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HTC U11 Plus hands on: greater than the sum of its parts
With so many marginally different phone variants floating around these days, it can be difficult to see what makes a Plus, Pro, T, s or Max model distinct. HTC is keeping things simple with the HTCU11 Plus: it’s basically the U11 you know and love, with an extra half-inch on the display diagonal and that fancy new 18:9 aspect ratio. But there’s a few more “pluses” thrown into the mix which make this phone even more impressive.
The HTCU11 Plus looks just like the U11, only a little taller. Its liquid surface is just as mesmerizing as before and just as hungry for fingerprints. I went hands on with the Translucent Black version, which reveals parts of the internal components when it’s not reflecting your gorgeous visage back at you. It’s an online exclusive, and pretty obviously a nerd-only option, which will be available in January or February 2018. The main color will be Ceramic Black, which will be available in Europe in late November or early December starting at 799 Euros.
Specs and hardware
The U11 Plus packs a 64-bit Snapdragon 835, 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of UFS 2.1 storage with microSD expansion via a hybrid SIM slot (a 4 GB/64GB version will be available in Asia). It also features a 30 percent larger 3,930 mAh battery with support for USB Power Delivery and Quick Charge 3, though there’s no wireless charging— that’s an NFC antenna you can see in the photos.
HTC Sense Companion, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are all on board, as is HTCEdge Sense. The phone is running Android Oreo beneath HTC’s Sense UI. The fingerprint scanner has migrated to the back of the phone beneath its single camera lens and the U11 Plus now has a water-resistance rating of IP68, up from the U11’s IP67 rating. Despite a battery that’s one-third larger, the phone’s only about 10 percent heavier than the U11.
The HTCU11 Plus display is a 6.0-inch QHD+ Super LCD 5 panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio that uses the DCI-P3 color space. While there’s hardware support for HDR10, the U11 Plus still requires a software update for full HDR video.
On the demo version I used, the screen was only just bright enough in the outdoor sun at 100 percent brightness. We’ll see if that changes post-update. Nevertheless, colors were rich and had satisfying contrast. Viewing angles were what you’d expect from an LCD panel in the super-reflective outdoors. Despite the LCD, HTChas a programmable always-on display function in the settings that also works like an ambient display when you move the device.
Taking aspect ratio and display diagonal changes into account, the 6.0-inch HTCU11+ features 14.4 square inches of display compared to 12.9 square inches on the 5.5-inch HTCU11. Looking at the two phones’ footprints, the U11 Plus packs in a little over 10 percent more screen in almost the exact same overall area as the U11.
A couple of nice software gestures make the phone’s taller design easier to manage. Simply swipe up from anywhere in the middle of the screen to access the app drawer and swipe down anywhere to pull down the notifications shade. Neither of these gestures are particularly new for Android, but they do make navigating a taller device easier. They’re not the only UI trick HTChas up its sleeve on the U11 Plus either.
Swipeable docks will be familiar to custom launcher fans, but the U11 Plus offers a swipeable navigation bar. You can have up to five customizable buttons, adding an extra one to either side of the back, home and multitasking buttons. Swipe it to the side and you can access even more additional buttons and shortcuts, further enhancing the one-handed functionality of the U11 Plus.
Edge Sense makes its return, with a nice new Edge launcher feature. It’s an interesting mishmash between Samsung’s App Edge screen and something like Paranoid Android’s pie-wheel controls. You can add a bunch of shortcuts, as well as access your favorite apps and quick settings. You just squeeze and scroll, again adding to the U11 Plus’ one-handed ease-of-use. For HTCU11 owners, the upcoming Oreo update will bring the two gestures mentioned above and the Edge Sense wheel shortcut with it.
When it comes to audio, the U11 Plus pumps up the volume with its BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition speakers, providing 30 percent louder audio than the U11. While the bottom-firing speaker provides stereo sound, the U11 Plus’ audio is primarily “front channeled” through the earpiece speaker.
Acoustic focusing is possible and there are BoomSound audio presets for theater or music. HTC’s USonic earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation are included in the box and you can tune your own hearing profile to get the best audio experience out of them.
You can record 3D sound in video using the four built-in microphones and the U11 Plus is Hi-Res Audio certified. It includes a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter (no headphone port here, folks) with an integrated DAC. Because it ships with Android 8.0 Oreo, the U11 Plus also supports high-end audio codecs like Sony’s 24-bit LDAC and Qualcomm’s aptX HD if you go the wireless route. Bluetooth 5 support is also on board.
On the camera front there’s plenty that’s familiar: a 12.2 MP UltraPixel 3 BSI sensor with f/1.7 aperture, 28 mm focal length and 1.4 micron pixel size, UltraSpeed dual-pixel phase-detection autofocus, HDR Boost, OIS, EIS and so on. Up front there’s now a lower resolution 8 MP BSI sensor with f/2.0 aperture, 85 degree field of view and 28 mm focal length. It has HDR Boost enabled by default and can shoot 1080p video. Here are the rest of the HTCU11 Plus specs:
|HTC U11 Plus|
6.0-inch Super LCD6
2,880 x 1,440 resolution (QHD+)
536 ppi, HDR10, 18:9 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
128 GB UFS 2.1
Yes, up to 2 TB
Main camera: 12.2 MP UltraPixel 3
BSI sensor with f/1.7 aperture
Slow-motion video (1080p at 120fps)
4K video recording
Front camera: 8 MP
BSI sensor with f/2.0 aperture
1080p video recording
Power saving mode
Extreme power saving mode
Quick Charge 3
Ambient light sensor
Sensor Hub for activity tracking
USB Type-C (3.1)
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Streaming media from the phone to compatible
AirPlay, Chromecast, DLNA, and Miracast devices
GPS + AGPS, GLONASS
- 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
- 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
- HSDPA 42, HSUPA 5.76
- FDD: Bands 1,3,4,5,7,8,12,17,20,28,32
- TDD: Bands 38,39,40,41
- 2CA, 3CA, 4CA and 4x4 MIMO
- Support Cat 15 LTE: downloads up to 800Mbps, uploads up to 150Mbps
- VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling (where supported)
HTC USonic with Active Noise Cancellation
HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition
3D audio recording with 4 microphones
Hi-Res audio certified
USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter with integrated DAC
Supports aptX HD, LDAC 24-bit codecs
Android 8.0 Oreo with HTCSense
HTC Edge Sense
HTC Sense Companion
Dimensions and weight
158.5 x 74.9 x 8.5 mm
While it’s tempting to see the HTCU11 Plus as little more than a U11 with a different aspect ratio and a larger battery, HTChas carefully added in enough extra “pluses” to make it a worthwhile mid-term successor. The increased screen real estate and battery capacity, new gestures, Edge Sense launcher, navigation shortcuts, more RAM and storage, louder audio, and manifold benefits of Android Oreo make it definitely worth checking out if you can get your fingerprints on it. Stay tuned for the full HTCU11 Plus review and share your thoughts in the comments below.