HTC U11 First Impressions: A blend of style, innovation and performance at a sensible price-point

The flagship smartphone battle in India just got more fierce and interesting with the launch of HTC U11. The Taiwanese tech giant today announced its most powerful and technologically advanced handset at an aggressive price-point of Rs. 51,990 that can give Samsung and Sony a tough time in selling their flagship devices.

HTC U11 First Impressions

HTC U11 will take on the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+, LG G6, Sony Xperia XZ Premium and Apple iPhones.

The smartphone picks up right from where the last year's HTC 10 left off and brings a gorgeous design, the top-of-the line specs, a built-in smart assistant and the highest DXoMark rated camera. But what makes the handset a one-of-its kind product in the flagship smartphone race is the company's new interactive technology- HTC Edge Sense.

It works as an extension to the display and allows you to trigger responses by squeezing the edges of the smartphone, nothing like we have seen before, not even with the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S8's bezel-less curved display.

We got a chance to experience the new handset at the launch event where we tested some of its highlight features. So is this the product we all were waiting for that can put the former smartphone leader back on the map? Let's find out.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Edge Sense- An all new way of interacting with your mobile device

While most big fishes in the market are busy in making their smartphones displays taller and curvier, HTC is trying out something different and innovative. HTC U11 is the first mobile device with interactive edges, or as HTC calls it- the 'HTC Edge Sense'. It is a new way of interaction process that transforms the fundamental gesture of holding our phones into a completely new and revolutionary interaction method.

What this means is that you now have a display and the side edges to navigate through the phone's applications and features. With a simple squeeze on the phone's edges, you can launch your favorite apps, text on the go as it triggers the 'Ok Google' mode and do a lot more. The design team at HTC has achieved this by equipping the phone's edges with sensors that makes them customizable for everyday mobile usage.

HTC U11 First Impressions

While it does sound cool and futuristic, it also works really well in real-life. During my brief stint, I used the Edge Sense to capture pictures, trigger Ok Google and it offered satisfactory results. You can customize the feature to open a number of applications and responses of your choice.

And as it is based on pressure sensitive sensors applied to the side of the device, it can be used in non-favourable conditions - including rainy weather. I believe the HTC Edge Sense will clearly solve the problem of capturing selfies in everyday life. With HTC Edge Sense, you just need to squeeze the edges to capture an image.

The Edge Sense technology feels always accessible and let you do more with just short and long squeezes on the phone's edges. And the best part, it works even when the screen is off. We will evaluate its true potential and will find out how handy it is in everyday use in our comprehensive review of the smartphone in the coming weeks.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Design: Ultra premium but a fingerprint magnet

The world is simply moving towards glossy and mirror-finished smartphones. While they do look appealing and premium, the reflective glass finish tends to attract smudges and fingerprints more often than their matt finish counterparts and even makes them more slippery.

Having said that, HTC U11 is by far the most stunning and glossy smartphone launched in the year 2017. What HTC calls a liquid surface design is achieved by fusing high-grade materials to deliver an ultra premium feel in hands, which is indeed true.

HTC U11 First Impressions

The smartphone does feel premium, reflects light even with a slight change in the angle and is a true fingerprint magnet. It's just impossible to keep the handset free from smudges in everyday usage. If you can live with that, this is the most appealing handset in the premium range as far as the rear panel is concerned because no other smartphone can match the front look and feel of Galaxy S8/S8+ devices.

HTC U11 First Impressions

In addition to a premium design, HTC U11 also maintains an ergonomic form factor. The smartphone has an all-around 3-axis symmetrical design that makes it feel slim no matter which way you hold it and makes the large 5.5-inch phablet fit snuggly in one hand. The 3D glass on front and back panel further adds to the ergonomics.

Another important aspect of design is the IP67 certification making the handset dust, splash and water resistant up to 1 meter of freshwater for up to 30 minutes. So you can click pictures and stream audio even when it is raining outside.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD screen with Gorilla Glass 5

The multimedia experience on the new HTC U11 will be a delight as the smartphone features a 5.5-inch WQHD display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels. It's a 2K panel and so does the screens on Galaxy S8/S8+ and LG G6. However, the smartphone that still holds the trophy in display department is Sony Xperia XZ Premium with its super crisp 4K HDR display.

The LCD screen on HTC U11 uses an IPS panel for non-saturated accurate colours. During my brief usage, I found the display quite crisp, vivid and bright making it a comfortable fit for outdoor use. The super LCD 5 display is also protected by Corning's most durable Gorilla Glass 5 3D glass.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Camera: Highest DXoMark rated camera

With HTC U11, the company wants to take a lead on its rivals in the camera department. The company has fitted a 12 MP, HTC UltraPixel 3 camera at the rear panel that can shoot in RAW format and is the highest rated mobile camera on DXoMark scale with a score of 90, surpassing the previous Google Pixel handsets. Powered by BSI sensor, the camera on HTC U11 has 1.4 µm pixel size and ƒ/1.7 aperture.

This high-end camera hardware also features multi-axis optical and electronic stabilization system and super-fast autofocus to deliver crisp and bright images in non-favorable lighting conditions.

The rear camera works on full sensor auto-focus technology and comes equipped with HTC's new improved UltraSpeed Autofocus where all of the pixels are used for phased detection autofocus. You can also record videos in 4K format with 3D and Hi-Res audio support. Besides, the 12MP rear camera is also capable to shoot slow motion video in 1080p format at 120 fps.

In real-life, the camera seems pretty impressive. The shots I captured during the launch event showed amazing detailing and vibrant but natural colors. We will evaluate its performance in the coming week to give our final verdict on the rear camera performance.

16MP UltraPixel Selfie camera

The front-facing camera packs in even more pixels to make sure you get the best-in-class selfie experience. HTC U11 sports a 16MP front camera equipped with HTC's UltraPixel light sensitivity to capture bright selfies in ample and in low-light conditions. The front snapper also utilizes the same powerful HDR Boost and noise reduction as the main camera. The results from the front camera are equally impressive.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Processor, RAM and Storage

Powering up all the above mentioned high-end tech features is the latest and most advanced processing chip- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the world's first 10 nanometer mobile CPU. The flagship processor is paired with abundant 6GB RAM to deliver a lag free multitasking experience. Besides, you get 128GB internal memory that can be expanded by up to 2TB via microSD card.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Software: Android Nougat with Sense Artificial assistant

HTC U11 runs on the latest Android 7.1 Nougat with HTC Sense. The user interface is pretty clean and run smoothly. In addition to the Google Assistant HTC U11 also features Company's newly coded Sense Companion AI. The digital assistant works and learns day and night to enhance your mobile experience.

It studies your daily patterns over time in order to offer you more convenience for a personal and intelligent smartphone experience. It makes sure your phone runs at optimum speed, offers you weather insights, motivates you to stay healthy, guide you through a new city and opens a whole new world of endless possibilities.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Battery, Sound and Connectivity

HTC U11 is backed by a 3,000 mAh battery unit, which seems a bit less powerful on papers but HTC claims that it can give a talk time of up to 24.5 hours on 3G/4G and a standby time of 14 days on 3G/4G on a single charge. We will evaluate such claims while reviewing the handset. The battery also supports Quick Charge 3.0 and comes with Extreme Power Saving mode on the software side.

HTC has always been very consistent when it comes to audio quality. The new flagship also makes sure you get the top-notch audio experience in everyday usage by offering company's signature BoomSound technology with Hi-Fi edition, which now gets an improved design to achieve 100% more loudness and 150% improvement in 'Dynamic Range Audio'.

The company is also shipping the handset with HTC USonic earphones that come with Active Noise Cancellation.

Besides, what seems quite interesting is the 3D audio recording with 4 omni-directional microphones to deliver clear and rich audio experience while recording audio and videos on the HTC U11. We will shoot some videos on the handset to test the audio performance.

As far as connectivity is concerned, the smartphone supports 4G VoLTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, USB 3.1 Type C, Wi-Fi and HTC Connect. As the handset does not feature a 3.5mm headphone jack, the company is providing a USB Type C to 3.5mm port to use standard earphones with the smartphone.

HTC U11 First Impressions

Conclusion

It seems HTC is finally on the right path with the launch of HTC U11. For the first time in quite a long time, HTC has got the pricing right in the form of company's most sought after smartphone for the year 2017.

HTC U11 seems to be the right combination of style, innovation and technology. The smartphone has an appealing design, a stunning camera, a delightful 2K screen and the best-in-class processor paired with abundant RAM to deliver on performance.

As mentioned above, with the aggressive pricing of Rs. 52k, HTC U11 can be a big threat to Samsung's ever popular Galaxy S8/S8+ flagship handsets. Stay tuned on GIZBOT for our take on real-life performance of HTC U11 in the coming week.

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