My friend Hamdir who is a long time mobile phone enthusiast, and we can say specialist of the HTC brand gave me a try with his prototype of the HTC U 11 (which is 99% the same as final production units).
I tried the display, the camera, the UI and gaming speed, the Audio and the overall U 11 design.
Here my hands-on while waiting for his ”amazing silver”test unit that he will have next week.
All photos are courtesy of Hamdir
The unit I tried is a black one, this year HTC abandoned the all metal build they used since the M7, they are now coming with a glass back (well since the Ultra U and Play), some people will not like this move as metal will always feel better in hand but this HTC version of glass is different from the others like Samsung’s S8 for example, they integrated several layers of colors inside the glass so you will have different tints at different angles!
This black version for instance has a green tint in some angles and dark grey in others.
The reflection is so high that you can use the main camera as a selfie one while using the back of the phone as a mirror ( specially with the blue and amazing silver versions of U 11).
Metal backs of previous HTC models (M7,M8,M9 and 10) feel certainly more premium, but the thing is that it was more prone for scratches and dents, meaning most people used a cover that hide this premium feeling.
The front of the U 11 is neither beautiful (like the back) nor ugly, with its ”large” bezels a la iphone 7, it feels just classic.
While we already saw the new S8 and G6 weird 18:5:9 screen ratio, the HTC U 11 kept the classic 16/9 one with 5.5”.
Personally I prefer the 5.5” 16/9 screen of the U 11 over the new Samsung one because it will be better with popular VR headsets like BoboVR Z4 and Fiit VR, and because I like to use landscape photos as backgrounds with more width than height.
Yes the S8’s screen is marvelous with its deep blacks (when you don’t have the known red tint issue) but the U 11 LCD has very rich colors and the deepest blacks I saw on a smartphone LCD to date.
At 1440×2560 resolution you have a very sharp screen here.
Tested under direct sunlight and it’s pretty good, better than the HTC 10 for sure!
As you must know HTC didn’t integrate a 3.5mm jack on the U11, though they are giving a bundled adapter USB C to 3.5mm that has its own DAC and AMP, as well as the first ever real digital noise cancellation earphones aka U Sonic.
I tested the bundled HTC U sonic earphones on the HTC U 11, the AKG that came with the S8 on the HTC 10 and the KZ ZS3 also on the HTC 10. Unfortunately the prototype was sent without the USB C to 3.5mm adapter. All tested with Flac.
Let me say that I was greatly disappointed by the ”AKG”, it lacks details, soundstage and a warm signature. The KZ ZS3 (10$ to 20$) sounds way better at all levels, even for the build quality!!
The U sonic earphones once calibrated to your ears have a superb noise cancellation, Hamdir was talking to me but I couldn’t hear a word!!
The noise cancellation system uses an integrated mic as well as the U 11 ones to digitally reduce external sounds.
Only one note about the U sonic iems: they are not as loud as the HTC 10, I mean on the HTC 10 I can’t go beyond 8/10 volume steps while with the U 11 + U Sonic I had to up to 10/10 to get the same volume. Now this doesn’t mean the U 11 amp is less loud, it can be the U sonic earphones themselves that are quieter than my KZ, the bundled USB to 3.5mm adapter could also be louder, I hope the incoming test unit will come with one.
About the on-board speakers, they are clearer and louder than on the 10, easily +25% louder.
Tested game: Riptide Renegade , known to be very demanding in hardware resources.
On the U11 with Ultra settings (automatically picked), it’s blazing 60fps fast without any lag and for all the period of test.
On the S8 with QHD resolution…even in the first minutes it slightly lagged certainly no 60fps here, some graphical bugs like the water trails, then after 3-4 minutes of playing it throttles and lagged even more, Hamdir tried it with both S8 stock CPU clocks and OC to really use the full potential of the S8, in both scenarios it can’t touch the U 11.
I have to mention that the S8 we tested is Exynos based, while the S835 should have a closer performance to the U 11 as it’s the exact same snapdragon s835 chipset.
The U11 never got warm during gaming which is awesome, this is not the case of the S8 that had to throttle to keep the phone cool in the expense of performance.
The HTC U 11 is using a user interface that is very close to what we used on the HTC 10, only few widgets changed like the weather clock one.
It’s blazing fast with no lags or hiccups whatsoever!
We can’t say the same for the S8’s UI which is pretty cool but lags!!
The HTC U 11 has an Ultrapixel 12mp sensor at the rear that has a great advantage of having HDR+ or ”boost”, making the HDR results fast and more natural than the classic HDR of smartphones.
Colors are natural, sharpness is very good for a camera on a phone. It’s better than the S8’s Isocell sensor that is on Hamdir’s S8 for sure, and that’s why the S8 is not a very good choice this year for camera, you get a damn lottery with either a Sony IMX 333 that is very close to the U 11 or a poorer Isocell.
Hopefully I will test more the camera in details when I will have my own U 11 sometimes in June or July
I really liked the HTC U 11, it has everything you wish for from a 2017 smartphone: a great display, a very good camera (best actually in the smartphones world), a very fast UI, a good looking design at the back, as expected the audio is still a premium Hi-res one, of course none smartphone is perfect and the front of the U 11 has nothing that will WOW you like the S8 did.
Of course this is not a review but a hands-on as I have to test the U 11 as a final unit with the bundled accessories like the audio adapter and the transparent cover that didn’t came with this prototype.
As usual if you have any questions I will be happy to answer.