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HTC Butterfly Review: Are all Butterflies so Beautiful?

April 23rd, 2013 by

The HTC J Butterfly was announced in Japan towards the end of 2012 as an exclusive for Japanese markets. The USP of the device was that it packed a true HD 1280P display for the first time on a smart phone. Most of the tech experts, by just hearing the 1280P figure called it the most stunning display on a mobile device. The phone later was released as the Droid DNA in the US on Verizon and as HTC Butterfly for other markets in an unlocked variant.

HTC Butterfly

We picked our HTC Butterfly soon after it was released in India and have spent about four weeks playing with the device. As a result we feel we are in a good position to offer our opinions on this fantastic device. So, is there more to the HTC Butterfly than that gorgeous 1080P display or are you better off spending your money on another device? Let’s find it out in our full review of the HTC Butterfly.

Pricing and Availability

HTC Butterfly is available as the Droid DNA on verizon wireless carrier in the US for a cool $199.99 with a two year contract. The device is a Verizon exclusive if you want a locked carrier version. However, an unlocked HTC Butterfly will set you back by about Rs. 45,000 or approximately $950. Some of the famous online retail stores such as Flipkart do have the device readily available for a little more than the Rs. 45,000 mark.

Retail Package HTC Butterfly

You can also pick the device in the market from a local retailer for maybe a few thousand rupees lesser. However, the availability is scarce in the market and you might have to hunt around a little  to find one of these beauties. Our review unit in the article is the unlocked model purchased from India and we did hands on time with both the white retail model and the black one.

Retail Packaging

The retail packaging of the HTC Butterfly is pretty much like any phone you will find with nothing fancy going on. The phone comes in a simple and not so fancy cardboard box with your warranty and usage manuals and standard set of accessories which includes the wall charging point, a Micro USB Cable and a standard HTC set of headphones.

in the box HTC Butterfly

The headphones are not Beats manufactured, though they do have a decent base and overall noise cancellation for regular usage. If you are into music, you would want to pick a new set of head phones as these are pretty average. Calls through them did sound pretty natural and good. These are nicely wrapped around in a translucent plastic packaging. The phone itself is packed in a thin plastic film offering some protection inside the box.

Hardware and the Feel in Hand

Speaking from a dimensional point of view the HTC Butterfly measures 143 x 70.5 x 9.1 mm. The device weighs 140 grams which is about 10 grams more than the HTC One X. That being said, we never felt the device to be chunky or big. In fact, the phone feels pretty light in hand and has a thin profile. Having used both the HTC Butterfly and the Nokia Lumia 920 simultaneously, we definitely felt the HTC Butterfly scored more on the feel good factor.

Back Panel of white HTC Butterfly

The device is incredibly well built and once again HTC has got the design on the phone pretty close to perfect. Yes, we are writing this review after the HTC One has launched and although the Butterfly is not an all metal wonder like the One, it is a beautiful device in its own right and scores very well on the design scoreboard. The intelligent use of spun Aluminum and a beautiful red strip on the sides of the device makes HTC Butterfly one of the best looking smart phones out there. The red strip inspired by racing cars, not only added the oomph factor but provided a solid grip to the phone which made sure we did not drop the phone even with slightly sweaty palms.

HTC Butterfly front view

The back of the device is subject to the color you pick and where you get your device from. Ours was a black unit so the back had a neat rubber-ish matte finish with a neat curve which fit into the palms well. But we did check out a white version too and the back was a lot more plasticy and gathered smudges and scratches more easily than the matte on the black unit. The back did gather smudges over time and we ended up cleaning it with a moist cloth to get those dust and moisture marks which collected despite using a back case.

Speaker Grill of HTC Butterfly

The front of the device is pretty much all screen, but we really liked the red accent on the speaker grill on the top. Though, on a white unit, the grill was white metallic one, we liked the red better here. There are also three capacitive buttons on the device for Home, back and app switcher just like on the HTC One X. The edges are curved which meant the device fit in well in the hands and was not awkward to wrap our hands around the device at all.

Volume rockers HTC Butterfly

Volume Rocker on the HTC Butterfly

The camera is placed towards the top and thankfully it is well flushed with the body of the phone and does not protrude out. This meant that we could keep our phone on it’s backside without worrying about the camera lens picking up scratches. There is a single flash light on the side of the camera to help you with picture shooting at night.

Side Profile

The sides of HTC Butterfly compared with the HTC One X

Overall, we loved the design, build and overall chassis of the HTC Butterfly. Despite a massive 5 inch screen, the phone never felt too big or huge but with our medium or average sized hands, we needed both our hands to operate the device which was a little bit of a discomfort especially when we needed to multitask. Although we used our device pretty carefully, as a result in our four weeks with the phone there were no major scratches or dents on the device, once again proving that HTC indeed provides with premium industrial build quality.

Back HTC Butterfly

Back of the HTC Butterfly compared to HTC One X (Left)

The phone is waterproof as all the slots are well covered with doors, but we had to fiddle quite a lot with the slot on top of the device to insert the SIM card. We cannot vouch for the water resistance since we obviously did not throw the device in water. The volume rocker, located on the right hand side matched the red sides of the phone and it worked well. The power on/off switch in the center on top of the device is difficult to access with one hand and it was one of the major drawbacks with the design of the device.

Display and Screen

This is the section the HTC Butterfly absolutely nails. the 5 inch Super LCD 3 display on the HTC Butterfly is utterly gorgeous. The 1280 x 1920 resolution on the device makes media watching a joy. It is pretty much the best display we have ever used on a mobile device. The PPI of 441 is only just behind the newly launched HTC One and the Galaxy S IV. But we do not believe in throwing around just pure numbers. These numbers however translate into a performance that is really good. The viewing angles are good and outdoor visibility with auto brightness was pretty good. We did not rack the brightness all the way up to use the device in direct sunlight and that was a good thing.

Full brightness on HTC Butterfly

The Corning Gorilla Glass 2 of the device does a good job in protecting the device from scratches. In our regular usage and a few drops here and there, the screen held up on its own very well without any visible scratches. The video playback on the device was crazy good and we loved the experience of watching The Dark Knight on our HTC Butterfly. Games and images looked great because the color reproduction on the phone was very well done. The blacks were deep though maybe not as deep as some of them on the Super AMOLED HD panels like the Note II. But we really are trying hard to pick faults with display that is pretty much perfect, so lets leave it at that.

HTC Butterfly screen

Screen of the HTC Butterfly (1080 P) against the screen of HTC One X (720 P)

One problem though is that not every application on the Play Store is optimized for usage with HD displays especially 1080 P and as a result some of them were pretty badly pixel-ated which kind of killed the overall app experience on the device. The screen is really reflective though, and in outdoor conditions that can play a spoilsport.

Speaker and Audio Output

The speaker performances were pretty similar to the HTC One X, i.e fairly average. We did try out a phone call on speaker and it sounded good. Keeping the device on it’s back especially on a soft surface like a bed meant the audio levels were terribly subdued and distorted due to speakers being flushed into the back of the device. We would have much preferred the speaker being either on the side or the front so we could keep the device down without losing the decibel levels.

Speaker location

Speaker location on the HTC Butterfly

We used a kickstand cover with the device while watching the movie and it improved the experience greatly. The audio with headphones was really good though. The phone has Beats Audio integrated, but we did not really buy much into it. Beats Audio can only be enabled when you have plugged in headphones. Enabling Beats Audio seemed only to enhance the volume and some base to the songs. We achieved much better results by using a third party player such as MX Player and playing around with the equalizer.

Performances in Real Time

The HTC Butterfly features a Quad Core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU with Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8064 chipset. There is 2GB RAM on board and the GPU is the Adreno 320. All these figures translate into an beastly device. The 2GB RAM on board meant that the device handled multi tasking very well. The quad core processor handled all the applications we ran very well and there was no visible lag or frame jumping while playing games or even watching HD videos.

Quadrant Benchmark HTC Butterfly

Quadrants Standards Score

However, continuously playing temple run for about an hour with the device plugged into our wall charger lead to a lot of heating and the device even restarted on one of the occasions. It was our only complain on what was otherwise a buttery smooth experience of running applications on the Butterfly.

Antutu Score HTC Butterfly

The project Butter definitely seems to work a treat and there was a noticeable difference and upgrade in the performance levels than devices such as HTC One X or even the Galaxy S III . The default browser with Flash On handled Flash very well and the browsing of graphical intensive websites such as The Verge was a pure joy on the 5 inch display.

Camera Performance

HTC Butterfly comes with a 8 MP Camera with a single flash. The Camera interface on the device is same to the one on the previous flagship HTC One X with a few add ons here and there. However, we did feel that the image stabilization worked a lot better on the Butterfly than the One X. The camera is adequate and good for day to day use or for normal images for social media sharing. It will not replace your SLR or even point shooter to be honest. Apart from the Nokia Pureview 808, iPhone 5, Lumia 920 and maybe the N8 to a stretch none of the devices on the market have better cameras than the HTC Butterfly.

Camera shots HTC Butterfly

The low light performances were decent and the F2.0 aperture on the device produced good results in daylight and satisfactory ones at night. Though the noise levels were pretty disturbing while shooting at night. The burst mode has the ability to capture a shot in .2 seconds, and you can then choose the best image you like. The smart flash feature worked well in medium and low light conditions and the video capture on device in 1080 P was more than adequate.

Camera Shots HTC Butterfly

We particularly loved the slow motion video mode and the various choices available for taking the shots such as enabling HDR, Panorama and Group Portrait. You also have options such as Landscape, Portrait, Night, Macro or Text mode based on the scene you want to shoot. Just like the One X, you can take still shots while capturing the video on the HTC Butterfly.

Camera Shots HTC Butterfly_3

The detail levels on the images captured by the HTC Butterfly was good and the color reproduction was good too. The users do get a fair share of options too, such as deciding on the review duration, Geo-tagging, ISO and White balance setting, smile detection etc. There are various lens modes built in too such as Sepia and Negative which you can apply while taking the shots. Overall, although the camera app is very much like the one on One X or the One X+ with few add ons, the overall experience was much snappier and the low light images from the Butterfly were an obvious improvement on all the other HTC Devices.

Camera Shots HTC Butterfly_4

There is also a 2 MP front facing camera which can shoot 1080 P videos, but it gives fairly standard performance and nothing to blow us away.

(All the images taken above by the HTC Butterfly were shot on Auto mode)

The Sense UI

Starting right from the HTC Tattoo all those years back, we have used every version of Sense UI that HTC has launched. And there is no doubt that the Sense 4+ on the Butterfly has been the smoothest and the best experience we have had so far. There was no lags or performance issues in opening up the applications or swiping across the panels to get to the next home screen. Whether, this is down to improvement to the Sense UI in general or fantastic specs on this device is very much a debatable topic.

HTC Sense version HTC Butterfly

Sense UI though is pretty heavy on the internals of the device and we did disable it mainly to save on the precious battery juice on the device and replaced it with a third party launcher such as the Nova Launcher. The widgets included on the Butterfly are slightly modified from those on other HTC high end phones like the One X or One X+. There is a very neat side widget which lets you access your most used applications shortcuts at one go and it was a very useful add on to the Home Screen. The personalization option allows the user to play around with the theme of the device and you can download more of these and wallpapers by logging into an HTC account.

App drawer HTC Butterfly

You can also switch around between a few different options for lockscreens, such as having weather information, or your notifications or even stocks or images there. The pull ring to unlock worked well without any lags or problems. The notifications bar is pretty standard like we have seen on other HTC devices and there is still no way to enable shortcuts such as enabling Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or Data from within the bar. This can be taken care of though by simply installing a third party application.

Home Screen HTC Butterfly

Google Now is present too and works as well as on any other Android phone we have used. Our Indian version of the device did come with a fair amount of bloatware installed and it is a pity there is no way to uninstall these applications. The default Gallery app and Browser worked fine though we did move to Chrome which was also pre-installed pretty quickly.

Default Web Browser HTC Butterfly

The HTC Notes application on board was our favorite and thought it got the job done very well. It kept us from using our trusted pal, Google Keep. The keyboard on the device is good and thank God the arrow keys which took away a lot of screen space are now gone as seen in older sense versions. The typing was fast and auto correct worked well. Typing in landscape mode though was a little uncomfortable mainly due to the large screen on the device.

Call Quality and Network

No matter how good a phone is, it is quite not up to the scratch if it cannot make decent phone calls. But this is not the case with the HTC Butterfly as it makes calls just right. We did not have any dropped calls unless we walked into a dead zone. The background noise cancellation worked well and the person on the other side did not have any problems hearing us.

Web Browsing

The phone loads up websites perfectly on 3G/HSPA+

Since the Butterfly does not support LTE, we were able to use only 3G or HSPA+ on our device and it worked well. Continuous use of 3G when outdoors in sunlight did heat the device up a little bit, but that is pretty much expected. The data transfer rates were good and we did get speeds upto 3 Mbps down on days when Vodafone 3G did not go for a toss. Overall, we had no issues with the network or call quality of the device and were largely satisfied. Although, no NFC was a bit of a bummer.

Battery Backup

The HTC Butterfly ships with 2020 mAh non removable battery. In our daily usage with Auto Sync Off, and brightness kept to automatic and about an hour of phone calls and few whatsapp messages and E-Mails here and there and light web browsing, the HTC Butterfly easily lasted the day.

HTC Butterfly Notification

We left the Power Saver mode on always and kept the data connection running and could easily get to about 15-20% battery still to go before plugging the device to the charger at about 12 at night having taking it off at 8 in the morning. The charging of the device from 0 took about 2 and a half hours which was pretty acceptable too. Intensive gaming though really drained the battery hard but if you are a moderate user there is nothing you need to worry about.

Battery Backup HTC Butterfly

In fact the battery performances of the HTC Butterfly was a pleasant change from the terrible life we experienced on the previous flagship, the One X.

Our Final Call

All in all, the HTC Butterfly is a fantastic device. It has terrific hardware and a software that does it justice. However, with the impeding arrival of the HTC One and the Galaxy S IV, we feel the Butterfly will never realize it’s true potential. It will perhaps be best remembered as the first phone that had the beautiful 1080 P display which is pretty sad cause this device has so much more going for it.

Display of HTC Butterfly

We also feel the price of about Rs. 45,000 is a bit too much for it and people would much rather wait and spend that sort of money on either the upcoming devices or even the likes of iPhone 5 which would remain the flagship phone of its manufacturers. We had a wonderful time with the phone and not too many things we could complain about, but despite all the goodness and a terrific overall experience, the time of launch alongside the price of the phone means we will find it hard to recommend it to you. Do let us know your thoughts on our HTC Butterfly review.

(Image Credits: Siddhant Kapoor)

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