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HTC U11 Review - The Successful Comeback!

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HTC has struggled in recent years where they've released disappointing phones but this could end with their 2017 line and their flagship maybe the one to beat!
HTC U11 review

In our initial impressions of the U11, we found that we like the new look HTC has adapted from their unibody aluminum builds of yesteryears. The beautiful curved glass panel that covers the whole front with the eye catching colored reflective backplate that unfortunately makes the phone slippery to hold and a fingerprint magnet. It also came with additional features that we will tackle in this full review.

For our review part 1: HTC U11 Unboxing And First Impressions

Display Quality

Bright, sharp, and colorful screen!
Bright, sharp, and colorful screen!

One of the highlights is the Gorilla Glass 5 protected curved glass covered 10 point multitouch,5.5 Inch QHD SuperLCD5 with 2560 x 1440 resolution at 534 ppi.

High resolution with Gorilla Glass 5!

It is sharp, saturated, and bright with a lot of punch and decent blacks! The adaptive brightness, night and reading mode are present.

It's simply one of the very best in the market today.

Audio Quality

What you'll find below
What you'll find below

The U11 has two speakers. One at the bottom and one on the earpiece. The sound is clear, crisp and full. It is not the loudest device we've had but it is loud enough to fill a small room but may barely overpower high volume ambient noise. HTC also packed inside a software that detects what kind of media (like audio, or video) you are consuming and it adjusts the audio profile for a better experience. We found that it slightly improved our experience but nothing too different. This is nothing though because Boom speakers are back and still the best speakers out there!

For headphones audio output is good and is superior to the speaker. We used the stock earphones because the phone doesn't have a earphone jack. It uses USB Type C which they argue is better because it is directly interfacing with the onboard DAC for higher fidelity audio.

Sound quality is great with sharp, clear and meaty details with a decent sized sound stage and decent reproduction

HTC has 4 microphones that work with software to have the noise cancellation feature when listening with the stock earphones. It cancels out low volumed ambient sounds which help in the immersion but is easily broken by mid to high volume sounds like cars or motor bikes passing by. You may just want to listen with the cancellation feature at a controlled environment to maximize immersion.

The 4 microphones are great for both recording and calls by easily cancelling out ambient sounds. We have never had problems like dropped calls or complaints from the caller on the other end.

Battery Life

Heavyweight battery test results!

The phone is equipped with 3,000 mAh battery with QC 3.0 is powering the 5.5 QHD display may seem a little lacking.

Well, in our experience the battery life is only okay. It's average but it never was a problem because the phone would be charged from 20% to 100% in less than 70 minutes. Although at the end of each workday, we would always get 20 to 25% in battery left after a long LTE filled workday.

It has the standard battery saving modes where it lowers performance and background tasks to improve longevity.

Maybe next time HTC can make it a little bigger.

Camera

The best camera on any smartphone today?
The best camera on any smartphone today?

The U11 has 12 MP f/1.7 w/ Dual Pixel, OIS, and dual tone LED flash, the highest rated camera at DxOMark w/ the score of 90! It also comes with a simple camera interface with a lot of modes.
Camera modes!
Camera modes!

You'll find the regular photo, HDR, panorama and professional mode. It does not have the blur / bokeh mode that dual cameras have popularized which is expected because it only has a single main and a single secondary cameras.

What it does have is the ability to shoot in RAW! In Pro mode you can only have a max ISO of 800 but you can have a max shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second and up to 32 seconds which makes this great for high speed action or super bright conditions.

In the camera settings you can set geotagging, voice command capture and a true silent shutter for you know, stalking. The HDR mode is good and is quick, with almost no delay. We have almost no complaints with the U11's cameras.

The 12 MP f/1.7 w/ Dual Pixel, OIS, and dual tone LED flash has one of the widest field of view we have had that has no distortion! What amazed us even more is that it maintains acceptable level of sharpness at the corners.

With the highest DxO mark rating this was supposed to be the best camera on a smart phone to date and in our test it is a great camera but it isn't the best because the colors are beautiful and near accurate but the auto white balance is too aggressive sometimes. This results in either colder or warmer than the real world.

The U11 performs better than Huawei P10 in 4 out of 5 point and shoot pictures we've done but the OnePlus 5 test unit we have outclasses both however.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight!
Daylight!
Indoor
Indoor
Close-up
Close-up
Low light!
Low light! 
Lowlight!
Lowlight!

The selfie camera performs similar to the main where it works well in bright lighting conditions and will perform decently in low light. What surprised us is the higher 16 MP f/1.7 resolution. The images are sharper but because it has a higher MP it does perform slightly under the main camera in low light.

It has this selfie panorama where you hold your phone vertically and move it side to side to complete the panorama. It works well provided that you held it steady and the objects in the frame remain still for a few seconds.

Selfie Camera Samples

Good lighting selfie
Good lighting selfie
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Wide wide selfie
Wide wide selfie
Lowlight selfie
Lowlight selfie

For videos the front camera can shoot in 4K, 1080p, 720p, 480p and MMS (videos for mms) while the selfie camera can shoot the same except for 4K. There is no option to select frame rates but it does have a unique HiFi audio recording when recording all but the MMS.

It works rather well. It also has this 3D sound recording where it uses the multiple microphones to record which direction the sound is coming from. It's quite robust in terms of video and audio quality! We love it! Our only gripe is that we don't set the framerates.

Performance

One of the highest in the world
One of the highest in the world

The phone packs an octacore Snapdragon 835 with either a 4GB or 6GB configuration which gives this phone bleedingedge performance on paper and with the Adreno 540 this could potentially be a leader for gaming! Even the benchmarks back it up!

Snapdragon 835 + Adreno 540 + 6 GB RAM!!!

The result is smooth multitasking and decent gaming performance with almost no hiccups with normal tasks like web browsing, texting or e-mailing.
Gaming test
Gaming test

We've never had lags or stuttering with our time with the phone. In fact almost everything is seamless.
Sense UI with vertical paginated app drawer
Sense UI with vertical paginated app drawer

Equipped with the latest Nougat Android 7.1 based Sense UI, the interface looks unique with personal touches like the vertical paginated app drawer scrolling and the blinkfeed feature. We love that they added gestures and the edge sense interface. One gesture lets you press the power button twice to launch the camera instantly while the edge sense is the pressure sensitive areas on the side of the phone. The phone detects how hard you are squeezing it and for how long. I've set the normal quick squeeze to capture my current screen and the long squeeze to turn on my personal hotspot for convenience.
Edge sense and other gestures!
Edge sense and other gestures!

The phone also has its own assistant the HTC companion. It works like the Google Assistant or Siri where in it tries to learn your habits, your locations and your workflow to make your life easier. It's clearly not that polished yet though. We stuck to Google Assistant.

Fingerprint scanner is fast, accurate and seamless. We have no problems with other than the fact that it is misleadingly small.

Telephone connectivity is good with strong signal and steady 4G data connectivity. There's the usual WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS as well that never failed us.

ProsBeautiful colored backplates, beautiful screen, great camera, robust pro mode, audio game is excellent, IP67 rated, fast charging
Cons - Slippery, Fingerprint magnet, no 3.5 mm headphone jack

Verdict 

The HTC U11 is one of the best phones to have come out this year and at a price point that is better than most flagships today that are priced initially at 39K and above. The Audio is excellent. The main camera is not dual setup but it is wide and is surprisingly good! Sure the battery may be average and sure, the back is slippery and is a fingerprint magnet, but you will not find a phone that is IP 67 rated that is as polished as this at this price!

Build / Design - 4
Display - 4.25
Audio - 4.5
Battery - 4
Camera - 4.5
Performance - 4.25
Average - 4.25 / 5
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