Australian Review: HTC U11 - Quality and value

Australian Review: HTC U11 - Quality and value

The HTC U11 feels like a true flagship phone featuring water resistance, a lightning fast fingerprint reader, decent battery life and an excellent camera all in a sleek, full-glass body. While HTC’s lower end phones sometimes sacrifice too much, the U11 definitely seems like the full package.

A completely glass build looks great when it’s brand new, but the first thing you’ll find is that it ends up chock full of fingerprints after only minutes of use. Otherwise, the phone is quite attractive - it comes in quite a few different metallic colours, including black, white, red, dark blue or light blue.

One noteworthy feature is the haptic sensors in the lower half of the phone which can act as a separate switch; HTC calls this "Edge Sense". You can apply different actions to the gesture - by default it opens the camera. The sensors can distinguish between a short and long press too. In practice you should rarely need to use this feature, but it might come in handy for some users. Sadly I found that I needed to squeeze the phone harder than I was comfortable with to get it to activate; I found it much easier to use conventional methods to interact with the phone.

Day-to-day use is a breeze with the U11 - it’s fast enough to keep up with just about anything you would want to use it for. Apps requiring 3D acceleration perform well, and the battery lasts through even the longest sessions of Hearthstone. HTC’s Android overlay isn’t too obtuse; while there’s a few changes, it’s inoffensive for the most part - there’s a few system notifications that show up too often for my liking, but the icons are attracting and the menus are easy to use.

HTC chose to jump on the no-headphone-jack bandwagon and it’s a tough pill for me to swallow. I like using higher end headphones than those provided with the phone, and while the U11 does come with an adapter, things would be so much simpler with the humble 3.5mm plug. After all, simply remembering the peripheral could be the difference between you being able to drop your latest mixtape at the party or not.

The camera on the U11 is easily one of the best I’ve used on a smartphone to date - it’s able to pick up light in scenes that would stump other phones, and even some fully fledged compact cameras. Full-size crops can come out a little grainy, but the upside is detailed highlights in images that would be much darker if taken with another camera. The singular downside to night photography with the U11 is that any light source can easily mar the image; on a full moon night it can look like you’ve shot a photo directly into the sun. In well-lit situations the camera performs extremely well, providing high detail and crisp edges, although ever so slightly off-colour.

100% crop

100% crop

Overall, the U11 would be an excellent decision if you’re looking for a new Android smartphone. It’s easily one of the best HTC phones I’ve used to date thanks to its fast processor, long battery life, and incredible camera; at around AUD$999 it represents decent value compared to its high end competitors too. The lack of a headphone jack is definitely a dealbreaker for many, but if you’re willing to accept the omission and aren’t concerned over fingerprints, HTC has a great offering here.

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 4

Attractive glass buildNo headphone jack
Excellent cameraEdge sense feels a bit half-baked
Good battery life

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