HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Which is better?

Two of the top Android smartphones join battle in a winner-takes-all standoff

HTC’s new flagship has arrived – and the U11 a superb slice of smartphone, combining eye-catching looks, solid build quality, useful quality-of-life features and scorching performance.

But how does it measure up to its closest competitors? Let’s compare it to that other piece of prime Android gadgetry, the Samsung Galaxy S8, to see how these two pocket titans measure up.

HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Design

Who says all smartphones look the same? In this pair of phones, we have two of the most striking handsets on the market: the HTC U11 with its coloured, curved glass back and dazzling liquid surface finish, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 with its gorgeous, sweeping Infinity Display screen, which curves around the sides to seamlessly merge with the glass back panel.

The Galaxy S8 certainly has a more understated look than the U11 (the HTC’s multiple layers of glass mean the surface shimmers with different colours depending on the angle, like the paint job on a 1990s TVR), and if we were forced to pick a winner - which we kind of are, given the format of this piece - its elegance edges it; it really is the best-looking phone on the market, bar none. But really, both of these phones are great pieces of design that stand out from the pack.

In terms of build quality, things are similarly close. Both phones use Gorilla Glass 5 on their screens (the S8 has it on the rear too), and both are IP67 rated for water and dust protection, which means they’re completely sealed against dust, and capable of withstanding a sub-aqua sojourn to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Display

The HTC U11 has a lovely screen – albeit one you’d probably call par for the course for a 2017 flagship phone. It’s a 5.5in IPS LCD with a QHD resolution (that’s 2560 x 1440 pixels), and delivers a vibrant, bright and detailed image. Nicely done, HTC.

The Samsung Galaxy S8, however, has what’s probably the best smartphone screen ever. It’s a beautifully rich 5.8in Super AMOLED panel with a resolution of 2960 x 1440 (a stretched QHD, basically) and an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. That means it’s significantly taller (or wider, in landscape view) than most smartphone screens, and covers a much greater proportion of the phone’s front side. It also curves around both sides of the device, delivering even more usable screen real estate.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

HTC U11 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Camera

The Samsung Galaxy S8’s rear camera is a 12MP f/1.7 shooter with optical image stabilisation, always-on HDR and super-fast dual-pixel autofocus, and delivers superb results in good lighting and impressive images in low light. Some of this is down to a clever image processing tweak, whereby the camera takes three photos per shutter button press, using two of them to eliminate blur and reduce noise.

The HTC U11 rocks a similar rear camera setup: 12MP sensor, f/1.7 lens, dual-pixel AF, optical image stabilisation (5-axis this time), always-on HDR. We did find it a little slow to use (there’s something of a delay in saving your shot after you hit the shutter button) but the results are up there with the Galaxy S8’s in terms of quality.

Both cameras record 4K video at 30fps. The Galaxy S8 can also record 1080p at 30/60fps or 720p at an ultra fast 240fps for smooth slo-mo playback, while the U11 can record 1080p at 30 or (for slo-mo) 120fps.

Flipping to the front camera, the U11 has a 16MP sensor paired with an f/2.0 aperture and 1080p video recording, while the Galaxy S8 has an 8MP sensor with an f/1.7 aperture and 1440p (aka 2K) video.

Given the strong similarities all around, this is another round that could almost be called a draw. These are two excellent camera phones, no doubt about it - but we think the Samsung just edges things with its front camera and high-speed 720p video skills.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8