HTC Butterfly Review
We first heard of the HTC Butterfly back when it was announced in October for Japan as the HTC J Butterfly, and boy did it sound fantastic at the time, 1080p resolution on a 5 inch display and all. At the time it seemed like the J Butterfly would not be released outside of Japan’s shores but then the phone was slightly modified and released in North America as the Verizon Droid DNA in November, but there was no indication of whether it would come to the rest of the planet.
That was until yesterday when the HTC Butterfly launched in India. Unlike the US and Japanese counterpart though, the HTC Butterfly does not have LTE support, or NFC, but it still retains that insane display, and has a microSD card slot which is missing from the other two variants. It seems like full HD screens are going to be the norm on flagship Android phones this year, and HTC is the first to bring this feature to market.
So does the insanely high resolution screen make that much of a difference? Can you go back to boring ol’ 720p after? And is a 2020 mAh battery enough to keep this quad-core flagship powered throughout an entire day? After a week of usage, here’s what we found out.
The Retail Box:-
Here’s a quick unboxing of the HTC Butterfly.
Just to give you an idea of what you get in the retail package:
I have to admit, the HTC Butterfly makes a great first impression when you first pick it up and hold it in your hand. Measuring 143 x 70.5 x 9.08 mm, it’s a very well built device and is mostly made of a soft-touch polycarbonate construction similar to what was used on the One X. The J Butterfly in Japan apparently has a plastic back panel instead, but polycarbonate is a better choice because it’s a great balance of durability, looks and weight as well. This also seems to have allowed HTC to ensure the Butterfly is water resistant, which is pretty great. Its’ rating means that you might not be able to go swimming with it, but the Butterfly will definitely survive any accidental water spills or splashes on it.
Build quality is still solid nonetheless, and there’s various small touches that HTC threw in to add to the premium feel of it. There’s thin edges that taper from the center, with a ‘micro-grill’ pattern along the sides, and a metallic-ish, glossy finish to the HTC logo on the matte back panel. It’s a fit and finish that isnt as solid as the One series devices but is leagues better than the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III for instance. And not to mention, it’s all just 9mm slim and only weighs 140 grams, which is pretty darn impressive considering the specs in there, and able to slip into a pocket without any problems.
It is very obvious that HTC has tried to make the Butterfly as ergonomic as possible, and it feels very comfortable in your hand inspite of it’s size. HTC also stressed that the Butterfly is not a phablet, which is true since it is nowhere as awkwardly large as the Galaxy Note II, and is actually even narrower than the Galaxy S III. The design inherits traits from HTC’s Windows Phones, the 8X and 8S, with a slightly tapered back.
There are things that are mildly annoying though. For instance, you have a power/screenlock button located at the center of the top, which is a bit hard to use without holding the phone in a very awkward grip. Having it located on the right side would have been a lot more comfortable.
Next to it, is the standard 3.5 mm audio jack, and a large housing which contains the microSIM card slot and microSD card slot, and is covered with a plastic flap that is a bit hard to open, but since the phone is water resistant (rated IPX5), is forgivable. But it can still be cumbersome to remove everyday when you want to charge the Butterfly.
There’s a tiny pinhole next to it for the secondary noise-cancellation microphone.
At the bottom, you have the microUSB port, covered by a plastic flap again, which is used to charge the device and data connectivity.
Next door is the pinhole for the primary microphone.
And at the right side, you have the volume rocker key, which is easy enough to find and use, though it is a little flush. But this helps achieve the tapered design that HTC was going for with the Butterfly.
Likewise, the left side is minimal with no ports or buttons located here.
There’s the same perforated metal aluminium strips on either side, which is apparently inspired by the design of sports cars according to HTC.
At the back, you have the wonderfully minimalistic styling of the soft touch back panel, with the glossy HTC logo in the center.
While the black version is matte, the white version is glossy to avoid getting dirty. Both look brilliant but attract smudges and finger grease very easily.
Towards the bottom you have the speaker grille made up of micro-drilled holes, right below the Beats Audio logo.
[quote_right]secondary notification LED at the back[/quote_right]
And towards the top, you have the 8 Megapixel camera, next to a single LED flash on one side, and a tiny notification led on the other side. HTC’s decision to place a secondary notification light at the back of the Butterfly (the first is on the right side of the earpiece at the front) is a small idea that turns out to be incredibly useful, so that you always know whether you have a new message, email, alert or something to check on the Butterfly.
Underneath, is the 2020 mAh battery which is non-removable unfortunately, which might be a bummer for some folks who still prefer having the options of swapping out batteries.
Then, saving the best for last, is the front of the HTC Butterfly, consisting of it’s gorgeous full HD 1080p Gorilla Glass 2 display.
It’s a 5 inch Super-LCD3 at 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution, which results in an incredibly crisp pixel density of 440 ppi.
That’s the highest out there right now, and by comparison the iPhone 5 has a pixel density of 326 ppi and the Samsung Galaxy Note II has 267 ppi.
Safe to say, our minds were blown away by the level of sharpness on the Butterfly’s display. Whether you’re surfing the interwebs, reading a book, or watching an HD Moie, the display will definitely not disappoint. Font rendering is super crisp, and 1080p videos look absolutely stunning.
[quote_left]most impressive screen we’ve seen on a smartphone to date[/quote_left]
As a result, the HTC Butterfly has the most impressive screen we’ve seen on a smartphone to date. It’s really something that you need to see in the flesh to really appreciate. As if the super high resolution isnt enough, brightness is unrivaled, viewing angles are great, and colour reproduction is excellent and more even more accurate than what we saw on the One X+, which is arguably the best display we saw last year. The Butterfly steals that crown though. Images seem like they’re floating right above the screen.
But that all being said, when you compare it to the 720p screen of the One X at the same brightness level, most folks wont really notice that much of a difference in resolution. Atleast from a comfortable viewing distance. You could probably tell the difference if you scrutinized the displays up close, but that’s a bit irritating to the eyes, yes? Generally text rendered is smooth and lacks jagged edges on both displays. But while stepping down to 720p might not be that bit a change, there’s no way you can go back to qHD after getting used to this.
Above the screen, you have the centrally located earpiece, and a front facing 2.1 Megapixel wide angle camera, which is the same one used on the HTC 8X, and can be very useful for portrait shots or videos. The earpiece has a very distinct design element with the metallic piece that is right above it. It serves no purpose but admittedly does make the Butterfly slightly more identifiable from the ocean of black or white slabs out there.
Below the screen you have the usual Android 4.x capacitive-touch buttons for back, home and recent apps.
They worked well with the One series of devices last year, and work great on the Butterfly as well. Personally, it’s my favourite implementation on Android apart from on-screen buttons.
[quote_left]the HTC Butterfly is a work of art[/quote_left]
Stepping back and looking at it, the HTC Butterfly is a work of art. It’s not necessarily a design that will stand out in a crowd of rectangular touchscreen phones, but dayum, it sure looks & feels great in your hand.
The HTC Butterfly is powered by a Quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, with an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard memory, with a microSD card slot. This means things are super quick, and super smooth and we were fairly impressed with the overall speed of operation. The interface is responsive, and apps load quickly.
That’s really saying something considering the HTC One X which ran on NVIDIA’s Tegra processor, that was plagued with occasional lag and slowdowns, though it is now a less frequent occurrence thanks to Project Butter with the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update. Specs were similar otherwise (except for RAM and clock speeds), but the processor on Butterfly has almost twice the pixels to push which was a worry for me, since I wasnt sure how smooth the overall performance would be. Thankfully, we have seen no evident lag or slowdown so far, and benchmarks came out great with the Butterfly scoring many a victory in the Quadrant benchmarks, toppling scores of the HTC One X+.
In terms of connectivity, there’s 3G, Wifi b/g/n, DLNA, microUSB, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and supports HTC’s Media Link HD for wireless HDMI mirroring, though it is interesting to note that NFC is not present on our South-Asia unit. It’s strange that HTC would remove NFC from a premium smartphone, when the Japanese and North American variants have it, and previous flagships as well. No USB-OTG either officially. That being said, the International Butterfly does have a microSD card slot, which is missing in the Droid DNA and Japan’s J Butterfly. Also worth mentioning, that the Butterfly, like many of HTC’s devices from 2012, comes with 25GB of free Dropbox cloud storage as well.
It’s also compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard, so you could pick up a compatible wireless charger like the Nokia Fatboy Wireless Charging Pillow and use it to charge the Butterfly instead of going with ye old wired microUSB charing.
The HTC Butterfly runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean out of the box, skinned with HTC Sense 4+ UI which is similar to what we saw on the One X+.
We’ve already talked about what’s new with the HTC Sense 4+ overlay in our HTC One X+ Review, so I’ll try to focus on what’s new here rather than repeating ourselves again. But just incase you need a quick recap instead of a detailed explanation, Android Jelly Bean and HTC Sense 4+ brings Google Now, expandable notifications, a redesigned virtual keyboard, revamped Gallery app, enhanced camera interface with a “Sightseeing mode” and a power saver mode as well.
HTC Sense has come a long way, and looks better than ever before. Ofcourse that being said, whether you like the interface or not is ultimately a personal preference. There’s some pretty nice widgets that are exclusive to HTC’s custom UI, like the famous weather app and ‘skins’ that you can change, along with the same circular ring lockscreen.
There’s also HTC’s multitasking menu, which requires you to swipe upwards to close an app, and arranges recent apps by thumbnails in a horizontal view.
There is one exclusive widget that is only found on the Butterfly though, and that is the “App & Shortcut” widget which is not a standard feature of Sense 4+, but rather is just an element of the Butterfly’s user interface. It allows you to place four apps or shortcuts on a home screen panel for quicker and easier access to said apps, can you can only fit four of these on one homescreen panel. Cant resize it either unfortunately.
The flexibility of Android means you can change this look if you grow tired of it, but there’s not denying it all looks gorgeous on the 1080p display.
Coming to text input, typing on the HTC Butterfly is easy enough thanks to that large 5 inch screen. There’s even haptic feedback as you type, and the portrait keyboard is very comfortable to type on.
Switch to landscape though, and it actually gets a little harder to type. You’ll require both thumbs because of that elongated screen, but reaching certain alphabets can be a bit of a stretch depending on how long your thumbs are, heh.
The stock messaging app also has a couple new features now (but I’m not sure if this was also on the One X+), like the ability to set a list of blocked content, or the ability to move messages to a “secure inbox” or “block inbox”. You can even set a custom background image or change the colors of the text bubbles similar to popular messaging app, WhatsApp.
Coming to multimedia, you have the same gallery and video player as the One X+ on Sense 4+, and the usual music player with Beats Audio built-in.
You dont need a special pair of headphones to use the feature, contrary to popular belief it’ll work with any pair of headphones. Beats Audio on the HTC Butterfly also has a significant boost in power thanks to a 2.55V amp built-in, which means there’s more than enough bass to rattle your brain.
Music volumes are loud even with Beats Audio turned off, but if you’re a love of insane bass, this one’s for you. If that isnt your thing, you can always turn off beats audio, or just use another third party music player app from the Google Play Store.
Coming to internet browsing, you have Chrome pre-installed as part of Jelly Bean, but you also have the default Sense browser available too. No troubles with scrolling around, panning or zooming around thanks to that quad-core processor.
HTC’s browser supports Adobe Flash too, which is off by default but can be switched on easily thanks to a toggle right in the menu on the upper right side. Ofcourse the browser warns you that flash is a memory hog and would slow down the processor and eat away at the battery, etc. But atleast you have the option incase there’s a flash site that you really need to see.
There’s also a Read Mode that works similar to Reader in the iPhone’s Safari browser, where the article you are reading is stripped down of ads and images, to make it easier for you to read the content. Apart from that, all the features that you’d expect in a browser are available, such as bookmarks, read-it-later, etc.
At the end of the day, Sense 4+ is basically centered around showing off all the good things that Android Jelly Bean brings along, and we thought that was just fine. I personally, think it’s the best looking Android UI around, but there are many who dont. And hey, that’s just fine because you can always install a different launcher to get a whole new look.
The HTC Butterfly has an 8 megapixel rear auto-focus camera with f/2.0 aperture, 28mm wide angle lens and BSI sensor.
And if that wasnt enough, at the front there’s a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera, capable of capturing wide-angle self portraits and group shots of up to four individuals in the same picture. As you can imagine, that comes in very handy.
And it’s all powered by the same ImageSense technology and dedicated image processing chip found in the One series smartphones from last year. HTC’s ImageSense ISP chip allows for the unified camera interface that lets you take photos or videos without switching screens, and even take a photo while recording a video.
But most of all, I’m appreciative of how the camera lens does not protrude out anymore unlike with the HTC One X. Sense 4+ also brings a new ‘sightseeing mode’ to the camera app that allows you to lock your phone while the camera app is running, and then bypass the lockscreen to immediately resume shooting when you press the unlock button. There’s also a useful new countdown timer for when you take self-portrait shots with the front facing camera.
You have the ability to manually set white balance and ISO (to a max of 800) though in some low light shots it can go over 1400. There’s also an HDR mode, Macro Mode, Low Light mode and built-in Instagram-like photo filters that you can use right in the camera app.
The Camera app is very snappy, taking pictures even faster than the One X+ did. Camera Image quality was more sharper and detailed over all compared to the One X, with natural colors and pretty good overall shots. Pictures in slow light are fair, and brighter but the aggressive noise compression algorithm tends to smear details quite a bit. There’s also the single LED flash available incase you need it.
Here’s a couple camera samples from the HTC Butterfly to give you a better idea:
And one shot with the front facing camera to show you how wide angle it is:
In terms of video camera quality, it’s about the same as the One X, still recording in MPEG-4 format at a frame rate of 30 fps. There’s also a fun slow motion camera built-in that can come in useful for creative videos, and you can also take high resolution pictures while recording a video which can come in super useful sometimes.
Here’s a couple video samples from the HTC Butterfly, to give you a better idea:
The Call Quality:-
Call quality on the HTC Butterfly was pretty good, and we had no issues with dropped calls or reception at all. Voices came in loud and clear on the earpiece, and folks on the other end of the call also heard us clearly, thanks to the noise-cancelling microphone, with no audible distortion.
The external loudspeaker is amply loud thanks to that aforementioned dedicated amplifier, so you can comfortably listen to conference calls or music. That being said, it is placed on the back of the phone, so that loudspeaker can get muffled if you place it display side up on a table or pillow.
The Battery Life:-
Because of the full HD 1080p display and quad-core processor, I was worried that the HTC Butterfly might not last too well at all in terms of battery life. I mean, I own the original HTC One X which was known for it’s higher-than-average power consumption and shorter battery mileage, so I know how annoying poor battery life can be.
Thankfully it seems that my worries were unfounded. I actually got better battery life out of the HTC Butterfly than I did with the LG Optimus Vu, the other 5-inch phone out there (granted it isnt pushing as many pixels because it didnt have a full HD screen). It’s not quite as comfortable as the One X+, but it lasted much longer than my original One X.
I’d imagine this is down to the significant improvements HTC has made in the power management of their devices this year, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor used versus NVIDIA’s power hungry Tegras from the One X.
Under moderately usage, you could comfortably get through a typical 8-12 hour work day with the HTC Butterfly, though if you’re headed out for an evening with friends after, you might want to charge it up again at the office. Heavy usage will see that battery run down in a matter of hours though. Enabling the built-in power saver mode can also help you squeeze out some extra battery mileage as well, which is done by conserving CPU usage, and reducing the automatic screen brightness. The haptic feedback is also turned off, and your mobile data connections are cut off when the screen is off.
The Video Overview:-
Here’s a detailed video overview of the HTC Butterfly. Just to give you a better idea:
So is the HTC Butterfly recommendable?
Yes, very much so actually. HTC has done a great job with the Butterfly, and while I still maintain that the name is absolutely ridiculous, it has a nice, minimalistic industrial design, solid build quality, smooth & quick performance with the stunning 5 inch 1080p display being the icing on the cake.
There are three worries I do have with the Butterfly though, and they are:
(a) that the battery life isnt as great as the One X+ which means that if you’re deciding between the two, you have to sacrifice battery life for the HD display & memory card slot. But the 720p display on the One X+ isnt too shabby either, and could keep most folks content.
(b) that the price in India costs more than even the Galaxy Note II, which means you’re going to have to choose between a phablet, and the Butterfly.
(c) that there’s a new flagship coming around from HTC, codenamed the HTC M7, that will bring a brand new version of Sense UI and probably better hardware while still supposedly sticking with a 1080p display. Should you perhaps be more patient and wait for that?
And then there’s the whole fact that you know the HTC Butterfly is just a taste of flagships to come, both from HTC and other manufacturers, such as Sony’s Xperia Z which boasts even better specs with a 13 megapixel rear camera, water and dust resistance, thinner chassis, and a larger battery capacity as well, and is launching next month.
[quote_right]the HTC Butterfly is one gorgeous phone[/quote_right]
It’s a tough call y’all. But at the end of the day there’s no denying that the HTC Butterfly is one gorgeous phone. To be very honest, personally I’d imagine if you got one, you’d probably have no regrets about it. But the fact that there’s another flagship coming along in a month or two, and alternatives from Sony releasing soon, and others being announced in less than a month at Mobile World Congress, means I’d probably wait it out until after February to make a decision.
Fantastic phone, but perhaps bad timing?
Stunning 1080p Screen
MicroSD card slot
Take Photographs while recording video
Notification Lights on both sides
Android Jelly Bean
Loud Audio thanks to built-in amplifier
Lock Button placement is inconvinient
Update: I had to update this review to add this bit of information. The HTC One is now released and available in stores, and it is a MASSIVELY better phone than the HTC Butterfly. Incase you need more evidence to back that up, head on over and check out our HTC One Review.