HTC’S NEW U ULTRA ANDROID PHONE EMPLOYS A NOVEL DUAL-DISPLAY DESIGN,
BUT DOES IT JUSTIFY ITS PREMIUM PRICE TAG?
[ JAMES PECKHAM ]
Android 7.0; 5.7-inch Super LCD5 display @ 1440p; 2.05-inch secondary display @ 160 x 1,040-pixels; quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU; Adreno 530 GPU; 64GB onboard storage; microSD slot up to 256GB; dual-SIM (4G/LTE and 2G/3G); 162.4 x 79.8 x 8mm; 170g
WHILE THE NEW HTC U Ultra isn’t quite a flagship product for the Taiwanese phone maker, it still packs some impressive specs — and the company is obviously hoping it may tempt fans into upgrading before the upcoming HTC 11 launches. So does the HTC U Ultra do enough differently to stand out from the rest of the crowd and, more importantly, justify its premium price tag? The headline feature of the U Ultra is its dual-screen design. The primary display is a gorgeous Super LCD5 5.7-inch display with a QHD resolution — that’s 2,560 x 1,440 pixels — while the smaller 2.05-inch display has a resolution of 160 x 1,040 and displays a series of apps in a similar fashion to the second screen on the LG V20. This can be useful for note taking or Spotify integration due to the immediate access of controls and constant display of reminders.
Another highlight of the U Ultra is a new AI feature called HTC Sense Companion (HSC) which, among other things, will work out your favorite people, offer power-saving suggestions based on your daily schedule, and check whether you really want that meeting reminder to go off when it’s a national holiday.
The HTC U Ultra’s ‘liquid surface’ back design combines glass and metal, appearing as either a single block color or pearlescent, depending on how the light plays off it, and it looks pretty stunning from afar.
The subtle curve of the phone is nice to hold in the palm, allowing for a better grip than you might expect, although its lightweight design ultimately means it lacks satisfying heft and its larger width may inconvenience those with smaller hands.
HTC is renowned for its quality front facing speakers but, like the headphone port, these are missing from the U Ultra, which is disappointing, considering HTC’s superior audio capabilities in previous phones.
Under the hood is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor backed up by 4GB of RAM, although running the phone through bench marking software, we found it returned an average score of 3,851. That’s OK for a mid-range phone, but it’s not really strong enough considering the price of the U Ultra, and it pales in comparison to the HTC 10 (4,962) and Samsung Galaxy S7 (6,542). There’s a 3,000mAh battery here powering that large QHD screen and highend processor, and we’re disappointed HTC didn’t opt for a larger cell as the phone would regularly die off towards the end of the day.
The 12MP rear sensor is remarkably similar to the HTC 10’s camera, which we didn’t exactly fall in love with. We found that auto mode made for darker pictures, and the autofocus wasn’t fantastic. The front-facing camera is a big upgrade over the HTC 10 and the 16MP sensor is even bigger than the U Ultra’s rear shooter, offering video recording at Full HD, as well as an autoHDR mode.
In the end, the U Ultra is a phone that doesn’t really know where it sits in the market, and it’s hard to fathom who it was built for. It takes a lot of what made the HTC 10 a great device and sprinkles on a little extra, but the design is very different, and it all comes at a higher price.