Look, don't touch
The pearlescent "melted glass" rear of the phone is gorgeous right out of the box in every colour option (in red, black, blue, white and silver), but for me it was a total smudge magnet, which quite literally detracted from the lustre. Beneath a clear case the effect will be a little diminished, but you'll have a stunning, big-screen, smear-free phone for your troubles. Speaking of that screen, the glorious QHD, 5.5-inch display rivalled the best efforts I've seen from competitors. Sitting flush in a chassis with curved edges, the U11 looks great and feels great.
Under the hood, the HTC U11 smashed our benchmarking tests. The octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor leaves everything feeling blazingly fast. It had no trouble handling the rigorous gaming workout I was giving it on the train every morning, and even stress testing by deliberately leaving a whole bunch of memory-hungry apps running didn't seem to faze it. Alongside your SIM slot, there's room for up to 2TB of expandable storage via microSD.
The U11 wins points for that QHD screen, too. Vivid enough to rival the Samsung S8's superb infinity edge design, and with enough grunt to beat the best flagships on benchmarking, it's hard to fault the U11 for sheer power.
The phone's camera is proof that megapixel count doesn't count for much. With a 12-megapixel shooter on the rear and a 16-megapixel count on the front, your regular shots and selfies will be looking sharp. It had noticeably faster focal speed when I went side-by-side with my Pixel XL ( $199 at Amazon). Low light shots were a little noisy on the rear shooter, but that front-facing, wide-angle camera is money. It does an excellent job of getting group selfies in dark bars.
iPhone fans will know what it's like to miss the 3.5mm jack -- USB Type-C only here -- but it's hard to fault HTC for chasing Apple (and Motorola) on that front. The good news is the included Bluetooth earbuds come with HTC USonic, an automatic, personalised equaliser that maps your ear and delivers better sound quality and active noise cancelling. I've played around with the auto-equalisation before in other devices too, and the difference it makes is noticeable (if you can deal with in-ear headphones). Plus, there's an adaptor in the box if you're still attached to your 3.5mm jacks.
In our video looping tests, the 3,000mAh HTC U11 withstood for an average time 13 hours, 12 minutes (about on par with the LG G6, and a few hours shy of the Samsung Galaxy 8's 16 hours). That's a solid showing in the labs, but anecdotally I found the HTC to be a very thirsty phone. I'd be dropping 15 to 20 percent after heavy use on an hour-long commute to work, and I'd be white-knuckling it as the battery ticked towards zero at the end of the day if I had to be away from the charging cable at my desk. Power saving mode made some improvements, but the hefty processor and a big, QHD screen are going to drain when in use. At least it's packing fast charge.
HTC U11 specs versus Galaxy S8, iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6
||HTC U11||Samsung Galaxy S8||LG G6||Apple iPhone 7 Plus|
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||534ppi||570ppi||565ppi||401 ppi|
|Dimensions (inches)||6.1x3x0.31 in.||5.86 x 2.68 x 0.32 in.||5.9x2.8x0.31 in.||6.2x 3.1x0.29-in.|
|Weight (ounces, grams)||6 oz.; 169g||5.5 oz.; 155g||5.7 oz.; 162g||6.63 oz.; 188g|
|Mobile software||Android 7.1.1 Nougat||Android 7.0 Nougat||Android 7.0 Nougat||Apple iOS 10|
|Camera||12-megapixel||12-megapixel||13-megapixel (standard), 13-megapixel (wide)||12-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide)|
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.4GHz+1.9GHz)||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz+1.9GHz) or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz+1.7GHz)||2.35GHz Snapdragon 821 with Adreno 530 GPU||Apple A10 chip (64-bit)|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB (varies by region)||64GB||32GB||32GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|RAM||4GB, 6GB (varies by region)||4GB||4GB||N/A|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB||None|
|Battery||3,000mAh||3,000mAh||3,300mAh||21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE|
|Fingerprint sensor||Home Button||Back||Back cover||Home button|
|Special features||IP67, dual SIM (some regions)||Water-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-ready||18:9 aspect ratio; wireless charging (US-only); water-resistant||Water and dust-resistant, portrait mode mode|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$649||AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $675||AT&T: $720, Verizon: $672 T-Mobile: $650, Sprint: $708, US Cellular: $597.60||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£649||£689||£649||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB)|
|Price (AU$)||AU$999||£689||AU$1,008||AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB); AU$1,569 (256GB)|