It took several months, but another smartphone has finally shipped with a superior camera to the one in the Google Pixel. The surprise? It’s not the Samsung Galaxy S8.
If you care about smartphone photography as much as I do, you’re probably familiar with the site DxOMark, which rates smartphone cameras. To date, the Google Pixel has offered the best overall camera of any smartphone, with a score of 89. By comparison, the iPhone 7, which I’ve found to be disappointing camera-wise, manages just an 86, the same score as the much older (circa 2015) Samsung Galaxy S6.
In my experience, the cameras in the Google Nexus 6P/5X, Pixel/Pixel XL, and Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ were all roughly identical, though I preferred the HDR effect in the (admittedly slower) Nexus 6P to that of the Pixel XL when I owned both. I had expected the new Samsung to measure up nicely to the Pixel in testing, and to be fair it does: But it still scores below the Pixel, with 88 points, the same score as its predecessor, the Galaxy S7 Edge.
So which phone finally dethroned the Pixel? Surprise, it’s an HTC.
According to DxOMark, the newly-released HTC U11—which wasn’t even on my radar—offers the superior smartphone experience, with a score of 90. It’s the first smartphone to ever score this highly.
“The HTC U11 is the highest-rated smartphone camera we have ever tested,” the site notes. “As you’d expect from a top performer, its scores are impressive across the board. In particular, its very low noise and fast autofocus helped edge it ahead of our previous highest-scoring phone, the Google Pixel. The HTC U11 features remarkably consistent performance in a wide variety of shooting conditions, making it a great camera for most situations.”
The HTC U11 features a 12 MP rear camera with a 1/2.55 inch sensor and an f/1.75 lens, DxOMark notes. It utilizes a dual-pixel Phase-Detect Autofocus (PDAF) sensor, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), and one of the fastest and most accurate autofocus systems that the site has ever tested. The pictures accompanying the review bear out the numbers.
“Not only is the HTC U11 the highest-scoring phone we’ve ever tested, it’s the highest-scoring in both still image quality and video quality, beating out the Google Pixel by 1 point in each,” the review concludes. “Those who want to shoot and share their photos will particularly appreciate the vibrant colors and bright exposures of the HTC U11. Similarly, effective autofocus and stabilization will help both photos and videos look good right out of the phone. The HTC U11’s very low noise and excellent detail preservation also allow for sharing and printing larger-sized images than with most other phones.”
So I’m not going to rush out and buy this thing. But … Hm. It’s hard not to at least consider it.