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HTC U11 Review: The Best Camera Ever On A Smartphone ?

HTC’s flagship is to die for

HTC’s hasn’t had the best time in the past. Beset by lagging sales, constantly changing leadership and stiff competition from the likes of LG, Samsung, Huawei and Sony, the Taiwanese manufacturer has had a rough time in the flagship space despite offering solid, if forgettable flagships in the past. That changes with the U11 – backed by a fresh and renewed focus as well as an official presence in the Philippines, HTC is looking to finally break through with their new flagship. Did they succeed?

HTC U11 Specs

  • 2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor
  • 6GB of RAM
  • Adreno 540 GPU
  • 5.5-inch QHD Super LCD5 display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection; 2560 x 1440 resolution
  • 128GB of expandable storage
  • 12-megapixel rear camera. f/1.7 aperture, PDAF, OIS, dual-tone LED flash
  • 16-megapixel front camera, f/2.0 aperture
  • Dual SIM
  • 4G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Fingerprint Scanner, USB Type-C, IP67 certification
  • 3000mAh battery
  • Android Nougat 7.1.1

Liquid Surface looks amazing

Despite being a polarizing finish, we think that the U11 looks pretty freaking’ awesome. It’s the same glossy, subtly changing finish that we fell in love with the U Ultra, and we’re happy that it’s the same route that the company took with their current flagship. If you’re not familiar with HTC’s Liquid Surface, it’s essentially their fancy name for that glossy finish that they apply on the glass back of their flagship which subtly changes its hue depending on where light lands on it.

Our review unit isn’t the best example of the Liquid Surface tech working because of its Sapphire Blue color – the Solar Red version of the phone shows off the tech best. Despite this, our review U11 still looks pretty dang amazing on its own.

The phone sports a metal frame to keep it nice and sturdy, with rounded corners and a curved body keeping everything nice and ergonomic. The glass body also makes it a little slippery to hold though, and it’s a fingerprint and smudge magnet – you’d probably want to keep the U11 inside a case or something similar to keep it from slipping from your hand when you’re using it. The U11 has IP67 certification which means it can be dunked in water without fearing for its life.

Button layout is the same as the U Ultra – the power button and volume rocker is on the right side, with the microSD/SIM slot on the top. On the bottom sits the USB Type-C port and speaker grille. Sadly like the U Ultra, the U11 does not have a 3.5mm jack, though HTC offers U Sonic headphones that attach via the USB Port on the bottom.

The U11 doesn’t care too much for the dual-camera bandwagon, and uses a single 12-megapixel rear camera with a f/1.7 aperture, PDAF, OIS, dual-tone LED flash for photos. The fingerprint scanner is located on the front, right below the 5.5-inch display, and is flanked by the illuminated Android navigation keys.

One of the biggest features of the U11 is something that you can’t see, but can squeeze – the phone uses the HTC’s Edge Sense technology, allowing you to squeeze the side of the phone to launch apps or even the camera without having to unlock the device. You can set a pressure threshold that tells the phone what app or feature to launch depending how hard you squeeze the phone. It takes a little getting used to, though it’s extremely useful once you get the hang of it – if nothing else it’s the first time that any manufacturer has implemented this kind of squeezable tech into the sides of their phone.

While its competitors have largely moved on to reducing bezels in favor of higher screen-to-body ratios, HTC is more than happy to stick with what’s worked in the past, utilizing 5.5-inch QHD display with the typical bezel size of other flagships. As far as display quality goes, the U11’s panel looks fantastic, having excellent color reproduction, contrast and brightness. It’s one of the nicest panels we’ve seen in a flagship phone in a while.

The best hardware running under the hood

As with any flagship phone in 2017, HTC’s U11 comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage and a 3000mAh battery. That’s formidable hardware for a flagship in 2017, and is pretty competitive with the offerings of other top-tier brands in its price range. The Philippines gets the top-tier configuration for the U11, which is great since international versions of the U11 only gets 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

The U11 performs pretty much like a flagship in 2017 armed with Qualcomm’s top-tier processor. It’s fast, fluid and zips through any and all apps without any problems at all. HTC’s Sense UI is mostly clean and free from bloatware, and is a pleasure to use with the top-tier hardware on the device.

HTC tries to make up for the omission of a 3.5mm jack with a woofer and tweeter speaker combination that was first introduced in their HTC 10. The U11 is capable of pumping out pretty loud and clear sound relative to its size, and audio is clear and crisp even at the loudest setting.

Call quality is superb, and we never had a problem at all with wireless connectivity with the U11.

Is it deserving of its DxOMark score?

The HTC U11 is the recipient of the highest DxOMark as of press time – 90, scoring higher than the Google Pixel, Samsung’s Galaxy S8+ and even Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. That’s a lofty claim, certainly one that’s been used by HTC over and over again in their marketing materials, but does the U11 really deserve that score?

From what we can see, the answer is yes. Photos are pretty much top notch, with plenty of detail in each shot. Color reproduction is pretty spot on, and even in low-light the U11 is able to capture great photos without too much noise. Clearly, it’s one of the best (if not THE best) camera phone that’s out in the market right now.

Battery life is typical from what you’ll see in a flagship

The HTC U11 carries a 3000mAh battery in its shiny little body, which is a little worrisome considering the high-performance Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside of it. But despite that the U11 manages to score a respectable 7 hours and 46 minute run time with PCMark’s Battery benchmark, which translates to around a full day’s worth of battery life on a single charge. If you do run out of juice, Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 will get you up and running in no time.

Verdict: Great value flagship that hits all the right notes

While HTC’s U11 doesn’t have a bezel-less display or dual cameras, it’s still a pretty solid smartphone in its own right. A beautiful exterior, extremely good camera performance, top-tier hardware plus competitive Php 36,990 pricing make it a legitimate contender against all the other flagships being offered in the Philippines today.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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