Battery life

  • Fair video playback performance
  • Better real-world stamina
  • Full day of heavy use, 1.5 days of light use

One of the so-so parts of the older HTC U11 is its battery. It isn't bad but can't keep up with the best of the flagships with which it competes.

HTC has improved things a little with the HTC U11 Plus. It has a 3,930mAh battery, which seems about right for the display size and resolution.

The phone also performs a little better in our standard 90-minute, max brightness video playback test. It took 22% off the HTC U11's battery, and 20% off our HTC U11 Plus.

It's an improvement, but not as good as most of the rivals. The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus loses 11%, the OnePlus 5T 12%, the Honor View 10 15%.

Performance out in the real world doesn't quite display such a massive disparity, though. On a busy midweek day of use we found the HTC U11 Plus tended to have around 30-40% left by bedtime.

While the last wave of phones has seen some real improvements to actual stamina, we'd still class that as a commendable result. And on a less phone-packed Saturday, we found we could easily end up with 50% left by 11pm-midnight.

The HTC U11 Plus isn't the longest-lasting phone in its class. But it'll last through a solid day's use with a bit of change in the tank if you forget to plug it in overnight.

There are no particularly clever battery optimisations, though, just the usual ones. Some recent phones let you change the screen resolution to save some juice. The HTC U11 Plus doesn't.

Camera

  • Excellent photo quality, including low light
  • Suffers from shutter/processing lag
  • No second rear camera for background blur or zoom

The HTC U11 Plus has a 12MP rear camera with a dual-LED flash and optical image stabilization (OIS). It's a reminder the best phone cameras use this resolution, even if there are sensors with 20 megapixels or more.

Images are sharp right down to pixel level, and daylight photos look superb. They're detailed, colorful, dynamic range is great and there's no evidence of HTC's historic problem with overexposure.

Night shots too are great, which is something you don't tend to get in most of the £400-500 alternatives. While low-light images are naturally noisier than day-lit ones, the amount of detail the HTC U11 Plus retains is excellent, and as the rear camera is stabilized getting sharp images is blissfully easy.

The HTC U11 Plus often makes very dark scenes look brighter than they appear to the naked eye, in order to bring out more detail. But it doesn't make them look too unnatural when doing so.

The HDR mode is also excellent. You can shoot a sunset, right into the sun itself, and the foreground won’t be entirely shadowy.

For pure image quality we have no complaints. And the hit rate you get with this phone is among the best, although colour temperature can vary a little between exposures.

The problem with the HTC U11 Plus's camera is shooting performance. There's half a second shutter lag between hitting the button and the exposure. It feels much slower than a phone camera this expensive should.

This lag gets worse in low light. We hope this will improve with a further software update, but we had the same issue with the HTC U11, and that wasn't exactly yesterday.

There's the simplicity of the camera to consider too. There's just the one sensor on the back, so you don’t get shallow depth of field effects or lossless zooming.

Still, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus has the same single-camera approach. And if your stand-out feature is image quality, you're on the right track.

You can also shoot video at up to 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps, and there are some neat audio tricks. Multiple mics let you record "3D" audio. Listening through a pair of headphones, the positional effect is great considering this is a phone not a field recorder, and so is general audio recording quality.

Judging by our experience with the HTC 11, it'll even do the trick for loud rock gigs.

The front camera has an 8MP sensor, down from a 16MP one in the HTC U11. That sounds like a huge downgrade, but the HTC U11 Plus’ selfies are actually great.

They resolve fine details like facial hairs better than some 13MP selfie cameras, and as the camera isn’t overburdened with megapixels (which with lower sensor surface area tends to cause poorer low light performance) you don't lose this when shooting indoors either.

Camera samples

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With indoor lighting there's still excellent detail and minimal noise.

With indoor lighting there's still excellent detail and minimal noise.

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While these indoor exposures may look slightly dim in parts, it’s because the U11 Plus has tried to avoid overexposing the ceiling lights too much.

While these indoor exposures may look slightly dim in parts, it’s because the U11 Plus has tried to avoid overexposing the ceiling lights too much.

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The HTC U11 Plus’s colour reproduction is natural, ready for you to ruin completely with a filter.

The HTC U11 Plus’s colour reproduction is natural, ready for you to ruin completely with a filter.

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This would have been a good scene for a shallow depth of field effect, not possible with the HTC U11 Plus.

This would have been a good scene for a shallow depth of field effect, not possible with the HTC U11 Plus.

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Like the best 12MP phone cameras, the HTC U11 Plus’s pics appear sharp even down at pixel level.

Like the best 12MP phone cameras, the HTC U11 Plus’s pics appear sharp even down at pixel level.

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There’s some overexposure here, but it’s a worthwhile pay-off for what is a very clear, sharp night scene. And you can manually dial down exposure if you like.

There’s some overexposure here, but it’s a worthwhile pay-off for what is a very clear, sharp night scene. And you can manually dial down exposure if you like.

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Even at night you can get excellent photo detail. The gravel between the tracks is clear when zoomed into.

Even at night you can get excellent photo detail. The gravel between the tracks is clear when zoomed into.

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This scene may look dim, but was actually even darker to the naked eye. Bring up the levels further in Photoshop and you’ll also see more obscured detail and colour information, proving the quality of the sensor.

This scene may look dim, but was actually even darker to the naked eye. Bring up the levels further in Photoshop and you’ll also see more obscured detail and colour information, proving the quality of the sensor.

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The clarity of the tiny branches in this photo shows what the combo of OIS and a high-quality sensor gets you.

The clarity of the tiny branches in this photo shows what the combo of OIS and a high-quality sensor gets you.

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Nice balanced colour and minimal sign of over-aggressive processing up close.

Nice balanced colour and minimal sign of over-aggressive processing up close.

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The HTC U11 Plus’s HDR mode is great for setting sun scenes like this.

The HTC U11 Plus’s HDR mode is great for setting sun scenes like this.

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A clean image with no oversaturation of reds or blues: great stuff.

A clean image with no oversaturation of reds or blues: great stuff.

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Testament to the HTC U11 Plus’s dynamic range, this overcast image could look a lot duller than it does.

Testament to the HTC U11 Plus’s dynamic range, this overcast image could look a lot duller than it does.

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