HTC One Mini Review: the One flagship in a smaller form-factor
HTC and Samsung are directly competing in the high-end/flagship segment with the One and the Galaxy S 4. However, the battle is ongoing in the mid-range sector too, with the HTC One Mini, which we’re currently reviewing, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. As we like to put it, the HTC One Mini is for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini what the HTC One is for the Samsung Galaxy S 4: fierce competition.
But there’s more to the raison d’être of the One Mini than to simply compete with the S4 Mini. It is there to address a specific segment of the market; it is a niche product. It is for all those who like HTC’s 2013 design but consider the One flagship to be either too big, or too expensive. With the One Mini, HTC brought the awesomeness of the One to the mid-range segment.
However, there’s little mid-range about this phone, just as there’s little “Mini” about it. Of course the specs are no longer powerhouse and flagship worthy but HTC made no sacrifices when it comes to build, user experience, and the overall package that this phone offers. Check out our HTC One Mini review below to find out what we’re talking about!
Videos · Specs/Hardware · UI · Camera · Performance
Specs & Hardware
The inside of the One Mini is more “mini” compared to the One than the outside. You’ll see exactly what we’re talking about a couple of paragraphs below. We’re looking at specs now, and they’re not One-worthy (if you consider the “One” name to represent flagship), but solid mid-ranger-like. This doesn’t impact on performance, as you’ll see further in this review, but it is worth mentioning that it is, at least on paper, a slower phone.
The display is a 4.3-inch Super LCD 2 screen with 720p resolution and a PPI rating of 342, protected by Gorilla Glass 3. And, boy, it is a gorgeous display! We’re happy that the Mini inherited the exceptional display of the One, even if it is 0.4 inches smaller, and sports 720p resolution instead of 1080p. The brightness, color reproduction, saturation, outdoor visibility, side-angle visibility, they’re all exceptional. Contrast levels are good and, even if blacks are not true, real blacks, like on Samsung’s S-AMOLED screens or on Nokia’s ClearBlack displays, they’re as close as it gets. And, remember, this is Super LCD 2, not Super LCD 3, like on the One flagship. HTC sure knows how to make displays (even if they sadly don’t know how to make awesome cameras, yet — more on that later).
The processor is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU clocked at 1.4GHz, helped by the Adreno 305 GPU. Under the hood there’s 1GB of RAM and 16GB internal storage, sadly, non-expandable. It might definitely be enough for some of you, while others will probably need more (and they don’t really accept the “you can upload and use Dropbox out-of-the-box for your storage needs” argument).
BoomSound was one of the main selling points of the One flagship and HTC ported it over to the One Mini (as well as the HTC 8XT Windows Phone on Sprint). On the One Mini, it delivers solid stereo performance. However, it sounds a little different than the speakers on the One. The Mini produces a tiny tad tinnier sound; not a deal-breaker, by all means, but a little different sounding than the flagship. Something that needs to be mentioned, even if loudness is on par. The audio range is, to our ears, a little bit poorer.
Radio offers WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, HSDPA and LTE capabilities. HTC also ditched the IR blaster and left out NFC. While some might not care about the Infrared, the lack of NFC might be for some (it is for us) an entry on the “cons list”.
The camera is identical to the one on the bigger brother: four-megapixel “Ultrapixel” camera with LED flash on the back — more on its performance in the Camera section — paired with a 1.6MP front-facer.
Powering everything is a 1,800mAh battery and Android 4.2.2 with HTC Sense 5 on top of it.
Just like its bigger brother, the HTC One Mini speaks premium, from the moment you first see it, until you start to feel the cold aluminum while holding it. And, we couldn’t be more delighted that HTC fixed some of the issues with the hardware design of the HTC One.
Let’s start with the plastic: while the One has slight issues with minimal gaps between the aluminum and plastic on the top and sides, HTC went with a different plastic on the Mini, which is also now thicker, embracing slightly the front glass and the back aluminum. We also need to add that the camera protector glass is slightly recessed so that you can’t easily scratch it (on the One it was flush), and the Beats Audio branding on the back is marked differently than on the One, which, in our particular case, lost the Beats part (it wore off).
Those concerned about the size of the One mini should note that, despite being, on paper, just a little smaller than the One, it actually feels a lot smaller in the hand. We’ll wrap up this outer-aspect-and materials segment by telling you that it is one of the most premium feeling devices we’ve ever handled. Well built, solid, and great materials.
When we said it is a true “One miniature” we were referring to the outer aspect. It is almost identical in every aspect on the outside. The front holds the screen with the precision drilled speaker holes for BoomSound at the top and bottom. Up top is where the webcam lives and where the light and proximity sensors can be found. Behind the earpiece, there’s an LED notification. Below the screen there are two capacitive buttons for Back and Home (doubling as Menu), to the left and right of the HTC logo (no, it’s not a button).
The left side holds the micro SIM card slot, while the right side features slightly redesigned volume rockers. The power button on the top no longer acts as an IR blaster and shares the edge with the 3.5mm headphone jack. The bottom sports the micro USB port for synching and charging as well as the main microphone.
On the back, the Ultrapixel camera has a slightly recessed lens protector glass, and the LED flash has been repositioned: it is now directly on top of the lens. HTC and Beats Audio branding can be found further down below on the aluminum back.
Yes, the entire user interface and experience is identical to the HTC One flagship. The Mini comes with Android 4.2.2 out-of-the-box with HTC Sense 5 on top of it, meaning it delivers the exact same features found on the HTC One, which just recently received its Android 4.2.2 refresh.
Since they’re so similar in this category, we’ll just mention the most noteworthy features. For a detailed look at everything, check out our full HTC One review. Everything we mentioned there applies here too.
Android 4.2.2 is fast! The Snapdragon 400 inside this phone is fast. The HTC One Mini is fast! Sense 5 is subtle, modern, and brings a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by either stock Android or TouchWiz. It goes deep, but, at the same time, it is light.
BlinkFeed still can’t be disabled and still takes up slot number one for the home screen. If you like it, you can have all the info from your social networks and several content providers (including Pocketnow). If you prefer not to use it, set your home screen number two as default and clear all subscriptions.
You can fill the four home screens (there’s a maximum of five available to the user, but BlinkFeed takes up one slot) with widgets and icons. There are a couple; not too many though, but luckily the Play Store has a truckload.
The notification shade can be accessed by swiping with either one or two fingers, depending on whether you want to see your actual notifications or quick toggles.
Among the most notable software offerings on the phone is, as in the One’s case, the Gallery application. HTC thankfully removed social media pictures from the app so you will only see your own events or albums. The Gallery is live and allows you to create highlights out of your pictures and videos. New themes have been added so you can explore your creativity.
Snapping pictures was never easier with the camera app. You can shoot stills in several modes and with a lot of real-time effects, or, you can shoot ZOEs, a sequence of stills which you can further tweak to select the best frame, remove unwanted objects, have a sequence shot, see your friends always smile, and a lot more.
There are a couple of things we don’t necessarily like and, which HTC can easily fix. The Lock Screen can only feature Google Now and Google+ posts as widgets, and the Power section in settings still doesn’t allow you to see screen-on time.
As far as the rest (or the entirety) of the UX is concerned, you’re in for the same ride.
We’re still not sold on the camera (just like we’re not sold on BlinkFeed). HTC fitted the One Mini with almost the same camera as the one on the flagship. We say “almost” because image stabilization is not present, but, that aside, we’ve got the same four-megapixel unit with LED flash.
The camera with the Ultrapixel marketing name delivers mediocre shots, regardless if you’re inside or outside. We’re not being extra-picky here, we just know (and wish) HTC could have done better in this department too. It’s not the best shooter out there, it’s not the worst either. Four-megapixels images are snapped and there’s not a single thing about the camera that impresses us. Shots are… OK!
As far as special features are concerned, like live, real-time effects, and the ability to snap ZOEs, everything is the same as on the One. Under optimal conditions (good lighting, outdoors, sunny, etc.), the shots are good, but it’s the tricky circumstances that really put the camera, any camera, to the test. Shadows, backlit objects, low-light, and its these conditions where noise starts to appear, colors start to wash out, and sharpness gets lost.
We’ll show you what we’re talking about in the samples below!
We’ve spent nine solid days with the One Mini as our daily driver, and we’re impressed! We’re not sure whether it’s the Snapdragon 400, Android, HTC, or a combination of all, but the phone is really snappy. When we compared it to the One flagship, we saw that it doesn’t lag behind, and when it’s slower, it’s just a millisecond or two slower, which is negligible. Don’t take our word for it, check out the One Mini vs One video up top in the Videos section.
If you are a heavy gamer and like the latest titles, you’ll probably run into some performance issues, due mainly to the slower GPU. This means lower frame-rate and occasional stutters. But, for day-to-day tasks, it is really flying.
For those of you who prefer benchmark scores, here’s how the One Mini performed: Smartbench: 3109, Quadrant Standard: 6081, Geekbench 2: 1388, AnTuTu: 11560.
Battery life, on the other hand, is good! As our daily driver for more than a week, the One Mini was the phone that answered our needs when it came to E-mail, Calendar, phone calls, text messages, social media on several websites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), YouTube, Spotify, browsing the web, snapping pictures, navigating, and even workout tracking. We’ve got a solid day-and-a-half with the One Mini. Once we depleted it in a single day, and once it lasted for two days.
Call quality was good both using the earpiece and the speakers. Which reminds us, again, BoomSound is everything you’d expect from it, loud and clear tunes or voice. However, it’s different from the One flagship. We’re not talking about loudness, but overall music. It sounds a tiny tad tinnier than music on the One, but nonetheless offers a great experience.
Data speeds were also consistent with other phones, flagships or not.
+ great performance
+ above-average battery life
+ excellent display
+ small(er) form factor
+ great materials
+ awesome design, solid build
– mediocre camera
– 16GB internal storage, non-expandable
– no NFC (and no IR blaster)
– non-user-removable battery
Pricing and Availability
There’s still no exact word on pricing and availability for the International model which we reviewed here but some online retailers, like our friends in the UK, Clove, and those in the US, Negri Electronics, have the device listed for anywhere between $479 (Clove, plus VAT, if applicable) and $617.5 (Negri).
According to the latest rumors, the HTC One Mini will be landing soon on AT&T’s line-up. There’s no solid information yet, except for the leaked press renders that testify to the information and the carrier’s plans.
Overall, we enjoyed our time with the One Mini! It is a solid phone which performs well, considering the lower specifications it has. With the new trends of screens becoming larger and larger, it is good to finally have a small(er) phone on the radar if you’re looking for one (that doesn’t wear an Apple logo).
However, the mid-range, smaller phone segment, has other notable members, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, the phone which you also should check out. Even though the One Mini is superior in some respects, the S4 Mini has a better camera.
The bottom line: HTC packed the One in a smaller chassis and they did a great job!