As beautiful as the One (M8), HTC's One mini 2 combines high-end hardware with mid-range specs and a 4.5-inch screen to create the most desirable smartphone in its class.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/25/2014 9:37:01 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Excellent design and build quality
HD screen is just the right size
HTC's Sense 6.0 is attractive, responsive and not as overbearing as Samsung's TouchWiz.
BoomSound speakers are impressive.
Some will always want a larger screen.
Lack of M8's rear Duo camera
Expensive for a mid-range phone, but it shouldn't necessarily be perceived as one.
By Alistair Charlton, Devices Editor
Thankfully there is another way, and HTC knows it. Arriving just weeks after the One (M8), the One mini 2 shares much of its bigger sibling’s good looks, but with a screen half an inch smaller, a downgraded processor and a different rear camera. The spec changes mean HTC hasn’t take the Sony route of giving it’s pint-sized handset the same internals as the larger model - but does this put the One mini 2 at a disadvantage, and at £360 is it worth the £175 saving over the M8?
We spent a couple of weeks with the mini 2 to find out.
It’s amazing how quickly your hands and eyes get used to change. I’d been using the regular One (M8) as my daily smartphone for a couple of months before the mini 2 came along, and at first the size difference felt other-worldly. How would I ever get used to the smaller screen and lower resolution, I thought?
Less than a week later and using the mini 2 feels like the most natural thing in the world. Really, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again - your new smartphone may well seem huge/tiny at first, but you really will get used to it, especially when the handset is otherwise identical in terms of both hardware and software.
The mini 2 treats your hands and eyes to the same gorgeous, curved aluminium chassis as its stablemate and is offered in the same three colours of gunmetal grey, silver and rose gold. My gunmetal review sample looks and feels every bit as premium as the M8, its curved back fitting even more comfortably in the palm of my hand, and the corners of the screen that bit easier to reach when using the phone one-handed.
Read More - HTC One (M8) vs HTC One mini 2
With my ‘extremely picky’ phone reviewer’s hat on I’d point out how the mini 2’s plastic antennas running across the chassis protrude slightly, whereas on the M8 they are perfectly smooth against the metal back. On very close inspection the mini’s metal panels aren’t quite as tightly held together than on the M8, which feels more like one continuous piece, but really that is a tiny complaint. Speaking of tiny differences, the mini 2’s camera is surrounded by a matt black plastic ring, compared to the M8’s shiny chrome equivalent.
More noticeable is the mini 2’s continuous plastic chassis, which is finished in the same matt black plastic and spans the entire outside edge of the phone, including the top, bottom and screen bezel.
The right edge is home to a volume rocker and microSD card slot, boosting the phone’s internal 16GB of storage by up to 128GB; on the left you’ll find a nano SIM card tray, while there’s a headphone jack up top and a microUSB port on the bottom.
HTC’s dual Boom Sound speakers make a return, positioned above and below the screen; they’re not as room-fillingly loud of the M8’s, but they still give the mini 2 some serious grunt in the audio department, perfect for watching Netflix in bed without needing headphones.
At 137g and 10.6mm thick, the mini 2 isn’t the lightest or thinnest smartphone on the market, and although at first I thought it felt slightly too heavy, I know reckon it’s about right, the weight lending a sense of quality lacking by some featherweight handsets. Where the HTC wins is with its footprint of 137.4 x 65mm; I can comfortably reach the power button and every corner of the screen while using the phone one-handed - something only the iPhone 5s has in common, and which leaves all other modern smartphones feeling hugely overgrown.
Just a few short years ago the idea of a ‘mini’ phone having a 4.5-inch screen would have been crazy, but as the flagships head to five inches and beyond, their slimmed-down siblings must also grown a little larger. The One mini 2 fits neatly between the iPhone 5s and One (M8), being half an inch larger than the former and smaller than the latter.
This, added to the curved rear back, makes the mini 2 one of the most comfortable smartphones I’ve ever used. But size isn’t everything, and thankfully HTC hasn’t compromised on display quality to reach the mini’s lower price. Compared side-by-side with the M8, the mini’s screen appears slightly cooler (in that whites are slightly blue) and the backlight isn’t quite as strong. Otherwise the smaller phone is every bit as good - colours are accurately reproduced, blacks are deep, the backlight is even and able to deal with glare on a sunny day and everything is pin-sharp.
Forgoing full 1080p HD will no doubt irk some readers, but in the real world the smaller HTC doesn’t need any more pixels cramming into the 720 x 1280 display, as it still rocks a pixel density of 326 per inch - exactly the same as the iPhone 5s.
Apart from the slightest of blue tinges, the mini 2’s display is truly excellent.
While the mini 2 borrows heavily on the genes of the M8, there’s one feature which wasn’t passed down from father to son, and that’s the Duo rear camera with its Ultrapixel sensor.
Instead, the smaller One is endowed with a 13-megapixel rear camera sourced from Sony. No depth sensor and no Ultrapixel trickery - it’s just a camera. But don’t let that put you off because, when there’s plenty of light, it’s capable of taking some pretty decent shots with good detail, balanced exposure and no sign of noise or grain from any ham-fisted post-processing - something the Sony Z2 is occasionally guilty of.
Although good in most situations, we found the HTC’s camera struggled in scenes with varying light. Trying to take a photo of someone stood on stage with a television to their side was difficult and resulted in a grainy photo with the TV screen hugely over-exposed. Photos taken with bright sources of light in shot - such as a computer screen, or even the reflection of light from a sheet of paper - caused some ghosting to appear around these items. Outdoor shots were mostly great, however, but sources of artificial light caused the mini 2 some problems.
It may not have the bells and whistles of some phone cameras, but the mini 2 is perfect for capturing photos quickly and easily. The 5-megapixel front camera is a higher resolution than most, meaning perfect selfies are something the handset excels at - if that’s your thing.
Driving Android 4.4.2 KitKat and HTC’s Sense 6.0 user interface is the mini 2’s quad-core, 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM. It’s a Snapdragon 400 chip by Qualcomm, and while it’s not as fast as the One (M8) or any of the larger smartphones, the mini holds its own surprisingly well when asked to show what it’s got.
During general use - social networks, text, calls, email, maps and web browsing - the mini 2 feels every bit as fast as the One (M8), but when downloading large files the smaller phone would start to struggle. While Real Racing 3 downloaded a 1GB+ file in the background, other applications - even typing a text message - became slightly sluggish and the handset would warm up.
For us the mini 2 never became hot - merely warmer than normal - and the slow-down wasn’t enough to make us think it was going to crash. Performance returned to its usual snappy self as soon as the download had finished.
Although the mini 2’s battery is smaller than the M8’s, its stamina is roughly the same. A full day of average to heavy use is perfectly achievable, and if you do find yourself running low without a plug socket in sight, fear not, because this handset also packs a number of battery saving tools to help eek every last drop out of the 2,110mAh power pack.
The most extreme battery-saving function gives you access to nothing more than your contacts, phone dialer, text messages, email, calendar and calculator through a simplified interface, and turns off all data connections until you need them.
As an example of typical use, 30 minutes of streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi saw the mini 2’s battery life drop by just 7%.
For anyone looking to upgrade their smartphone, but who doesn’t fancy man-handling some of the behemoths currently on sale, the One mini 2 is perfect. HTC didn’t quite have the courage to give it specs to match the One (M8), and that’s a shame, but for 90% of our time with the mini 2 we was unaware of the performance deficit, such is the handset’s ability to cope with everyday life.
Only when pushed hard - and particularly while downloading large files in the background, which is generally a rare occurrence - did the phone’s inferior processor let it down.
The mini 2’s design is superb, its screen is excellent and just the right size for most users. The Boom Sound speakers are a great bonus, HTC’s Sense 6 UI is an intuitive and attractive take on Android, and although lacking the M8’s depth sensor, the rear camera is very good for a mid-tier phone, although those looking for a Samsung Galaxy-like range of photography features may be disappointed by its simplicity.
We really can’t fault the mini 2 - for those who find 5-inch phones like the One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5 uncomfortably large, this is the ideal solution. The fact that it’s £175 cheaper than the M8 makes it even more attractive.