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HTC One mini review

MobileReviews
7/10
by Sandra Vogel, 12 Aug 2013Reviews
HTC One mini review

Back in April I reviewed the HTC One. It had been well publicised, and there was much anticipation surrounding its arrival. The £500 top of the range phone didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me, but it was good enough to give HTC a much needed lift – the company is suffering against competition from some very strong rivals (Samsung in particular).

The HTC One mini comes along with rather less fanfare, but, as you might guess from its name, it is a smaller version of the HTC One, sharing the same general design and some of the key specifications with its larger relation. Not all of this sharing is pleasing, but I’ll get to that later. The One mini is pitched at around £370 Sim-free – considerably less than the HTC One which is now around £450 Sim-free.

So, the One mini is small – but not actually all that small. It has a 4.3in screen, and for me that’s a size which is currently the best compromise between portability and usability. There’s almost no gap between the screen’s long edges and the handset’s sides, so that the phone’s 63.2mm of width mean even my smallish hands can manage one-handed use.

The screen has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels – the same as the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. Viewing angles are great, and both video and text look sharp and clear.

Getting back to design, the One mini might be narrow, but it is tall at 132mm thanks to twin BoomSound speakers that sit at the top and bottom of the handset. The name might annoy, but there’s no arguing about the sound quality which is better than you might usually expect from a phone. The design of the speaker grilles is no different from the One and it is very distinctive.

Another design facet shared with the One is the aluminium backplate with its lovely curved shaping. It feels great in the hand, and means the look of the rear is as distinctive as the front. That slight curve of the back helps make the One mini comfy to hold too – it sort of melds nicely into the palm.

There are a few tiny design differences between the One and the One mini, but unless you set the two handsets side by side (as seen in the image below) you’d not notice them. The edging is different, for example, with the One mini lacking the One’s thin metal edging strip (instead it employs rather less plush looking plastic).

The backplate can’t be removed, and that means your microSIM has to sit in a housing on the edge of the One mini – the left edge to be precise. As is the convention, you pop the caddy out using a provided tool – or more likely an opened out paper clip. There’s no caddy for a microSD card so you are stuck with the 16GB of on-board storage (with just under 11GB free on a fresh out of the box handset).

Button and port placement is perfect. The on/off switch is on the top and easy to reach one-handed, and the two volume buttons are on the right edge. All three are perhaps a little too flat to the surrounding chassis, but this is nit-picking really. With the power port on the bottom and headset port on the top the layout is fine.

There’s no NFC support with the One mini, unlike the One, but 4G LTE support is included. There’s no infrared, either – this was a surprise addition in the One. The processor is a dual-core 1.4GHz model and it is supported by 1GB of RAM. The HTC One has a quad-core processor, but remember the One mini is a considerable step down in price (for a detailed spec shootout, check out our spec comparison between the HTC One and One mini).

The main camera is the same model as the HTC One – though image stabilisation is absent this time round. Its UltraPixel technology essentially means an increased pixel size over the norm which allows the camera to capture more light and so produce higher quality photos. So, in actual fact the headline figure of 4-megapixels for the camera resolution does not tell the full story.

Camera photos were actually okay, with the HDR setting easy to get to from the camera menu, and this helps out in lower light situations as long as there isn’t a huge difference in the brightness of the scene you’re trying to capture. But there’s a long way to go before HTC can claim to allow you to leave the big camera at home. Zoe makes an appearance here too – that’s HTC’s facility to take lots of images in quick succession and then select the best or even produce a multi-shot action sequence.

Having Android 4.2 on board is a real plus, but I’m not sure I like where HTC is going with Sense 5. BlinkFeed, the news and social media information resource that fills a home screen, doesn’t do it for me and just as with the One you can’t remove it. It is set as the home screen by default and you can set another screen to take this role, but BlinkFeed is still there filling up a home screen that could be used for other things.

Maybe if BlinkFeed ever lets me add the news sources I want rather than selecting from a subset it thinks I might like, I could warm to it. But for now it’s a waste of a home screen.

I don’t really like the app drawer either. I don’t need the time and weather showing when I am looking for apps – I’d much rather be able to see more app icons on the first app screen. As it is when you scroll down past the time and weather info you are into a four tall and three wide grid, as opposed to the three by three one you get when you enter the app drawer.

Verdict

The HTC One mini is almost a perfect mini-me for the HTC One. So, the things I liked about the original One I broadly like here, and the things I disliked, well, you get the picture. The screen is great, as is the sound quality – and I like the design too. BlinkFeed is a pain, and Zoe is an acquired taste. The absence of microSD for storage expansion is also an annoyance. The One mini could just be a more popular handset than the One, not least because it is more ergonomic for the hand and pocket, and more wallet-friendly.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

HTC One mini

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSPA 900/1900/2100; 4G LTE

Processor

1.4GHz dual-core

Ram

1GB

Storage

16GB

Storage expansion

None

Display

4.3in, 1,280 x 720

Main camera

4 megapixel (UltraPixel)

Front camera

1.6 megapixel (UltraPixel)

NFC

No

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

1800mAh

Size

132 x 63.2 x 9.25mm

Weight

122g

OS

Android 4.2

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