its own sub-heading, so that will come later. In the meantime, it’s worth talking about the speakers. BoomSound is something that HTC fans love about the M7 and bringing it back to the U11 is very much welcomed.
Besides including a new pair of in-ear headphones which has an active noise cancellation feature, BoomSound has been improved upon and sounds better. The new HiFi edition uses the whole front of the device to help amplify bass with a front channelling tech – in a word, it sounds fantastic!
HTC U11’s Camera Is Impressive
One of my favourite things to review on a smartphone is the camera. This is where performance can be easily compared with other devices without getting too technical.
While it’s all well and good to have all singing and dancing specs on paper as well as one of the best DxO mark score for camera performance compared to the likes of the Pixel XL and Galaxy S8, where it really matters is in the real world.
Things that are important to me are the dynamic range, colour accuracy, detail, HDR mode performance, low light performance and stabilisation whether optical or electronic. So considering those essentials, we can then conclude on how good it is in the real world, ultimately without having to tweak things; we want to be able to get the phone out of our pocket, take a picture and that’s it.
The U11 features a 12 MP primary camera with flash and a F/2.0 aperture, OIS, HDR boost for better colour and dynamic range. Its secondary camera or front facing camera is packed with a 16MP sensor and a F/1.7 aperture.
So you never have to worry about blurry pictures when capturing fast moving subjects, there’s also a really fast autofocus feature called UltraSpeed Autofocus, it’s new and it uses all of the pixels for phased detection autofocus. I really noticed this feature as I’ve hardly had to tap to focus each time I take pictures.
Dynamic range and detail:
Low light performance:
HTC U11 – The Verdict
The HTC U11 has been a pleasant surprise to use in all aspect and even though it doesn’t have an infinity or edge-to-edge display like that of the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6, it still looks and feels nice in hand. Aesthetically, the back of the U11 is sexy to look at and pains me to have to put a case on it. When it comes to software and day-to-day performance, there are no complaints at all and what a fantastic camera it’s loaded with?
If I have any issues with the U11, it would be that the squeeze feature wasn’t anything groundbreaking or all that useful for me. I can imagine a lot of people won’t be using it as much as HTC may have anticipated. The multiple AI assistant feature is also half-baked, so I look forward to when that’s fully working to see how that benefits me.
The U11 used in this review was provided by HTC and was used since launch. All view remains UNILAD’s and not a sponsored review.