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HTC U11 Review

We review the top of the range HTC U11, with what's claimed to be the best camera on any smartphone. With a 12mp sensor, f/1.7 aperture, OIS, and 4K video recording, what more could you want?

| HTC U11 in Camera Phones

HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 (7)

The HTC U11 is HTC's top of the range smartphone, offering a 12mp f/1.7 camera with optical image stabilisation, a 5.5inch screen and ultra stylish design, the U11 is competing with the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, and iPhone 7. The cameras in the U11 are a 16mp front, and 12mp rear camera, with the rear camera featuring a bright f/1.7 aperture, optical image stabilisation (OIS) and 4K video recording. 

HTC U11 Features

HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 Blue (1)

Like the HTC U Play, the design is one of the most striking features of the phone, particularly on the back, with a stylish glossy glass back, which HTC calls a "liquid surface", although unfortunately there is no liquid in there. It's available in a number of colours, including Red, Black, White, Blue, and Silver.

From the front, it could be any phone, with no visible logo on display, and a central home button at the bottom that doubles as a fingerprint scanner. Unfortunately, there is no headphone socket, with HTC providing a set of earphones that connect to the USB Type-C connection. There is a USB to headphone jack adapter provided in the box, so you can use other headphones, or connect the phone to an amplifier.

Just like Tom Daley, you can squeeze it.

Edge Sense lets you squeeze the sides of the phone to start an application - by default, this will activate the camera, and squeezing it again will let you take a photo. You can also use this feature to take screenshots, launch apps, activate instant voice recording, turn the flashlight on and off, or turn the Wi-Fi hotspot on and off. 

The main (rear) camera on the HTC U11 features multi-axis Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), a f/1.7 aperture lens, with a 26.2mm equivalent (in 35mm terms), and there's a 12mp BSI CMOS sensor, with Phase-Detection Auto-Focus (PDAF). The camera has Auto HDR (High Dynamic Range) boost, and there are also manual controls with raw shooting (Adobe DNG) supported. The front (selfie) camera features a 16mp BSI CMOS sensor, a wide-angle fixed focus lens equivalent to 26.2mm, and a f/2.0 aperture. 

HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 (6)

The camera also records 4K (UHD) video and uses four microphones to record 3D audio and Hi-Res stereo sound. Temporal noise reduction for video - uses information from the previous and next frames to remove noise. 

There is a number of shooting modes including Photo (Auto), Panorama, Pro, Video, Hyperlapse, Slow motion, Selfie Photo, Selfie Panorama, Selfie Video. The Pro mode gives you access to manual controls, and settings for: white balance (WB), exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, and focus. 

What happened to HTC UltraPixel

  • From HTC: The selfie camera on HTC U11 lets you easily switch between 16MP and UltraPixel™. Now you can choose between the unparalleled 4x light sensitivity* that UltraPixel offers (perfect for candlelit dinners), and the high-resolution detail that 16MP provides. Using the UltraPixel mode, the camera reduces the image resolution to 4mp.

HTC U11 Review: Kodak Ektra HTC U11 Samsung S8 (2)

Kodak Ektra, HTC U11 and Samsung Galaxy S8 size comparison.

Key Features

  • 12mp BSI CMOS main camera, "UltraPixel"
  • f/1.7, 26.2mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), PDAF
  • Dual LED flash
  • 16mp BSI CMOS front camera, f/2.0, fixed focus, 26.2mm equivalent
  • 5.5inch, WQHD touchscreen, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • 4K video, with 3D microphones (four)
  • FullHD video at 120fps
  • ISO100 to ISO800
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS
  • Auto HDR, Panorama, Pro mode with raw
  • 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, MicroSD slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • Fingerprint sensor, USB-C
  • Android v7.1.1, 3000mAh battery
  • Waterproof to 1m for 30minutes (IP67)
  • Colours: Red, Black, White, Blue, Silver

HTC U11 Handling

HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 (1)

The HTC U11 is all about style, and you can quickly tell this by the beautiful curved glass back of the phone, lack of headphone socket, and minimal buttons on the phone. The smartphone is stylish in comparison to the more square smartphones out there. It's also fingerprint prone, and if you like your phone to be fingerprint free, then this phone could be very frustrating.

There is no dedicated shutter release button, however, you can squeeze the sides of the phone to start the camera, and take photos. You can also set the volume button to act as a zoom control or shutter release button in the camera app. The camera app has a "Pro" mode that gives manual controls over a number of settings, including white balance (WB), exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, and focus. You can also leave all of these on auto, and if you set the camera to shoot raw, it will shoot both raw and JPEG images. 

Having a glass backed phone (in addition to the glass front) has made a number of people nervous, ever since the introduction of a glass back on iPhones (and then later on Sony Xperia Z phones), so a case is definitely recommended (somewhat negating the point in the phone being ultra-slim, but we digress). If you treat the phone with utmost care, and kid gloves, then you may be able to get away without a case, but we wouldn't recommend it. The glass screens are protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, so at least there is protection against scratches.

HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 (5)

Like most flagship phones, the HTC U11 is waterproof, although you'll need to make sure your phone is dry before charging it, as the USB port is not protected by any kind of cover.

The phone feels good, with a grippy unlock button, and dedicated home and touch buttons under the screen - this is becoming increasingly rare, with most using on-screen buttons. This gives you a more usable screen, letting you use the whole area of the screen. The middle home button is also a fingerprint sensor, so you can set this up to unlock the phone, with the added security of knowing that only your finger will unlock the phone. 

As an Android smartphone, the phone should be easy to use for anyone used to a recent smartphone. The screen looks great but isn't quite as bright as some other smartphones we had in the office.  

HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 (9)

You can use the touch-screen to set the focus point to almost any area of the screen, although not right into the corners. The camera app is quick responding to settings, and focus is quite quick but not as fast as the Samsung Galaxy S8. Unless you're shooting with both side-by-side you're unlikely to notice as focus and shutter combined is under 0.3 seconds.

To see how fast the HTC U11 is in compared to other smartphones, we fired up AnTuTu benchmark, and Geekbench, popular benchmark apps. The scores are:

  HTC U11 Samsung Galaxy S8 Sony Xperia XZ
AnTuTu 173378 171384 136125
Geekbench Single-core 1916 2011 1656
Geekbench Multi-core 5997 6477 3737


HTC U11 Review: HTC U11 (8)

Battery life - The battery is rated at 3000mAh and the battery is non-removable. Battery life appears to be good, but we expect that daily charging will be required, as is the case with most smartphones these days. 

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