HTC U Ultra review: All that glitters

All that glitters

GSMArena team, 20 March 2017.

Performance

With a shortage of new Snapdragons, most companies opted for the Snapdragon 821 for their flagship. The HTC U Ultra is one of those phones, along the likes of LG G6, Xperia XZs and a few others.

The 821 is a solid chip, but it provides only a minor advantage over the 820, which powered early 2016 flagships. But again, HTC is not alone in this, only companies with their own chipset manufacturing arms can sidestep Qualcomm's supply issues.

HTC U Ultra review

And those companies - Apple, Samsung, Huawei - top the charts in Geekbench 4, both single and multi-core, as well as Basemark OS 2.0.

GeekBench 4 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Mate 9
    6112
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    5664
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    5645
  • HTC U Ultra
    4201
  • Google Pixel XL
    4152
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    4142
  • ZTE Axon 7
    3990
  • LG V20
    3824
  • HTC 10 Evo
    3354

GeekBench 4 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3473
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    1911
  • Huawei Mate 9
    1898
  • ZTE Axon 7
    1702
  • HTC U Ultra
    1647
  • LG V20
    1576
  • Google Pixel XL
    1507
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    1467
  • HTC 10 Evo
    1109

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3796
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    2670
  • Huawei Mate 9
    2637
  • ZTE Axon 7
    2346
  • Google Pixel XL
    2281
  • HTC U Ultra
    2222
  • LG V20
    2159
  • HTC 10 Evo
    1913

What's Snapdragon 821 and what makes it different from the 820, anyway? Glad you asked. Both are based on Qualcomm's custom Kryo cores, four of them grouped in pairs in a big.LITTLE setup. In Snapdragon 821, the cores have improvements that allow them to stay at full throttle longer.

It's important to note that there are two variants of the 821 chip. The one marked AB, that is the one used by the HTC U Ultra and Google Pixel XL, runs at the same clock speed as the older Snapdragon 820 with the goal of providing longer battery life without any compromises with the S820-level performance. The non-AB version has a 0.2GHz boost to the two "big" cores and a small bump to GPU speed with the goal of providing improved performance while keeping the S820-level battery life.

For those reasons, the older Snapdragon 820 inside the LG V20 can be competitive in AnTuTu 6. However, in this test, the HTC U Ultra way outperforms the Huawei Mate 9, which uses the Kirin 960 chipset. It uses Cortex-A73 cores, which serve as the basis for the new Kryo cores found in the Snapdragon 835 chipset.

AnTuTu 6

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    173110
  • LG V20
    141945
  • Google Pixel XL
    141186
  • HTC U Ultra
    139750
  • ZTE Axon 7
    129926
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    129629
  • Huawei Mate 9
    122826
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    113397
  • HTC 10 Evo
    82841

Without the GPU speed boost, we expect the U Ultra to show a similar 3D performance as S820 phones. However, on a few occasions, it even lagged behind a touch.

Offscreen tests show raw performance and here the HTC U Ultra often came behind Snapdragon 820 phones like the LG V20 or the ZTE Axon 7. Even the S821 AB chip in the Pixel XL managed to get ahead.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    60
  • Google Pixel XL
    47
  • HTC U Ultra
    41
  • LG V20
    40
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    38
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    37
  • Huawei Mate 9
    30
  • HTC 10 Evo
    27
  • ZTE Axon 7
    15

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    39
  • Google Pixel XL
    32
  • ZTE Axon 7
    31
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    29
  • LG V20
    29
  • HTC U Ultra
    27
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    25
  • Huawei Mate 9
    22
  • HTC 10 Evo
    20

GFX 3.1 Car scene (offscreen)

Higher is better

  • LG V20
    20
  • Google Pixel XL
    19
  • HTC U Ultra
    18
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    16
  • ZTE Axon 7
    15
  • Huawei Mate 9
    13
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    13
  • HTC 10 Evo
    12

On-screen performance can vary, you can use the Boost+ app to reduce the resolution for troublesome games and have them run much faster.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    56
  • Google Pixel XL
    30
  • Huawei Mate 9
    28
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    27
  • LG V20
    25
  • HTC U Ultra
    24
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    23
  • HTC 10 Evo
    16
  • ZTE Axon 7
    12

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    42
  • Huawei Mate 9
    23
  • LG V20
    17
  • Google Pixel XL
    17
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    15
  • ZTE Axon 7
    15
  • HTC U Ultra
    13
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    13
  • HTC 10 Evo
    11

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • ZTE Axon 7
    16
  • Huawei Mate 9
    14
  • LG V20
    12
  • Google Pixel XL
    11
  • HTC U Ultra
    10
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    8.3
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    7
  • HTC 10 Evo
    6.9

Basemark X thinks highly of the HTC U Ultra, while the Basemark ES 3.1 is not particularly impressed. This goes to show you that the game's engine can have a great impact on performance.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Huawei Mate 9
    36519
  • HTC U Ultra
    35875
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    32609
  • ZTE Axon 7
    32243
  • Google Pixel XL
    30861
  • LG V20
    29385
  • HTC 10 Evo
    28736
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    23513

Basemark X (medium)

Higher is better

  • HTC U Ultra
    41006
  • HTC 10 Evo
    39283
  • ZTE Axon 7
    38812
  • Google Pixel XL
    34679
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    28038

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    1517
  • Huawei Mate 9
    794
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Exynos)
    680
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    642
  • Google Pixel XL
    626
  • ZTE Axon 7
    606
  • HTC U Ultra
    582
  • LG V20
    526
  • HTC 10 Evo
    520

The HTC U Ultra is definitely fast enough to serve its flagship duties, though it is not the fastest phone you can buy currently (let alone in the next couple of months). We are at least grateful that HTC didn't pull another 10 evo and resurrect an outdated chipset. Still, for the price that HTC is charging, we think it could have went up to the faster version of Snapdragon 821.

Reader comments

  • GL

I am very disappointed with HCT Ultra. Because I was looking for a phone with dual sim.

  • Cee

What can make my htc u ultra phone message refuse to open?

  • Jetze

It is sooo cheap now. I boight it for 188€!!!