HTC U Ultra Review

Introduction


Sometimes smartphone manufacturers keep their lineups simple: a clear flagship (maybe in a couple size options), then possibly a spread of mid-rangers, and maybe even a super-budget model. And while all those phones can be very interesting for their own reasons – for as much as we love a bleeding-edge hero phone, a really well-executed lower-end model that's still a stunning value can be even more important – it's not uncommon for us to build our expectations of a company's yearly stable of phones around such a product.


That's what makes 2017 so unusual for HTC. Not only are we on track to see the launch of fewer total smartphone models than we saw arrive last year, but HTC is switching things up in the flagship department, as a company exec confirmed that we shouldn't be expecting an HTC 11: a direct follow-up to last year's HTC 10.


There will be a high-profile flagship at some point, sure, but likely with some new branding – and maybe even filling a slightly different role in the manufacturer's lineup.


HTC U Ultra Review

While we wait to get the full story on the rest of HTC's plans for the year, we've already seen the company get off to a quick start, launching a pair of HTC U models back in January. While the smaller HTC U Play will stick to international markets, the US is getting the larger HTC U Ultra phablet. With high-end specs, a big 5.7-inch screen, and a seriously flagship-level price tag, is the U Ultra a fitting replacement for the HTC 10, or will HTC fans want to keep waiting for a possibly more petite handset? Here's what you can expect from the company's first major smartphone of 2017.


In the box:


  • HTC U Ultra
  • USB type-C to standard-A cable
  • Fast charger
  • Cleaning cloth
  • HTC USonic USB Type-C earbuds
  • Protective case
  • Warranty booklets


Design

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – with an emphasis on “big”


HTC U Ultra Review
HTC U Ultra Review
HTC U Ultra Review

Sometimes it's easy to reduce a phone's design to a single thought, and with the HTC U Ultra, the most apt words that come to mind are “big and shiny.” With a 5.7-inch screen, that “big” aspect is largely to be expected, but even in the world of similarly equipped phablets, the U Ultra is on the chunkier end of the spectrum. Its 162.4 x 79.8 mm face makes it bigger than the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 (and even bigger than the Note 5), and we'll spare the U Ultra the embarrassment of comparing it directly to the LG G6. Now, it's not like HTC is just wasting that space, and the U Ultra does deliver extras those phones lack, like an LG V20-style secondary display. But again, even the V20 is a smaller, more pocket-friendly phone than the hulking U Ultra.


As for “shiny,” the U Ultra offers an attractive glass-topped, polished-metal back panel in your choice of three colors; in addition to the stunningly bold blue you see here, the phone is also available in black and white. That high-gloss finish is nothing short of eye-catching, but the near-featureless expanse of reflective material also turns the U Ultra into one of the more fingerprint-sensitive handsets out there. We're not talking about how you unlock your phone, either: every single little touch you impart on the U Ultra's body shows up, clear as day. It's a beautiful phone, until you start actually using it; let's just say that it didn't take long to understand why HTC saw fit to include a cleaning cloth in the box.


HTC U Ultra Review

Continuing our tour of the U Ultra's hardware, we've got our volume rocker and pleasantly-textured power button on the right edge, the hybrid SIM/microSD tray up top, and the main speaker and USB Type-C port on the bottom. As you've probably noticed by now, that means no analog headphone jack, just like on last year's HTC Bolt. Instead, you'll use the included USB headphones.


It's worth mentioning, while we're talking about design, that the USB port here looks like it doesn't fit very well. It's not exactly centered along the phone's profile, and introduces a bump that interferes with the bottom edge of the handset's back panel. We've heard of camera bumps before (and the HTC U Ultra very much has one of those), but a USB bump? That might be taking things a little too aggressively with the drive for curved-edge construction.


Just like on the HTC 10, we're looking at a front-mounted fingerprint scanner in the phone's home button, flanked by a pair of capacitive Android buttons. HTC's shifted front-facer placement since the 10 to accommodate for the U Ultra's secondary ticker display, and we also find a much smaller earpiece grille here – which also doubles as a secondary speaker for stereo output.


HTC U Ultra

HTC U Ultra

Dimensions

6.39 x 3.14 x 0.31 inches

162.41 x 79.79 x 7.99 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Dimensions

6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Weight

6.63 oz (188 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Dimensions

5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches

150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm

Weight

5.54 oz (157 g)

LG V20

LG V20

Dimensions

6.29 x 3.07 x 0.3 inches

159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6 mm

Weight

6.14 oz (174 g)

HTC U Ultra

HTC U Ultra

Dimensions

6.39 x 3.14 x 0.31 inches

162.41 x 79.79 x 7.99 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Dimensions

6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Weight

6.63 oz (188 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Dimensions

5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches

150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm

Weight

5.54 oz (157 g)

LG V20

LG V20

Dimensions

6.29 x 3.07 x 0.3 inches

159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6 mm

Weight

6.14 oz (174 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

Secondary ticker displays are just not a good match with LCD screen tech


HTC U Ultra Review

HTC is stepping out of its comfort zone a little with the screen on the U Ultra, introducing a phone with the sort of secondary auxiliary display we most often associate with LG's V series. The implementation is a near perfect copy of what LG was up to with those phones, with a little extra strip of screen that sticks out above the main display, and extends about two-thirds of the way across.


That sort of setup creates some new opportunities for HTC, but also introduces fresh problems. We'll take a closer look at those in a second, but first let's check out the main screen.


Like the HTC 10, we're looking at a Super LCD 5 panel with a Quad-HD 1440 x 2560 resolution. But by stretching things out from 5.2 to the U Ultra's 5.7 inches, we're dealing with a corresponding decrease in pixel density. The good news is that at this kind of high resolution, the phone's got pixels to spare, and the image quality on the U Ultra doesn't suffer as a result of its increased size.


Color accuracy isn't bad, either, though it does tend to over-saturate at times. Screen brightness is also decent, and there's a much-appreciated control panel setting to adjust color temperature – not that the screen on our unit needed any tweaking.


All this sounds good – and really, HTC doesn't make any huge missteps. At least, that's true about the main display.


Sadly, the secondary screen suffers from some of the same kind of issues we saw crop up with LG's phones – and the chief one there is some distracting backlight bleed. Say you're watching a full-screen video on the U Ultra. Since the display doesn't turn off the secondary screen's backlight independently of the main screen, and unlike an AMOLED panel, an LCD is going to still be partially illuminated even when it's trying to display pure black, you get this gray rectangle just sort of floating out there to the side of your video. It doesn't outright ruin the U Ultra experience, but it doesn't look great, either.



FEATURED VIDEO

25 Comments

1. sebbellic01

Posts: 305; Member since: May 03, 2016

Disappointing phone. "Seems like a waste of space."

2. jellmoo

Posts: 2522; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

This phone is like going on a date with somebody gorgeous that needs to be complimented all the time, is too dim to hold a conversation, is incredibly boring and then lies there and does nothing during sexy time. Beautiful, but not worth the investment.

15. libra89

Posts: 2022; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

What an analogy! A good one but wow spot on.

3. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3083; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

I hope to God this is not HTCs main flagship of 2017. Hope that the HTC 11 brings killer features and sets the trend like HTC's always done.

4. kumar1234 unregistered

Yeah, Of all the flagship phone released/announced this year this seems like the worst phone of 2017. Hopefully htc 11 will be better. Otherwise this will be finally the year when htc mobile will be dead, imo.

22. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 948; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

It's an early-2017 device that was released before they could use the SD835. It's no flagship. The screen color accuracy is way off, big fat phone with bad battery life, and offers nothing new. As long as HTC keeps doing stuff like this, where they ignore battery life, camera quality, and screen-to-body ratio, then they will continue to go the way of the Dodo bird.

6. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

if only it were still 2011 and HTC was the trendsetter instead of the sinking ship. They seriously need to wake up and get with the times.

5. Mr.mobile

Posts: 130; Member since: Mar 09, 2017

Cons of the phone according to me -No headphone jack -not a compact phone far 5.7inch screen -Slippery and finger smuges phone -Costly -Battery capacity is to low should be 3500mah battery

8. dimas

Posts: 3212; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

And the price, don't forget the price. Parody gadget of the year.

7. dimas

Posts: 3212; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

"Poor use of space, see where I'm getting at?"

9. maherk

Posts: 6521; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Of course we do Marques ;)

23. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 948; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Best video of the HTC U Ultra I've seen yet lol

10. vasra

Posts: 96; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Oh, HTC how the mighty have fallen. You have become slow me-too with too many mediocre products. In 2-3 years you will not exist as an independent company.

11. Tabby_Tiger

Posts: 304; Member since: Jan 23, 2017

Time for HTC to get a new CEO

12. Gavst3r unregistered

The M7 was probably one of the best phones I've ever owned. Such a shame things are now like this for HTC

13. Spedez

Posts: 542; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

Why is HTC still around?

14. nebula

Posts: 1009; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

You are too generous PA. I would not hesitate to point Cher Wang for the phone looks . All glitter and sparkles. After all she was advocating subtle feminist sexism recently. Bad narrative if not desperate. HTC reminds me of fool that makes fun of one self while believing others laugh because it's funny. No, it is sad.

16. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

HTC U Ultra not impressing at all. Nothing makes it stand out of the saturated and competition. The price tag too is another deal breaker.

17. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

They don't have the engineering or manufacturing chops of LG and Samsung. Or the money if Apple, Microsoft, and Google. They are pretty screwed. Which is a bit of a shame because I would be a fan if every single device purchased from them didn't have a deal breaking flaw.

24. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 948; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Wouldn't they try and actually compete then? They aren't trying. If HTC thinks they can charge that much for a phone that does so little, while being a huge device with bad battery life, they are only fooling themselves. Even LG is going in the right direction, whereas HTC thinks it can choose a random design, make it shiny, and people will just buy it.

18. mercorp

Posts: 1045; Member since: Jan 28, 2012

Two words:Cut the price!

19. btbotimtim

Posts: 269; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

htc thinks they can charge premium price on their flagship without differentiating product quality from other cheap chinese manufacturers. i guess lg at least know that they cannot charge what samsung and apple charge.

20. Symon_Fleece

Posts: 351; Member since: May 30, 2014

The phone is not bad at all, it features excellent camera performance and design, but if you looked at the price, you might choose the s7 edge, V20 or the iPhone 7 plus instead :/

21. johnh3

Posts: 142; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Here in Sweden we got 4 carriers, Telia, Tele2, Telenor and Tre. Just checking their websites for HTC phones. Was suprised to see that none of them got HTC phones. I dont know how the situation are in other countries? But I think the brand will have a hard time to survive without any retail presence.

25. gtrxman

Posts: 137; Member since: Sep 10, 2011

Just randomly checked the HTC website. They're already discounting by $150. Seems like they realize the error in their ways. Such a shame how directionless this company has become. They're capable of making a fine device, but they're trying too hard on gimmicks and not focusing on the basics.
U Ultra
  • Display 5.7" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 16 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(26h 3G talk time)

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