HTC has jumped on the bandwagon with its new HD Mini, a smaller version of its very popular HD2, a huge handset running Windows Mobile 6.5 It's been shrunk in size and has lost weight, but also has a less powerful processor than its bigger brother; the Mini still uses a Qualcomm chip, but it now runs at 600 MHz instead of the 1 GHz found on the HD2. But when it comes to using the two handsets every day, will the Mini be able to wow us as much as the HD2?
iPhone 3G S / HTC HD Mini
Bucking the current trend, the HD Mini doesn't have an enormous screen, which left some people in the office wondering whether it was a smartphone at all or just a traditional mobile--but when did exactly did we decide that handsets had to reach a minimum size before they could be called smartphones? While the HD2 had 4.3'' capacitative touchscreen, this one 'only' measures 3.2'' with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels--but it's just as attractive. It's as responsive as the larger version, and multitouch works perfectly, which is unusual for a phone running Windows Mobile 6.5, which is more commonly deployed on resistive touchscreens. It's also pleasingly bright, thanks to the AMOLED technology.
Unibody frame and Teflon finish
There are five buttons underneath the screen, but they could have moved a little further down to make more room for the display. They have the same backlighting as on the HD2 and the layout is unchanged, but they're no longer raised up from the surface, which makes it hard to work out what you're pressing without looking. That said, we only actually hit the wrong button very occasionally, unlike on other phones that use touch-sensitive buttons in the same place which are much easier to skim over by accident.
We can't test the HD Mini without talking about its style. Naturally, it's a tasteful affair, but whether you like the look or not, you have to acknowledge at least two strengths: its unibody frame with an expertly crafted finish and the exterior in black matte Teflon, a material which first made an appearance on the Hero.
The matte exterior makes handling the phone a treat and (partially) limits the appearance of greasy fingerprints
The Mini was a unanimous success with the gents in the office, who liked its solid industrial design paired with a discreet finish, while the ladies that got their hands on it enjoyed the reasonable size and stripped-back exterior.
Sense all over again
HTC's own in-house interface, Sense, sits on top of either Android or Windows with only a few minor modifications, and it's running on the HD Mini too. Its arrival on a phone that runs Windows Mobile 6.5, whose difficult interface is beginning to show its age, especially when it comes to touchscreen interaction, is a real success. The Sense UI keeps you as far away as possible from Windows, and is easy to use as it is on the eye. Flipping through menus is fluid and intuitive, and a vast improvement on the incoherent systems found on other Windows-based phones that weren't fortunate enough to benefit from such an attractive custom interface. We especially like the fact you can customise several screens at once, which give direct access to your favourite contacts, most frequently visited web sites and top apps.
The HD Mini is a responsive little phone, but it isn't anywhere near as fast as its big brother the HD2. Sometimes, you have to make do with a little bit of lag, but it's never irritating.
Multimedia: an uneven performer
The virtual keyboard is great, despite a few errors here and there.
Right: web browsing is helped along by accurate, fast multitouch zoom, amongst other features
You can browse the web using either Microsoft's own browser, Internet Explorer, or Opera Mobile. Without a doubt, the latter is a better choice: not only are pages displayed accurately, but they load quickly, and the accelerometer, which allows you to flip from portrait to landscape mode, does its job without any fuss. The HD Mini supports Flash, but only the Lite version for the time being, unfortunately. It's still worth having, you might point out, and it certainly makes mobile browsing easier if you do a lot of it. But if you really do spend a lot of your time browsing the web from your phone, you'll probably want a bigger screen. The same is true for watching video.
Like the HD2 before it, the HD Mini has a 5 Megapixel camera--except that here, the quality of the photos produced is much better. It's easy to use, and the fast focus is controlled using the touchscreen. To use the zoom, you need to choose a separate icon in the menu, which slows things down a little bit. Compared to other handsets with a similar camera, the quality is better than average, but as ever, it's best to make sure the lighting conditions are good if you want to avoid having too much electronic noise in your photos. The quality is more than enough for sharing a few small snaps online though.
The HD Mini lasted almost two days without being recharged with both 3G and WiFi receiving frequent use.
- Form factor / handling / robust finish
- Style / perfect finish / capacitative multitouch screen
- Decent battery life / standard headphone jack / FM radio
- Intuitive interface / responsive ovreall
- Works as a WiFi router
- Ocassionally a little slow
- Landscape virtual keyboard not available for all apps
- Camera doesn't have flash
So is the HD Mini as good as the HD2? It's smaller, handles well, has a good screen and an interface that's just as powerful. Although it's still a little slower than its older brother, that doesn't really hold it back. This is an excellent Windows Mobile smartphone at a very accessible price point.