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HTC U11 Review


Posted: , by Stephen S.


HTC U11 Review


There's no one “right” way to make a smartphone, and that's probably more apparent with this year's selection of new handsets than any batch in recent memory. We've got exceptionally widescreen phones, phones with hardware keyboards, and even those with multiple cameras. With so much up in the air, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that HTC decided to go back to the drawing board with its smartphone design language, rethinking the metal unibody that's been so popular with its flagships and going with a new look that's all about smooth lines and bold expanses of color.

Compared to some of its competition, HTC's new phones may feel a little safe, but for a company that's still fighting to reclaim the double-digit market share it flirted with just a few years back, there's no such thing as “safe.” And while HTC may not be ready to go the 18:9 route like Samsung or LG just yet, its move to digital-only audio, introduction of a new input mechanic, and embrace of top-shelf components show that this manufacturer isn't ready to give up without a fight.

A couple weeks back, HTC introduced the world to its latest flagship, the U11. We've been carrying the phone since the day it was announced, shooting pictures, listening to music, and putting the phone through all the sorts of tasks that matter most to us – and hopefully you, as well. Does HTC's latest effort prove to be a worthy successor to one of the most loved smartphone lineages around? You're about to find out.


Shiny and attention-getting, but is it enough to compete with the futuristic look of other flagships?

HTC U11 Review
HTC U11 Review
HTC U11 Review

The HTC U11 may represent a big departure from the look of the HTC 10, One M9, and previous HTC flagships, but it's also in many ways an evolutionary effort – if not the most direct one. Before we look at how the U11 fits in with the rest of HTC's portfolio, let's talk about the design of the phone itself.

Rather than returning with another metal phone, HTC's all about curves and glass for the U11. The frame is still metal, and its smoothly contoured edge stretches all around the frame's border, but it now serves as the meat in a front-and-back glass sandwich.

Like on the HTC 10, the U11 has its fingerprint reader mounted up front, under the screen and adjacent to the capacitive back and multitask buttons. On the phone's right edge we find its volume rocker and power button, while the bottom edge houses the USB Type-C port and main speaker grille. By and large, though, that's it for the phone's exterior. Yes, there's the SIM tray up top, and various holes here and there for microphones (which the U11 has in spades), but the overall design is still very minimal.

HTC U11 Review
Part of that has to do with HTC's continued decision to phase out analog headphone jacks, while another part is about embracing the company's new pressure-sensitive Edge Sense input scheme. By squeezing the handset, you can trigger various software-defined commands – which we'll investigate in more detail just a little later on – and while features like that tend to involve an extra physical button on other phones, here HTC manages to offer the same functionality without cluttering up the U11 with additional buttons.

The highlight of the U11's design has to be its glass back panel, which the manufacturer refers to as a “liquid surface.” Special materials on the inside of that glass not only give the surface a unique color, but refractive properties let that color shift and change under the right angles and lighting conditions. In the US, all we're going to get is blue, black, and a very blueish silver, but international markets will also pick up white and maybe the most stunning of the five, red.

HTC U11 Review

These colors tend to look pretty nice, but they get very messy, very fast, as fingerprints mar the otherwise glossy, reflective surface. Thankfully, HTC includes both a cleaning cloth as well as a complementary clear case in the U11's box, but neither really fixes the underlying issue.

All these pieces, the backs included, are supposed to join together with seamless precision, but we've found HTC's manufacturing tolerances to be a little looser than the company might hope.

HTC U11 Review
HTC U11 Review
For instance, on the two U11 handsets we examined during this review, each had one edge where the phone's back glass met the metal frame and there was a pronounced sharpness to the transition – while the other side was perfectly smooth. But with each phone we looked at, this sharp edge was on a different side – just not very consistent. That may be a minor quibble, but when you're trying to introduce a new design language like HTC is doing here, you're inviting your works to be put under the magnifying glass – and what we're seeing just isn't quite as impressive as it could be.

Even if everything doesn't fit together just so, HTC's new construction process does afford the U11 one major upgrade over past flagships, finally adding formal water-resistance in the form of an IP67 rating. That's a big step forward for HTC.

We've also got to talk about the phone's size, and while the U11 is a comfortable 7.9mm thin, slimmer than the HTC 10, it's also moving up to a 5.5-inch screen. Coupled with the fact that HTC is still dealing with some good-sized bezels all around the display, that makes the U11 feel like a pretty big phone, and one that's going to be slightly too large for comfort for some users.

Maybe the handset the U11 shares the most with, if not from a materials perspective, then in terms of layout and build, is the HTC-made Google Pixel XL. The U11 is slimmer and smoother, but if the Pixel XL felt too large for your tastes, the U11 is likely to as well.

6.06 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches
153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 mm
5.96 oz (169 g)


Samsung Galaxy S8+
6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches
159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
6.10 oz (173 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8+

5.86 x 2.83 x 0.31 inches
148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm
5.75 oz (163 g)


Sony Xperia XZ Premium
6.14 x 3.03 x 0.31 inches
156 x 77 x 7.9 mm
6.88 oz (195 g)

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

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


HTC U11 Review

If there's one decision that may end up coming back to haunt HTC, it's giving the U11 a 5.5-inch display. Actually, that's hardly fair – there's nothing inherently problematic about a 5.5-inch panel. But going with this screen, on this phone, implemented in this manner (and with this market being in the state it is), leaves us feeling a little concerned.

The U11 has a 5.5-inch 16:9 LCD with a quad-HD 1440 x 2560 resolution. On its own, there's nothing particularly problematic about that. But the U11 doesn't exist in a vacuum, and we can't help but look at that choice in both the context of HTC's overall lineup, and that of the greater early-2017 smartphone landscape.

The biggest problem – no pun intended – is that this screen is large, and makes the U11 big. Compared to the HTC 10 with its 5.2-inch screen, the U11 measures in nearly half-a-centimeter wider, and a centimeter taller. And while you may be quick to point out that both LG and Samsung gave their 2017 flagships larger screens than in years past, embracing new screen aspect ratios let those companies do so without creating phones that feel nearly as wide in your hand as the U11; if you've got smaller fingers, this phone is going to border on uncomfortable.

If the U11 had an edge-to-edge screen, that would be much less of an issue, and while the phone's face does employ curved-edge “2.5D” glass, the borders of the screen are so far away from the phone's sides that it matters little.

Visually, the U11's screen looks alright, and is capable of output at decent brightness levels. Color accuracy isn't great, but we very much appreciate available software tweaks, like adjusting color temperature. By default, everything on the screen is also huge (it's like HTC forgot this is a massive 5.5-incher) and we highly recommend spending some time configuring the phone to use smaller fonts.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
HTC U11 528
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 565
LG G6 506
Sony Xperia XZ Premium 548
View all

  • Options

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 05:08 56

1. NoAllegiance (unregistered)

Lol, these cons are laughable. I expected this to get a 9, but then again, this is phonearena.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 05:17 12

3. NoAllegiance (unregistered)

EDIT: ok, maybe not a 9, but definitely more than 8.2

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 05:37 19

11. combatmedic870 (Posts: 948; Member since: 02 Sep 2015)

I agree a 8.8 would have been appropriate. This rating is ridiculous. It's Major con is that it looks dated... It has a 3000 mah battery, beating out the competition that has a 3500...that is a feat on its own. It's the phone a 9? No. For what the phone is.... Its a 8.7-8.8. Seeing the battery life. This will be my next phone.

BTW PA one PRO you forgot to meantion... Is having the ability to unlock the boot loader with out voiding the warranty... People still search for phones capable of this(let alone a Flagship!) . Myself included.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 05:44 11

15. combatmedic870 (Posts: 948; Member since: 02 Sep 2015)

Wait.... You guys are using a Samsung geekbench score from a bootloader unlocked, S8+ with a custom kernel? You guys do realize this will be the first Sd835 device that will be able to take custom kernels(a full custom kernel at that). It's going to destroy the S8+ geek bench score that has a custom kernel. I expect the same to be done with the HTC and the score to be changed....

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 05:52 14

19. Hyperreal (Posts: 322; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)

its easily a 9 phone with best audio, best camera, best battery life among 2017 flagships, with a 16:9 ratio non curved screen (I dont see 18:9 as a better aspect ratio by now, most videos are 16:9), great pixel like fast software, no USF 2.0 vs 2.1 cheating, DDR4X ram (not confrimed 100%).

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 09:04 10

69. sintruder (Posts: 127; Member since: 30 Aug 2012)

This has to go as the most ridiculous review of all time. I don't usually comment but the review(cons) and score is so ridiculous that it forced me to comment

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 08:20 1

62. JesseJames (Posts: 191; Member since: 22 Feb 2015)

I'll be honest, I do agree that it looks somewhat dated. The m9 was garbage and honestly the m10 is what the m9 should have been and the u11 is what the m10 should have been. So in my eyes, htc is basically a year behind. I'm still getting one on one of my other lines though.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 09:09 2

70. Hyperreal (Posts: 322; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)

so they are a year behing with a phone that is clearly one of the best right now? right...

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 08:20 3

63. NoAllegiance (unregistered)

I mean, this phone scored less than HTC M8 and M9. Let that sink in.

The LG V20, one of the most underrated smartphones of last year got an 8.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 08:51 1

65. Bankz (Posts: 2097; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)

The v20 got an 8? Lol, lmao PA!

posted on 03 Jun 2017, 01:17 2

123. Darckent (Posts: 28; Member since: 17 Sep 2016)

I've said it before phone arena are the worst tech sure around

Dated design where was that when iPhone released the same design for the years in a row

Big bezels again where was that in the iPhone reviews? HTC is still smaller than the big bezels iPhone and they never once mention how badly engineered the iPhone was

I'm still wondering why people don't boycott this scam of a site

posted on 05 Jun 2017, 11:10

137. you_sukk_it (Posts: 133; Member since: 11 Apr 2017)

dont worry about the v20. those who know what a kick ass phone it is, bought it. I dont need pa to tell me what a monster it is.

youtube. com/watch?v=_44iBjFqo8I

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 11:42

80. rakel.kiki83 (Posts: 2; Member since: 01 Jun 2017)

Really? S8 has 3000 battery, don't lay to people.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 15:20

101. combatmedic870 (Posts: 948; Member since: 02 Sep 2015)

It was compared to the S8+ dude.

posted on 06 Jun 2017, 13:41

139. WGACA (Posts: 79; Member since: 08 May 2015)

Depends how the battery life is tested. I watch a lot of YouTube and Netflix on my phone. I can tell you the S8 will beat the HTC 11 by mile in that department.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 10:54 4

78. cocoy (Posts: 73; Member since: 30 Oct 2015)

I am expecting to see comments​ like this after seeing those cons and score given for a phone with excellent camera, audio output, excellent battery and snappy OS. almost everything needed for a phone to have.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 11:57

82. TechieXP1969 (banned) (Posts: 14967; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

Why? Boring design? Too shiny. HTC edge sense is stupid/gimmicky.

A 9 just because it has a nice camera?

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 12:27 6

89. aknotts66 (Posts: 3; Member since: 24 May 2017)

Great Camera, Better performance that the S8 when both set to QHD, Better external speakers, no bloat, great battery life. Most important aspects are camera,battery, and performance.

posted on 02 Jun 2017, 03:05

109. amats69 (Posts: 1524; Member since: 12 Nov 2012)

how about.. a 9 for galaxy s8 because it has an extra useless screen??oh wait..not totally useless because u got more app icon in app drawer because of that... this phone is a lot better than the s8..camera,battery,performance.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 12:18 5

88. aknotts66 (Posts: 3; Member since: 24 May 2017)

I agree. Phone Arena's final ratings are a joke. Great performance, great camera, great battery life = 8.2. The 3 pillars of a smartphone it nailed and phone arena gives it just a 8.2 lol. Phone Arena Grade = 7 meh of a website. lol.

posted on 05 Jun 2017, 00:42

134. Kal-el (Posts: 96; Member since: 14 Dec 2012)

ONLY iphone arena can turn edge sense into a CON....hahahaha this site and it writers is a f**king joke . "over engineering" ....Its CALLED INNOVATION if iPhone take this same s**t next year you writers will call the PHONE OF THE CENTURY ...HERE IS 9 ARTICLES TALKING ABOUT THE SAME s**t WE ALREADY COVERED...#sponsoredSheep IM DONE with this site

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 05:26 1

6. Bankz (Posts: 2097; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


posted on 01 Jun 2017, 06:05 6

24. BLUEBLASTER (Posts: 431; Member since: 23 Feb 2014)

No its iPhonearena

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 06:08 5

25. Myphoneisonfire (Posts: 398; Member since: 05 Sep 2016)

It deserves nothing more than what it got . Big bezels , no 3.5 mm . No resale value for sure. i sold my absolute mint condition htc 10 for 250$ after 6 months of use whereas my s7 edge with a couple of scuffs got me 450 $ after 8 months of use. HTC U is not even DOA .... Its DBA

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 08:09 2

57. Lois13 (Posts: 29; Member since: 20 Nov 2015)

Where do you live where you could only sell a HTC 10 for only $250 after 6 months? In the US the unlocked ones are still consistently sold for 300-400 on Swappa and it's been a year since release.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 13:28

94. Myphoneisonfire (Posts: 398; Member since: 05 Sep 2016)

I live in Chicago , i put the ad up on craigslist . There was hardly any response to my ad and all low ball offers. I ended up selling it for 270 or so. Ill try swappa the next time.

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 09:34

73. piyath (Posts: 1132; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

STFU troll....lol

posted on 02 Jun 2017, 03:47

112. Myphoneisonfire (Posts: 398; Member since: 05 Sep 2016)

How is colombo? pooyath?

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 06:43 20

39. amro99 (Posts: 109; Member since: 29 Nov 2012)

Hahaha, so what HTC needs to do to get a 9+ rating from phonearena?
Remove the noise canceling ear buds
Disable the edge sense
Disable 4 mics & 3d audio reording and use one or 2 normal mics like other oems

And why the heck have you compared it with s8+?? Isn't that phone almost 50% more expensive that u11??
Finally, go see vid comparisons of this 5.5 inch phone with a gs8 that has 5.8 inch on YouTube. You'll immidiately see that 16:9 is far better for audio and gaming, with no wasted black bars. S8 s screen looks dance only when no app is open and you are looking at wallpapers

posted on 01 Jun 2017, 06:45 2

41. amro99 (Posts: 109; Member since: 29 Nov 2012)

Correction: s8's screen looks nice..... :))

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OS: Android 7.1
view full specs
PhoneArena rating:
Display5.5 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels (534 ppi) S-LCD 5
Camera12 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2450 MHz, Kryo 280 processor
Size6.06 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches
(153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 mm)
5.96 oz  (169 g)

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