HTC Butterfly 2 Review: Another Flagship?

Overview

It was 2 years ago that HTC released the original HTC Butterfly, albeit without much fanfare. This was a bit absurd, because it was a more capable phone than their international flagship of that year, the One X, in many regards. It touted twice the RAM, a full HD screen (the first for a mobile device), and a slightly larger battery. It seems that good things come to those who wait. But now it almost seems as if HTC just got a new casing for the E8 and jacked up the price. Let’s see whether this device has anything really different to offer.

Pros (same as the HTC One (E8)):

  • 5 inch 1080p display is very good
  • Camera has full manual settings (e.g. shutter, WB, focus length)
  • BoomSound is much better than other smartphones (though worse than the usual BoomSound HTC provides)
  • Motion Launch is really useful

Cons:

  • Terrible power button placement
  • Cheap-looking polycarbonate shell
  • Limited availability (sold in South East Asia only)

Introduction

The HTC Butterfly 2

In our HTC One (E8) review, we said it was a carbon copy of the One (M8). But a quick comparison between the former and the Butterfly 2 takes the meaning of carbon copy to a whole new level.


HTC Butterfly 2
Display 5”, 1080p SLCD3 display
Camera 13 MP, 1/3 inch sensor
Video Recording 1080p/FHD
Processor 2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
GPU Adreno 330
RAM 2 GB
Storage 16/32 GB, micro-SD expandable
Battery 2700 mAh, Extreme Power Saving mode
Other BoomSound front-facing speakers, NFC, LTE, IR Blaster,

Design and Build Quality

This aspect of the phone is possibly what sets it apart from the One (E8). Besides the design, there is one very important difference here, and that is waterproofing. The Butterfly 2 is IP57 certified, meaning you can submerge it 1 meter deep in water for 30 minutes without a problem. What’s more, it doesn’t have any annoying protective covers or flaps over the ports, unlike the Xperia Z3.

The Ports at the bottom of the phone
The ports at the bottom of the phone

The SIM Card tray is also easier to remove than that of other phones. There is no need for a specialised device to remove it, which makes it much more convenient.

While the Butterfly 2 has the same form factor as the One (E8), it looks quite different. From the front, the first thing I noticed (and disagreed with) is the thick border above and below the screen to accommodate the BoomSound speakers. Although it is the same as the One (E8), its effect is more pronounced because the BoomSound speakers can’t really be seen, making it look like wasted space instead.

The back is just like the One (E8)’s. Although it feels sturdy like a flagship, it doesn’t look much like a premium device because of its glossy polycarbonate chassis. Not only does it feel cheap, it is also prone to scratches. It does come is a matte option, which would probably lessen the effect of scratches, and possibly look less like a toy. However, the matte chassis is only available in white, and not the classic red.

The only time HTC pulled off polycarbonate well was with their One X. Honestly, they should just stick to brushed aluminium like on the One (M8). This isn’t always cheap though, and might feature some problems for waterproofing it, so HTC should probably just never attempt glossy plastic.

Handling

The Butterfly 2 fits in your hand quite comfortably, despite it being quite a big phone, although it does sometimes feel like it may slip out of your hands due to the smooth polycarbonate back.

Overall, its ergonomics do not differ from the One (E8).

The recessed power button on top is quite difficult to press. (Power button is on the right. The black 'button' is the IR Blaster.)
The recessed power button on top is quite difficult to press. (Power button is on the right. The black ‘button’ is the IR Blaster.)

And just like the One (E8), HTC goofed up the placement of the power button. It is on top (although not in the centre), which makes it difficult to reach on such a huge device. Furthermore, it sits almost flush with the bezel, which makes it even harder to press. Luckily however, the Butterfly 2 has motion launch gestures which wakes the phone when you pick it up and double tap. This saves you from the ordeal of having to press the power button to wake the device, but there are no gestures to turn off the screen, so you’d have to press the power button eventually.

Display

The Full HD 1080p Super  LCD 3 display  renders crisp and vibrant graphics.
The Full HD 1080p Super LCD 3 display renders crisp and vibrant graphics.

HTC has a track record of stunning displays, and the Butterfly 2 is no exception. In fact the 5 inch 1080p display doesn’t look any different from what is on the One (M8) and (E8). However, it does lose some contrast under sunlight, which is a (small) problem we experienced on the One (E8) too.

User Interface, Apps and Audio

The user interface looks great, especially with HTC Sense 6. It is one of the few non-stock UIs that are both pretty and functional. For a more in-depth review of the user interface, you can look at our One (M8)’s review, as the Butterfly 2 shares the same software as the One (M8).

For audio, HTC has an amazing built in player, which, although seems similar to Google Play Music, offers additional features, like automatically downloading album art and lyrics (which are synced, line by line, to the track you are listening to). The 3.5mm jack outputs decent quality audio.

However, BoomSound is a tad disappointing on the Butterfly 2. It is loud, but it is not as clear as we have come to expect from HTC’s flagships. This somewhat muffled sound might have been a compromise in order to make the phone waterproof.

Battery Life

The battery in the Butterfly 2 gets a slight (almost negligible) upgrade of 100mAh to 2700mAh, which leaves the battery life largely the same when put under our Daily Usage Test.

In all, it is (slightly above) average and easily will get you through the day with quite a bit of juice to spare, but it cannot compete with the likes of the Xperia Z3 which houses over 3000mAh of juice.

Performance and Benchmarks

The phone is snappy and there’s not a hint of lag anywhere, but that’s something we have come to expect of all flagships nowadays. The only hiccups that occur are under Extreme Power Saving mode, where the CPU is clocked down. The Butterfly 2 has the exact same chipset as the One (E8), so if you’d like to compare benchmarks, you could look at the One (E8) review.

Camera Interface

The camera interface is, again, exactly the same as what is on the One (E8), including its manual mode. The manual mode is rather inconvenient to use, but offers much more extreme control for when you know better than the camera.

Camera Performance

Just like virtually every other aspect of this phone, image quality is the same as that of the One (E8), with the same 13 MP sensor inside. (Thankfully HTC did not revert to their 4 MP UltraPixel camera.) The camera captures a lot of detail especially in bright light, but alas it cannot compete with the big boys like the Xperia Z3, especially for low light. Also, there is HTC’s compression that needlessly sacrifices image quality (this has been an issue since the days of the One X).

Now there is one difference between this and the One (E8), and that is the return of the Duo Camera. It allows you to simulate a narrow depth of field (blurring the background) and the Dimension Plus mode which induce a parallax effect to make pictures look more 3D, along with some gimmicky effects. For an in-depth review of the Duo Camera, you could take a look at the One (M8) review. Except that now you get to experience the Duo mode in 13 MP, not 4 MP.

For a more in-depth analysis of the photographic ability of this phone and some sample photos, you could look at the One (E8) review.

Conclusion

It seems like history repeats itself. From the 13 MP Duo Camera, to the water- and dust-resistant chassis, the Butterfly 2 either matches or trumps the One (M8). If you can live without an aluminium-clad phone, the Butterfly 2 is indisputably the better option. And it’s cheaper than the One (M8).

On the other hand, the Butterfly 2 is so similar to the E8 that you’d be forgiven if you thought it was the E8 in a new case. In fact, I’m inclined to think that that is really the case (no pun intended). It is, in essence, a waterproof E8, but with the Duo Camera, a (marginally) bigger battery and an IR Blaster thrown in for good measure. So why not get it?

The catch here is that the One (E8) retails for S$658 while the launch retail price of the Butterfly 2 is S$898. At those prices, the Butterfly 2 is definitely not worth the step up, unless you really need a water- and dust-resistant phone (or, for some reason, the Duo Camera and an IR Blaster?). But if the price gap narrows (and it probably will), it would be the most value-for-money flagship around. Just like what happened with the original butterfly.

However, there is another problem: whether it is available in your country in the first place; this phone is almost exclusive to South East Asia. But if you can get your hands on this beast for slightly more than the One (E8), we’d say go with it.

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