U probably shouldn’t buy this phone
HTC U Ultra
Breaking away from its usual all-metal designs, HTC’s new U Ultra agship phone has a metal frame and an eye-catching contoured 3D glass rear with no visible antenna lines. While the U Ultra looks great, it’s way too big to use comfortably onehanded. There’s been a recent trend towards large displays in small bodies, like the Xiaomi Mi Mix and Samsung Galaxy S8, but due to the U Ultra’s front fingerprint sensor, secondary display and fat bezel, it’s one of the largest smartphones out there.
The U Ultra has two displays: a main 5.7-inch Quad HD 2,560 x 1,440 pixels resolution (513ppi) Super LCD 5 panel and a secondary 2.05-inch 160 x 1,040 pixels (513ppi) strip that sits at the top right edge of the phone, next to the camera. The main display is sharp with decent color reproduction, good contrast and excellent viewing angles.
The secondary display is somewhat similar to the one on the LG V20 and can be used to display notifications and control music playback, view the weather, change a setting, or quickly jump into a favorite app or contact. You scroll through its list of features by swiping along the screen. Unfortunately, it is far inferior to the one on the V20.
A goodlooking phone, with too many aws to recommend.
Firstly, it’s far too dark, and there’s no option to adjust the brightness. Second, the U Ultra’s secondary display isn’t used by any apps, and it just displays a blank screen when you’ve got an app running on the main display. And nally, the secondary display on the U Ultra isn’t alwayson. You have to double tap it or raise the phone up to turn it on, which completely negates the point of a secondary display.
On the back of the U Ultra is a sizeable camera bump; despite this, the U Ultra’s rear camera isn’t that impressive. The specs are decent enough, with a 12-megapixel sensor, f/1.8 aperture, large, 1.55-micron pixel size, optical image stabilization and hybrid phase-detection and laser autofocus, but image quality lacks consistency, with the auto focus struggling occasionally, especially in low light, and some photos su ering from poor exposure. Colors also tend to look a little dull.
HTC’s BoomSound stereo speakers are back but instead of dedicated front-facing speakers the U Ultra doubles up the earpiece speaker with another speaker located on the phone’s bottom edge. The sound is still pretty good, with plenty of volume and some surprisingly decent channel separation, but the old HTC One was better.
The U Ultra also doesn’t have a headphone port, and HTC doesn’t even bundle in a 3.5mm adapter. Instead, you get a pair of HTC’s USonic USB Type-C earbuds (which are decent enough but unremarkable). Unfortunately, you’re probably stuck with them because the U Ultra isn’t compatible with third-party USB-C to 3.5mm adapters. HTC uses a proprietary audio codec inside the U Ultra, which means the only compatible USB-C to 3.5mm adapter is HTC’s own US$11.99 adapter, which isn’t available locally.
The U Ultra runs on Android 7.0 Nougat and HTC’s Sense UI 8, which now includes HTC’s new machine-learning AI assistant: Sense Companion. Like most AI assistants, you can voice to set alarms and reminders for you, and you can also dismiss or snooze alarms the same way. Unlike other AI assistants, Sense Companion doesn’t talk back to you. Instead it provides updates and notifications in the secondary display. In most cases, this is ne, but if you’re unable to read your smartphone display - for example, when you’re driving - you really want your AI assistant to talk to you instead. Sense Companion will also track your activity and behavior and can send you notifications based on that. For example, if it notices that you frequently run out of battery during the evening, it will remind you to charge the device during the day.
Rather than wait for Qualcomm’s new agship Snapdragon 835 processor, HTC has opted for last year’s Snapdragon 821 paired with 4GB RAM. As expected, benchmark performance on the U Ultra was decent, but not class-leading.
The U Ultra has a 3,000mAh capacity battery, which is far too small for a QHD phablet. Considering how massive the U Ultra is, it’s disappointing HTC wasn’t able to squeeze a bigger battery in there. As a result, the phone performed poorly on our video looping battery benchmark, lasting a mere eight hours.
Overall, the HTC U Ultra isn’t a bad phone, but it just doesn’t o er enough to justify its $898 price tag.
The secondary display on the U Ultra is far too dim.
The U Ultra has a huge rear camera bump.