The launch of the HTC U11 marked the brand’s much-anticipated return to the smartphone market here in the Philippines. And what a way to kick things off with a device that even at first glance, already gives you that familiar sense of quality found on their past devices.

They also made sure that this device brings the highest figures to the table. A 2K display, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a powerful camera. But is it enough for this brand to rise up the ranks as they did before? or is it a case of a device that came in too late? We’ll find out in this full review.

Special thanks to our friends from Widget City Hub for the sending us unit for our review.

HTC U11 Specs:

  • 2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor
  • Up to 6GB of RAM, Up to 128GB of internal storage expandable via microSD card
  • 5.5-inch Quad HD display with 3D Gorilla Glass 5 Protection
  • 12MP BSI Rear Camera, f/1.7, OIS, UltraSpeed Autofocus, HDR Boost
  • 16MP BSI Front Camera, f/2.0, HDR Boost
  • Dual SIM, 4G/LTE
  • HTC USonic with Active Noise Cancellation, Hi-Res audio certified
  • IP67 certification for water resistance
  • NFC
  • HTC Edge Sense
  • HTC Alexa
  • 3000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0

Design and Build Quality

One look at this device, and you’ll know that it’s nothing ordinary, that this is a culmination of years of experience in the industry. It all starts with that 5.5-inch Quad HD display, that makes anything from text, pictures, videos and games look sharper and more detailed. Colors are also richer, which makes it look more fun and vibrant.

Then there’s the curved back and edges, which makes the device easier to hold. The back has something they call liquid coating, which makes it stand out more as it reflects light from different angles. The only drawback is that it also makes it more prone to smudges.

The buttons on the side are slightly wobbly, but are tactile. If anything, they’re a bit too thin for my taste. The camera module at the back slightly protrudes but can be offset by using a case. Not a big issue, but it does force me to be a bit more careful when putting it flat on a table.

Performance

You’d expect just about any device with a Snapdragon 835 to perform well not just in daily tasks, more so for gaming. And yes, the HTC U11 is no exception. Not only does it fly in day to day use, but also performs well even with a demanding game such as NBA 2K17, which ran smoothly at the highest settings.

I did notice that the device got really warm when playing the game, but there was no sign of slowdown or throttling as far as the experience is concerned.

As far as benchmarks are concerned, the U11 also yielded impressive scores.

Camera

There’s no doubt that the 12MP rear camera captures great looking photos with amazing colors, clarity and detail, not to mention the fast focus speed, and the certain amount of vibrancy that radiates with each shot.

It’s even more impressive with how it produces the depth of field effect, which looks more natural compared to other devices i’ve used. There’s no hint of pixelation, and there were no misses in terms of areas that need to be blurred and vice versa. Surely, this camera is proof that you don’t need a higher MP count to get good looking photos.

Selfies are slightly less impressive, as pictures came out slightly blurred in some areas even when the camera was completely focused. Nevertheless, overall quality is still decent.

The camera app is very straightforward and easy to use. It doesn’t try to overwhelm you with 20 different modes, and only gives you those that you’ll most likely need. There’s also Pro Mode, which lets more enthusiasts go in-depth with the camera settings to tweak their shots.

Unfortunately 12MP (rear)/16MP (front) photos are limited to the 4:3 aspect ratio, which might be an issue to some.

Audio

The HTC U11 doesn’t have a headphone jack, but it does come with an adapter, which can of course, easily get lost. It also comes bundled with an HTC USonic headphone, which can take advantage of the device’s active noise cancelling feature.

Now, turning that feature on does seem to slightly minimize outside noise, but at the same time, it also slightly degrades the sound quality with less clarity. Honestly, i’d rather have it off.

The headphones themselves are decent, with a sound signature that tends to lean more on the balanced side. But they’re really not that great when compared to a more standard one such as the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear.

The Speakers on the U11 are loud, but suffer from distortion at higher volume. I also found out that using Theater Mode for HTC BoomSound is much better than Music Mode. Well, to each his own i guess.

Software

The U11 runs on HTC’s custom skin on top of Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which gives you a bit of assurance that you’ll be up to date with the latest security patches, if that’s even your concern.

Having used the phone for quite some time, I’d say i’m quite impressed with this UI. Not only is it well optimized, but it’s also simple, and at the same time, gives you a bunch of really nifty features, such as quick access to tasks that can be done with an app just by a tap and hold gesture.

For example, you can tap and hold the camera app, and you’ll be instantly given the option to launch it in Pro mode or Video Mode. You can do the same for sending emails, setting alarms, or creating events.

Another interesting feature is Edge Sense, which lets you perform a bunch of actions just by squeezing the phone on its sides. I found this useful for taking screenshots, but you can also use it for launching the camera app and taking a picture, among other things. It does take some practice to get used to it. Fortunately, there’s a calibration tool that you can use to set the amount of force that’s needed to activate the feature.

Battery

The 3000mAh battery managed to yield 8.5 hours on light to moderate usage. Not exactly the best number, but at least this means that it should be able to get through a whole day with a bit of juice to spare on your trip home. The U11 is also compatible with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology. Getting the device from 1% to full only takes less than 2 hours.

Verdict

The HTC U11 is truly a device worthy of the brand’s return. The design isn’t perfect, but is as premium as it can be. Its Quad HD display looks gorgeous with just about any type of content, gaming performance is top notch, there’s the impressive rear camera, and the software is well-optimized.

On the downside, the back panel is a smudge magnet, the battery life isn’t that great, the speakers fall short of expectations, the active noise cancellation feature doesn’t really do much, and the missing headphone jack may just be the dealbreaker to some.

So would I recommend this for PhP36,990? absolutely. Despite a few shortcomings, you’re still getting great value for your money. In fact, if it was me, just the camera alone is more than enough to get it.

The Good

  • Design
  • Display
  • Gaming Performance
  • Optimized Software
  • Rear Camera Performance

The Not So Good

  • Speaker Sound Quality
  • Battery Life
Author

Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.

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