I’ve always had a soft spot for HTC ever since I laid my eyes on the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1 way back in the day. They sparked my love for Android and for phone hardware. That was a few years ago now, but even today, their hardware design still excites me, however, their software usually leaves users wanting more battery life or wanting less of HTC all together. It’s a real shame, but HTC have no one to blame but themselves.
Over the past year and a half, they have really put a lot of effort into creating the best looking devices packed with amazing hardware to ensure they’re winning at the specs-pissing contest. The HTC Butterfly — we’re reviewing the X920e version from MobiCity — certainly lives up to that idea. The 5-inch 1080p display is the best I’ve seen on any smartphone, and yes, it beats out the HTC One XL. There’s more than enough power from the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor to keep Sense — HTC’s infamous UI — running smoothly. In fact, I never once have any real jittering or lag.
It’s all sounding really good, and it is, but of course there’s a downside. Battery life. With that display; that processor; that memory-hungry UI; you’re going to have a hard time getting the most out of the 2030mAh battery which is not user-accessible, therefore not replaceable. HTC are more than aware of this as well; for example, there’s a constant toggle in the notification drawer asking if you want to turn on battery saver mode — it automatically turns on when you fall below 20% battery. This mode will conserve CPU usage, reduce screen brightness, turn off vibrations, and disconnect from data when you put the phone to sleep. In my normal everyday usage, I could get 11 hours out of it. If you stream media, have multiple accounts syncing, or have the screen on consistently, then you’re not going to get close to that.
The HTC Butterfly is an impressive piece of hardware to look at and hold. It’s not overly large, in fact it’s slightly wider than the Galaxy Nexus but it’s certainly taller which isn’t an issue when holding it anyway. It is 9.1mm at its thickest point, however, it does taper at the edges which makes it feel much thinner than it actually is, and it’s very comfortable to hold. The only problem I had when holding the Butterfly is trying to hit the power button located at the top of the device. Unlike any Samsung device where you can power it on with one hand, you have to either use two hands, or awkwardly adjust your grip to hit the power button.
Also on the top of the device is a covered slot which contains the Micro SIM and Micro SD slots, as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right-hand side is the power rocker which is almost flush with the side of the phone which could be a problem for some, but I had no troubles locating it. On the bottom is another covered slot for the Micro USB charger. On the back is the 8MP camera, LED flash, notification LED (super useful when phone is face downwards!), and loudspeaker. On the front is the 5-inch 1080p display, 2.1MP wide-angle camera (shoots 1080p), notification LED, and three capacitive buttons below the display: back, home, menu/recent apps.
I really can’t stress enough about how good the display on the Butterfly is. You cannot see the pixels at all, it’s pretty much impossible with the human eye to see them up close. The colours are bright and vibrant — not over-saturated like AMOLED displays. The display is also flush with the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 2 so it feels as though you’re actually touching the UI. Even in direct sunlight you can still clearly view the display.
The cameras are actually quite good, as well. The front camera is 2.1MP and has a wide-angle type lens which is really good for video calling and taking some pretty sweet selfies. It can also shoot 1080p video, though the quality of it isn’t all that wonderful. The rear 8MP camera, however, can shoot some very nice stills — with the right lighting — and legible 1080p video with stereo sound. I still don’t believe it’s as good as the Samsung Galaxy S III, but it’s better than most smartphones on the market at the moment.
What can I say about Sense. I’ll start by saying it’s not as bad as it was previously, and quickly add that it’s still not where it needs to be. I didn’t come across any lag like I occasionally did on the One XL. I had no problems with multi-tasking like I did on the One XL (that’s what made me leave my One XL). I really like the idea of Sense, though. It’s bright, it’s different, it adds that polish which Android didn’t have, but more importantly, it shows off the display of the device really well. The thing is, I don’t believe Sense needs to be completely like this any more.
Android’s design can stand on its own two feet from Jelly Bean onwards; Sense’s battery consumption is going to kill it in the long term; and people have voted with their wallets in favour of less over-the-top UIs such as TouchWiz and plain vanilla Android. It’s hard for me to suggest any current HTC device to people who ask me about which phones to buy, because Sense doesn’t offer really offer anything over TouchWiz or stock Android any more. And it’s the limiting factor on what I believe is the best smartphone hardware out there.
If you’re a keyboard fanatic, you’re going to want to replace HTC’s keyboard right away. It’s terrible. Nay. It’s atrocious. I opted for Swiftkey Flow as an alternative and it works perfectly. HTC’s keyboard is slow, misses presses, and sometimes doesn’t vibrate making you think you’ve missed a letter.
To most people reading this (Hi!), you’re also going to bring HTC’s track record of providing updates in a timely manner to their devices, and straight away you can write them off. HTC have proven that it takes too long to update Sense to the latest version of Android and then push that update out. They are constantly releasing new phones with new versions of Android and pushing older devices to the side. The flip-side to this is that if you’re going to attempt to Root ‘n ROM the phone, then this info is all null-and-void and you’re going to have a beast of a phone running whatever the hell you want — provided there’s a way to root the phone, that is.
The last major part of this review is the Butterfly’s connectivity. The X920e doesn’t have 4G for the Australian market, and it’s also not DC-HSPA+, so there’s really no high speed data connections at your disposable (except for Wi-Fi at home/work). I was regularly pulling 5-7Mbps down 1-3Mbps up at my humble abode. Wi-Fi a/b/g/n is built in and functions as it should, as does Bluetooth. When connected to a home Wi-Fi network, the Butterfly syncs photos and videos from your shared folders on your Windows PC. This was actually quite a cool feature I wasn’t aware of before this review.
- 5-inch 1920×1080 (441ppi) Super LCD3 Display
- Android 4.1.1 w/ Sense UI 4.1
- 1.5GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
- 8MP / 2.1MP Cameras (both shoot 1080p)
- 2GB RAM / 16GB Internal Storage
- 32GB Expandable Storage
- Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
- HSPA+ 850/2100MHz
- 143 x 70.5 x 9.1 mm / 104grams
ConclusionSo would I recommend this phone to people? Probably not. The Butterfly is HTC’s test-bed for the 5-inch 1080p display, and the battery just isn’t big enough to power the screen, CPU, and Sense. HTC have better stuff around the corner which is likely to improve upon this device — unless they want to go bankrupt. There isn’t too big of a modding community behind the device either, so I can’t really recommend this to developers/modders/hackers. You can root it, but there appears to be no stock ROMs for it.
If the price does come down considerably in the near future, and you don’t mind the battery being lacklustre at times, then yes, give the Butterfly a go, but remember there’s better stuff just around the corner with MWC coming up.
HTC need to tone down Sense and pack a larger battery into their next phone, or it’s just going to be the same review again, and nobody wants that.
If there’s anything I’ve missed in this review, or something you’d like clarified, please leave a comment or send me an email!