At first glance, HTC’s One (M8) and One mini 2 look remarkably similar - both have a gorgeous brushed aluminium finish, a curved back, HD screen and the company’s Sense 6 user interface draped over Android 4.4.2 KitKat - but with different screen sizes, processors, cameras and a price difference of £175, which is the phone for you?
The Mini 2 looks like HTC put its One (M8) into a photocopier at 85%. On first inspection, the two handsets are almost identical, with their curved aluminium chassis looking and feeling wonderful. But look closer and you’ll see where the M8 is almost entirely metal and glass, the mini 2 has a matt black plastic chassis covering its top and bottom, and running around the outside edge.
Purists will say this a less premium look and feel compared to the M8 - and they’re probably right - but this is a cheaper phone and HTC needs to make that subtly apparent. Otherwise the two phones are just about identical, but thanks to being a bit smaller the mini 2 fits more comfortably in the hand. Those with smaller hands - myself included - the mini is far easier to navigate one-handed, where the M8 feels like it is rest on top of my hand, rather than being held securely by it.
The One (M8) measures 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm and weighs 160g, while the mini 2 is 137.4 x 65 x 10.6 mm and weighs 137g. It’s a shame that the smaller hine is actually slightly fatter than the M8, but even when holding the phones together it’s all but impossible to notice the 1.1mm difference.
Minor physical difference also see the M8’s headphone jack move from bottom to top for the mini 2, while the power and screen lock button moves from right to left, but remains on the top edge. The M8 has an infrared blaster for controlling your television on the top, but the mini 2 does not.
The M8’s 5-inch screen has a Full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, giving it a pixel density of 441 per inch. Compared to this, the One mini 2’s 4.5-inch screen has a resolution of 720 x 1280 and a pixel density of 326 per inch - it may be less sharp than the M8, but that pixel density is the same as the iPhone 5s.
Both screens are beautiful. Sharp, bright, evenly lit, with great viewing angles and colours that are bold without looking overly saturated and artificial. The mini 2’s display produces slightly cooler colours than the M8, but you can only really spot this when holding the handsets next to each other. Viewed individually, they are just about identical - and are two of the very best phones on sale today. Rest assured, opting for the smaller phone means you get a screen every bit as good as the larger and more expensive alternative.
This is where HTC has made some major changes. The One (M8) has a unique ‘Ultrapixel’ camera which may only produce 4-megapixel images, but does so with larger pixels which capture more light, producing in better photos - specially in low light and without needing to trouble the dual-flash. The M8 also has a unique Duo depth sensor which lets you create ‘bokeh’ style photos where the background (or foreground) can be blurred out of focus after you take the picture - a trick copying the style of photo produced by a digital SLR camera.
The mini 2 doesn’t get either of these. Instead, HTC has installed a 13-megapixel sensor produced by Sony - no Ultrapixel trickery, no Duo lens and no dual-flash, just a good, simple camera. It may not have the breadth of features offered by the M8, but the mini 2’s camera is still very good for this category of phone and can produce great photos.
However, in low light its results without the flash are less good - and the flash tended to over-compensate, causing skin tone to look very pale and washed out. Low light is where the M8 comes into its own, producing far superior snaps with or without the flash.
Paying more for the M8 will result in better photos, but unless taking great snaps is at the top of your smartphone wishlist, the mini 2 shouldn’t be discounted on its camera alone.
Where Sony gave its Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact the same processor and RAM (and camera, for that matter), HTC has taken a deliberate move to class the mini 2 as a lesser phone than the flagship M8.
As such, where the M8 gets a quad-core 2.3GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, the mini 2 has to make do with a quad-core 1.2GHz chip with 1GB of RAM.
This shortcoming sounds substantial on paper - and at first we had our concerns about the mini’s performance - but the pint-sized phone has the muscle to match the M8 also punch for punch.
HD video streams smoothly on both handsets - although remember it’s 720p on the mini and 1080p on the M8 - while intense 3D games like Real Racing 3 are buttery smooth. I even found tge latter to open more quickly on the mini 2 than it did on the M8. After testing a variety of apps side-by-side, I can conclude that they open and perform almost identically on both handsets. Our concerns over the smaller phone’s performance shortcomings were short-lived.
Storage is 16GB for both phones, and both have microSD cards slots which accommodate cards of up to 128GB. Battery life is also just about identical, with a full day of average to heavy use perfectly doable, and a range if battery-saving modes to switch on should you find yourself low on juice and miles from a plug socket.
The only real difference between these phones is their size. Although technically the cameras differ quite substantially, the results - decent photos that are easy to take - are similar. Yes, the M8 can create clever blurred background shots, but there are applications which can produce a similar effect - and once you’ve used it a few times, you may well resort to taking normal photos again anyway.
As I said above, the difference in processor speed is no where near as obvious as you’d think, and screen quality is just about identical. Whichever you choose, you can be safe in the knowledge that you have bought either the best 5-inch phone on the market, or the best 4.5-inch phone.
HTC has produced two genuinely world-beating handsets and you won’t be disappointed whichever One you opt for.