In January this year, HTC pulled off a surprise by announcing an all-new flagship smartphone. Dubbed the U Ultra, the new flagship has now been on sale in several markets for quite some time now. And since the Samsung Galaxy S8 too is now available worldwide, we decided to compare the specs of these two flagship smartphones in order to find out which of these two handsets is more worthy of your hard-earned money.

The U Ultra is the first in a new line of flagships that HTC will be releasing under the U line. There are quite a few other differences as well. HTC has introduced a new design language with the U Ultra, along with a larger display size and new software features. The build quality of the smartphone is particularly impressive as well, along with all modern connectivity features.

Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand is quite a major upgrade over the Galaxy S7, boasting an Infinity Display that makes it look absolutely gorgeous. The internals have been beefed up as well, although in some areas it isn’t all that superior to the Galaxy S7. In our previous versus specs battles, the Galaxy S8 managed to defeat its rivals quite easily, so it certainly has the higher chance of winning today’s specs battle against the HTC U Ultra. Just like our previous comparisons, we will be comparing the Samsung Galaxy S8 and HTC U Ultra against each other across ten different categories. Each round is worth 1 point, so the handset that grabs the highest number of points by the end of our comparison will be picked as the winner. So let’s get started and find out if the HTC U Ultra can beat Samsung’s latest and greatest flagship smartphone.

Design

Unlike in the past, modern flagship smartphones don’t just look great, they also feature a premium build that, in most cases, justifies their premium pricing. Both the HTC U Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S8 are no exceptions here.

While the past few HTC flagship smartphones have all featured a metal unibody design, the U Ultra uses different materials. While the middle frame is made out of metal, the front and back of the handset use glass. On the front, HTC uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 while at the back it uses a similar glass with a “liquid surface”. A special 128GB variant is also offered in select markets, with Sapphire Glass protection on the front, instead of Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The “liquid surface” is basically designed to reflect the colors, which gives it a shiny appearance. The bezels on the front aren’t as slim as some other new devices, so the screen-to-body ratio isn’t that high. You get a physical home button on the front, which is where the fingerprint scanner is embedded. Another noteworthy highlight on the front is the secondary display. The back of the handset is rather plain, with only the rear camera lens and the dual-tone LED flash being major highlights. Color options include Brilliant Black, Cosmetic Pink, Ice White, and Sapphire Blue.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 uses the same basic build as the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S6, but it differs significantly in terms of the actual design. Samsung has slimmed down the bezels on the top and bottom to a bare minimum, helping the smartphone achieve a screen-to-body ratio of 83%. There are no bezels on the sides, as the smartphone features a dual-curved display. In order to minimize the bottom bezel, Samsung has axed the physical home button, replacing it with on-screen software keys. The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back of the handset, right next to the rear camera lens. As far as the build goes, the Galaxy S8 features an aluminum frame in the middle and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front as well as the back. The smartphone offers complete protection against the elements, thanks to a high IP68 certification. In terms of color options, the smartphone is available in Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Arctic Silver, Maple Gold, and Coral Blue colors.

Both the HTC U Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S8 are truly premium devices in terms of design, but the Infinity Display of the Galaxy S8 definitely sets it apart from its rival. Which is why we’re giving the design round to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Dimensions

The HTC U Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S8 feature almost identical-sized displays, but are they identical in terms of physical dimensions as well? Let’s find out.

The HTC U Ultra measures 162.4mm tall, 79.8mm wide, and is 8mm thin. In terms of weight, the flagship smartphone weighs in at 170 grams. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 on the other hand is 148.9mm tall, 68.1mm wide, and 8mm thin. It tips the scales at 155 grams, making it lighter than its Taiwanese rival.

As is quite clear from the numbers above, HTC U Ultra is significantly bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S8 in terms of physical size, despite it featuring a 0.1” smaller display. An easy win for the Samsung Galaxy S8 here.

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, HTC flagship handsets have traditionally been quite disappointing. Have things finally changed for the better?

The HTC U Ultra, despite its large display, retains the same 3,000mAh capacity battery as the HTC 10. However, the smartphone surprises with pretty impressive battery life. In fact, it outperforms the HTC 10 in the battery life department, even with a much larger display. This has likely been achieved due to better optimization as well as slightly more efficient internals used inside the handset. For fast charging, the HTC U Ultra includes Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 support, which helps charge the battery in just under two hours. HTC claims the U Ultra delivers up to 26 hours of talk time on 3G/4G networks and up to 13 days of standby. If you wish to extend battery life further, HTC gives you two modes to choose from – Power saving and Extreme power saving. Wireless charging is unfortunately not supported though.

Samsung Galaxy S8 too is identical to its predecessor with a 3000mAh capacity battery inside. While the battery capacity isn’t an improvement over the Galaxy S7, the more efficient hardware components inside have allowed Samsung to extract slightly more battery life. Despite featuring a 0.7” larger display than the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 manages to deliver slightly longer battery life. Just like its predecessor, the Galaxy S8 utilizes Samsung’s Adaptive Charging technology, which allows the 3000mAh capacity battery to get fully charged in about 100 minutes. In addition to fast charging, the Galaxy S8 supports wireless charging as well, allowing you to conveniently charge the battery without having to deal with wires. Fast wireless charging support is included as well, so your Galaxy S8 will not take a longer time to charge wirelessly. No other manufacturers currently offer fast wireless charging support, so this is definitely a key USP of the smartphone.

Overall, the HTC U Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S8 are roughly comparable in terms of battery life. However, the Galaxy S8 does have a slight edge thanks to wireless charging support. Still, we are going to call this round a tie.

Connectivity

Connectivity features depend on the chipset powering a smartphone. And since the Samsung Galaxy S8 is powered by the latest mobile chips currently available, it has an edge over the HTC U Ultra.
The HTC U Ultra features Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC, DLNA, Miracast, AirPlay, HTC Connect for wirelessly streaming media to multi-room audio systems, USB 3.1 Type-C, DisplayPort, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and 4G LTE Cat.11 (maximum download speeds of up to 600 Mbps).

Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand comes equipped with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.0 Low Energy, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, ANT+, MST, and 4G LTE Cat.16 (maximum download speeds of up to 1Gbps). Both smartphones come with a fingerprint scanner, but the Galaxy S8 also offers an iris scanner and facial recognition tech.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is currently the best smartphone on the market when it comes to connectivity features, so the HTC U Ultra definitely has no chance here. Another win for the Galaxy S8.

Display

The HTC U Ultra features a 5.7-inch super LCD 5 display with 1440 x 2560 Quad HD resolution, which gives it a pixel density of 513 pixels per inch. To protect the display against scratches, HTC uses a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 with curve edge on the regular variant and Sapphire Glass on the special edition model. On top of the main display, the HTC U Ultra includes a secondary display as well, similar to LG’s V-series phablets. The secondary display on the U Ultra measures 2.05-inches diagonally and boasts 160 x 1040 pixel resolution. It gives you convenient access to your top contacts, app shortcuts, notifications, and more. You can also skip through tracks using the secondary screen. The secondary screen can be set to remain on at all times or you can also choose to have it come on only when the main screen is turned on. Alternatively, it can be set to turn on only when the main screen is off. Coming back to the main display, the panel used by HTC isn’t the most impressive, especially for a flagship device. The display offers a contrast ratio of below 1,000:1, which is definitely a letdown. Peak brightness isn’t very high either, failing to breach the 500 nit mark. As a result, sunlight legibility is not that great, when compared to other high-end smartphones with an AMOLED display. Color accuracy is another area where the U Ultra display disappoints. While you do get a color temperature slider to tweak the colors slightly, the color accuracy is quite poor when compared to devices such as flagship Samsung Galaxy smartphones and Apple iPhones. For reading during the night, the smartphone offers a Blue light filter mode, which reduces harmful blue light emitted from the display, helping reduce eye strain.

Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand features a 5.8-inch dual-curved Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2960 QHD+ resolution, giving it an impressive pixel density figure of 570 pixels per inch. Like previous Samsung flagship handsets, the Galaxy S8 uses the latest iteration of Corning Gorilla Glass on top. Unlike most smartphones out there, the display on the Galaxy S8 covers almost the entire front, thanks to the “Infinity Display” design. With very tiny bezels on the top as well as the bottom, you will not be distracted by the bezels when viewing videos or any other multimedia content on the large display. The display supports HDR as well, although only the HDR10 standard and not Dolby Vision. In addition to HDR10 support, the display boasts Mobile HDR Premium certification from the UHD Alliance. While the display size is very small to truly enjoy HDR content, the Galaxy S8 displays is more than capable of reproducing HDR content convincingly. The panel hits a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, brighter than many 4K TVs out there. In terms of color gamut coverage, the Galaxy S8 display covers a higher DCI-P3 gamut than any 4K HDR TV on the market, which makes it the ultimate mobile HDR viewing device currently available. Another highlight of the Galaxy S8 display is its unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio, which might seem a little too strange to some of you initially. The smartphone also gets the Always-on Display feature, which made its debut last year with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. All of the other key characteristics have also improved when compared to the Galaxy S7, making the Galaxy S8 display the best on the market currently.

If you care a lot about the quality of the display, then the Samsung Galaxy S8 is definitely the one to go for. HTC U Ultra isn’t all that impressive in the display department, which is a bit surprising as HTC generally does use high-quality panels on its flagship handsets.

Processor

The HTC U Ultra is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 64-bit quad-core SoC, a slightly more powerful variant of the Snapdragon 820 SoC that powers the HTC 10. Manufactured on a 14nm process by Samsung, the Snapdragon 821 SoC isn’t very different from the Snapdragon 820 in many ways. The only significant difference between the two chips is that the Snapdragon 821 comes with higher clocked Kryo cores as well as a higher clocked Adreno 530 GPU. In the U Ultra however, HTC has “underclocked” the Snapdragon 821 to the same clocks as the Snapdragon 820. The two high-performance Kryo cores are clocked at 2.15 GHz while the two Kryo cores that are aimed at efficiency have been clocked at 1.6 GHz. As a result, the HTC U Ultra performs more or less similar to smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 820 SoC. In some benchmarks, it does perform better, although not by a wide margin. While we do understand that HTC couldn’t get its hands on the Snapdragon 835 in time for a January announcement, the manufacturer should have gone with a higher-clocked Snapdragon 821 chip, similar to what LG uses in the G6.

Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand is powered by two different SoCs, varying by region. In the US, the Galaxy S8 is powered by Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 835 64-bit chipset while the international variants of the smartphone run on the Exynos 9 8895 octa-core 64-bit SoC. Both the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 as well as the Exynos 9 8895 SoCs are manufactured by Samsung on a 10nm process node, making them highly efficient as well as superior in terms of performance when compared to flagship SoCs from 2016. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 features eight custom Kryo 280 cores, arranged in a dual-cluster configuration. Four Kryo 280 cores aimed at high-performance are clocked at 2.35 GHz while the efficiency-oriented Kryo 280 cores are clocked at 1.9 GHz. Handling the graphics is Qualcomm’s new Adreno 540 mobile GPU, which boasts significant improvement in performance when compared to last year’s Adreno 530 GPU. The Exynos 9 8895 succeeds last year’s Exynos 8890 chip and uses the second generation of Samsung’s custom CPU cores, dubbed M2. The octa-core chipset comprises of four Exynos M2 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz for high-performance tasks and four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7 GHz, taking care of more mundane tasks. Graphics are handled by the powerful ARM Mali-G71MP20 GPU, a beefed-up version of the GPU found in Huawei’s flagship Kirin 960 chipset. When it comes to performance, both the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and Exynos 9 8895 perform significantly better than last year’s flagship SoCs in some benchmarks, while in others the gap isn’t that impressive. Graphics performance however, has gone up by a decent margin.

Overall, the HTC U Ultra simply cannot compete with the Samsung Galaxy S8 in the processor department. The Snapdragon 821 SoC inside the U Ultra is simply not powerful enough to be on the same level as the latest flagship mobile SoCs powering the Samsung Galaxy S8. Not just in benchmarks, but even overall performance on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is superior when compared to the HTC U Ultra. And that makes the Galaxy S8 the clear winner of the processor round.

Memory

The regular variant of the HTC U Ultra on sale in most markets is equipped with 64GB of internal memory. However, HTC does offer the sapphire edition model with 128GB of built-in memory. Akin to most 2017 flagship smartphones, HTC too uses ultra-fast UFS 2.0 storage in the U Ultra, so system performance is definitely very impressive. If you’re upgrading from the HTC 10, you are definitely going to notice the faster storage performance, as the HTC 10 uses slower eMMC 5.1 memory. The storage is further expandable, thanks to a microSD card slot that will accept microSD cards up to 2TB. However, the Dual SIM version uses a Hybrid Dual SIM slot, which means you will have to sacrifice the SIM2 slot in order to expand the storage further. Regardless of which model you purchase, the U Ultra comes with “only” 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM. While 4GB of RAM is no doubt adequate for most users, we do wish HTC had equipped the U Ultra with at least 6GB of RAM.

Samsung this year isn’t offering consumers a choice when it comes to storage. In almost all markets, the Galaxy S8 is available with 64GB of built-in storage. During the smartphone’s official announcement event, Samsung had made a lot of noise about UFS 2.1 storage. However, it was recently revealed that quite a few Snapdragon 835-powered Galaxy S8 units are in fact equipped with UFS 2.0 storage instead. Samsung has now removed all mentions of UFS 2.1 storage from its official website, so it does seem like only some Galaxy S8 units use UFS 2.1 storage while others use older UFS 2.0 memory chips. The Galaxy S8 does include a microSD card slot for further expansion, although a dedicated slot is only available in the Single SIM variants. The Dual SIM variants use a Hybrid slot, forcing you to choose between a second SIM card and a microSD card. When it comes to RAM, the Galaxy S8 includes 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, identical to its predecessor. The memory management, while better than some previous Galaxy flagships, is still not up to the mark, affecting multitasking performance. While the rest of the hardware is class-leading, it is disappointing to see Samsung stick with 4GB of RAM in 2017.

Since the HTC U Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S8 are very similar when it comes to memory, this round ends up in a tie.

Camera

The HTC U Ultra features a 12MP resolution UltraPixel 2 main camera at the back with an impressive 1.55 micron pixel size. HTC in fact uses the same IMX378 sensor from Sony that is used in the Google Pixel smartphones. The sensor integrates phase detection autofocus (PDAF) + Laser autofocus systems for fast autofocus speeds and a bright f/1.8 aperture lens with Sapphire Glass. Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) is onboard as well, aiding performance in low-light. Speaking of low-light, the U Ultra features a dual-tone LED flash at the back. In terms of software, the camera app on the U Ultra comes with a Pro mode, that allows more advanced users to take control over various settings such as ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and more. You can also set 16 sec.long exposure and capture photos in RAW format. HTC’s Zoe capture feature has been retained, along with other nifty features such as Hyperlapse, Video Pic, and 720p slow-motion video capture at 120fps. Some of the other key features include Auto HDR, Panorama shots, face detection, self-timer, burst mode, and more. In terms of video, the HTC U Ultra camera captures videos at up to 4K resolution with a frame rate of 30fps. Along with stunning looking video footage, the U Ultra captures high-quality audio as well, thanks to 360-degree 3D audio capture. The 3D Audio capture is made possible due to the four high-sensitivity omnidirectional mics. If you’re not too keen on 3D Audio, the U Ultra can record High-Res audio in FLAC format, making it a great phone to record concerts with. Over on the front is an impressive 16MP UltraPixel selfie snapper with a host of exciting features such as Live make-up, Auto Selfie, voice selfie, self timer, Auto HDR, selfie panorama, and video capture at up to 1080p Full HD resolution. There is no autofocus though, which is a bit of a bummer. Still, the high-resolution selfie snapper should please all selfie lovers out there, as not many flagship smartphones offer such a high-res front-facing camera. As far as camera performance goes, the U Ultra camera performs quite well in good lighting conditions, but low-light performance isn’t the best. That said, the U Ultra still performs better than most other high-end smartphone cameras even in low-light, it’s just that it isn’t the absolute best in terms of low-light performance.

Samsung Galaxy S8 too features a 12MP resolution at the back, identical to its predecessor. The overall hardware is actually quite similar as well, although not identical. Samsung is using newer sensors in the Galaxy S8, with some units using the Sony IMX333 sensor and others using the ISOCELL S5K2L1 sensor developed by the company’s System LSI division. The two sensors offer the same 12MP resolution but are slightly larger in size when compared to the sensors used in the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. However, the difference isn’t very significant, so the individual pixel size is still 1.4 micron. The 12MP sensor has been paired with a bright f/1.7 aperture lens, which is among the brightest on a smartphone yet. Together with the bright lens, optical image stabilization (OIS) also helps the Galaxy S8 camera to deliver impressive results in low-light. Of course, optical image stabilization also helps the smartphone capture steady videos, although it does not work when shooting videos in 4K resolution. To ensure fast autofocus speeds, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S8 camera with the same Dual Pixel tech that it debuted last year with the Galaxy S7 duo. Similar to the HTC U Ultra camera app, the Galaxy S8 too offers a Pro Mode in the camera app. It basically lets you tweak various settings such as Color Tone, Exposure, Manual Focus, and shutter speed to capture a better shot. If you wish to edit your photos later on, you can also choose to save them in the RAW format. And for those moments when you have very little time to launch the camera app and take a shot, the Quick Launch feature should come in handy. By simply pressing the power button twice in quick succession, you will be able to launch the camera app and take a photo in mere seconds. For the selfie fanatics, Samsung Galaxy S8 offers an 8MP snapper on the front, with autofocus tech and a bright f/1.7 aperture lens. Along with a bright lens, you can use the screen as flash to take decent selfies even in low-light. In terms of video, the selfie camera on the front can capture videos at up to 1440p resolution.

Overall, both the HTC U Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S8 are highly impressive in terms of camera performance. Both pack 12MP resolution sensors with large individual pixels and fast autofocus technologies. When it comes to consistency, the Galaxy S8 has a slight edge, along with better performance in low-light. Thanks to a slight performance advantage over its rival, the camera round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Operating System

The HTC U Ultra was launched with Android 7.0 Nougat operating system out of the box, with the HTC Sense UI overlay on top. There is also a new HTC Sense Companion, which basically is a personal companion that learns from your actions and helps you in doing simple things. It features built-in voice recognition as well, letting it respond to your voice commands. You can ask the Sense Companion to perform actions such as making a phone call, send text messages, or start navigation. Apart from the Sense Companion feature, HTC hasn’t made any significant changes to the UI from what we have seen on the HTC 10 evo or the Bolt. You get all the usual HTC Sense features such as Sense Home, BlinkFeed, custom Themes, and various power saving modes. Even though the smartphone has been on the market for several weeks now, HTC hasn’t rolled out an update to Android 7.1 Nougat. With the HTC U 11 launch around the corner, we don’t expect to see the Android 7.1 update for the U Ultra to roll out anytime soon. As far as software support goes, HTC has a pretty decent track record but it is often not able to stick to its promise with respect to update schedules.

Samsung too has launched the Galaxy S8 with Android 7.0 Nougat operating system out of the box, which is a letdown in our opinion. While the HTC U Ultra was announced in January, the Galaxy S8 was announced in late March. Being the largest Android OEM, we fail to understand why Samsung couldn’t get its team to finish working on Android 7.1.1 in time for the Galaxy S8 launch. As of now, Samsung hasn’t announced anything regarding the Android 7.1 update, so we still have no idea as to when the update could actually arrive. Coming back to the software, the main highlight is of course Bixby, the latest virtual assistant from Samsung. Unfortunately, Bixby Voice isn’t currently available in most markets. In the US, Bixby Voice is expected to be made available sometime this Summer, while other markets will have to wait until the fourth quarter of the year. Rest of the Bixby feature-set, including AR features can be accessed straight out of the box. There is even a dedicated hardware button for Bixby on the Galaxy S8, positioned on the left side of the handset. Samsung has integrated Bixby into its core apps such as Gallery, Camera, Contacts, and Settings, allowing it to perform more tasks than other conventional virtual assistants. In the near future, Samsung hopes more third party developers will be integrating Bixby support onto their apps.

While HTC’s Sense is highly functional and not very heavy, Samsung’s Grace UX offers more features. However, Samsung is usually slower to roll out updates when compared to HTC. Since there is no clear winner here, we will have to go with a tie here.

Price

HTC’s U Ultra is sadly not sold by any major carrier in the United States. So if you wish to get your hands on one, you will need to purchase it unlocked directly from HTC for $749. The unlocked US model sold by HTC is compatible only with the AT&T and T-Mobile networks. So if you are a Verizon Wireless or Sprint customer, you will have to consider switching or simply get another device. Retailers such as Amazon too sell the U Ultra in the US, but only the international variant. That means if you want the US variant of the U Ultra with warranty, getting it directly from HTC is the only option currently.

Unlike the HTC U Ultra, Samsung Galaxy S8 is easily available by all the major carriers as well as retailers in the United States. If you are interested in buying the Galaxy S8 outright, you will need to pay around $750. The exact figure varies from carrier to carrier, so it might be slightly higher or lower depending on where you get it from. On a 24-month contract, the Galaxy S8 is available for a monthly payment of $30 at most places. AT&T on the other hand is selling the Galaxy S8 for a monthly installment of $25 on a 30-month plan.

Since it is more easily available and can be purchased for a slightly lower price than the HTC U Ultra, the price round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Conclusion

We have finally come to the end of our Samsung Galaxy S8 vs HTC U Ultra specs battle. Time now for us to find out which of these two flagships managed to come out on top in our comparison today.
Surprisingly, the HTC U Ultra did not grab a single point in our comparison today. Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand managed to win a total of 7 rounds, earning it 7 points. Three categories ended up in a tie. Quite clearly, the winner of our comparison today is the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Which one of these two flagships would you pick?

corner-left-up dots-three-vertical