HTC U Ultra review: Tall phone comes up short where it matters

While its large screen is a great asset, HTC’s latest flagship falls short of its high-end competitors.

While its large screen is a great asset, HTC’s latest flagship falls short of its high-end competitors. Courtesy HTC
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HTC’s U Ultra is the first of a series of seriously large smartphones to hit the market in 2017, sporting an eye-popping (and hand-stretching) 5.7-inch display. But while that screen is a great asset, HTC’s latest flagship sadly falls short of its high-end competitors.

Its glass and metal body gives the U Ultra a premium feel in the hand. Care and attention definitely went into the phone’s crafting, even if for me the bulging rear-mounted camera spoils the effect a little.

The U Ultra’s highlight is undoubtedly its Quad HD LCD display. It’s up there with the best on the market, with thick, rich colours that are bright enough to see outdoors.

HTC has also taken a leaf out of the LG V20’s book and included a two-inch display on top of the main screen. As with the V20, this can be customised to display contact shortcuts, notifications, upcoming calendar appointments and so on. But also as with the V20, it’s a nice if not essential feature, one which arguably makes the phone a little bigger than it needs to be.

While the displays do the U Ultra credit, it is let down in other areas. Crucially, it lacks the advanced water and dust resistance of new flagships like the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8, which feels like a serious oversight for what likewise is supposed to be a flagship device.

Also absent is a 3.5mm headphone socket, as per the Moto Z and iPhone 7. That’s not a problem, apart from the fact that only HTC’s (perfectly fine) USB-C headphones will work with the phone, with third-party wired alternatives not an option. And while you can use your existing headphones, the requisite adaptor is not included in the box, as it is with the iPhone.

These would be minor complaints for a phone of Dh2,000 or less. But at Dh2,499 the U Ultra is competing against flagships like the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6. In spite of its nice design and great screen, its lack of water­proofing and headphone issues mean it falls short of the standard it needs to reach.

Q&A: Other big-screen choices

John Everington expands on the U Ultra:

Size matters, it seems. So what other big-screen options are coming out soon?

The soon-to-be-launched LG G6, like the U Ultra, comes with a 5.7-inch display, but sits a bit more comfortably in the hand. If you’re after an extra tenth of an inch, go for the 5.8-inch (also soon to be launched) Samsung Galaxy S8. That phone’s big brother, the Galaxy 8+, comes with a 6.2 inch display. And if you want to go even further, you could revisit last year’s 5.9-inch Huawei Mate 9, or Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro, with a frankly ludicrous 6.4-inch screen.

5.7 inches is fine for the mom­ent. What about the U Ultra’s cameras?

Snapchatters and narcissists can rejoice. The U Ultra’s 16MP front-facing camera captures very vibrant selfies, and records in full HD. The (slightly protuding) rear 12MP camera is fine for the most part, although shots are a little unfocused.

I’m guessing such a big phone must need a very powerful battery?

Actually no. Its 3,000 mAh battery has the same capacity as the Galaxy S8’s battery and compares with the LG G6 at 3,300 mAh and Galaxy S8+ at 3,500 mAh. The U Ultra comfortably lasted for a day or more on a single charge.

And what colours does the HTC U Ultra come in?

“Sapphire” blue, “Brilliant” black, “Ice” white, and, ahem, “Cosmetic” pink.

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