Look and feel
One of the best-looking phones out there, the HTC One Mini hasn’t lost any of the original One’s charms. That metallic frame is solid and scratch resistant, and looks fantastic. And we reckon the Mini feels more comfortable in the hand than the One.
Ease of Use
The slightly-scaled-down dimensions make the HTC One Mini comfortable to use one-handed.
Aside from NFC, almost all of the original One’s features make a return. Zoe Mode, Boom Sound and Beats Audio are all present and correct. The camera isn’t as strong as some rivals, such as the Xperia SP’s, but Zoe is still a great tool.
A dual-core processor may be scaled back from the original One’s quad-core, but it easily holds its own against other mid-range dual-core smartphones and can handle serious punishment from the latest apps and games.
A smaller battery doesn’t mean a much shorter lifespan, and the HTC One Mini can comfortably last the day with moderate use. Five hours of video playback is a little better than average for a mid-ranger with an HD screen.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,7/26/2013 11:34:19 AM
Ease of use
More comfortable one-handed use;
Same slick metallic design;
Zoe camera mode;
No memory card slot
With smartphones growing larger than Andre The Giant’s posing pouch, it’s no wonder we’ve started seeing ‘Mini’ versions of the latest premium mobiles. Samsung has miniaturised its Galaxy S III and Galaxy S 4 phones, and now HTC has launched its HTC One Mini, a more manageable version of the original five-star HTC One.
Deja vu design
At a quick glance, you’d be more than forgiven for mistaking this new Mini model for the original HTC One. From almost every angle it looks the same, albeit with a more svelte, stretched appearance. In terms of size, the HTC One Mini isn’t a great deal more compact than the HTC One – the original was 137 x 68 x 9.3mm, while the Mini is 132 x 63 x 9.25mm. Still, those few mm that HTC has shaved off make a surprising difference. The HTC One Mini is very comfortable to clutch and operate one-handed, while its 122g weight means you’ll barely feel it in your pocket.
The HTC One Mini (top) is almost as long as its bigger brother
The One Mini (left) also looks near identical from behind, with a change in position for the flash being the only real difference
And when it comes to looks, we’re glad that HTC hasn’t sacrificed that gorgeous metallic finish to shave some pounds off the price. It’s every bit as solid as its bigger brother, rocking the same smooth, scratch-resistant surfaces. We’re also pleased to see the same dual-speaker set-up (HTC’s brilliantly named ‘Boom Sound’) on the front.
The SIM card slot is once again accessed via a pinhole drawer, which seems to be increasingly popular these days (thanks a lot, Apple). That means the back plate doesn’t open, so you have no access to the battery, and there’s also no memory card slot to expand the 16GB of storage (only 11GB of which is usable). We’d expect 11GB to last moderate users, but if you carry around a big music collection, download lots of apps or take a ridiculous number of photos, chances are you’ll run out of space pretty quick.
Android and BlinkFeed
The HTC One Mini runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which the original One has just been updated to. The interface remains identical to the original One, giving you up to five desktops to populate with apps and widgets. The main BlinkFeed homepage also remains unchanged, streaming updates and headlines from the major social networks as well as a number of news feeds.
At the time of writing there were several news services such as the FT, Guardian and Reuters, as well as consumer feeds such as Mobo, FourFourTwo and TechCrunch, available for selection. You can also set BlinkFeed to auto-refresh whenever you’re connected, or only when you’re hooked up to Wi-Fi, so your data allowance isn’t eaten up by stuff you don’t even look at.
A thing of beauty
The original HTC One rocked a glorious 4.7-inch screen, and while the One Mini has scaled down to a 4.3-incher, it’s still a beautiful high-res display. A 341ppi resolution beats the likes of Apple’s iPhone 5 Retina Display (although the Galaxy S 4 still wins overall with a ridiculous 441ppi), and you’ll notice just how crisp the screen is the moment you load up a 1080p video. There’s no pixellation or motion blur, and once again HTC has nailed the viewing angles.
Brightness levels aren’t quite as strong as we’d hoped, and a strong bit of glare from the sun will have you tilting the phone and squinting to get a good view. However, for the fifty weeks a year where the UK is enveloped in cloud, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Zoe is back
HTC took a bold step with the One’s camera, opting for an ‘ultrapixel’ lens that didn’t boast the big megapixel ratings of rivals. However, it proved to be a powerful and adaptable lens that took crisp and attractive snaps. The HTC One Mini uses the same ultrapixel technology – the only feature that’s been lost is optical image stabilisation - and we found our shots came out clean.
From a distance, the camera doesn’t pick up the same sharp details of some similarly priced smartphones, but up-close it’s strong enough to capture crisp images. Its real strength lies in dimly lit interior shots, with the lens sucking in plenty of light to keep things as grain-free as possible. Colours are usually well represented and realistic, although we do slightly prefer the vibrant colours produced by the Sony Xperia SP’s camera. We also like how shots are taken almost instantly after tapping the shutter button, so you’re more to likely to get the action shot you want.
A big, fun feature of the HTC One was its Zoe mode, which captures three-second videos instead of static images and then cuts them into a funky video, set to the soundtrack of your choice, at the end of the day. It’s a great way of creating a memento of events, holidays and other special times, with minimal effort required. You can also share the results with the world via the usual social media channels.
As with the HTC One you also get a great front-facing camera that takes sharp profile pics, complete with countdown so you can prepare your winning smile. It’s not as wide-angle as the HTC One’s front-facer, but it can still take a (squeezed-in) group shot if needed.
We’re also pleased to see Boom Sound make a glorious return, great news if you like to prop your phone up and watch movies or listen to music without trailing earphone cables about the place (for example, when cooking). The dual speakers produce a more powerful sound than most other smartphones can rustle up, and while music does sound a little tinny on top volume, at least it can be clearly heard.
Beats Audio is also present as always, being an HTC staple these days. We’ve always thought it rather over-rated, but can’t deny that it brings old or poor-quality tracks to life. Annoyingly it can’t be turned off in the notifications menu anymore – you have to go into the settings proper – but it doesn’t seem to drain the battery much quicker anyway.
Pre-launch, we were concerned that the One Mini might be missing 4G support, which would hamper its otherwise future-proof design. Thankfully HTC has included 4G LTE, so users will be able to take full advantage of the speedy data network that is quickly spreading across the UK. And while 4G may be pricey right now, with EE acting as the sole provider, other networks such as Vodafone will be offering their own 4G contracts soon and we’re expecting prices to fall to consumer-friendly rates.
However, while 4G escaped being a casualty of miniaturisation, the HTC One Mini has unfortunately lost NFC support. This means you won’t be able to quickly transfer files with other NFC phones, or pay for stuff with a quick tap at supported stores (unless you get an NFC-equipped SIM card or sticker). It’s not a biggie, and certainly shouldn’t put you off the One Mini if you’re already tempted.
One of the only other areas where HTC has made sacrifices is the processor, which has been cut down from a quad-core beast to a 1.4GHz dual-core Qualcomm. That’s not to say that your apps and games will be crawling, of course. In fact, everything we threw at the HTC One Mini, including the latest action, racing and running games, played out with a perfect frame rate. It’ll be a good while before this phone is an out-of-date clunker.
As for battery life, the One Mini performs well there too. With reasonable use (texting, emailing, tweeting and the occasional bit of web browsing or short phone call), the One Mini lasted a full 24 hours with 25% battery life remaining. Expect around five hours of video playback from a single charge, not bad at all considering the HD screen.
The HTC One Mini may only be marginally miniaturised, but it’s more comfortable to grip and use one-handed. Blissfully very little has been sacrificed in the shrinking process, boasting the same excellent metallic design, ultrapixel camera and Boom Sound as its big brother.