HTC U Ultra review

A large phone that doubles its screens

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Interface and reliability

  • Android 7 software packed in with Sense UI laying over the top

HTC has packed Android 7 Nougat into the U Ultra, with its own Sense UI over the top to give it a unique flavor, and though the phone hasn’t since been updated to Android Oreo, security updates have remained regular.

Sense UI has a simple interface that makes everything easy to find, although it will feel slightly different if you were using a stock Android phone before.

A lot of the features here are Android 7’s, with a few of HTC’s bells and whistles added, which means you can use all the benefits of HTC’s UI without having to put up with a lack of customization, as you would on devices that run stock software.

One of the UI options Sense enables is news on your home screen. It uses a service called News Republic, which will source stories to your taste for you to see when you unlock your phone.

HTC’s Blinkfeed is also here to give you a full rundown of your day, with social media and news updates available via a flick of your finger.

When you’re on the home screen you can scroll left and see the highlights of all the services you’ve connected to Blinkfeed – you can see popular Facebook posts, tweets or even news stories, again courtesy of News Republic. Sadly, it is impossible to receive news from other sources, which may not sit well with some.

If you want a quick distraction and can’t decided which social media channel to use, Blinkfeed can be a useful little tool.

Movies, music and gaming

  • No 3.5mm headphone jack may be a problem for some
  • Limited speaker tech, unlike other HTC phones
  • Nice big display for playing games and watching video

Media playback is likely to be a sticking point for some people who would otherwise be interested in the HTC U Ultra. As on the iPhone 7, Moto Z and some other phones there’s no traditional headphone port on the U Ultra, so your regular wired headphones won’t work with this phone.

You’ll instead have to opt for a Bluetooth headset or use HTC earbuds, which are included in the box. These connect to the USB-C port at the bottom of the phone, meaning you won’t be able to charge your phone and listen to music at the same time.

This will be a major issue for some, although when we connected our wireless headphones to the U Ultra it offered a solid connection which never dropped out.

HTC is renowned for its quality front-facing speakers, but, like the headphone port, these are missing from the U Ultra.

There’s no patented BoomSound technology as on the HTC 10. Instead there’s just one sound driver, meaning you lose a lot of the ‘oomph’ when listening to audio out loud.

If you’re looking for a phone that can just play the odd song, the U Ultra will suit you well as most phones on the market, but it’s disappointing considering HTC’s superior audio capabilities in previous phones, and we can’t see why it would omit decent speakers on a high-end phone. As with every bottom-firing speaker, the sound is very easy to muffle as well.

We found watching video on the U Ultra to be a very enjoyable experience, thanks mostly to the high-resolution and super-bright display creating a beautiful picture.

HTC doesn’t include its own video app, but if you want to play files directly from the phone’s storage you can launch a simple video player, while you’ve got Google Play Movies or YouTube for online content, and you can also download apps such as Netflix to enjoy movies on the go. 

Storage-wise you should be safe with the U Ultra, as it comes in 64GB and 128GB options. We had the 64GB for the purpose of this review, and even with HTC’s software onboard you’ve still got 53GB to fill up with media and apps.

If you’re a gamer the HTC U Ultra will suit your tastes whether you want to test out the odd puzzler or play the latest and greatest mobile titles.

We played a variety of games, and found everything to run smoothly. The likes of Pokemon Go did take a little while to load at some stages, but once it was up and running everything worked well.

Benchmarks and performance

  • Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM packed inside
  • Not phenomenal benchmarking scores though

Under the hood of the HTC U Ultra is a top-of-the-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor – although it won’t be top-of-the-range for long, as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and HTC 11 are due to launch shortly after the U Ultra, and both are rumored to have newer Snapdragon 825 processors on board.

This setup is still impressive though, especially as it’s back up by 4GB of RAM. That’s more than enough RAM to get you by, and when we were scooting around apps we found the U Ultra to be reliable, and able to keep up with everything we wanted to do.

Running the phone through benchmarking software, we found it returned an average score of 3851. That’s OK for a mid-range phone, but it’s not really strong enough considering the price of the U Ultra.

For example, the HTC 10, a phone with an older processor setup onboard, scored 4962 – and even that was a score we were disappointed with at the time, as the Galaxy S7 had just managed 6542 on the same test.

If you’re looking for decent power in your device you’ll want to go for either 2016's HTC 10 or any other flagship phone from 2017, such as the HTC U11, as you’ll get more impressive performance than you will from the U Ultra.

One thing that is noticeable, is that the U Ultra has a tendency to run hot, which may have implications for its longevity a few years down the line, but this may simply have been an issue with the review unit.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.