With bigger appetite for videos, games and full screen web experience, people tend to prefer a larger screen these days which is something considered rather silly 2-3 years back. HTC has been rather restraint with large screen phones with 4.7″ being the biggest to come out from the Taiwanese brand. We’ve seen its first attempt in 2011 on the Sensation XL with its 4.7″ 800×480 display, followed by the HTC One X with its 4.7″ Super LCD2 display at 1280×720 resolution.
So where does HTC go from here especially when its Korean rivals are already pushing 4.8″-5.5″? Well, they go bigger with more substance. This is where the HTC Butterfly comes in with a full HD resolution in a 5″ Super LCD3 display, a first for smart phones. At 1920×1080 pixels resolution, the Butterfly pushes an insane 440ppi (pixels per inch) which is equivalent of cramming your Full HD TV into a small 5″ device. In comparison with pixel densities, that’s almost 100 ppi more than its closest competition at that time (342ppi from 4.3″ 1280×720 displays).
So obviously the HTC Butterfly seems to be a winner in the display department, but how does it work as a whole? Let’s find out in the full review after the break.
Putting a high-end display isn’t enough if it doesn’t come with high-end underpinnings. Underneath its unibody chassis is a Quad-Core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The Butterfly that we are getting in Malaysia is actually a 3rd variant followed by the original J Butterfly that’s meant for Japan market and the Droid DNA that’s exclusive with Verizon. Fortunately for us, the Butterfly in Malaysia comes with microSD expansion.
The unit which was provided came with a striking red colour for the back panel which is overly glossy with that plasticity feeling. We didn’t like the fact that it’s a huge fingerprint magnet that can be a problem when your hands get a little sweaty.
Over at the front, it comes with the typical all black front HTC design and there’s the capacitive 3 buttons at the bottom. The Butterfly is a rather huge device but compared to the 5.0″ Galaxy Note, it is much easier to hold as it is thinner (9.1mm), narrower (70.5mm) and shorter (143mm).
With your hands being stretched out for single handed use, one complaint we have is the power button which is located right at the top in the middle. It is ok for us but we can imagine those with smaller hands would struggle to switch it on with one hand. The power/wake button comes with a circular felt pattern which is pretty decent to press.
Going around the device, you’ll notice that the Butterfly uses a lot of flap covers. The flap over at the top houses the micro SIM tray slot and micro SD slot, while the flap at the bottom covers the micro USB port.
Opening these covers can be pretty troublesome and after long term use, we noticed that the red paint tends to chip off revealing spots of grey underneath. The reason of the flap covers is for its water resistant capabilities of IPX-5, which is more of splash proof rather than something you can submerge under water.
Just like the earlier HTC models such as the HTC One X and One S, the notification light on the Butterfly is rather discreet. It is hidden right underneath the thin earpiece grill which can be hard to notice in bright outdoor conditions.
Over at the back, the Butterfly comes with a f/2.0 8MP camera which takes pictures rather quickly. It also comes with the same speedy 4fps burst mode up to 99 shots and camera takes shots at wider angle compared than the rest thanks to its 28mm lens. This means you don’t need to stand back too far to take group shots.
On the right side of the camera lens, there’s assisted flash and on the left side, there’s a hidden LED light which acts as a secondary notification light. It lights up in red during charging. The loud speaker is located at the bottom just like the HTC One X and features the similar looking micro-holes which keeps water droplets from entering.
In terms of battery, the HTC Butterfly comes with a rather little 2,020mAh battery which is underwhelming considering the top notching hardware it packs. Nevertheless, the Butterfly manages to last about 12-13 hours of average use, which is still rather decent with all the notifications running in the background. Weighing 140 grams, the Butterfly feels lighter than it looks. An unfortunate exclusion is NFC which by now should be a standard for all high-end devices these days.
Out of the box, the HTC Butterfly runs on Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean with Sense 4+. It retains the same unlocking ring UI from its previous versions but the home screen has been refreshed with a couple of new shortcut and clock widgets. In the previous sense, we didn’t like how the native browser dominates the entire screen in full screen mode but the new version gives you an option to disable full screen. This allows the notification bar to be visible so that you can keep an eye out for messages and alerts.
Other subtle Sense 4+ include a remaining photo/video count in camera mode and a new gallery. It still retains the same car mode which we think is a great interface for those that spend more time on the road.
Some of the things we didn’t like is the Recent App/Task Switcher interface which was retained from the previous HTC One X. Although it looks nice with the carousel looking effect, it only allows you to view one app at a time which can get a little frustrating if you want to switch between apps quickly.
However, it is good to know that HTC will be upgrading the Butterfly to Sense 5 which shows your recent apps in a 3×3 grid and other UI features you’ll find on the new HTC one.
In terms of performance, the HTC Butterfly just breezes through everything we throw at it. The Quad-core 1.5Ghz S4 Pro is clearly no slouch and it manages to clock 8,170 points in Quadrant Standard and 18,890 points with AnTuTu Benchmarks.
The Butterfly is quite a shutter-happy device which lets you take photos in either single/burst shot at your convenience without the need of switching modes. To take burst mode, just press and hold the on screen shutter button. When recording videos, you are also able to take pictures simultaneously which is then saved at 6MP. This is similar as the previous HTC One X and you can see this in action here. Generally, things hasn’t changed much for the camera interface since the HTC One X.
In terms of quality, the Butterfly is rather decent but tends to get washed out and noisy in low light conditions. At normal view in the phone, photo tends to look rather sharp but at 100% crop, you’ll notice that there’s some post processing sharpness being applied excessively. You can check the full comparison photos and video with the Xperia Z in our earlier shoot out.
The HTC Butterfly certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to display. Colours are brilliant, text are crisp and it performs well with wide viewing angles. When compared to a Xperia Z, the Butterfly stands out as the better display with more vibrant output. While the Butterfly’s 1080p display is double of its predecessor, it doesn’t impress us significantly over its previous 720p displays. We believe we are hitting the limit of pixel density that an eye can see and some might find the difference negligible. Even with our brief experience with the new 4.7″ HTC One with an even a higher pixel density, we can’t really tell both displays apart. One thing we liked about the Butterfly is how the screen curves towards the edge just like the HTC One X. It makes side swiping especially when switching tabs on Chrome a fairly easy affair.
With its retail price of RM2,299, it is quite a hard device to recommend right now considering a better built HTC One will be priced the same once it reaches Malaysia sometime end of April (if there’s no further delays). Pricing aside, the HTC Butterfly is still a very capable device with a large 5.0″ Full HD display and a powerful processor with generous 2GB of RAM. Despite its rather small 2,020mAh battery, the Butterfly manages to survive pretty well in our day to day usage. The way we looked at it, the HTC Butterfly is more of a stop-gap model before its new flagship HTC One gets here. With the price expected to be revised soon, the Butterfly is still a capable high end device for those that crave a bigger screen which is still somewhat usable with a single hand.