HTC has announced a new family of smartphones in the U range, designed to focus on delivering smartphones that serve you better, as their names suggest.

The U Ultra debuted alongside the mid-range U Play, and although the U Ultra isn't HTC's 2017 flagship, it offers a great design and specs that put it in Google Pixel XL territory. Here is how the U Ultra compares to the Pixel XL.

  • Both offer great designs with fingerprint sensor and USB Type-C
  • U Ultra is larger and heavier, but slimmer overall
  • Pixel XL retains headphone jack

The HTC U Ultra has a lovely unique design, offering a 3D contoured liquid surface and curved glass construction that is coloured with layered minerals for depth. There is a fingerprint sensor within the capacitive home button on the front, USB Type-C at the bottom and no headphone jack.

The Google Pixel XL also delivers a great design, constructed from a combination of glass and metal, with a glass panel serving the top third of the rear. There are no physical buttons on the front of the device, but a circular fingerprint sensor is present on the rear, USB Type-C at the bottom and the Pixel XL retains the 3.5mm jack.

The U Ultra is the slightly larger and heavier device, measuring 162.4 x 79.8mm with a curved rear between 3.6mm and 7.99mm and a weight of 170g. The Pixel XL by comparison measures 154.7 x 75.7mm, has a curved rear between 7.3mm and 8.5mm and hits the scales at 168g.

HTC's device comes in four colours, comprising black, blue, pink and white, though thanks to the minerals, each model looks different in different lighting. Google's phone on the other hand comes in two colours in the UK: Quite Black and Very Silver.

  • U Ultra has a larger display and Gorilla Glass 5
  • Secondary display on the U Ultra
  • Pixel XL has a sharper display and AMOLED

The HTC U Ultra has a 5.7-inch Super LCD 5 main display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution for a pixel density of 515ppi. It is protected by Gorilla Glass 5, though there will also be a special edition model that has sapphire glass protection.

A secondary display that HTC calls Dual Display is also present on the U Ultra, measuring 2.05-inches with a resolution of 1040 x 160. It sits at the top of the main display delivering notifications, calendar alerts, the time and other important information without interfering with the main display, much like the LG V20 does.

The Google Pixel XL keeps things simple with one display which is Super AMOLED and protected by Gorilla Glass 4. It is smaller than the U Ultra at 5.5-inches, but it has the same resolution, making it slightly sharper on paper with a pixel density of 534ppi.

  • Both have 12-megapixel rear cameras with 1.55µm pixels
  • U Ultra has OIS and wider aperture
  • Higher resolution camera on U Ultra

The HTC U Ultra has the same rear camera as the HTC 10, with a 12-megapixel sensor featuring 1.55µm pixels and an aperture of f/1.8. Optical image stabilisation is on board, combined with PDAF and laser autofocus, as well as a dual-tone LED flash.

The Google Pixel XL has a 12.3-megapixel with 1.55µm pixels too. It has a slightly narrower aperture than the U Ultra at f/2.0 and it misses out on OIS, but it does have PDAF and laser autofocus. It's not just about the specs though, the Google Pixel has one of the most highly regarded cameras in current Android phones. Although HTC matches on specs, we're yet to see how it performs.

In terms of front camera, the U Ultra features a 16-megapixel sensor with UltraPixel mode, said to help in low light conditions. The Pixel XL on the other hand, has an 8-megapixel front camera with 1.4µm pixels, a f/2.4 aperture and fixed focus.

  • Both SD821 chip with 4GB of RAM
  • U Ultra has microSD, Pixel XL doesn't
  • Larger battery capacity on Pixel XL, but better audio capability on U Ultra

Both the HTC U Ultra and the Google Pixel XL run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB of RAM. Storage options for the U Ultra are 64GB or 128GB, both of which have microSD and support for adoptable storage but the latter is reserved for the special edition model. The Pixel XL doesn't have microSD and comes in 32GB or 128GB options.

The Pixel XL does have a larger battery capacity though, with a 3450mAh cell compared to the U Ultra's 3000mAh, but both have support for fast charging.

The U Ultra wins back a few points when it comes to audio, offering four microphones for 3D Audio recording, along with BoomSound Hi-Fi, noise cancellation and it is Hi-Res audio certified. The Pixel XL has three microphones, noise suppression and a single bottom-firing speaker.

  • Both Android Nougat with Google Assistant
  • Pixel XL will receive updates faster
  • U Ultra has Sense Companion app

The HTC U Ultra runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC Sense over the top, while the Google Pixel XL runs on raw Android 7.1, meaning a more streamlined experience, even if the Sense software has been greatly refined over the years.

Both offer access to Google's Assistant, though it is more integrated on the Pixel XL. The Pixel XL will also be first in line for Android software updates.

The U Ultra does have its own software advantages though with the new Sense Companion app, which is designed to make your phone be better at working with you by offering suggestions suited to your routines and what you do.

The HTC U Ultra will be available from mid-February but pricing has yet to be announced.

The Google Pixel XL starts at £599 for the 32GB model, hitting £699 for the 128GB model.

The HTC U Ultra and Google Pixel are closely matched in terms of specs and although very different, both have lovely designs. The U Ultra is larger and heavier, but also slightly slimmer. It has a larger display, along with a secondary display, a higher resolution front camera, OIS on its rear camera and microSD support, as well as better audio capabilities. 

The Pixel XL is smaller, retains the headphone jack, offers a sharper display, has a larger battery capacity and offers a pure Android experience. Both devices have the same processor and RAM so they should be similar in terms of actual performance.

Ultimately, the decision between these two handsets will come down to budget and preference in design and features. 

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