Review : HTC One Mini : The more compact ONE

Introduction

It has been living in the rumour mill for a while now, but HTC finally announced the One mini. It shares its design and many of its features with its bigger brother the One and sports a unibody aluminium body. That includes the HTC BoomSound technology, complete with dual frontal stereo speakers.
Here is the list of pros and cons of the HTC One Mini:

Whats Good:

  • Premium aluminium unibody
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support; 3G with HSPA; LTE
  • 4.3″ 16M-color 720p Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen with 342ppi pixel density; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Sense UI 5.0
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset: dual-core 1.4 GHz Krait 300 CPU, 1 GB RAM, Adreno 305 GPU
  • 4 MP autofocus “UltraPixel” camera with 1/3” sensor size, 2µm pixel size; LED flash
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps with HDR mode, continuous autofocus and stereo sound
  • HTC Zoe
  • 1.6MP front-facing camera, 720p video recording
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA; Wireless TV out
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 16GB of built-in storage
  • Bluetooth v4.0
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • Front-mounted stereo speakers with BoomSound tech
  • Class-leading audio output
  • 1,800mAh Li-Po battery

Whats Bad:

  • Relatively slow chipset with limited RAM
  • 4MP camera has disappointing performance in good lighting conditions
  • No optical image stabilization that made the HTC One camera special
  • No microSD cards slot, only 12GB user available storage on the 16GB model
  • No NFC or MHL
  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • Poor video and audio codec support out of box
  • No IR blaster

We won’t lie, the aluminum unibody of the HTC One mini is great – it screams “premium” more than the big Galaxy S4, let alone its mini version. And the stereo BoomSound speakers on the front deliver an excellent audio experience, coupled with high-quality audio hardware for the 3.5mm audio jack and Beats audio tuning.
Throw in an UltraPixel camera sensor and the latest Android 4.2.2 with Sense 5 (on par with the just updated regular One) and the feeling that HTC shortchanged the One mini almost subsides.

Design:

The HTC One mini measures 132 x 63.2 x 9.3 mm compared to 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm for the big HTC One. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but you can really feel it when you hold the One mini in your hand, especially the width. It has also shed some weight and now weighs 122g (the One is 143g).The HTC One mini is little else, but a downscaled One on the outside – premium aluminum, with the solid feel of a unibody phone all whipped into an attractive design. While the 5″ Butterfly S went with polycarbonate (perhaps due to weight considerations), the HTC One mini should earn as much praise for its design as the regular One did.Cutting down “only” 5mm from the height and width of the HTC One to make the mini might not sound like much, but that’s because it’s difficult to picture. In reality, the One mini feels noticeably more compact than its bigger siblings. It’s roughly the size of last year’s HTC One S, which is impressive as you are getting a pair of stereo speakers at the front.

Display:

The screen is gorgeous – with 720p resolution it’s not quite as sharp as the 1080p screen on the One, but at this size, spotting the difference takes some effort. It has great viewing angles and great colors too. Speaking of colors, the screen on our One mini has a warmer white balance than the screen on our HTC One.The HTC One mini screen is very similar to that of the regular HTC One. The brightness is very high, higher than even the big One, let alone AMOLED screens. The contrast is amazing, making for one of the better viewing experiences on a smartphone.The screen is fairly reflective though, which hurts its sunlight legibility. It’s this reflectivity that brings down the sunlight lebibility noticably below the level set by the HTC One. It’s not by much, but it’s enough.

Camera:

The HTC One mini uses the 4MP UltraPixel sensor, which is about the size of most smartphone camera sensors (1/3″) but uses much bigger pixels (which is also why the resolution is limited to 4MP). On the up side, bigger pixels have better performance in poor lighting conditions. The fast F/2.0 lens, which also helps low-light shooting, but there’s no optical image stabilization (OIS) like on the HTC One.
The sensor has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is perfect for viewing on the phone, on most tablets (which typically have 16:10 screens) and HDTVs. 4:3 photos would either get black bars or get cropped on these screens, which does help close the resolution gap somewhat.
The HTC One mini camera produces good images, but despite using big “UltraPixels” and shooting in broad daylight, the images had noticeable (at 100% zoom) noise. The low resolution also means that the smallest fine detail is lost. There are oversharpening halos and some purple fringing too, but at least the color reproduction is good.
When viewed at 1080p resolution, the photos look pretty good, but there’s very little room for cropping at this low resolution.

Conclusion:

The HTC One mini is one of the very few phones trying to fill the gap of compact high-end phones. And it comes within walking distance of being the super mini, but it doesn’t really go the whole way.
Let’s start off with what we like. The build of the phone is amazing, easily rivaling current flagships (heck, it even beats quite a few). The screen is beautiful and the BoomSound speakers around it are well appreciated too. Software-wise the One mini is in lockstep with the regular HTC One, another plus. Then there’s the LTE connectivity, which is becoming more important as new 4G LTE networks launch across the globe.
But why isn’t it available in 32GB flavor? 12 gigs of user available storage will make you feel uncomfortably cramped with 3D games and music and movies quickly piling up, not to mention those Zoe shots or even plain 1080p videos. And going with a lower bin chipset with just 1GB RAM can cause headaches a year from now – those are early 2012 specs. And when you take out the Optical Image Stabilization, that 4MP camera does rather poorly. Some might miss, like NFC, the IR blaster or MHL.

Alternatives:

This section includes the information about other phones which you can grab for the same price as of One Mini.

1. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The obvious arch enemy is the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. It’s winning quite a lot of the important battles – it’s more compact, it’s cheaper, it’s got a faster chipset, expandable storage, IR and NFC, heck, it even has a dual-SIM version in certain regions. But the Samsung handset loses is perhaps the most important one – a qHD screen isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not worthy of anything carrying the S4 label.
The glossy plastic exterior is also not doing the S4 mini any favors when compared to what is certainly one of the prettiest smartphones in the market in the face of One mini. Finally, there’s the audio experience, which is another round that goes the way of the HTC handset

2. Sony Xperia ZR

The Sony Xperia ZR is the most solid alternative to HTC One Mini and has an impressive back then 4.55″ 720p screen. It packs a 13MP camera. And while it’s not made of metal, it does have an IP58 certification, meaning you can take it with you in the pool and can take underwater photographs also. It also have 2GB of RAM, that’s double than the One Mini.

3. LG Google Nexus 4

If you fancy pure vanilla Android interface than custom UIs then LG made Nexus 4 is the phone that is made for you. It packs an 8 MP sensor and have an impressive 720p screen. As its NEXUS branding suggests that it will get all the major Android updates atleast for 3 years as of now, so you need not be worried about it. Its available directly at the play store.

4. Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X+

These devices are previous years flagship devises and are available in this price range after a hefty cut in their prices. As bein the flagship the guarantee you a solid experience.

Final Verdict:

What worries us more is the lack of any future-proofing. What will happen in a year – HTC software updates credibility already took a big hit when they called off the One S update to Jelly Bean 4.2.x/Sense 5. We can’t help but wonder how many Android updates will the very similarly spec’d the One mini will have?
If you’re sick of all-plastic phones and you are a sucker for premium feeling handsets with great screens (there’s a great shortage of those in the mid-range), that probably won’t stop you from getting the HTC One mini, though.

Afnan

20 year old someone who loves watching football and cricket. Smartphone Aficionado. FIFA Addict. Currently using HTC One (M8) as his daily driver.

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