As highlighted by the excellent technical scores, its images tend to have a pleasing look, with good color rendering. Outdoor scenes are vibrant, with good detail and very low noise. Its image stabilization is also very effective even with difficult cases like walking movement. Flash exposures are very even across the frame and feature good detail preservation and color rendering. The large 12 Megapixel 1/2.55 inch sensor is coupled with an f/1.75 lens provides the hardware potential that helps to achieve these results.
Image quality highlights
Dual-pixel PDAF and a large sensor help set the HTC U11 apart from other leading smartphones
The HTC U11’s dual-pixel Phase-Detect Autofocus (PDAF) sensor produces some of the best autofocus performances of any mobile device we’ve tested, in both low and bright lighting conditions. In particular, the dual-pixel system scores better than traditional PDAF cameras in low light and in night scenes.
HTC has leveraged the HTC U11’s excellent Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) to automatically produce multi-image captures with high detail preservation, low noise, and very few artifacts. That, plus a slightly-larger 1 / 2.55-inch sensor, help the HTC U11 produce excellent results in low light.
Outdoor photos are extremely impressive, showing excellent detail and vibrant colors. Dynamic range is also very good on the HTC U11, due in part to the improved Auto HDR Boost, which combines multiple frames quickly and automatically to assist in preserving detail in both highlights and shadows. The HTC U11 is also particularly good at preserving color details even in very small objects, making it a good choice if you plan on enlarging or printing your landscape images.
The HTC U11 also helps make sure you’re getting the image you want, with its very fast and reliable autofocus letting you quickly zero in on your subject for better action photos. Compared to other leading smartphones, it also does an excellent job of limiting ghosting that may result from capturing action in scenes with high dynamic range.
Images taken with flash were well-exposed, with colors rendered properly and good detail preservation. The HTC U11 is one of only a few phones we’ve tested (along with the Google Pixel, Samsung S7 and S8, and iPhone 7 family) that renders flash images with a high level of detail and low noise.
To achieve this, the HTC U11 probably combines multiple images. Doing so while lighting the scene with flash is an impressive technical achievement that requires very accurate synchronization of the flash, the shutter, and the autofocus.
Details: Explaining the score
Exposure and Contrast (90)
The HTC U11 delivers extended dynamic range and pleasing exposures, although sometimes they are a bit brighter than those from other top smartphones. Whether you find that helpful is a matter of personal preference.
The HTC U11 renders color very well both outdoors and inside.
Under low levels of incandescent light, images sometimes have a slight, but pleasant, yellow cast. Color shading is very well-controlled in both outdoor and indoor conditions.
The HTC U11 has one of the fastest and most accurate autofocus systems we have tested, edging out the Google Pixel and its own predecessor, the HTC 10.
Images taken with the HTC U11 show excellent preservation of detail and remarkably low noise even in very low-light conditions down to 5 Lux. In outdoor images, there is occasionally some minor loss of fine detail in low-contrast areas compared to the other high-scoring devices.
In general, the HTC U11 does an excellent job of avoiding artifacts, though there may be some ghosting in scenes with high dynamic range, and color fringing is occasionally visible in specific backlit scenes.
The HTC U11 does an impressive job of delivering smoothly-rendered images using flash, with good exposure, white balance, and detail preservation.
The HTC U11 provides solid-to-excellent video performance across the board. The result is the highest overall Video scores of any mobile device we’ve tested. It uses Temporal Noise Reduction (TNR) to improve video quality by comparing each frame with the ones before and after to help identify noise and reduce it.
Particularly strong scores for Autofocus, Stabilization, and Noise
Autofocus is particularly fast and accurate. Its image stabilization is also very effective, although sometimes it leaves some residual evidence of undesirable motion. As with the HTC U11’s still photos, noise is very low in all conditions, with good detail preservation in bright and moderately lit scenes.
Only minor weaknesses for video
It’s hard to complain about the video results from the HTC U11, but there are a couple minor issues that can become visible. In low light, there is some loss of detail and color shading. Scenes with high dynamic range also lose detail in shadows and highlights, and there can be some judder effect during panning.
Summary: The best smartphone camera we’ve tested to date
Not only is the HTC U11 the highest-scoring phone we’ve ever tested, it’s the highest-scoring for both still image quality and video quality, beating out the Google Pixel by one point in each category. If you like to shoot and share your photos, you will particularly appreciate the vibrant colors and bright exposures of the HTC U11. Similarly, its effective autofocus and stabilization will help both your photos and your videos look good right out of the phone.
The HTC U11’s very low noise and excellent detail preservation will also let you print larger-sized images than with most other phones.
- Very fast autofocus and accurate especially in bright light conditions.
- Good details preservation in both outdoor and low light conditions.
- Good target exposure and dynamic range.
- White balance is generally pleasant, and color rendering is good.
- Noise level is low in low light condition.
- Flash: good exposure, white balance and details preservation.
- Fast and accurate AF, in all conditions, with good tracking capabilities.
- Very effective stabilization.
- Good target exposure and white balance, with fast and smooth adaptation.
- Good noise level in all conditions.
- Good detail preservation.
- In some outdoor scenes a slight bluish cast is visible.
- Luminance noise is slightly visible in the sky.
- Ghosting, color fringing and ringing sometimes visible.
- Limited dynamic in high dynamic scenes.
- Slight loss of details in low light conditions.
- Visible judder effect during panning movements.
- Very slight color shading in low light conditions.