Less than half a year since HTC unveiled its U Ultra flagship, the company is back with a more powerful smartphone release – the HTC U11. Viewed as the company’s true 2017 flagship, let’s see how the hardware specs stack up against the new Samsung Galaxy S8, LG’s G6, the Huawei P10, and Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium.

It’s understood that limited availability of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 was a major factor in HTC and LG’s decisions to release Snapdragon 821-powered flagship phones a little earlier in the year. While very decent performers, the spec hungry customers out there have been waiting for the “real” processor upgrades before taking the plunge this year, and the HTC U11 is here to feed that need for ever faster smartphones.

 HTC U11Galaxy S8 / S8 PlusLG G6Xperia XZ PremiumHuawei P10 Plus
Display5.5-inch
QHD LCD
(2560x1440)
5.8-inch / 6.2-inch
QHD+ AMOLED
(2960x1440)
5.7-inch QHD+ LCD
(2880x1440)
5.5-inch 4K LCD
(3840x2160)
5.5-inch QHD LCD
(2560x1440)
SoCSnapdragon 835Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895Snapdragon 821Snapdragon 835Kirin 960
CPU4x 2.45 GHz Kryo 280 +
4x 1.7 GHz Kryo 280
4x 2.4 GHz Kryo 280 +
4x 1.7 GHz Kryo 280 or
4x 2.4 GHz Samsung M2 +
4x 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53
2x 2.35 GHz Kryo +
2x 1.6 GHz Kryo
4x 2.45 GHz Kryo 280 +
4x 1.9 GHz Kryo 280
4x 2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 +
4x 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53
GPUAdreno 540Adreno 540 or Mali-G71 MP20Adreno 530Adreno 540Mali-G71 MP8
RAM4 / 6GB4 GB4 GB4 GB4 / 6 GB
Storage64 / 128 GB64 GB32 / 64 GB64 GB64 / 128GB
MicroSD?YesYesYesYesYes

On the processing side, the inclusion of a Snapdragon 835 means that the HTC U11 will go head to head with the likes of Samsung’s latest Galaxy S8, Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium, and Xiaomi’s Mi 6 flagships. The octa-core nature of the chip offers up potential for some better power management and a performance boost to multithreaded situations, although day-to-day tasks will feel just as snappy even on last-gen hardware.

GPU performance will also see an uplift with the Snapdragon 835, up to 25 percent, and there are also a number of improvements to other components inside Qualcomm’s flagship platform too. The other benefit of the move to the 835 is the smaller 10nm processing node, which offers up energy and battery life improvements over last year’s 16 and 14nm chips. Not forgetting that the 835 also includes a faster and more powerful X16 LTE modem, which will result in faster data speeds and stronger connections on some networks.

On the memory side, 4GB RAM is now the norm across all of this year’s flagships and HTC’s latest fits right in here. The global model will also offer a 6GB RAM option in some regions, which is a number that we’ve seen prove popular in China and other Asia territories. However, it’s doubtful that the extra RAM will make any meaningful difference to performance.

On the processing side, the inclusion of a octa-core Snapdragon 835 means that the HTC U11 will go head to head with the likes of Samsung’s latest Galaxy S8, Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium, and Xiaomi’s Mi 6 flagships.

The HTC U11 is also a match for internal memory sizes that we’ve seen from other OEMs, with 64GB being the de facto standard. That’s more than you’ll get out of the box with some LG G6 models. However, HTC hasn’t said if it’s using UFS or eMMC memory, which might be for the best after the recent memory chip debacle. All of the phones on our list also support microSD cards, if you want extra space for media and whatnot, so there’s not a lot to choose between handsets here.

The final element on this part of the spec table is the display. HTC is sticking with LCD technology with the U11, leaving Samsung as still the biggest player using AMOLED, but the QHD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution is a match for other models. The Xperia XZ Premium’s 4K resolution, which is only enabled when displaying certain content, remains the highest resolution available in a smartphone, but we’re still not convinced by its purpose at this display size. If you’re looking for a slim, bezel-less display, then your best options are still the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6.

 HTC U11Galaxy S8 / S8 PlusLG G6Xperia XZ PremiumHuawei P10 Plus
Cameras12MP f/1.7 rear with OIS
16MP front
12 MP f/1.7 rear with OIS
8 MP f/1.7 front
Dual 13 MP f/2.4 & f/1.8 rear with OIS
5 MP f/2.2 front
19 MP rear with OIS and PDAF
13 MP front
Dual 12 & 20 MP f/1.8 rear with OIS and PDAF
8 MP front
Battery3,000 mAh3,000 / 3,500 mAh3,300 mAh3,230 mAh3,750 mAh
NFCYesYesYesYesYes
FingerprintYesYesYesYes (No in US)Yes
Fast ChargeQuick Charge 3.0YesQuick Charge 3.0Quick Charge 3.0 / Qnovo Adaptive ChargeSuperCharge
IP RatingIP67IP68IP68IP68No
3.5mm audioNoYesYesYesYes
ExtrasUSB Type-C, Boomsound Hi-Fi, HTC Connect, Hi Res audio, AI assistantsUSB Type-C, Bixby, Facial Recognition Wireless Charging, Samsung Pay, HDR displayUSB Type-C, Wireless Charging, HDR Display, Hi Res audioUSB Type-C, Hi Res audioUSB Type-C, Hi Res audio
OSAndroid 7.1Android 7.0Android 7.0Android 7.1Android 7.0

Moving on to the camera, historically sometimes a weak spot in HTC flagships, the HTC U11 seems to have made a number of improvements. Its updated UltraPixel technology can still be found in the rear sensor, sporting a familiar f/1.7 aperture and large 1.4 μm pixel size. Optical Image Stabilization is also common across all our flagships, ensuring smooth video and better low light pictures. The U11’s front facing camera has changed over to a 16 megapixel sensor, up from 5 megapixel in the HTC 10, but the same as the U Ultra. This offers a resolution that exceeds what’s on offer from other flagship phones, although we’ll have to do some testing to see if this extra resolution comes at the expense of extra noise.

It’s worth noting that DxOMark rates the HTC U11 rear camera very highly, putting it a notch above the likes of the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8. If this reflects real world results, this could make the U11 a very tempting phone to photography enthusiasts. We’ll wait to do some hands-on testing ourselves, but things are looking very competitive in the camera space.

On to the extras, where we can usually start telling most phones apart, and we certainly see that the HTC U11 is keeping up with the competition while introducing a few unique options of its own. For starters, Quick Charge 3.0 support, a fingerprint scanner, USB Type-C port, NFC, and Android 7.1 Nougat are all par for the course these days and the HTC U11 doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately the 3,000mAh battery size is a little smaller than other devices of a similar size, but it’s by no means an inadequate sized cell.

If you’re looking for a slim, bezel-less display, then your best options are still the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6.

HTC has hopped onto the water and dust resistance trend too, with the introduction of an IP67 rating for its case. While not quite as high a rating as the IP68 certification awarded to the Galaxy S8, LG G6, or Xperia XZ Premium, the HTC U11 will still handle water submersion for a limited time.

The audio side remains an area where the HTC U11 is determined to stand-out. The inclusion of Boomsound Hi-Fi speakers aims to offer a better sound clarity than others, the company’s proprietary HTC Connect technology can stream media to other devices, and the devices supports the playback of Hi-Res audio formats too. The lack of a 3.5mm jack departs from what we’ve seen from most other flagship manufacturers, but HTC is including a DAC-equipped Type-C to 3.5mm in the box to keep most headphone listeners happy.

Speaking of trends, HTC isn’t being left behind in the virtual assistant race either. In fact, the HTC U11 supports Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and the company’s own Sense Companion, depending on the region. Of course, Google Assistant is available on a number of phones, but the introduction of its own Sense Companion suggests that HTC is interested in competing with the likes of Samsung’s Bixby too. However, it appears that the Sense Companion is more limited than Samsung’s assistant, only offering up personalized recommendations rather than major integration into a number of apps. However, smart home users might find the inclusion of Alexa out of the box extra useful.

The HTC U11 has also introduced a first for the smartphone market – the company’s Edge Sense squeezable bezel technology. By squeezing the side of the phone, user’s can open up apps, along with a number of other customizations. We’ll have to see how useful this turns out to be, but it’s a neat little addition nonetheless and one that can’t be found elsewhere.

The final word

Based on the paper specs, the HTC U11 certainly keeps up with the competition, while the familiar design language and improvements to its unique technologies will keep long running fans happy. As usual, there’s little to tell the top-tier flagship apart in terms of hardware capabilities, and improvements to the U11’s camera and software features makes this an even tougher contest than last year. I’ll reserve judgement on the usefulness of Edge Sense, but the U11 is shaping up to be a fine phone.

The HTC U Ultra was a competitive flagship when it launched earlier in the year, even if it didn’t offer too many improvements over the HTC 10, and now the HTC U11 has arrived to quickly fill in the company’s range with the latest hardware and software trends. If you’re after the latest processing hardware, virtual assistant technology, and remain a fan of HTC’s design language, the U11 is certainly a flagship worthy of your consideration.

Robert Triggs

Lead Technical Writer covering SoCs, displays, cameras, and everything in between. In his spare moments you’ll find him building audio gadgets.