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HTC U11+ Hands-on Review: Big and Beautiful

HTC U11+ hands-on review: HTC just unveiled a successor the last year’s U Ultra phablet that expands upon the U11 family name and gives us a new, larger, taller screen, plus new Edge Sense functionality. Here’s what you need to know.

Assuming you missed the abundance of leaked imagery and hardware information that appeared online just days before its launch, HTC has just introduced its second 2017 flagship into the market with the U11+. As the name suggests this 6-inch smartphone looks to expand upon the excellent work that the company demonstrated with the HTC U11 by giving us its first device with an 18:9 aspect ratio display and some notable improvements over the already excellent U11 in other areas too.

HTC U11+ hands-on review: Specs at a glance

Screen size 6-inches (18:9 aspect ratio)
Screen resolution Quad HD+ (2880×1440)
Weight 188 grams
OS Android 8.0 Oreo w/ HTC Sense
Front camera 8-megapixels
Rear camera 12-megapixels
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Memory 4GB/6GB RAM
Storage 64GB/128GB w/ microSD expandability up to 2TB
Battery 3930mAh w/ QuickCharge 3.0
Extras IP68, Edge Sense, Edge Sense Launcher, Hi-Res audio certified, fingerprint sensor, HTC USonic w/ Active Noise Cancellation, NFC
Colours Ceramic Black, Translucent Black

The design, for the most part, appears as you’d expect, to be a scaled up U11 with a taller but narrower frame. The bezels either side of the new Quad HD+ Super LCD are slimmer, meaning it’s easy enough to hold despite its size, and the reduction of the phone’s chin and forehead mean the fingerprint sensor has been shifted around the back to below the camera.

Speaking of the camera, one area where HTC didn’t surprise us was with its decision to stick with the standard U11’s UltraPixel 3 12-megapixel primary snapper. Dual-camera fans might feel a little disheartened but as you’ll see from our original HTC U11 camera review the primary sensor that now graces the U11+ is more than capable of holding its own amongst the current smartphone crop.

It includes HTC’s own directional ‘acoustic focus’ audio capture capabilities, HDR Boost technology for shutter-lag-free HDR shooting by default and it leverages a combined optical and electronic image stabilisation (OIS + EIS) system to produce astounding low light shots and impressively smooth, stable video too.

One other area where it draws similarities to the standard U11 is with its chipset; powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 that almost every other flagship Android phone has opted for so far this year, accompanied by a whopping 6GB of RAM. There’s also a model coming to some markets with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage but us Brits can expect the beefier version with double the internal space out the gate.

There’s a reassuringly large 3930mAh battery in there paired with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 smarts. We’re hoping for almost two days of use per charge, bringing it inline with key rivals like Huawei’s new phablet.

All of the U11+ smarts are wrapped up in a more robust IP68-certified metal-framed glass body that comes in two colourways. There’s a Ceramic Black model at launch and, as with the original U11’s sought-after Solar Red skew, the U11+ will also be made available as an option dubbed Translucent Black, which as the name suggests features and actual tinted see-through glass back that lets you glimpse some components like the phone’s NFC coil. It’s one of the more outlandish finishes we’ve seen on a smartphone in recent memory and the one that fans of the brand will unlikely want to hold out for.

One notable change with the U11+ over the standard phone is the difference in user experience. HTC has always been reluctant to feature a scaling one-handed mode as you’d typically find on the likes of Samsung’s, Huawei’s and Motorola’s handsets but has worked to better accommodate one-handed usage on the U11+’s large screen by making a few considered interaction tweaks.

The Android Oreo-based user experience features an improved Edge Sense Launcher that integrates a new wheel interface which appears when the phone is squeezed. This can make accessing any chosen apps far more palatable with one hand, whilst the ability to swipe up to access the apps drawer and swipe down from anywhere on the homescreen to reveal the notifications pane is a huge improvement too.

HTC U11+ hands-on review: Pricing and availability

Whilst its launch sibling, the HTC U11 Life will hit pre-order on November 2nd, excited fans of the company’s newest phablet will have to remain patient until November 20th when the U11+ will be available to pre-order for £699 SIM-free, placing it squarely against Huawei’s latest Mate 10 Pro phablet and undercutting Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 by some £170.

HTC U11+ hands-on review video

Here’s our hands-on session with the new U11+ handset, revealing all of the specs and the best new features.

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