HTC U Ultra Review
HTC U Ultra
HTC U Ultra – With its 5.7″ screen, next generation intelligence and sophisticated liquid surface, the U Ultra phablet is made for U.
Featuring a convenient new dual display, an adaptive sound system and a personal companion that gets to know you.
Just to be clear, this is not a bad phone by any stretch of the imagination. In this day and age, it is getting harder and harder to find a phone that is truly poor, but we’ve also gotten to the point where factors like unique features and value for money are what make for compelling smartphones, and unfortunately, the HTC U Ultra doesn’t quite fit the bill.
The phone comes with high-end specifications, a really eye catching design, and a solid camera, but the small battery and the lack of a headphone jack are questionable choices at best. It is also missing features that are becoming increasingly standard, like wireless charging and dust/water resistance. That would all be fine if not for the $750 price tag that is extremely hard to justify, and makes the phone far less accessible to consumers. It is a price point that only diehard HTC fans would be willing to bear, and while this may the phone for U, it certainly isn’t the one for me.
For as many steps as HTC takes in the right direction, it can’t help but shoot itself in the foot with a few big goof-ups. The U Ultra is a relatively attractive handset that comes with a nice assortment of extras (like that case and the really good-sounding earbuds), has solid performance, a boatload of local storage, and offers a decently satisfying camera.
But it’s still a phone that feels too large for its own hardware, one that seriously skimps on battery capacity, and comes up a little half-baked in the software department.
Maybe the biggest oversight HTC’s making with the release of the U Ultra is its pricing, and how the phone’s positioned in the company’s lineup. After spending a week using the HTC U Ultra, the phone still feels like a hold-over until the manufacturer is ready to introduce a proper 2017 flagship: a phone with a more accessible size, with better battery life, and hopefully maybe even one with a more bleeding-edge choice of processor.
Despite all this, HTC is trying to sell the U Ultra like it’s the end-all, be-all, can’t-be-topped model in the company’s stable, asking a preposterous $750 for the handset. While it’s a good phone, that’s a level reserved for the very best of the best, and we just can’t see the U Ultra fitting in amongst such heavyweights.
If HTC only approached the U Ultra with a slightly, slightly different set of priorities, this handset could have been a real win, and help hold us over until the more obvious HTC 10 follow-up is ready to land. For now, though, this is just one phone that’s really tricky to recommend. There are too many compromises, and too much other competition that’s more worthy of your smartphone-buying dollar.
Overall, we’ve tried to be as objective as we can with this review. On its own, the HTC U Ultra is a gorgeous device, with one of the best screens I’ve used, and an awesome camera combo..
Sadly the problem is that it doesn’t live on its own. For a whopping $750, you don’t have water resistance, its design is larger than the newest competitors, and all the while dropping essentials like a headphone jack. There’s this whole argument of AI being essential to this phone, but as it stands, e haven’t been able to prove if this is actually useful or not.
For die hard HTC fans this will be the most beautiful HTC 10 you can buy, and I actually didn’t get the name of the device wrong. This is sadly an HTC 10 covered in another shell. It’s as beautiful as can be, but sadly too late to make headlines in 2017.
When we take a look at the phones that you can buy today for Rs. 20,000 – 45,000, it’s really hard to justify spending just under Rs. 60,000 on something like the HTC U Ultra. It looks unique and has a fabulous camera, but how much are those things really worth? For that kind of money, the Google Pixel and iPhone 7 series seem like better all-rounders, even though they’re both several months old now. There’s also the fact that the LG G6, Samsung Galaxy S8, and other 2017 flagships will be launching soon – plus of course, models that won’t be announced till the Snapdragon 835 is ready.
HTC itself might still pull an HTC 11 flagship out of its hat later this year. Everything points to the fact that the U Ultra has been released because HTC needs to keep people interested in what is typically flagship season.
The U Ultra is meant for buyers who don’t have any budget limitations and don’t care about detailed specifications. It’s a statement piece, and as such, it succeeds. It does score well for its design, display, and camera, but subjectively, you don’t get a lot of the finesse that you do with other existing phones. With its awkward second screen, overall bulk and ordinary battery life, and with a marquee feature like Sense Companion up in the air, it’s very hard to recommend this phone at this price. If you do care about getting the most bang for your buck, our best advice is to wait at least a month or go with one of the more established options.
I can’t stress this enough: The HTC U Ultra is not a bad device. It’s beautiful, well-built and plays home to a lot of good ideas. I think HTC was right to build a big phone, and the way it wants to subtly integrate an AI assistant into that second screen is genuinely smart. It’s just unfortunate that the good ideas here have been obscured by bad design decisions and what seems to be a terminal a lack of focus. Now, it’s very, very possible we’ll see another flagship phone from HTC before the year is over. For the company’s sake, I hope it takes a hard look at what the U Ultra does and doesn’t get right before it bothers to release its next big thing.
The HTC 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.
The lack of powerful speakers and an overtly premium design don’t help the U Ultra to shine, though, and it’s a little disappointing that HTC hasn’t just super-sized the metal HTC 10 with a larger display.
As phablets go, the U Ultra gets a lot right. The 821 CPU’s time as Qualcomm’s flagship processor is coming to an end, but it still offers great performance. The phone’s screen is also excellent. The lack of phablets currently on the market means it’s a compelling option for fans of big handsets.
But it gets a few too many basics wrong for me. The U Ultra’s battery life isn’t good enough and its camera doesn’t match competing handsets in the post-£600 price point, such as the Huawei P10 Plus. As a result it’s tough to recommend to anyone but the most ardent of HTC or phablet fans.
The U Ultra is a fully capable device. The 5.7-inch Quad HD display is gorgeous, the speakers are loud and the fingerprint sensor is fast. The camera is decent and while the Snapdragon 821 processor may not be the latest and greatest, the phone’s performance was never an issue. It all comes down to the price and size of the device. It’s simply too big to hold comfortably and too expensive for what it offers. When you pay a premium price, you expect premium features. This isn’t the case with the U Ultra.
The HTC U Ultra is a fine phone and we enjoyed our time with it. But we had to return our review unit and we’d be reluctant to pay HTC’s asking price to get it back. You see, the U Ultra picked a fight with some of the best 2016 flagships and didn’t win. And the 2017 flagships are already arriving. And we’d forgive all of that if the price was decent – what HTC is charging is not going to fly – not on the enthusiast’s market where the top-dollar purchases are made.