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HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Should I upgrade?

HTC just launched its first flagship phone of 2017, the seriously premium HTC U11, packing specs to rival any other mobile out there. So should owners of the excellent HTC 10 from 2016 consider an upgrade?

We’re still fans of the HTC 10, which remains our favourite HTC handset of recent times thanks to its solid all-round user experience. In fact, we’d pick it any day over the U Ultra and U Play, the first two mobiles launched by HTC in 2017. Those devices had their plus points but overall disappointed compared with rivals, leaving us wondering if the manufacturer was doomed to have a miserable year.

That is, until the tech giant launched the new HTC U11 just this week. The U11 offers mobile specs at the very top-end, to rival the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. That includes what one optics expert dubbed the best smartphone camera of all time, plus a funky ‘squeezable’ body that offers smart app shortcuts.

If you already own the HTC 10, the key question here is: should I upgrade to this new handset, or stick with what I have? To answer that query, here’s our full HTC U11 vs HTC 10 comparison review.

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Specs

Phone HTC 10 HTC U11
Screen size 5-inches 5.5-inches
Screen resolution WQHD (2560x1440) WQHD (2560x1440)
Weight 161g 169 grams
OS Android 7 (post-update) w/HTC Sense Android 7.1.1 w/ HTC Sense
Front camera 5-megapixel w/ f/1.8 aperture, OIS 16-megapixels w/ 150-degree wide-angle lens
Rear camera 12-megapixel PixelSense w/ f/1.8 aperture, laser autofocus, OIS & dual LED flash 12-megapixel PixelSense 3 w/ f/1.7 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus, EIS, OIS & dual LED flash
Processor 2.15GHz/1.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820 2.45GHz/1.9GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Memory 4GB RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 32/64G. Expandable via microSD 64GB. Expandable via microSD up to 2TB
Battery 3000mAh w/ Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 3000mAh w/ Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
Extras   IP67-certified, HTC USonic w/ active noise cancellation, Edge Sense, HTC Companion, Amazon Alexa

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Design

With the HTC 10, the Taiwanese manufacturer took few risks. Like previous flagships, this was a heavily armoured handset clad all in metal, for a robust if familiar finish.

This year’s HTC U11 is a big departure from the metallic design of the HTC 10. Instead you have a pillowed Gorilla Glass 5 finish, complete with a metallic edging that matches whichever colour you chose. You can opt for the usual unassuming black and silver finishes of course, but we’re big fans of the stand-out Solar Red model. It’s punchy and fun, like the Really Blue Google Pixel.

That redesigned frame makes for a slimmer device that feels great in the hand - helped in part by the very slender edge bezels. Whether you’ll prefer this glass build to the old metal one is of course down to your personal tastes, and it’s hardly a reason for upgrading from the HTC 10.

However, while last year’s handset wasn’t water resistant, the HTC U11 boasts an IP67 certification. In other words, you can dunk it in up to a metre of water for around half an hour with no ill effects. Great news if you can’t stand being without your blower in the bath.

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Screen and media

The HTC 10’s 5.2-inch Super LCD5 screen has been boosted to a 5.5-inch panel of the same design for this year’s U11 handset. However, other differences are minimal. You once again have a powerfully bright display packing a Quad HD resolution, for crisp and clear output. Visuals are pleasingly punchy and you can manually fiddle with colour gamut and warmth when required.

HTC has once again focused on audio quality for the U11. BoomSound speakers are back and this time boast a better frequency range, while HTC has kindly bundled a pair of USonic headphones with active noise cancellation and personalised tuning to match your ear shape. These plug directly into the USB Type-C port as there’s no headphone jack (unlike the original HTC 10), but you also get a 3.5mm adapter for older ‘phones, complete with an integrated amp for improved sound quality. Nice.

You can expand both the HTC 10 and HTC U11’s internal storage using a microSD memory card. The U11 comes with more storage as standard, as you might expect, with the base model packing 64GB of space compared with the HTC 10’s 32GB.

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Performance and battery tech

The HTC 10 is still a solid performer in 2017, thanks to its capable Snapdragon 820 processor backed by 4GB of RAM. We keep returning to this smartphone to use it as our personal blower and never notice any issues with the everyday experience. Check out our long-term HTC 10 review for more info.

Of course, the new HTC U11 offers a serious upgrade in the form of Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 chipset. This doesn’t just offer even faster performance compared with the HTC 10. You also enjoy reduced power consumption and much faster peak download speeds (up to 1Gbps).

Check out our Snapdragon 835 vs 821 comparison to see how these two chipsets truly stack up.

As for battery tech, the HTC 10 still delivers over a day of use between charges thanks to its 3000mAh cell. The U11 doesn’t boost the size of the battery and it keeps the same fast charge feature too (Qualcomm’s own Quick Charge 3.0). However, thanks to that upgraded chipset and general software improvements, HTC reckons you’ll get longer life with the U11. Stay tuned for our full review to see if that really is the case.

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Features

The HTC 10 has been updated to full Android Nougat now, which is the same OS that comes pre-installed on the new U11 handset. However, the U11 offers some strong new features not found on the older flagship.

For a start, you get the HTC Sense Companion to help out with your queries and everyday tasks. This assistant takes commands direct from your lips and offers intuitive hands-free operation, a step up from Google Now. This also includes integration with existing virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa. In fact, the U11 apes smart speakers such as Google Home and the Amazon Echo with its four always-on far-field mics.

HTC’s new Edge Sense tech is also on board, which allows you to control your U11 in a whole other way - namely, with a quick squeeze. A double-squeeze for instance allows you to open the camera app and take an instant shot. You’ll be able to customise these shortcuts too, for featuring your own favourite apps.

Both phones feature fingerprint sensors for swift, secure unlocking.

Read next: HTC 10 tips, tricks and best hidden features

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Cameras

The HTC 10 boasts a strong camera, which proved a solid enough rival to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and other smartphone snappers of 2016. However, the U11 once again appears to be a big step up, offering the best camera of any mobile around - according to DxO Labs, at least.

This third-gen UltraPixel camera offers Phase Detection Autofocus, which locks onto your subject quicker than the HTC 10’s laser autofocus. The wider aperture f/1.7 lens makes for brighter, cleaner low light shots and you once again have optical image stabilisation to keep things as blur-free as possible.

The HTC 10’s 5-megapixel selfie camera has also been boosted for the U11, with a new 16-megapixel lens in place.

If you’re super serious about your mobile photography and want the best possible results, the HTC U11 should satisfy, given our hands-on time with the device. However, if you simply want a device that can snap your everyday existence and do it well, the HTC 10 is more than up to the task. You can shoot 4K resolution home movies with either phone also.

HTC U11 vs HTC 10: Verdict

If you’re still happy with your HTC 10, we see no strong reason for upgrading to the HTC U11 in 2017. Last year’s flagship is still more than enjoyable as a full-time handset, with reliable performance, solid camera results and decent battery life.

Of course, the U11 is rather enticing with its Sense Companion and Edge Sense features as well as that impressive new camera tech. If you have the money to spare and demand the very best, HTC’s new 2017 handset will almost certainly be your ideal portable pal. Stay tuned for our in-depth HTC U11 review.

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