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HTC U Ultra versus the competition: Who wins in the hardware battle?

The HTC U Ultra seems to share a lot of features to other supersized Android flagship phones, but does it have what it takes to be the very best?
Features
By
January 12, 2017

HTC has just unveiled the U Ultra, and it’s fair to say that the phone has drawn quite a bit of inspiration from some of the best phablet flagships over the past couple of years. There’s a secondary display straight from the LG V series, a design that more reminiscent of Samsung’s Galaxy range, and even a virtual assistant that sounds an awful lot like the Google Assistant from the Pixel and Pixel XL.

HTC U Ultra hands-on: a major change for HTC
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Of course, HTC has added its own twist on things, including a range of its sought-after technologies and a few new ones. So here’s how the HTC U Ultra stacks up against the competition on the hardware front.

HTC U UltraLG V20Pixel XLMate 9 / Porsche DesignGalaxy S7 edge
Display
HTC U Ultra:
5.7-inch QHD LCD
(2560x1440)
LG V20:
5.7-inch QHD LCD
(2560x1440)
Pixel XL:
5.5-inch QHD AMOLED
(2560x1400)
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
5.9-inch FullHD /
5.5-inch QHD
Galaxy S7 edge:
5.5-inch QHD AMOLED
(2560x1400)
SoC
HTC U Ultra:
Snapdragon 821
LG V20:
Snapdragon 820
Pixel XL:
Snapdragon 821
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Kirin 960
Galaxy S7 edge:
Exynos 8890 or
Snapdragon 820
CPU
HTC U Ultra:
4x 2.15GHz Kryo
LG V20:
4x 2.15GHz Kryo
Pixel XL:
4x 2.15GHz Kryo
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
4x 2.4GHz Cortex-A73
4x 1.8GHz Cortex-A53
Galaxy S7 edge:
4x 2.3GHz Samsung M1 +
4x 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 or
4x 2.15GHz Kryo
GPU
HTC U Ultra:
Adreno 530
LG V20:
Adreno 530
Pixel XL:
Adreno 530
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Mali-G71 MP8
Galaxy S7 edge:
Mali-T880 MP12 or
Adreno 530
RAM
HTC U Ultra:
4GB
LG V20:
4GB
Pixel XL:
4GB
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
4GB / 6GB
Galaxy S7 edge:
4GB
Storage
HTC U Ultra:
64 / 128GB
LG V20:
32 / 64GB
Pixel XL:
32 / 128GB
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
64GB
Galaxy S7 edge:
32 / 64GB
MicroSD?
HTC U Ultra:
Yes
LG V20:
Yes
Pixel XL:
No
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Yes
Galaxy S7 edge:
Yes

Processor wise, we’re looking at the familiar Snapdragon 821 found in the likes of the Pixel XL, OnePlus 3T and others. On the RAM side, the HTC U Ultra comes equipped with 4GB, which matches what we’ve come to expect from phablets, but doesn’t match the extreme 8GB RAM packed into the recently announced ASUS Zenfone AR. Flash memory option are also equally comparable with the handset’s main competitors, although customers won’t have the option of a cheaper 32GB model of the U Ultra.

There are only some minor tweaks over the Snapdragon 820 that powered the majority of last year’s flagship handsets and performance is pretty much a match between all of these flagships. Some may be disappointed not to see Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 on board, but that will most likely appear in the HTC 11, or whatever it ends up being called.

The U Ultra’s display is also a very familiar sight. The 5.7-inch LCD5 panel boasts a QHD (2560×1440) resolution, offering as crisp an image as any of the other phones in our comparison. Interestingly, there’s an option of Gorilla Glass 5 protection with the 64GB model and Sapphire Glass with the 128GB version. The 2-inch secondary ticker display boasts a resolution of 1040×160, which is identical to resolution the 2.1-inch secondary panel included with the LG V20, so they have a virtually indistinguishable pixel density.

HTC U UltraLG V20Pixel XLMate 9 / Porsche DesignGalaxy S7 edge
Cameras
HTC U Ultra:
12MP f/1.8 rear with OIS, PDAF and laser AF
16MP front
LG V20:
16MP f/1.8 + 8MP f/2.4 rear with OIS, laser & PDAF
5MP f/1.9 front
Pixel XL:
12.3MP f/2.0 rear with OIS
8MP front
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
12MP RGB + 20MP monochrome f/2.0 rear with laser AF & 2x zoom
8MP front
Galaxy S7 edge:
12MP f/1.7 rear with OIS & PDAF
5MP f/1.7 front
Battery
HTC U Ultra:
3,000mAh
LG V20:
3,200mAh
Pixel XL:
3,450mAh
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
4,000mAh
Galaxy S7 edge:
3,000mAh
NFC
HTC U Ultra:
Yes
LG V20:
Yes
Pixel XL:
Yes
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Yes
Galaxy S7 edge:
Yes
Fingerprint
HTC U Ultra:
Yes
LG V20:
Yes
Pixel XL:
Yes
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Yes
Galaxy S7 edge:
Yes
Fast Charge
HTC U Ultra:
Quick Charge 3.0
LG V20:
Quick Charge 3.0
Pixel XL:
Yes
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
SuperCharge
Galaxy S7 edge:
Yes
IP Rating
HTC U Ultra:
No
LG V20:
No
Pixel XL:
No
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
No
Galaxy S7 edge:
IP68
3.5mm audio
HTC U Ultra:
No
LG V20:
Yes
Pixel XL:
Yes
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Yes
Galaxy S7 edge:
Yes
Extras
HTC U Ultra:
USB Type-C, Boomsound, Hi Res audio, HTC Sense Companion
LG V20:
USB Type-C, MIL-STD-810G certified, 32-bit/192kHz audio
Pixel XL:
USB Type-C, Daydream, Google Assistant
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
USB Type-C, Daydream
Galaxy S7 edge:
Wireless Charging, Samsung Pay
OS
HTC U Ultra:
Android 7.0
LG V20:
Android 7.0
Pixel XL:
Android 7.1
Mate 9 / Porsche Design:
Android 7.1
Galaxy S7 edge:
Android 6.0

The HTC U Ultra’s camera package will be familiar to company regulars. It’s a 12MP UltraPixel 2 sensor, which uses large 1.55um sized sensor pixels that, in theory, should result in more light capture and better quality shots. These pixel diodes are even larger than the 1.4um sizes found inside the impressive Pixel XL and Galaxy S7 cameras, but we’ll reserve judgement until we can do a hands-on comparison, as HTC’s processing algorithms have often let its cameras down in the past.

The rear camera configuration also comes with optical image stabilization for smooth looking video capture and better low light shots, along with PDAF and laser autofocus modules. While PDAF and OIS are standard across the range, laser auto focus still only features in a small number of handsets and should allow the U Ultra to focus a little quicker than others when taking shots at close quarters. The front camera offers an 16MP resolution, which is far better than most and should produce sharper looking selfies. The camera can also function in “UltraPixel mode” to lower the resolution but increase light sensitivity. Overall, HTC’s latest camera offering seems promising, if not pushing the boundaries with dual camera tech that you’ll find in phones like the Huawei Mate 9.

On to extras and there’s quite a lot packed into the HTC U Ultra, as you might expect from a phone with such a name. Along with the familiar fingerprint scanner, NFC, and BoomSound speaker features, which includes a tweeter and woofer combine, HTC has also included Quick Charge 3.0, a USB Type-C port, and high resolution audio support. Audio buffs may be disappointed to note the absence of a 3.5mm audio jack on the handset, so you’ll have to use a USB Type-C adapter to connect the phone up to traditional wired headphones. Avid music listeners may get a kick out of the company’s USonic inner ear analysis, which is certainly a unique feature although we’re not sure exactly how useful it is.

One of the more interesting inclusions with HTC’s phablet is its Sense Companion. “Artificial intelligence” is shaping up to be the next big flagship smartphone feature and HTC appears to be launching its in-house model a little earlier than most of the competition. Google Assistant in the Pixel XL and Alexa in the Mate 9 US model are the only real competitors on the market right now, unless you count Google Now.

Overall, the HTC U Ultra is an impressive handset that combines excellent base hardware with a wide range of tantalizing extras. The phone is certainly one of, if not the most feature packed smartphones from the company to date, and looks to be a real contender with the best on the market right now. With the Galaxy Note 7 now absent from the phablet market, HTC looks poised to capitalize with the U Ultra.

How do you think that the HTC U Ultra compares with other supersized handsets on the market right now?