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.

Pros

  • The best looking 5-inch 1920×1080 Super LCD3 Display
  • Amazing looking hardware design — feels great in the hand
  • 8MP Camera / 1080p video recording
  • Super snappy CPU

Cons

  • Sense is too bloated for some, I don’t mind it too much
  • You’re going to be constantly fighting to conserve battery
  • Loudspeaker is nothing to write home about — Beats is a joke, to be honest
  • Power button placing is stupid, not in a natural area where fingers reach
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The hardware/design…

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.

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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.

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The software/connectivity…

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.

Specs..

  • 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

Conclusion

So 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!

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  • FK

    I HAVE PROBLEM WITH THIS PHON WHAN I CALLING THE DESPLY GO DEAD PLZ HELP ME AND HOW ACCET INTER NET ON IT PLZ HELP ME

  • vijay alapati

    a video review would be sweet :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.sagi.9 James Sagi

    The HTC velocity is currently on sale for $199 at Dick Smith. That was HTC’s first 4g enabled phone. Its main drawback: 6 hour battery life. IMHO HTC make some good phones, but I wouldn’t buy the first of their 1080p ones. They always seem to have kinks that need to be ironed out first.

    Interesting review! (Nice cat)

  • wasim

    Hey guys. yes, Buzz i think your points about Sense are valid, although I rather like it, for what its worth. As for camera, I have a HTC sensation XE atm, and i think HTC phones generally have a great camera. My Sensation has had some quirky behaviour since yesterday(It got to 32 or 34 degrees, and after running both 3g and hotspot for my laptop, the battery felt extremely hot) so I ordered a new battery, from htcaccessories website, thinking another one would be handy. Today, the phone runs(almost) completely fine.

    Battery life: the Sensation has a 1730mAh battery, I get 2 1/2 days use, that is with email, web browsing, music and occasional Videos on youtube, and occasional office suite use. I don’t use it for anything else. I believe that battery life on such small devices should not be expected to be more than 2-3 days, since, if you want more than that for watching movies, say carry a Laptop with you. That’s my 2 cents.

    I am actually waiting for the price of the One X, or S to come down(they both actually have come down a bit , some places), if this phone doesn’t work out, I’ll get one of those(or a Sony phone).

    Thanks for a great review, looking forward to MWC

    • naughtybudgie

      Wasim,your battery life for a HTC phone is incredible.. but from my research and friends your the exception. Most HTC owners get 12 hours from a battery, not 2-3 days – that’s when the phone new…. 6 moinths later… make it 6-8 hours….

      • OzBoy08

        I would like to point everyone to an app called Juice Defender Pro. I have this app on my HTC Velocity 4G and I get 3-4 days life, bearing in mind that I do not Facebook, Twitter or any other such rubbish. But, I can live with my 3-4 days.

      • wasim

        Hey naughtybudgie. I didn’t mention that that battery life is with maybe one youtube video watched(around 5-10mins) every few days of that usage. So, sometimes on day 1, sometimes at the end of the second day. I use OfficeSuite + for occaisonal corrections to Word docs i have created on my PCs, and uploading to Dropbox or SpiderOak cloud storage. I carry a laptop around with me most days for heavier Ofiice or youtube usage. I believe that it will be sad if HTC goes bankrupt. But I’m hoping against it. In the end, I guess Huawei could(maybe) pick up where they left off. My phone b4 this one was a Huawei Ideos x5.

        Hope HTC and Huawei can come up with the goods this MWC(or before at HTC’s event), since I dislike both Samsung’s(especially the Galaxy S3) and Apple’s hardware design.

        Anyway, I am not a Android power/heavy user by any means. I just use it for calls, semi-regular listening to music, scheduling, and that’s about it.

  • JoshuaB

    I also recently purchased the “red” HTC Butterfly from Mobicity …

    I previously (in the last six months) have had a white HTC OneX (international) which got water damaged then purchased a Samsung S3 as the replacement which I on sold as to buy the Butterfly. (so back to back comparison of S3 and Butterfly).

    I rooted both the OneX and S3 and ran the Android Revolution HD custom rom which greatly improved better battery life and performance on both devices. Install Nova Launcher Pro on all three phones with same user preferred setting to give maximum speed with least wankappeal animations disabled. I dislike TouchWiz, and while I do like the new HTC Sense 4, I wanted an interface consistent with my Galaxy Note 10.1 (also running Android Revolution HD rom).

    Build quality … the Butterfly wins in my opinion, feeling more like a product of a car maker than a phone maker … “sexy as”, and that is
    according to her. I would rate the OneX second place, feeling like a water smoothed river stone, whereas S3 feels like spray painted plastic.

    Screen quality … the Butterfly wins with its’ fluid screen appearance, second place to the OneX, and third place the S3 with its bluish tinged screen.

    Game play … my current fun game is “Mini Motor”, “Reckless Racing” … I tied first place to both the Butterfly and OneX having a better “feel” being able to drift better (given that I was able to advance to the next level quicker) than the S3. Though processor performance is
    equal on all three … let’s face it at these processor speeds, this is like comparing a Ferrari against a Lamborghini on an Australian highway.

    Internet speed for loading webpages and acting as a wifi hotspot while on the exact same bus route from Parramatta to Macquarie Park (in Sydney) during morning peak hour using Telstra 3G. Winner to the Butterfly; the same sequence of webpages loaded faster on the tablet than on the S3 … can’t compare to OneX. As for phone web-surfing after lunch break, in our crappy internet reception building, also give it to the Butterfly.

    Storage space … both S3 and Butterfly accept my 32gb MicroSD card hence first place tie, OneX can be expanded so last place.

    Usb Connectivity to PC … first place OneX given that the storage can be connected to as a usb hard-disk (i.e. being assigned a drive letter which gives better file management capabilities), disappointedly HTC has decided to remove this connection capability for the Butterfly which was standard on our previous Inspire4G, DesireHD, HD2. Second to Butterfly as HTC Sync Manager just … Samsung Kies just sucks, so much so that the new owner of my S3 got me to install SGS3_Easy_UMS so as to access the MicroSD storage as a USB HDD.

    Battery life … test case of daily work routine (on a 12GB data plan), wifi hotspot and pdf reader text to speech for 30 minutes on bus, tune-in internet radio for half a day, bit torrent of a tv show in the afternoon, web surfing in after lunch break, mp3 player … all come in with a 30 to 40 % battery at the end of a work day … so battery life for same work day routine is comparable.

    My performance order would be Butterfly first, with tie for OneX and S3.

  • NoOne

    1080p is awesome, HTC Butterfly’s design – I love it, battery life – not really care that much.
    Doesn’t have cool features like mutli windows or popup video like Note 2, doesn’t have 4G or HSPA+, price is unreal, you can forget it HTC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/piers.porter Piers Porter

    It would be interesting to hear how this compares to the Galaxy Note 2 – for those of us looking for a high-end business phone with a decent amount of screen real-estate.

    • w_p_w

      I don’t think this does compare to the note2, exceptional battery life( easy 2 days) and s pen just put into a different league. I’m not bagging the htc, it’ll win on the screen res but the note2 screen is also awesome. The note2 s pen is a killer feature.