HTC U Ultra phone: full, in-depth review
HTC’s new flagship Android smartphone looks amazing but what else?
- Looks stunning
- Fast at everything
- Good audio features
- No headphone jack
HTC's flagship phone brings some interesting features to the top of the market including great looks and 24-bit audio. But there's better value elsewhere.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
Best Deals (Selling at 1 store)
Update: Before you choose a phone, check out the amazing Samsung Galaxy S8 review.
Phone aficionados have a soft spot for HTC. The company’s hardware almost always seems to be very well made and only occasionally tainted by dodgy software or pricing. Here’s the new HTC U Ultra. It’s a bit of a tongue twister to say out loud, but you only need to glimpse at it to see how it’s one of the prettiest phones around… probably ever. But the premium phone market has some amazing choices including the Google Pixel XL, the Huawei Mate 9, the iPhone 7 and the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S8. So where does this sit on an impressive list?
5.7in, 1440 x 2560 LCD screen, secondary screen 2in, 160 x 1040 LCD, 64,128GB/4GB RAM, Quad-core Snapdragon 821 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU, 12MP rear and 16MP front cameras, microSD (dual SIM slot on some models), USB-C, no headphone jack, 24-bit audio, Android 7, 3000mAh battery, 162 x 80 x 8mm, 170g. Full specs here.
Handling and Design
We keep raving about the colourful, metallic finish of the U Ultra, but just look at it. It’s actually a curved glass finish constructed from Corning’s ‘super tough’ Gorilla Glass 5 - on the 64GB model. The 128GB model goes one step further and is finished in a premium-watch like Sapphire Crystal.
We didn’t have the heart to drop test it but doubtless some videos will appear on YouTube over the coming weeks. The finish rivals, if not surpasses, Apple’s Jet Black special-edition glossy variant and, unlike the glassy (and explodey) Samsung Galaxy Note 7, sticks to your hand and isn’t as slippery as a fish. HTC also bundles a clear plastic case to add some protection while letting you still see the chassis. We preferred to use the phone without it but if you’re dropping a load of money on this, it’s a good idea to protect it somehow.
One concern we do have is for the protruding camera lens. Without a case you’ve got to choose between scraping the front screen or the camera when putting it on a table. Hmm.
It’s a deceptively-large phone. Despite being only 8mm thick at 162mm in length it’s one of the largest on the market. There’s not much wasted space above and below the screens though. At the bottom is a function button which doubles as a fast fingerprint reader and directly above the main, 5.7-inch screen is a 2in secondary screen. If you’ve small hands or don’t like phablet-like big phones, this probably isn’t for you – but if you like the look of it, check out the smaller-yet-similar, single-screened HTC U Play, which we’ll be reviewing soon.
We’re normally suspicious of second screen-like features as they can be gimmicky, not very useful and battery vampires. However, the U Ultra’s can be genuinely useful. It shows you notifications without waking the whole phone up, there are many different apps and shortcuts that it can display and it offers a high resolution and looks good. The fact we used it and didn’t want to turn it off speaks volumes. The exception here is with the Highlights news feed content, which we found as annoying as every other smartphone news/information service. We’d turn that off moving forward.
The main screen is as crisp and vibrant as we’d expect from an Ultra High Definition LCD screen and we’ve no complaints there. Ultimately, beyond the ability to customise themes, there’s little here that doesn’t feel like a native Android 7 phone in general usage. That’s no bad thing.
The processor is the Snapdragon 821 (with Adreno 530 graphics chip) which is the same as the Android Flagship, Google Pixel XL. As such everything flies along as fast as you’d hope and responsiveness is almost instant.
Audio quality is something HTC raves about and usually for good reason. The BoomSound system is back here which includes 24-bit audio compatibility but there are caveats. Firstly, there’s no headphone jack... FFS. In a phone this big there’s surely not much excuse for it to be missing and hopefully this fashion trend will be short lived. There's no 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter either. HTC does, however, include a USB-C-connected pair of 24-bit earbuds. Naturally, you can’t charge the phone while using them, unless you find a compatible adaptor from somewhere.
When you first plug in your earbuds the phone's 'USonic' feature will offer to ‘tune’ them to your ear canal in order to enhance audio quality. Whatever it does at this point, whether it's smoke and mirrors or bona fide science, the quick tests it runs deliver up some noticeable audio improvements which you can test by turning the enhancements off and on while a test track plays. There’s even a graph.
Whenever you subsequently play music, USonic tells you that it's performing a (very) quick background noise check to ensure that 'sound levels are balanced.'
However, for those wanting the loud-and-clear external speaker performance of previous HTC devices, it’s not here this time. While the external speaker does get quite loud the treble tops-out and distorts quickly and there’s next-to-no, bass-rich punch. If you miss this feature, those around you might be grateful.
The U Ultra also has four different microphones for recording. It helps make the U Ultra particularly good for conference calls and recording audio with video.
Next Camera, Battery Life and Conclusion
Join the newsletter!
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 14
cloudandco Smart Cane
WD MY PASSPORT™ Gaming Storage
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
Nespresso Creatista Coffee Machine
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
Apple iPhone X
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
Toys for Boys
Google Daydream View VR Headset
Bose SoundLink Micro
LaCie Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive
Propel Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Drone
Lego Mindstorms EV3
Onyx Smart Walkie Talkie
Leica M10 Digital Rangefinder Camera
Ubiquiti Network’s Front Row Camera
UBTech First Order Stormtrooper Robot
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
Belkin Pocket Power 10,000mAh
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
Xbox One X
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
Fallout Geeki Tikis
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
3SIXT 3-in-1 Smartphone Lens Kit
Logitech Doodle Collection Wireless Mouse
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Fitbit Ionic review: Impressive but not quite iconic
- 2 Acer Spin 5 review: Value for money but conditions apply
- 3 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: A solid winter flagship that cribs from the best
- 4 Sony LF-S50G review: Google Assistant and then some
- 5 Google Pixel 2 review: not quite 'pixel perfect' but damn close
Latest News Articles
- Technology predictions for 2018 and beyond
- Steam is selling Papers, Please for $2 today
- Final Fantasy XV's PC port needs up to 155GB of storage space
- CES 2018: Hisense's 2018 TV Lineup Is 'A Whole Other Story' For Australians
- Garmin Announces New Vivofit 4
PCW Evaluation Team
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
- CES 2018: Belkin go big on wearables accessories
- CES 2018: Alcatel Embrace 18:9 Aspect Ratio In 2018
- OPPO Load Up A73 Smartphone With Flagship Features
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- FTNetwork Technical Specialist L3 x 2 ? Large Telco ? 6 month contract initiallyNSW
- CCTest Analyst - Port Macquarie NSWNSW
- FTSenior Java DeveloperNSW
- TP3 x Change and Adoption Managers | Health | 12 month contractsQLD
- FTIT Field TechnicianNSW
- FTNetwork Engineering Team Lead/Network ManagerACT
- TPSystem AnalystACT
- FTIT Contracting & Licensing AnalystOther
- CCNetwork Technical Specialist L3 x 2 ? Large Telco ? 6 month contract initiallyNSW
- CCCloud EngineerNSW
- CCNetwork Engineer (Juniper)NSW
- CCJunior to Mid-level DeveloperQLD
- FTCRM Solution ArchitectACT
- FTiOS DeveloperWA
- CCMachine Learning SpecialistNSW
- FTSolution Architect- SAP S/4 HANA - Orange NSWOther
- CCSenior Project ManagerNSW
- FTFront-End DeveloperSA
- FTPega DeveloperACT
- FTBusiness Analyst - Operational Performance ReportingOther
- CCApplications Development Delivery LeadVIC
- FTSenior Solution Architect - Data CentreACT
- CCSecurity SpecialistQLD
- CCIteration Lead - Telco - Melbourne CBDVIC
- FTUX Design Manager (Urgent!!)Other