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HTC U Ultra review: A well designed, powerful flagship, demands larger cell
As mentioned above, HTC has announced the U Ultra at a price of Rs. 59,990. Despite the fact that it is an high-end flagship smartphone, the price is somewhat too high for a company that has been struggling to be successful in the market.
Since the past few years, HTC couldn't remain successful in comparison to its rivals despite the innovations it has brought to its offerings for many reasons.
Let's find out if the HTC U Ultra is definitely worth it's price tag or just another flop from our detailed review of the phone.
Design - Looks premium but can easily slip off
It was HTC who started the trend of metal smartphones and back then everyone else followed the Taiwanese manufacturer. This time, HTC has taken a deviation and come up with an entire glass build for its flagship. And, without any doubt, this phone looks awesome. There is more to the HTC U Ultra in addition to its sumptuous build and design. The device looks unique with its bold aesthetics.
The almost-all-glass build with liquid surface design adds a smooth finish to the device. Though it has a premium finish, it requires regular wiping as it is a fingerprint magnet. The liquid surface design at the rear reflects different colors when it is held in different angles.
Otherwise, the device is lustrous and curved. Having said that it is smooth, the handset is prone to slipping off when it is held even if you're not a butterfingers as I am. Apparently, you need to take extra care of the U Ultra on everyday usage.
The HTC U Ultra measures 162.4 x 79.8 x 8 mm in dimensions and weighs in at 170 grams, which makes it one of the heavy phones in the market. The U Ultra has been launched in Brilliant Black, Sapphire Blue, and Cosmetic Pink color options.
The rear panel is non-removable and so is the battery. The power button and volume rockers can be seen on the right of the phone. The SIM card tray supporting a nano SIM is at the top along with the micro SD card slot, which can be used as the second SIM card slot as well.
The device lacks the 3.5mm audio jack but there is a USB Type-C port at the bottom. Below the display, there are two capacitive buttons and a fingerprint sensor at the center. The speaker's position at the bottom edge is pretty convenient while listening to music as there is no need to make the device sit on a table to get the best experience.
Display: Dual displays impress us with quality and functionality
As mentioned above, there are dual displays on the HTC U Ultra. The primary one is a 5.7-inch panel with a QHD resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels resulting in a pixel density of 513 ppi. The screen with protected with the Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection.
On top of this display is a 2.05-inch secondary display with a resolution of 160 x 1040 pixels. A few years back, this screen size would have been too big. Now it is not the case as the video content conception is more on smartphones and it makes sense to have a huge QHD screen to get the best multimedia experience.
Packing more pixels, the HTC U Ultra exhibits great vibrancy and punchy colors. We watched a couple of trailers including Kong Skull Island and the same was sharp enough. The color reproduction is pretty accurate and the viewing angles are also good for a flagship.
The device is visible under direct sunlight, provided the brightness is adjusted. The colors appear bright enough on the screen. This LCD screen is definitely on par with the on on the iPhone 7 Plus. However, we can't compare it with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge as it comes with an AMOLED panel.
Talking about the secondary display, it is more than just a gimmick. It can work with the third-party apps but it is not an Always-on Display, which is a tech seen in many flagships these days such as LG G5 and Galaxy S7.
The secondary display will show the time and notifications all the time without unlocking the device on tapping it.
HTC has designed this screen so that you can get to know the notifications from apps that you want including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. It also shows you reminders, calendar events, 12-hour weather forecast, etc. This second screen is all set to work with the new Sense Companion too.
Performance: Quite powerful and effective innards
The HTC U Ultra houses a Snapdragon 821 SoC under its hood paired with 4GB RAM and 64GB of default memory capacity. The storage can be expanded up to 2TB via a micro SD card. In our review, we did not notice any glitches in the performance such as crashes, lags, and other issues. The smartphone performance is smooth enough for a flagship and it could handle multitasking efficiently.
The one thing we noticed while using the U Ultra is that the device gets heated to some extent on using it for a considerable duration. On playing the 8 Pool Ball game, we experienced a bit of overheating on the rear and battery drain too.
Audio Performance: USonic headphones designed for audiophiles
The U Ultra comes bundled with the USonic headphones with USB Type-C. There are microphones in the in-ear headphones to render customized output based on the users' preference. The headphones uses a software to analyze and adjust the output for the shape of the users' ear canal. Undoubtedly, the bundled headphones sound better.
One thing we noticed on using this HTC phone with the headphones is that even on maximum volume, the audio output was easy on the ears without causing a pain, which I usually experience on using the headphones that was bundled with my Galaxy Note Edge. Also, the experience of listening with the headphones was much better than the loudspeaker.
Software: HTC Sense Companion isn't available as yet
HTC U Ultra has been launched with Android 7.0 Nougat and HTC Sense out-of-the-box. The UI experience is almost similar on any updated HTC phones such as the HTC 10. The Sense UI is a customized layer on top of Android with a few additions to it.
There are major changes around the launcher but not all welcome. We say this as the Blinkfeed service appears with a single swipe to the left even when you don't really want it to.
One thing that we liked about the interface is that it operates smoothly without any glitches. The UI slides smoothly on swiping and exhibits its snappy responsiveness. There is not much bloatware in this smartphone except for a few apps and services.
Talking about the Sense Companion, which is an AI-based system, it isn't bundled with the U Ultra on day one. The company will roll out an update that will add the Sense Companion to the phone. This feature will display significant alerts and notifications on the secondary display.
The fingerprint sensor that is located at the bottom of the device serves many other purposes other than just adding another layer of security. If you need a screenshot, all you need to do is just press and hold the fingerprint sensor and you get the same. You can share the screenshot from there easily.
Camera: Seflie camera is way too impressive, gives clear results
Lately, we have come across the launch of several good camera phones including Google Pixel, Apple iPhone 7, and Galaxy S7. The U Ultra can also capture a great photo with the right lighting conditions. The details are immense in the clicked photos as you can see. Even the low light images are great.
With not much lighting, we can see a little distortion in the color, which isn't the case otherwise. This has to be accepted as the device uses the same old 12MP sensor seen on the HTC 10.
You would definitely be surprised and stunned with the selfie camera's results. The 16MP front-facer on the U Ultra delivers accurate color reproduction, high level of details and outstanding results on the whole. Eventually, the front camera turns out to be better than the rear snapper.
Battery: It staggers to give you a day's usage
Beneath the rear panel sits a 3,000mAh battery that is capacious enough given the power and size of the phone. The existing flagship phones that rival the U Ultra have juicier batteries of over 3,400mAh. With great batteries, the challengers of the U Ultra definitely last longer.
In our review period, we found the battery life of the HTC phone to be a major issue. On playing the 8 Pool Ball game for 15 minutes, the battery life dropped by 23%. Also, on shooting videos and snaps for a few minutes, the battery drained too quickly. The same applies to watching videos on YouTube as well.
The device will definitely struggle to give you a day's backup until you use it with caution. Heavy users should either refrain buying the U Ultra or carry a power bank with them all the time.
Verdict: Good performer, overpriced indeed
The HTC U Ultra is a pretty gorgeous phone in the market right now. On owning it, you will definitely have a good looking phone in your hands. But remember that you need to take extra care and even then it is possible to see smudges, chips and cracks on the phone.
There is no denying that HTC has priced this phone on the expensive side but there is a justification as it is a premium phone in the market.
The device is a good performer with impressive cameras, non-sluggish performance, and a great display. The only downside is its battery life. Given that battery life and performance are the two major aspects you get from other premium Android phones, the HTC U Ultra falls back in this.
The major advantage of the U Ultra is its USonic headphones that render superior audio performance customized on the individual preference.
In comparison to the flagships from Apple and Samsung, this one lags behind with a non-water resistant build, though it isn't a mandatory feature. On the whole, the HTC U Ultra can be a great choice if you are a mediocre user.