HTC is back with a newer version of last year's flagship smartphone- HTC U11. The new flagship handset is an evolutionary upgrade to HTC U11, which was one of our favorite Android phones of the year 2017. To keep up with the competition, the new HTC U11 Plus offers a taller 18:9 aspect ratio screen, some extra battery power, higher resistance to water-dust, and the latest Android flavor squeezed inside the same gorgeous liquid surface design, which turned heads last year.
HTC U11 Plus also gets the same powerful innards and loudest ever speakers on a smartphone, courtesy- HTC's unmatchable BoomSound audio technology. Besides, we have got the intelligent voice assistant and HTC USonic earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation.
There is indeed a lot of high-end tech in store, but I would still ask, is it worth getting the new HTC U11+? I've spent a considerable time with HTC U11+ in trying to figure out the answers. Here's my review of HTC U11+.
Design: Still gorgeous, but a little less ergonomic
The new HTC U11+ comes with the similar liquid surface design but this time it squeezes even more screen and a slightly bigger battery unit. Resultant, the device is a bit elongated and slightly tough to use with one hand. But then that's the problem with most of the big screen flagships these days, be it Google Pixel 2 XL or the latest Samsung Galaxy S9+.
The curved edges and rounded corners of HTC U11+ help to some extent in one-hand operation. This seamless curved design is achieved through heating and then bending the glass using extreme pressure. The button and port placement remains the same; however HTC has moved the fingerprint scanner to the back panel. The fingerprint scanner now rests underneath the camera module. It is conveniently placed and unlocks the phone in a jiffy.
The front fascia of HTC U11+ is quite boring but the rear panel is one-of-its kind. The shiny glass reflects light even with a slight change in the angle, but at the same time it's also a fingerprint magnet. Moreover, the glass back also makes HTC U11+ quite slippery but there's a catch here. The smartphone offers a better grip than most of the metal handsets out there, but can easily slip off from angled surfaces.
HTC USonic Headphones with Active Noise cancellation
There's no 3.5mm headphone jack but you get HTC's USonic headphones in the box which comes with a Type-C connector and are equipped with active noise cancellation. Besides, HTC U11+ also ships with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm dongle to help you connect standard 3.5 mm jack headphones.
Better Water-Dust resistance
While the look and feel is exactly the same, the new HTC U11+ has better resistance to water and dust as compared to the original HTC U11. It gets IP68 certification and is rated to survive drops in water up to 5 feet deep for as long as 30 minutes. So you can click pictures and stream audio even when it is raining outside or you are taking a dip in the pool.
Display: 6-inch Quad HD screen with Gorilla Glass 5
The new HTC U11+ uses the same IPS LCD panel that boasts a sharp Quad HD+ resolution. The screen size has been increased to 6-inches and aspect ratio is also bumped to 18:9. The 6-inch IPS LCD screen offers 1440 x 2880 resolution that makes for a crisp 537 pixels per inch. This is a pretty sharp screen and everything looks crisp and clear. The Super LCD 6 panel supports the DCI-P3 Wide colour gamut that increases the color saturation of LCD panel for vibrant multimedia content delivery. You also have the option to switch to sRGB profile and can also tweak the colour temperature as per your liking. I mostly kept the display on DCI-P3 profile and tweaked the color temperature to a bit on a warmer side to get the best possible output. But I would still prefer the AMOLED panels of Samsung's new Galaxy handsets any day for their super bright and vivid media output.
Nevertheless, the multimedia experience on the new HTC U11+ is also quite brilliant. The LCD panel has acceptable viewing angles and impressive contrast levels. The videos played on YouTube in 1440p 60fps look super crisp and vivid. There is also a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for protection from damages. HTC has also added the Always-on screen mode to display notifications when the device is locked.
Overall, the 2K screen on HTC U11+ combined with super loud and clear speakers makes for a perfect multimedia experience.
HTC U11 Audio Performance
Instead of stereo speakers, HTC has used higher frequency sound with a bottom-firing woofer system. This results in a class leading audio performance that will certainly please audiophiles. Like the HTC U11, the U11+ also ensures top-notch audio experience in everyday usage. You are bound to experience best-in-class audio while recording a video/audio, receiving a call or while simply watching a movie or playing a game.
You also get the company's signature BoomSound technology with Hi-Fi edition and HTC's USonic earphones that come with Active Noise Cancellation. The Type-C headphones can map your inner ear with an advanced sonarlike technology and then adapt the sound profile to your unique biology. In short, the USonic earbuds sound amazing. They deliver an optimized listening experience with vibrant audio, which most of the flagship handsets fail to offer, except Sony. The vocals sound clear and bass levels are also quite good. The overall audio experience through the USonic earbuds is very well balanced and high quality.
Next in the list is ‘Acoustic Focus' audio technology that uses 4 omni-directional built-in microphones. While recording a video on HTC U11+, you can zoom in to focus on a particular subject which will keep its audio in focus by suppressing the background sounds. This makes for a loud and clear audio where you can focus on individual subjects by just zooming in from the camera interface. Like the U11, the feature also works brilliantly on the new U11+ and results in much richer and personal audio experience.
HTC U11+ has the same 12MP single camera setup that we had tested on HTC U11. We will only highlight the major points here as you can read the detailed review in the review of HTC U11. The 12 MP rear camera can shoot in RAW format and is powered by BSI sensor. The camera on HTC U11+ uses big 1.4 µm pixels and works on a ƒ/1.7 aperture. Despite having a slightly darker aperture as compared to the latest industry's benchmark f/1.5 aperture used in Galaxy S9+, the rear camera on HTC U11+ captures noticeable light information even in darker environments.
And as expected, the pictures shot in daylight have punchy colors and very good dynamic range. However, the colors are not entirely accurate as they appear to your eyes in real life. The IPS LCD screen displays pictures with colors that have slightly less warmth to them. The auto HDR kicks in on time but it's not very effective and does not make much of a difference.
The camera on U11+ is not a very consistent low-light shooter. Though the camera sensor captures ample light, the pictures show noticeable noise and lack details towards the edges of the subject. This is only visible once you zoom in the images to maximum level. One letdown is the lack of a portrait mode. While there's no secondary camera to sense depth of information, HTC has also not added any software mode in the camera app to help you capture bokeh shots, which might come as a disappointment in today's time.
8MP front-facing camera performance
The 4K video shot in daylight is amazingly crisp and vivid. As far as selfies are concerned, the 8MP camera does a decent job. It shoots pictures with good clarity and ample of detailing.
Hardware and Software
The new HTC U11+ gets the latest Android 8.o Oreo with HTC Sense Home UI version 9.5. The tried and tested Snapdragon 835 processor coupled with 6GB of RAM is capable of taking care of any task you intend to perform. I also using Galaxy S9+ side by side and there's no visible difference in speed and performance of both the smartphones.
The Sense UI is fluid and did not lag during my review time. Apps load instantly and screen navigation is super fast. Multitasking is handled very well and gameplay is also lag glitch free. HTC Edge Sense, the company's interactive technology allows you to trigger responses by squeezing the edges of the smartphone. With a simple squeeze on the phone's edges, you can launch your favorite apps without touching the phone's screen.
Overall, HTC U11+ did not disappoint us in computing, multitasking and software department.
Battery and Connectivity
The battery life has been improved considerably. Instead of the humble 3,000 mAh battery unit that powered the last year's flagship, the new HTC U11+ is backed by a 3,930mAh battery unit that can easily last for a day and even more on moderate to heavy usage. Graphical intensive games and video streaming do take a big toll on U11+'s battery life, but still it would suffice for a day. The smartphone also comes with Extreme Power Saving mode on the software side, which can help you extend the battery life in extreme cases by cutting down some features like email syncing, remote lock, etc.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the smartphone supports 4G VoLTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, USB 3.1 Type-C port, 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 connector to use standard earphones with the smartphone.
HTC U11+ is an excellent Android handset. The smartphone offers a crisp 2K screen, best-in-class audio performance and a brilliant camera, though portrait mode is still a big miss. Battery life has improved considerably as compared to the original U11 and the new handset also offers more screen for better multimedia experience. The new U11 handset is also more durable as it gets IP68 rating. All of this makes for a very reliable and flagship level mobile user experience.
However, in 2018, the competition has also moved to new heights. HTC U11+ now has to fight the new Galaxy devices, brilliant Pixel 2 smartphones and even the value flagship handsets like OnePlus 5T and Honor View 10. If you are not willing to spend as much as Rs. 65,000 and also not looking value flagships like OnePlus 5T, HTC U11+ fits the spot. You can also consider the new Galaxy S9 if you seek something compact yet powerful.