HTC has finally take the wraps off of its long-awaited and highly powerful HTC U11, the company’s flagship smartphone for the year, and arguably its best smartphone to date. It’s not, however, without competition.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises last year was the Google Pixel, Google’s entry into the self-designed smartphone world and a phone that generated a ton of buzz and praise when it was launched back in October. How does the new HTC U11 compare with the Pixel? We put the two head-to-head to find out.
Specs and performance
|Size||143.8 x 69.5 x 7.3mm (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3-inches)||153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm (6.06 x 2.99 x 0.31 -inches)|
|Weight||143g (5.0 oz)||169g (5.96 oz)|
|Screen||5.0-inch AMOLED||5.5-inch LCD|
|Resolution||1,080 x 1,920 pixels (441 pixels per inch)||1,440 x 2,560 pixels (534 pixels per inch)|
|OS||Android 7.1 Nougat||Android 7.1.1 Nougat|
|Storage||32/128GB||64GB (U.S.), 64/128GB (International)|
|MicroSD card slot||No||Yes|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|RAM||4GB||4GB (U.S.) 4/6GB (International)|
|Connectivity||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE|
|Camera||12MP rear, 8MP front||12MP rear, 16MP front|
|Bluetooth||Yes, version 4.2||Yes, version 4.2|
|Other sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, barometer||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, magnetic|
|Ports||USB-C, headphone jack||USB-C|
|Marketplace||Google Play||Google Play|
|Color offerings||Very Silver, Quite Black, Really Blue||Blue, black, white, gray, red|
|Availability||Google Store, Verizon||Sprint, HTC.com, Amazon|
|Price||Starts at $650||$650|
|DT review||4 out of 5 stars||Hands-on|
Newer flagship phones are almost always more powerful than older ones, and this is no exception. It’s clear that the HTC U11 is a more powerful device, and that’s largely thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor.
That’s not to say the Snapdragon 821 in the Google Pixel is a bad chip — it’s not. It’s just a little outdated. While the Snapdragon 821 scored a very respectable 141,092 on AnTuTu, the Snapdragon 835 went above and beyond, hitting a hefty 183,227. That’s quite an improvement and means that the HTC U11 should both be faster now, and should last longer as it’s more battery efficient.
When it comes to storage and RAM, the U11 wins outright. If you live in the U.S., you’ll only get access to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for the U11. The international version, however, allows for a choice of 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage. The Google Pixel offers 4GB of RAM with either 32GB or 128GB of storage.
The HTC U11 may not have as much storage if you live in the U.S., but it does come equipped with a MicroSD card slot so you can expand it if you need.
Winner: HTC U11
Design and display
The two phones offer unique and interesting designs. The Google Pixel has a half-glass back that certainly is unique, though it didn’t have mass appeal. The HTC U11 boasts a shiny glass back design with a gorgeous range of colors. The phone features sleek, rounded corners and edges with HTC’s Edge Sense, which allows you to control the phone by squeezing it. There is something missing from the HTC U11 — a headphone jack, something the Google Pixel offers.
When it comes to the display, there are a few things to consider — type of display, size, and resolution. The Google Pixel offers a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920 pixels, with a pixel density of 441 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The 5.5-inch HTC U11, on the other hand, offers a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, with a pixel density of 534 pixels-per-inch. To be fair, Google does offer the 5.5-inch Pixel XL, which has the same resolution and pixels per inch, though it’s more expensive than the regular Pixel.
There’s another thing to consider and that’s type of display. The HTC U11’s display is LCD, while the Google Pixel sticks with AMOLED technology. Many consider AMOLED to be slightly better because it’s more energy efficient and offers deeper blacks and brighter colors. It also means the U11 is not compatible with Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform.
Still, while design is largely subjective, we’re awarding this one to HTC. The U11 certainly turns heads.
Winner: HTC U11
Battery life and charging
While the Google Pixel offers a battery capacity of 2,770mAh, the HTC U11 goes a step further with a capacity of 3,000mAh. Capacity isn’t the only thing to consider here — because of the bigger screen with a higher resolution, the Pixel will last a little longer than the U11. That’s direct from Google and HTC — Google lists the Pixel as offering up to 26 hours of talk time, while HTC says the U11 will last 24.5 hours. That alone the Pixel the winner.
When it comes to charging, things are a little different. The HTC U11 offers Quick Charge 3.0, while the Google Pixel offers “Fast Charging.” We don’t yet know exactly how quickly Quick Charge 3.0 will charge the HTC U11, but the Pixel will give you 7 hours of use with 15 minutes of charging.
Because of the longer life on a single charge, the Google Pixel wins this category.
Winner: Google Pixel
When the Google Pixel first launched, it was hailed as having one of the best cameras out there. Can the HTC U11 dethrone it? The rear-facing camera on both phones is 12-megapixels, however the Pixel’s sensor has an f/2.0 aperture, while the HTC U11’s sensor has an f/1.7 aperture. That means that the U11 should be slightly better in low-light situations. On top of that, the U11 offers optical image stabilization, while the Pixel does not. Both phones offer dual-LED flashes.
Regardless, the Pixel is our favorite smartphone camera. HTC told us it expects the U11 camera to be slightly better than the HTC 10, which currently sits one point below the Pixel on DxOMark. We’ll have to wait and see, but the U11 just might beat the Pixel.
When it comes to the front-facing camera, things are a little less competitive — while the Google Pixel has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.4 aperture, the U11’s front-facing camera has a whopping 16-megapixels, which should be very helpful for the selfie-lovers out there.
Winner: HTC U11
Both of these two phones use the latest and greatest Android Nougat, which offers excellent features like improved multi-tasking, useful notification bundling, and more. The HTC U11, however, has some special features built-in as well, making it a little different for those who are interested.
For example, the device offers HTC Sense, the company’s Android overlay. Sense has evolved quite a lot over the years, and it’s now a lot less intrusive than it was a few years ago. The device will come with a few HTC-specific apps, but apart from that, HTC’s phone’s are now pretty similar to stock Android.
As a part of the bundled features, the HTC U11 comes with HTC Sense Companion, which is HTC’s digital assistant. Unlike Google Assistant, Sense Companion is not a voice assistant. Instead, it anticipates your needs using things like your calendar, your location, and your phone use habits. Thankfully, the U11 still offers Google Assistant, and it also offers Amazon Alexa.
On top of that, there’s a new feature that we’re seeing in the U11 — HTC Edge Sense. Edge Sense basically allows users to control aspects of the phone using a touch-sensitive edge on the phone.
There is a serious advantage to getting a Google-built phone with Google-built software: Updates. Google pushes regular security updates to the Pixel, while manufacturers are known for being a little more lax in pushing those updates — potentially leaving your phone open to hacks.
While the HTC U11 does offer some HTC-specific features, many argue that less is more when it comes to Android. Many prefer to stick with one digital assistant, while others argue that manufacturer-specific apps only serve to take up storage space. Because of the fact that it’s really down to personal preference, we’re making this one a tie.
The HTC U11 looks nice and shiny, but that comes at a cost. The entire back of the phone is coated with glass, as is the front because of the screen. Really the only metal part of the phone’s design is the aluminum frame, which is found on the edges of the device. The Google Pixel also features a lot of glass, but a little less so thanks to the half-glass back, with the other half being metal. Because of that, if you drop your Pixel, you’re much less likely to shatter the glass than if you drop a HTC U11.
Still, the HTC U11 is IP67-certified, meaning that it can handle being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for as long as 30 minutes. The Google Pixel would win a drop test, but the HTC U11 can take a dip in the pool. This one’s a tie.
Price and availability
The Google Pixel starts at $650 for the 32GB version of the phone, however the 128GB will set you back $749. The device has been available for some time now, but Google has stock issues — you might have trouble snagging one with your preferred size and color.
HTC will offer the U11 unlocked on its website and Amazon for $650 — it will be compatible with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile networks. Sprint is the only carrier to sell it directly, and you can get it for $29 a month for 24 months, or a full price of $696. The U11 is available for pre-order now, and it will start shipping in June.
Considering you get more storage for the same price as the standard Pixel, HTC gets the win here.
Winner: HTC U11
Overall winner: HTC U11
Surprise, everyone! The newer phone is better. While the Google Pixel is an excellent device, and even beats out the HTC U11 in battery life, the U11 is more powerful, is easier on the eyes, and is waterproof. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line phone and like HTC’s design and included software, then the HTC U11 is a great option.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider the Google Pixel. If you’re into stock Android and like the idea of consistent and regular updates, the Pixel may be a better choice.