Phone Comparisons: HTC U Ultra vs BlackBerry KEYone

Introduction

Do we have a good one for you today – the HTC U Ultra takes on the new BlackBerry KEYone. These two smartphones both come from struggling companies that were one at the top in their game - HTC and BlackBerry. HTC turned away from its once successful formula with an all-metal design to an all glass design and looks like a traditional symmetrical smartphone with a large top and bottom bezel where its fingerprint sensor is located. The BlackBerry KEYone could be the beginning of BlackBerry’s smartphone rebirth if they play their cards right and come out with a device with a large display with no physical keyboard. The KEYone uses the old-style Curve keyboard we all loved. It has an all-metal body that curves around at all four edges and a soft-touch back, which together make it easy to hold. Let’s look at just what these two devices have in common, if anything, and then we will take a closer look at each one in hopes that we can determine a winner of this comparison.

Despite their differences, we can find some common ground between the HTC U Ultra and the BlackBerry KEYone. The displays of the two devices are 1.2-inches different in size and the larger Pixel is of course larger in physical size, but due to the KEYone’s physical keyboard, not much larger. The KEYone weighs in at only 10 grams heavier than the U Ultra. The displays use the same LCD technology, different resolutions, and different Gorilla Glass for protection. They both use a Snapdragon processor and Adreno GPU, but different models. They both pack different amounts of RAM and base internal storage, but both have expandable memory via a microSD card. The primary camera areas both use the same 12MP primary camera, although the KEYone does not have the laser focus. The HTC U Ultra uses a 16MP front-facing camera (FFC) while the BlackBerry KEYone uses an 8MP lens. Both have a front-mounted fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device and for authorizing mobile payments, including Android Pay. They both use a non-removable battery, and both have rapid charge capabilities. They come with the usual suspects – WiFi, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, and the newer reversible Type-C port for charging and data transfer - and in the case of the HTC, the earphone jack.

Please take a thoughtful look at the detailed Specifications Comparison chart below, and here you will see just how these two great devices stack up against one another. After that, we will look at each device in greater depth and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information, we will try to determine the winner based on specs and execution of design and functions.

Specifications

HTC U Ultra

HTC, like BlackBerry, had a lot going for them several years ago, but both companies made it hard to keep buying their products. The latest HTC U Ultra is another example of what makes their devices so hard to love. They abandoned their signature all-metal housing and jumped into an all-glass design – a trend that others are doing – but then they made it so shiny on the back that you need a case just to ward off the fingerprints and to add some grip to the device. HTC eliminated Verizon and Sprint customers by making it a GSM only phone. HTC loves to beat Samsung to the punch so they had to use last year’s Snapdragon 821 processor. In what could only be a way to save money, they made their announcement of the new device between the big electronic shows and then took their good old time in physically releasing the device. Make no mistake; the HTC U Ultra is a beautiful looking smartphone, but in an age where bezels are disappearing, we wonder just how well it will sell – especially with its high price tag as it costs more than a new Samsung Galaxy S8.

The HTC U Ultra sports a 5.7-inch Super LCD5 display with a Quad HD resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels and 513 pixels-per-inch (PPI). HTC opted for a secondary display that is 1040 x 160 pixels (2.05-inches), used strictly for notifications. It is using the Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor with a dual-core clocked at 1.6GHZ and a dual-core clocked at 2.15GHz and an Adreno 530 GPU for graphics. The HTC U Ultra packs 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 64GB of base internal memory, although a 128GB version is coming, and both will allow expansion of the memory via a microSD card.

HTC loves to tinker with their camera area, but it wasn’t until last year when they put it all together and produced a great camera. The new HTC U Ultra follows in those footprints and still uses the 12MP UltraPixel 2 sensor for their main camera along with an aperture of f/1.8, phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and Laser focus, a dual-tone LED flash, and OIS. HTC included a huge 16MP FFC that comes with an f/2.0 aperture, UltraPixel mode, Full HD 1080p, and offers excellent selfies and video chatting. For power, the HTC U Ultra uses a 3000mAh non-removable battery with Quick Charge 3.0 capabilities.

HTC continues with larger bezels so they were able to use a front-mounted fingerprint sensor to unlock your device or authorize mobile payments, including Android Pay. HTC Sense Companion, built into the device, is HTC’s version of Google Assistant. HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi is also part of the HTC package and in the box, you will receive a pair of HTC USonic Adaptive Earphones that plug directly into the USB Type-C port (there is no 3.5mm headphone jack). HTC Connect is included for connection to items that use Chromecast, DLNA, Airplay, and Miracast Devices. HTC offers a complimentary UH OH Warranty for a 30-day no questions asked return and a one-year, one-time, replacement for broken screens or water damage. The HTC U Ultra measures in at 162.41 x 79.79 x 3.6 – 7.99mm, and weighs in at 170 grams. It comes in Brilliant Black, Ice White, and Sapphire Blue. It will be running Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box and the 64GB will cost you about $749.

BlackBerry KEYone

It used to be all of the rage to get a BlackBerry, and at one time, they had a reputation for building the most secure device around and having the best physical keyboard of any smartphone. That was then and this is now. As other devices grew with faster processors, more memory, and larger displays, BlackBerry’s execs did not think all of that was necessary. Eventually the owners were removed but it was too late for BlackBerry to make a recovery. Welcome to 2017 and we are happy to say that their new KEYone is the best smartphone that BlackBerry has ever made. While it is BlackBerry’s flagship for now, it falls into that upper-midrange sort of device. Manufactured specifically for BlackBerry by TCL it is a well-built and solid device. While it does have the physical keyboard on the front, BlackBerry was able to design a fairly modern looking smartphone. It has an all-metal construction with curved edges on all four sides for easy gripping and holding and a nice soft touch backing for a firm grip. On the back, the camera sits in the upper left corner and has a slight bulge to it.  Let’s see if BlackBerry did enough to their new KEYone and just how it stacks up to the new HTC U Ultra.

The BlackBerry KEYone had to go with a smaller 4.5-inch display size to help accommodate room for the physical keyboard. The slightly odd shape of the IPS LCD Full HD display gives it a resolution of 1620 x 1080 pixels, but also provides a respectable 424 PPI. The KEYone is a mid-range device, so BlackBerry chose the terrific 64-bit Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor clocked at 2.0GHz and then paired it up with an Adreno 506 GPU. The KEYone runs almost a pure vanilla Android so that processor has plenty of muscle for this new smartphone, as does the very capable Adreno 506. This processor and GPU took on anything we threw at it during our review. The KEYone uses 3GB of DDR4 RAM and 32GB of internal memory that is expandable via a microSD card. However, remembering that it runs almost pure Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box, 3GB is more than enough RAM, and our review backs this up.

The BlackBerry KEYone uses the same excellent 12MP primary camera found on the Google Pixel models, minus the laser autofocus. It has an f/2.0 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF), and a dual-tone LCD flash and our review shows that most users will be very happy with their pictures. The FFC is a large 8MP sensor with a smaller f/2.2 aperture for selfies and video chatting. The KEYone uses a large 3505mAh battery that will easily provide all day power and it comes with Quick Charge 3.0 for rapid charging that will give you a 50-percent charge in 30 minutes.

BlackBerry was able to keep the fingerprint sensor on the front without taking up any extra space by including it in the ‘space bar’ of the physical keyboard. While the spacebar does not allow for any shortcut swiping, the keyboard itself has over 52 shortcuts making it easy to jump to different places. BlackBerry also incorporated a ‘Convenience Key’ on the right side just under the on/off key that is programmable for a number of tasks, making it quite a ‘convenience’ to use. The KEYone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, includes a set of earbuds in the box, and packs an FM radio. The BlackBerry KEYone measures 149.1 x 72.4 x 9.4 mm and weighs in at 180 grams, and comes in our favorite color, Black. The 3GB/32GB device is available for about $549.

...And The Winner Is...

The Final Word

This was really a tough decision, but I am picking the BlackBerry KEYone as the winner of this comparison. I know that the HTC U Ultra has a better processor/GPU combination and a larger/better display, but the KEYone seems to have a better design (soft-touch back), it can be used on all US networks, and it is $200 cheaper – a huge consideration.

The big consideration in whether or not you would like the KEYone is the elephant in the room – the physical keyboard. If you are longing to go back to one or would like to try it, then you will be very happy with the KEYone. Yes, it has a mid-range processor and 3GB of RAM, but by running almost pure Android, the KEYone shows no signs of sluggishness no matter what we threw at it when testing.

Both devices are well built and solid and depending on your needs, should satisfy their owners. If you must have an onscreen keyboard, even if the price is inflated, then the HTC U Ultra is the only horse for you at this rodeo - although the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a better phone for $29 less. If you have a need for a BlackBerry device or demand a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry KEYone will not disappoint you…and save you $200 in the process.

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