HTC delayed the launch of its 2017 flagship, the HTC U11, so that it could power it with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. That's the same hardware that's in some Samsung Galaxy S8 phones, offering a processor that aims to be more powerful and less power hungry.
The HTC U11 marks a change in design for HTC, dropping the metal unibody of the past 4 years, for a glass back. You know which other phone has a glass back? That's right, the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Here's how the two flagship giants compare.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Design
- Galaxy S8: 148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0mm and weighs 155g
- HTC U11: 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm and weighs 169g
- Both have metal and glass design, waterproofing
The Samsung Galaxy S8 features a slim design and the front is almost all display, with very slim bezels thanks to the curved edges. A button for launching the Bixby voice assistant is situated on the left-hand side, while USB Type-C and the 3.5mm headphone jack are both present at the bottom of the device. The Galaxy S8 is IP68 water and dust resistant.
The HTC U11 comes with a squeezable frame, supporting a feature called Edge Sense, but also offers a metal and glass design. HTC's colours are totally unique, however, offering depth that Samsung doesn't, so it's much more distinctive. The 3.5mm headphone socket is gone on the U11, with USB Type-C providing all the connections. It has an IP67 water and dust rating.
HTC's front fingerprint scanner is better placed than Samsung's rear scanner, but Samsung's 18.5:9 aspect display eats up the whole front, leaving the HTC U11 looking like it has a rather large forehead and chin. Samsung looks more like the future, but HTC's unique glass finishes look more like a piece of art.
However, look at the dimensions: the S8 has a larger display, but a smaller body.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Display
- Galaxy S8: 5.8-inch 18.5:9 Super AMOLED, dual curved, 2960 x 1440 pixels, 570ppi, HDR capable
- HTC U11: 5.5-inch 16:9 Super LCD 5, 2560 x 1440, 534ppi
The Samsung Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display with a 2960 x 1440 resolution, which delivers a pixel density of 570ppi. The device is all about its display, though despite its larger size, the overall size hasn't grown thanks to the 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Samsung opts for Super AMOLED and there's plenty of wow factor. It also offers Mobile HDR Premium, meaning the Galaxy S8 is ready to shine when more HDR content becomes available on the likes of Amazon Video and Netflix.
The HTC U11 offers a 5.5-inch display with 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, pixel density at 534ppi. HTC has stuck to Super LCD 5 and a more conventional 16:9 aspect. The display is flat, apart from the 2.5D edges. It's bright, vibrant and realistic in its delivery, but it doesn't have the wow factor of the Samsung display.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Cameras
- Galaxy S8: 12MP rear, f/1.7, OIS, 1.4µm pixels; 8MP front, f/1.7, 1.22µm pixels
- HTC U11: 12MP rear, f/1.7, OIS, 1.4µm pixels; 16MP front, f/2.0
The Samsung Galaxy S8 has a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel rear camera with a f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilisation. The front-facing snapper has an 8-megapixel sensor with autofocus and an aperture of f/1.7. It offers excellent camera performance overall.
The HTC U11 also has a 12-megapixel rear camera with the same specs as the Samsung. On the front HTC chooses resolution over aperture, opting for a 16-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 lens. HTC is promising HDR Boost, a zero-lag HDR system and fast autofocusing from its camera. The proof of whether it can compete with Samsung will come when we review the phone fully - at the moment it's too early to tell.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Hardware
- Galaxy S8: Exynos 8895 or Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, microSD
- HTC U11: Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, microSD
- S8 gets iris scanner
The Samsung Galaxy S8 comes with the Exynos 8895 chip, or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, depending on the region. There is 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal memory and you'll also find microSD support for storage expansion. A special 6GB version is also available in some regions. There's a 3000mAh battery.
The HTC U11 has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, with microSD. Again, there will be a version with 6GB RAM (and 128GB storage in some regions). There's also a 3000mAh battery.
The Galaxy S8 gets an iris scanner as well as the fingerprint scanner, although HTC's front positioning of the fingerprint scanner means you'd probably never need to use and iris scanner.
We'd expect the performance to be closely matched due to the similar hardware, but performance differences may come down to software optimisation. In theory, the battery life should be close, but again it's to soon to just which phone will have better endurance.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Audio
- Samsung: Hi-Res capable, Dual Bluetooth, mono speaker, 3.5mm
- HTC U11: BoomSound HI-Fi, Hi-Res headphones, no 3.5mm
HTC wants to be the best at audio and it is not giving up. Using the two speakers on the handset and the whole body as a resonating chamber, BoomSound Hi-Fi is impressive both in terms of volume and performance when playing music out loud.
That's backed up with Hi-Res headphones, that offer active noise cancellation and automatic USonic tuning to suit your ears. There's no 3.5mm headphone socket, but it does come with an adapter equipped with a DAC for those who want to use them.
When it comes to convenience Samsung has the edge with a traditional 3.5mm headphone socket, although we'd say that HTC's bundled headphones are better quality than the AKG headphones from Samsung. Samsung offers individual tuning for headphones, but it's manual, so a poor cousin to HTC's offering. If you want to use two pairs of Bluetooth headphones simultaneously, however, you can.
When it comes to speaker quality, this is probably the weakest aspect of the Galaxy S8's game, an easy area for HTC to dominate.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Software
- Samsung Galaxy S8: Android Nougat with TouchWiz, Google Assistant, Bixby
- HTC U11: Android Nougat with HTC Sense, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
The Samsung Galaxy S8 runs on Android Nougat with Samsung's TouchWiz software over the top. It offers Google Assistant, along with Samsung's new AI system, Bixby and the overall software experience is excellent. It's slick, smooth and refined, despite being a long way from stock Android. There are connectivity features and personalisation functions throughout and a maturity and character that's now well defined.
The HTC U11 comes with Android Nougat with HTC Sense. In recent years HTC has reduced the impact of its skin, removing bulk and duplication and moving closer to Android again. In some ways that's good, but there's less character in the UI; it neither offers the advantage of a raw Pixel experience, nor the depth of changes that Samsung offers.
One thing that HTC does bring is the new Edge Sense function. This will allow you squeeze the handset to launch apps, take photos and trigger other actions. It's distinctly different and unique and something that no one else offers.
Both offers Google Assistant, with Samsung offering the half-formed Bixby. HTC isn't reinventing the wheel, it's offering Amazon's Alexa (via a July update). Personal preference will determine how you feel about each, but the Galaxy S8 feels like it offers more features - but squeezing your phone is unique.
HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Price and conclusion
- Samsung Galaxy S8: £689 (64GB)
- HTC U11: £649 (64GB)
Samsung has made its mark with an impressive new flagship in the Galaxy S8 (and S8+). The real breakthrough is in removing the bezels to create a device that's all about the luscious display, with those curves. There's power, loads of features and a pair of cameras that really work. The downside is the fingerprint scanner's location.
The HTC U11 isn't quite as dramatic a rethinking. Sticking to the 16:9 display means that from the front the phone looks very much as it did in 2016. Flip it over and you're holding something much more exciting with a finish you won't get elsewhere. Give it a squeeze and you'll be able to get it to react.
Both offer power, refinement and a close set of specifications. The question is whether you're lusting display, or whether a squeeze will sate your desires. Oh, and the HTC is £40 cheaper.