Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – June 2, 2017

HTC’s new U reviewed, the return of BlackBerry, what’s new in 4K TVs, and computer news galore. It’s The Wrap.


June has just begun, and you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s speediest technology round-up, and this week we start with a look at smartphones.

If you’re out there looking for a shiny new phone, there’s a good chance you’re considering the Galaxy S8, as Samsung’s new phone is easily hot property, but it’s not alone, and this week it’s joined by something just as shiny and just as slick.

It’s called the U11, and it’s a new phone in HTC’s newly christened “U” range of phones, devices that drop the fully metal design the company has been using for years, replacing it with a glass design that aims for a more liquid finish.

This approach makes the U11 unique and yet also a slippery and a total fingerprint magnet, but in a world where metal is very much the norm, this glass body does look intriguing, almost as if a drop of water had morphed into a smartphone you could hold.

There’s more to this drop of water, with a 5.5 inch Quad HD screen inside and some of the fastest insides to ever grace Australia’s shores, as the U11 is the first of the year’s smartphones to get Qualcomm’s latest high-end Snapdragon, the 835. This processor isn’t just another fast chip, though it’s definitely that; rather, it’s an eight-core return to excellence for Qualcomm, with oodles of speed to go around, virtually no lag, and the ability to connect to high-speed 4G networks at a blistering 1 gigabits down, something Australian networks are gradually being equipped for.

Good luck finding those speeds, but it’s nice that another phone outside of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ can hit them, and that’s not all the U11 has going for it.

We found a solid day of battery life was possible, and the phone arrives with a cute but kind of useless feature, allowing you to squeeze the phone to take a photo or do something else like turn on the torch.

The camera squeezing is about the best that feature is used for, but more importantly is that camera, because it’s truly a standout feature on the U11. In a day and age where camera quality tends to make a phone more desirable than how it calls people — because who does that anymore? — HTC is offering what is arguably the best of the bunch in terms of camera quality today.

In fact, the camera boffins at DxO have already rated it the best sensor around, and after playing with the HTC U11, we can see why, with sharp images in both day and night, and some of the best low light on any phone we’ve seen, with images at night that don’t blur as easily and offer much less noise and much more clarity.

To say it’s an excellent camera is an understatement: this, ladies and gentleman, is exactly what we were expecting in the HTC U Ultra from earlier in the year, and the phones even look the same, with similar looks, weight, batteries, and all.

We’re not even sure why you’d even consider the U Ultra at all anymore, and the HTC U11 is the phone to look at if you’re interested in an HTC in 2017, as it just offers so much. There’s that performance, the battery life, a great camera and screen, a $999 price tag, and hey, it’s even waterproof, something the U Ultra also didn’t pack. There’s just so much going for it, making it a phone that could even have what it needs to take on Samsung’s excellent S8.

You can read our full review if you’re keen to know more; we gave it close to five stars because that exactly where the U11 deserves to be.

HTC’s U11 isn’t the only major phone news of the week, because there’s big news in Australia: BlackBerry is back.

Yes, those crazy keyboard wielding Canadians are back with a new phone, this time working with TCL’s smartphone division to produce the KeyOne, an Android-powered smartphone that offers a 4.5 inch touchscreen phone with a proper BlackBerry keyboard underneath.

That might seem a little crazy, and in a world where the hardware phone keyboard has kind of disappeared, we wouldn’t blame you if you raised your eyebrows quizzically. Still, it’s here and it aims to bring something different to the table, with a relatively decent processor, a metal body, 4G mobile internet, and BlackBerry’s own security atop the latest version of Android.

Most interestingly, BlackBerry’s KeyOne may have a chance not just because of the legacy that is BlackBerry, but because a touchscreen phone with a hardware keyboard is genuinely different, and not something you see every day.

We’ll let you know what we think later on when we get one for review, but right now the BlackBerry KeyOne is up for preorder for $899 ahead of a July release locally.

Phones aren’t all that’s on the way to stores locally, with new TVs and computers, too.

Let’s do TVs first, and Hisense announced a play for the mid-range in the 4K Ultra HD TV world this week, arriving in a range of new TVs that start at seventeen-hundred dollars locally. This range, the Series 7 as they’re called, aims to offer that new 4K resolution and enough technologies to make the images pop, but without forcing you to spend the proverbial arm or leg.

In fact, the mid-range appears to be an interesting place for 4K TVs this year, with manufacturers really getting in and doing what they can to tempt people over to something big, shiny and new. Just last week, Samsung joined with its “MU” range which we think means “mid-range” “ultra”, and we have a strong feeling Sony will have something out soon, too. That’s good news for anyone shopping for a new TV that doesn’t want to spend much more than three grand, which honestly is a lot of people out there, us included.

Sorry, but there’s just so much to spend on, and computers are one of them, and if you’re in the market for one, you might want to wait.

This week, all of the new computer gear is being announced over at Computex, and there’s new stuff from Acer, from Asus, from HP and from Dell, and it won’t take long to arrive locally, either. Intel has big new grunty processors too, great for gamers and creatives, and there’s even a nice rumour from Apple that next week will see new Macs, with a likelihood that there’ll be a new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro next week too.

That means if you need a Mac this week, you should probably wait, because with something new arriving next week, you’ll be kicking yourself if you got a little short changed, and we wouldn’t blame you.

Of course, we’ll let you know if slash when Apple makes an announcement, and that could be as early as next week’s show.

For now, we’ve run out of time, but we’ll be back next week for more technology in the space of time it takes to read the latest news, only we’re doing it all for you. Why? Because we’re nice, and we like you.

Until next week, take care, and we’ll see you next week on The Wrap.

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