- Solid performance
- Minimal bloatware
- Good screen
- Poor battery life
- Camera doesn't match the competition
- Feels cheap
- Review Price: £649.00
- 5.7-inch quad-HD display
- Secondary 2-inch display
- AI software
- USB-C headphones included
- Android 7
- Up to 256GB storage
- 12-megapixel, f/1.8 camera
- 3D audio
What is the HTC U Ultra?
The two most noteworthy are the addition of a secondary screen on the phone’s top, as well as a new Sense AI feature that will let the phone learn your usage habits and automatically take actions on your behalf.
The features are interesting, but sadly the U Ultra ultimately fails to fully deliver because it doesn’t get basic things right, such as battery life and camera performance.
HTC U Ultra – Design
HTC is a company that prides itself on design and its flagship metal One-series smartphones have, in my opinion, always been beautiful devices. That’s why I’m a little disappointed by the U Ultra, which feels like the ugly duckling of HTC’s line.
HTC’s ditched the full-metal frame design it’s famous for and opted for a glass back. This would be fine if the glass had the classy feel of that on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but it doesn’t. The back feels more like plastic than glass and is an outright smudge magnet. It also feels a little flimsy and there’s a noticeable amount of flex when you press on it with even moderate force. This isn’t a handset I’d expect to survive any serious accidental drop or bump.
Related: Galaxy S8+ hands-on
I’m also not impressed that HTC’s once again not loaded the phone with a headphone jack – a move that will force buyers to invest in wireless headphones or rely on the USB-C set included in the U Ultra’s box. It’s a small quibble, but as someone who regularly listens to music using a wired set while charging my phone, the lack of a 3.5mm jack is an annoyance.
The omission of a microSD slot is another minor annoyance, though personally I imagine the 64GB seen on the basic Gorilla Glass model and 128GB of internal space on the flashier Sapphire Crystal version will be more than enough for most users.
These issues aside, in hand the device isn’t terrible. Though the back does rapidly become slippery when wet – an issue in rainy Britain – the U Ultra’s 8mm thickness and 170g weight make it comfortable to hold and skinny jean-friendly, despite the dimensions necessary for that 5.7-inch screen.
The front-facing fingerprint scanner also performs admirably and proved consistently reliable throughout testing; although like all fingerprint readers, it doesn’t work particularly well in the rain.
Related: Best smartphones 2017
HTC U Ultra – Display
The U Ultra’s dual-screen setup is one of its headline features. The system works in a similar way to the twin-display setup seen on the LG V10 and V20 and places a secondary 2-inch screen over the U Ultra’s primary 5.7-inch 1440p panel.
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The display will show notifications and shortcuts for things like apps and contacts. It’ll also occasionally pop up application-specific controls for things like Music, which is pretty useful. The ability to customise it to offer quick shortcuts to contacts and applications is also a nice touch, although the U Ultra’s phablet dimensions make reaching the top screen a bit of a challenge for people with small hands.
The primary display is also pretty good. The 1440p resolution ensures text and icons look uniformly sharp. The Super LCD 5 panel also offers reasonably realistic-looking colours that don’t look too cool or too warm. Blacks aren’t the inkiest I’ve seen, especially when compared to AMOLED panels, but they’re far from terrible.
Related: Galaxy S8 hands-on
My only criticisms are that whites aren’t quite as clean as I’d like on a phone in this price bracket and the screen’s maximum brightness is a little low. Whites aren’t terrible, but they have a grey/reddish tinge that becomes particularly noticeable when viewing the display at even a moderate angle.
The phone’s brightness is up to scratch for use indoors, but the low maximum becomes evident the moment you try and use it in brightly lit areas. In areas with bright lamps, and in the outdoors, the phone rapidly becomes reflective and hard to use, even with the brightness cranked. This isn’t helped by the auto-brightness setting’s sluggish response time.