Probably a bit envious on Samsung for the latter’s capabilities to do draw in loads of hype and customers around the Galaxy Note line, HTC has finally announced an Android phablet of its own: the HTC J Butterfly, also known as DLX / DROID DNA in some rumors. You guessed it: it is now time to see how the new HTC J Butterfly / DLX stacks up against the current Android Phablet King, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (on paper at least).
Note: Although HTC has announced that its phablet will be branded as the HTC J Butterfly in Japan, rumor has it that the U.S., Verizon-bound version will use the Verizon HTC DROID DNA / DLX branding. While some rumors claim that the international version of the HTC J Butterfly will come with some minor improvements, since there is no hard evidence to back this up, throughout the rest of this article I will only analyze the official specs of the HTC J Butterfly. If the HTC DLX will bring something new to the tablet, we’ll update this article with the corresponding information.
While it definitely pleases me to say that the HTC J Butterfly / DLX and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 both come with high quality displays, there are some notable differences though, as I’m about to explain!
Starting off with the reigning champion, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 uses a Super AMOLED display that measures an impressive 5.5 inches across the diagonal and uses a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution – also known as 720p or HD. The Pixel Per Inch (PPI) density rests at 267, which can be considered an above decent value even by the most exigent standards (plenty will also be pleased to learn that the display on the Galaxy Note 2 doesn’t use a PenTile subpixel arrangement, but a slightly peculiar RGB matrix instead). While brightness, contrast ratios and viewing angles are absolutely top notch, as is the case with most Super AMOLED displays, some critics claim that the color reproduction is a bit off for this type of panels, especially when compared against Super LCD displays.
On the other hand, the HTC J Butterfly uses what is currently considered the best display to ever be used on a smartphone/phablet/tablet. At 5 inches in size, the Super LCD3 display uses an impressive 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (also known as 1080p or Full HD). As a consequence of cramping in so many pixels in a 5-inch display, the PPI ratio blows right through the roof and rests at 440. By contrast, the Apple iPhone 5’s Retina display features a PPI ratio of “just” 326. We’ll have to wait before we get our eyes on this fellow to really know for sure, but early hands-on reports claim that the quality of this display is astonishing.
Judging by the fact that the Super LCD2 display used on the HTC One X often regarded as the best display currently available, the Super LCD3 technology shouldn’t be worse by any extent. Add in this awesome PPI ratio and this should be the best display on Earth.
Verdict: While the Galaxy Note 2 has by 20% more screen real estate, and is not a bad overall display, the HTC J Butterfly / DLX wins this round thanks to its incredible PPI ratio.
Build Quality and Design
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 steals its design from the highly successful Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s like someone zoomed in on the Galaxy S3. That’s not to say it is an ugly phablet, but it is surely isn’t the best looking device around. Thankfully though, drop tests have proven that the Galaxy Note 2 is a lot sturdier than the S3, meaning it shouldn’t smash into bits and pieces very easily (not that you should try though).
Subjectivity gets the best of me this time, so I’ll just go ahead and say it: the HTC J Butterfly / DLX looks simply amazing in the press shots. Again, we’ll have to wait until we get our hands on the actual device, but it looks like HTC have managed to come up with yet another great design.
On to the dimensions, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 measures 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm and weighs 183g, while the HTC J Butterfly measures 143 x 71 x 9.1 mm and weighs 140g. As expected, the Galaxy Note 2’s bigger display adds to the overall footprint of the device. However, since none of these devices are a breeze to use with just one hand, this aspect shouldn’t be necessarily be considered a disadvantage for the Galaxy Note 2.
Personally, I feel like the HTC J Butterfly is the best looking device of the two, but don’t let my subjective views influence your personal preferences.
The Galaxy Note 2 uses a slightly overclocked version of the Exynos 4 quad system on a chip (SoC) that Samsung has equipped the international version of the Galaxy S3 with. This translates into a quad-core Cortex A9 processor clocked at 1.6 GHz per core and a Mali MP-400 GPU.
Benchmarks have proven that the Exynos 5 quad is currently the best SoC available in the Android ecosystem, although as with everything in the tech field, that affirmation won’t remain valid for too much longer.
The HTC J Butterfly will be one of the first devices to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC (the freshly announced LG Google Nexus 4 is also using the same SoC), one that packs in together a 1.5GHz quad-core Krait (A15-like) processor and an Adreno 320 GPU. Early benchmarks clearly denote that the Snapdragon S4 Pro is better than everything else on the Android market, including Samsung’s Exynos 4.
Regarding the amount of RAM on the two contenders, there’s nothing to separate them, as both carry 2GB of RAM memory, enough to ensure proper multitasking capabilities.
On to the cameras, the Galaxy Note 2 uses an 8MP primary camera and a 1.9MP secondary camera, while the HTC J Butterfly uses an 8MP primary camera and an 2MP secondary. Both devices will allow you to snap photos on the go at an acceptable quality… just don’t mistake them for a DSLR.
As far as the battery power is concerned, I find it a bit curious that the the HTC J Butterfly uses a battery of just 2020mAh, as it will have to power up an awful lot of pixels. The 3100mAh battery on the Note 2 has to power up way less pixels, but still can only last through the day with moderate use.
It will be interesting to see if the HTC DLX will use the same battery capacity as the J Butterfly, and if so, how many hours will the HTC phablet last on a single charge. It sure seems like a pity that advancements in the battery life segment are currently unable match the advancements in the CPU, GPU and display segments.
Verdict: The HTC J Butterfly is definitely faster, although it remains to be seen if the 2020 mAhbattery won’t be a major drawback!
Software and Ecosystem
Although it would look like the HTC J Butterfly has the upper-hand in most of the areas that matter, it is now time for Samsung to shine. The reason I would say such a thing is because even though these two phablets both come with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean pre-installed (here goes hoping Android 4.2 makes its way on these phaboulicious devices before the end of the year), the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 comes with a range of very useful and unique features.
While the HTC J Butterfly currently uses an Android theme that is much alike what can be found on the HTC Rhyme and comes with virtually no real improvements over Android’s regular functionality, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a phablet that goes beyond what can be considered a traditional Android smartphone.
First of all, the Note 2 features all the Smart Functions that people have praised about on the Samsung Galaxy S3 (S-Beam and Smart Stay are two of my personal favorites). Then come some features that are unique to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, such as real multitasking, Air View and plenty others that you can read about in further detail here.
But what really sets Samsung’s Galaxy Note line apart from any other tablet that has been announced (at least so far) is the S-Pen and the wide array of S-Pen enabled apps. The S-Pen, in itself, is nothing more than a pressure sensitive stylus, but combining that with the bunch of S-Pen optimized apps makes for a totally unique experience, one that no other Android manufacturer can rival.
Furthermore, thanks to the fact that Samsung has made the S-Pen SDK available for app developers, S-Pen optimized apps will continue to surface at an even higher rate than in the past (the reasoning for that is that app developers usually go where the consumers are, and since more and more people are using Galaxy Note 2 phablets, more developers will want to design apps that use the S-Pen).
Samsung not only takes this round, but also deserves a round of applauds for genuinely improving on the Android ecosystem. Sure, Google will probably get around towards implementing true multitasking, Smart Stay and other similar futures, but Samsung has them NOW, before anyone else does. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike some aspects about the Samsung philosophy, but the South Korean manufacturer has definitely hit the nail on its head as far as improving on the Android experience is concerned.
Hands On Video
Here’s our hands on impressions of the HTD Droid DNA, which is almost identical with the Butterfly J, save for the different cellular baseband.
Pros and cons
HTC J Butterfly / DLX / DROID DNA pros
- 5-inch, Full HD display
- The Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro is the fastest SoC in the Android universe
- Simple but effective design
HTC J Butterfly / DLX / DROID DNA cons
- The battery seems to be underpowered
- No unique functions
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Pros
- Exynos 4 is now the second fastest SoC in the Android universe
- Samsung Smart Functions
- True Multitasking
- S-Pen & S-Pen optimized apps
- 5.5 inches across the diagonal of the display: it is BIG
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Cons
- PPI ratio (264) is not top-end anymore
- Very large footprint
Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and the HTC J Butterfly are truly exceptional Android devices. However, to me it looks like the HTC J Butterfly / DLX is not actually a phablet, but just a HTC One smartphone with an even bigger and crisper display. Underneath the display, the S4 Pro can handle almost anything you can possibly throw at it. If you want a smartphone upgrade and can handle the larger footprint, go for the HTC J Butterfly DLX.
On the other hand, if you want as much screen real estate as you can get on a device that is not a tablet, go for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The display is more than decent, the internal hardware is excellent, but what really makes the Note 2 an exceptional device is the S-Pen, the Smart functions and all those little tweaks to the Android OS. On the downside, the footprint is a bit too large for some people. Try it out first and see if you can handle it.
What do you guys think? Who is the King of the Phablet hill: is it the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 or the HTC J Butterfly / DLX / DROID DNA. Let us know what you think in the comment section below (but please, no Apple talk this time)!