Review: HTC One Mini

The best mid-range smartphone of its generation

Our score: 3/5
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Published: September 12, 2013 1:47 PM
By Romain Thuret
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
When it comes to concocting good ideas for mobile phones, HTC has a few notches on its belt. And as we await the seemingly imminent arrival of the One Max, we take a trip to the opposite end of the spectrum with the One Mini—a phone that, as its name would tend to suggest, is the miniature version of the HTC One. Which it is. Mostly.

HTC One Mini
 
Save for the white band encompassing the frame, and of course the 4.3-inch HD screen that has replaced the 4.7-inch Full HD display, the One Mini looks like a carbon copy of the One. That's on the outside. On the inside, the scaling down continues with a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 400 dual-core SoC and 1 GB of RAM instead of the original One's 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 quad-core and 2 GB of RAM. There's just 16 GB of onboard storage (4.5 GB of which are used up by the system), and no microSD slot to expand it with. To atone for this sin, HTC is offering 25 GB of free cloud storage on Dropbox to all buyers (for two years, then you pay).
 
HTC One Mini

For wireless connectivity it has Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and 4G LTE. The camera is the same famed 4-Mpx backlit Ultrapixel sensor as the HTC One's. On the front is a 1.6-Mpx camera, also backlit.

As usual, basic Android 4.2.2 didn't seem to do it for HTC, which decided to add its own Sense 5 interface, leaving its mark on the standard operating system. SIM-free, the HTC One Mini costs £379.95.

Design & Handling5/5



As you can see in the photos, the HTC One Mini reprises the overall lines and colours of the first One, though fitted for a smaller body.

HTC One Mini

It has the same brushed aluminium, the same slightly convex back, the same facade with the screen bookended between two speakers (except this time they're plastic, not aluminium).

HTC One Mini
HTC One Mini (left) and HTC One red edition (right)

Same love for unnecessarily thick bezels...

HTC One Mini

The biggest visible change is the protruding lacquered strip of white polycarbonate encircling the edges (the One's doesn't protrude and its matte finish makes it much more discreet). Missing from the edge is the infrared port that allowed the first One to double as a universal remote.

HTC One Mini

Just like the HTC One, the One Mini doesn't accept microSD cards. It does, however, have a micro-SIM slot along the left edge, a headphone jack on the top and a micro-USB port on the bottom for charging and data transfers.

HTC One Mini

The best thing about the small form factor is that it makes the phone much easier to use with one hand. Both we and our friends and colleagues (who from now on we shall refer to as "the guinea pigs") agreed that the smaller size is much more conducive to one-handed navigation, texting, web browsing, etc.

HTC One Mini

We never encountered any overheating issues while using the phone.

Display5/5



HTC had to adapt the One's Super LCD 3 screen to fit the Mini's 4.3-inch display. Although a few precious millimetres and lines of pixels have been lost in the process, fortunately the overall picture quality is phenomenal. For one thing, the average contrast ratio is an outstanding 1132:1 and the brightness goes as high as 479 cd/m². This is one of the best contrast/brightness pairings on the market, providing excellent legibility in bright sunlight despite the glossy screen.
 
HTC One Mini
 
The colours are also good. The One Mini's average Delta E, which measures how faithful the colour tones are, is 4.4. That isn't perfect—for that it would have to be under three—but it's balanced and there are no noticeably saturated shades to speak of. The colour temperature is 7158 K and stays fairly uniform across the spectrum; this is satisfactory, not far from the ideal 6500 K. The viewing angles are nice and wide. There's a slight drop in contrast as you move toward the furthest degrees, but who's going to look at it that way anyway?

The 1280 x 720 resolution is a pretty good fit for a 4.3-inch display, making for a detailed image. Of course, it doesn't match the surgical contours displayed on the One's 4.7-inch screen and competing 5-inch Full HD displays (1920 x 1080 pixels), but the difference is much less palpable than on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, which is also 4.3 inches but has qHD resolution (940 x 560 pixels).

Interface & Navigation5/5



Sense 5, the graphical user interface HTC introduced with the HTC One, practically obliterates Android with BlinkFeed, reworked widgets, a kids space and revised navigation.

To find out more about the interface, check out our article Sense 5: Staying Connected, HTC Style.

One thing is for sure: no matter that the Snapdragon 400 SoC underperforms the Snapdragon 600 and 800 on benchmarks, because in practice Sense 5 runs flawlessly on the HTC One Mini. In terms of user experience, it's a slam dunk.

Multimedia4/5



But in both landscape and portrait mode, web pages come out highly legible—again, the resolution is a good fit—and if ever you need it, the zoom function is fluid and precise.

HTC One Mini

But while the quality screen may make for great web browsing, the overall online experience is not without its drawbacks. Indeed, online is where you feel the lack in speed compared to higher performance smartphones like the standard HTC One.

HTC One Mini
 
The Adreno 305 GPU clearly struggles to run the more demanding video games on Google Play Store. Unfortunately, we couldn't test the most demanding game of all, Real Racing 3, as the HTC One Mini simply isn't compatible with it. But for casual games, such as The Simpsons or Angry Birds, the One Mini hits its mark with no choppiness or delays.

As for the sound quality, the HTC One Mini is identical to the One. The two speakers are the best on the market; they're high in volume, they're dynamic and they have no distortion. Same goes for the headphone output, which is loud and dynamic, with a good stereo image. The verdict on the Beats Audio function is also the same on both phones: it's pointless, despite the lack of distortion.

Battery Life3/5



The One Mini has a smaller battery (1800 mAh) than the One (2300 mAh), but it also has a smaller screen with lower resolution and a less powerful processor to run. Unfortunately, the result is nevertheless somewhat of a let-down. With most of Sense 5's features activated, it's difficult to make the One Mini last all day. On average, it lasts just 7 hours and 25 minutes, and that's without particularly stressing the phone.

Camera3/5



The One Mini has the same 4 Mpx BSI sensor and Ultrapixels as the One, so the picture quality is basically the same: impressive, yet lacking. Impressive because the camera picks up a bit more light than most smartphones. Lacking because it doesn't collect quite as much light as the original One, and because the photos don't look very good on screens bigger than the phone's display.

Zooming in on photos taken on the One Mini is an exercise in futility; there's a flagrant lack of detail and clarity, even though the noise is kept under control. Basically, the camera is great for Instagram and social networks, but not for enjoying photos on a TV or monitor.

3/5 HTC One Mini DigitalVersus 2013-09-12 14:47:00

Pros

  • Outstanding screen
  • Exemplary finish
  • Speakers
  • Overall responsiveness
  • Sense 5 is as fun and effective as always
  • 4.3" form factor is more practical

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • Poor photo quality on any screen bigger than the phone's
  • Beats Audio: pointless
  • Non-expandable memory
  • Higher SAR than the HTC One (0.8 W/kg)

Conclusion

The HTC One Mini may be less powerful and have less battery life than the One, but it's still the most competent, most polished mid-range smartphone of its generation. With brushed aluminium, a sleek design, a fantastic screen, a fluid interface and better handling than its big brother, the HTC One Mini is no marketing stunt; it's a quality mobile.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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