HTC has already kicked off 2013 with a bang by launching India’s first smartphone with a Full HD display. This trend will soon pick up pace as Sony gets ready to launch the Xperia Z, followed by Samsung and other OEMs, who’ll announce their flagships at MWC 2013 in a few weeks. As it stands now, the HTC Butterfly is the only handset in the market with a Full HD display that gives full reign over the high-end segment. Priced at iPhone 5 levels, the Butterfly has some big shoes to fill if it’s serious about luring Apple fans. Can the Butterfly deliver something more than just an impressive spec sheet? That’s what we’re about to find out.
Design and Build
The first thing that strikes you when you lift it out of the box is how freakishly light it is. Being a 5-inch display, you’d expect it to be heavy, but it’s not. In fact it’s only a tad heavier than the HTC One X. The 5-inch display does not seem obnoxiously large like the Galaxy Note did since it’s longer in length, like the iPhone 5 instead of being broad. This makes it very comfortable to use if you have medium-sized hands. The volume rocker is also wide enough to be used without stretching however; you’ll have to shuffle the phone a bit to reach the power button, which is placed way up top. The Butterfly is completely sealed off so you can’t remove the battery. All entry points to the SIM slot, SD card and USB port are covered with flaps. This prevents dust build-up over time but is also terribly annoying to use, especially the flap for the microSIM tray.
Very striking looks
The Butterfly doesn’t have a unibody design like the One X but it still manages to look good. The front is dominated by a Gorilla Glass 2 protective layer with the same lacquer finish we saw on the One X. This makes colours pop but does leave the phone with nasty fingerprints. The sides feature a mesh-like trim, which does nothing for the cooling of the handset but is simply there for aesthetic value. We like the attention to detail given to the power and volume buttons as concentric circle patterns add to the grip as well as the cool factor. The Butterfly’s rear is glossy but still manages to mask fingerprints extremely well. Here, we have the 8MP shooter along with an LED flash and a new notification light. This is the first time we’ve seen HTC or anyone for that matter, put a notification light on the back of the phone as well. Just like the front light, it flashes amber or green depending on the type of notification. Both are extremely dim though and can barely be seen in day light.
The flap-covered microSIM slot
The Butterfly has superb build quality but it doesn’t really feel like a Rs 40,000 phone. The One X exuded a premium look and feel and you could tell that by just looking at it. The Butterfly somehow lacks that feeling.
The HTC Butterfly runs on Android Jelly Bean 4.1.1 along with a Sense 4+ mask. This is the same version we first saw on the One X+, so the features and functionality haven't really changed much. We miss the shortcut toggles in the notification bar from previous Sense versions. The UI is free of any lag and navigation is butter smooth. We now come to the main talking point of the Butterfly and that’s the display. The panel type is Super LCD 3 and boasts of an impressive 1920 x 1080p resolution, giving it a pixel count of 441ppi. This is double the resolution you get from any of the other flagship phones in the market.
Big difference when zoomed in
The pixels are so densely packed you can’t really see any pixilation around icons even if you look very closely. This makes everything, especially text, incredibly sharp and vivid. HTC has had to bump up the resolution for their entire skin as well, in order to keep up with the extra pixels. While this does look great, you can’t really tell much of a difference between a 720p and 1080p display at 5 inches, just by looking at it. HTC’s up scaling engine does a good job of rendering games and apps on such a high-res screen and we didn’t find any issues here. The display is also incredibly bright and sun light legibility is pretty good too.
Jelly Bean onboard!
The Butterfly is powered by a more efficient quad-core SoC this time around. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC replaces Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip and will most likely be seen in their upcoming One handset as well. Coupled with a whopping 2GB of RAM, there’s never going to be any shortage of memory even if you load up your phone with a ton of apps. For storage, we have 16GB of onboard space with the ability to expand it up to 32GB. We felt 16GB is a bit less for such an expensive phone and we would have liked at least 32GB.
The music and video player are very similar to Sense 4, with the addition of DivX and MKV playback. There’s no other audio enhancement other than Beats Audio, which amplifies the volume quite a bit as well as the low frequencies and treble so you’ll want it on for your music and videos. The player is easy and pretty straightforward to use and you even get lock screen controls.
Excellent media playback
SD content doesn’t look terrible despite the high resolution screen and Full HD videos play back flawlessly. Colours are rich and vibrant and the display has very good viewing angles as well. You can adjust the brightness of the video independent of the screen brightness as well as lock the controls or stream the video via DLNA to a TV. FM Radio is also present along with 7 Digital and TuneIn Radio.
The HTC Butterfly is a quad-band GSM handset with dual-band 3G support. You also get dual-band Wi-Fi with hotspot capabilities and Wi-Fi Direct, GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 and TV out via MHL, which covers all your connectivity options. NFC is missing from this particular version, which is a shame since you can find NFC even in budget handsets these days. Browsing through image-heavy websites didn’t pose problems of any kind, as panning and zooming was smooth and lag free. Social networking and other services are baked right into Sense as well, which includes Skydrive and Dropbox. All your contacts are automatically synced with various social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the Friend Stream app gives you quick access to all the feeds and updates in one place. You also get 25GB of free Dropbox storage for 2 years.
Good connectivity options
The keyboard is still not the best to use and the word prediction could use a major update. For example, it simply wasn’t able to predict I wanted to type 'we'll' after typing the w and the e, given the context of the sentence. It gave me every other option but we'll.
Besides the usual assortment of Google apps, you get plenty of HTC centric apps like the Mirror (uses the front facing camera), a Task Manager to kill apps and services, Flashlight and Notes that syncs with your Evernote account to a Data transfer app that works between compatible devices. HTC’s Car setup gives you a landscape display with oversized icons that make it easy to access features on your device while you’re driving.
Good camera interface
The camera sensors seem to have been lifted off the 8X as the Butterfly packs in the same f/2.0 front facing camera and rear facing camera. The camera interface and features are very similar to what we saw on the One X+, the only difference is that the quality of images is much better. The f/2.0 aperture gives you incredible depth of field effects for macro shots. The sensor is also able to pick up much more detail than before. Slow motion video is quite fun as well but you can’t get anything above 480p. The awesome burst mode also makes a comeback here. Take a look at some of our sample pictures and judge for yourself.
Crazy depth of field
Captures really good details
Slow Motion video test
HTC, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to fit the Butterfly with a measly 2020mAh battery. As expected, this gave us just 6 hours and 40 minutes in our video drain test, which is borderline average. The One X+ on the other hand gave us about 9 hours of video playback despite having a more power hungry SoC. The high-resolution screen seems to be the culprit here more than Qualcomm’s SoC. We don’t even want to imagine what effect a Full HD Super AMOLED screen will have.
Verdict and Price in India
With a price of Rs 45,990, the HTC Butterfly is officially the most expensive Android handset in the market and goes head on with the iPhone 5. All said and done, the Butterfly is another brilliantly-crafted handset from HTC and takes pole position in their Android fleet. It looks majestic (although we still maintain the One X was a better looker), feels comfortable in your hand despite the large screen, has a sharp and vivid display, very good multimedia features and excellent cameras. The poor battery life is our only real gripe with this phone and of course, its high price. This should very soon normalise as more 1080p screen handsets start hitting the market. As of now, we feel the HTC Butterfly outperforms the iPhone 5 in almost all departments, save for battery life and if you’re looking for an alternative to Apple, then there’s nothing better than this at the moment.
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