HTC One Mini Android phone
The One Mini is a downsized version of the HTC One that's difficult to recommend
- Attractive aluminium build
- Compact and comfortable size
- Excellent display
- Weak reception
- Battery life isn't great
- Questionable performance at times
The HTC One Mini has an attractive design and a great display, but an inflated on-contract price tag, less than stellar performance and poor reception make it very difficult to recommend.
Price$ 480.00 (AUD)
Smartphones continue to get bigger and bigger but not everyone wants to carry around a behemoth in their pocket. At least that's what HTC seems to believe. The HTC One Mini is a compact version of the flagship HTC One, aiming to deliver a similar user experience in a much more pocket-friendly size. The One Mini has an attractive design and a great display, but an inflated on-contract price tag, less than stellar performance and poor reception make it very difficult to recommend.
Aluminium with a dash of plastic
HTC wants you to believe the One Mini is just a downsized version of the One, but that's not exactly true. While it borrows many design traits off its bigger brother, this is a very different device. The main change is visible on the sides, which are now finished in a glossy, white plastic rather than bevelled edge aluminium. The use of plastic may feel less premium than aluminium, but the smooth edges make the One Mini very comfortable to hold. Better ergonomics is really what this phone is about and that's achieved thanks to a much smaller width than the original One.
The downsizing has resulted in tinny sounding speakers that are nowhere near as loud.
There's plenty of design similarities to the larger One, so the One Mini remains a very attractive device. It has a aluminium finish on the back, comes with dual, front-facing speakers called 'BoomSound', and uses a similar UltraPixel camera lens on the rear. The use of aluminium gives the One Mini a weighty feel but it's definitely not too heavy. Sadly, the downsizing has resulted in tinny sounding speakers that are nowhere near as loud as the ones on the larger HTC One.
The fit and finish of the HTC One Mini is reasonably impressive, though there are a couple of annoyances. The top-mounted power/lock screen button is again positioned too far to the left, so you'll still need to stretch your hand to reach it. The volume buttons on the right side sit too close to the edge and require a firm press to activate. There's also an inconsistent, visible gap between the speaker panels on the front and the plastic sides. It's not a dealbreaker, but definitely noticeable if you look closely.
The HTC One Mini has a 4.3in LCD3 screen with a 720p resolution of 1280x720. Despite the downsize in both screen size and resolution, the display is extremely impressive. It produces excellent colours, is bright and clear, and performs reasonably well in direct sunlight. Viewing angles are also superb. The decrease in resolution may sound like a downgrade on paper, but it's hardly an issue — unless you pit the One Mini side by side with the original One, and perhaps even pull out a magnifying glass, most average users won't be able to tell the difference.
Plenty of compromises but a decent user experience
The One Mini is clearly not as smooth as its bigger brother.
HTC is keen to state that the One mini comes with "no compromises" when compared to the original One, but this really isn't the case. The device runs a dual-core 1.4GHz Snapdragon 400 processor compared to the One's quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 CPU, has 1GB of RAM compared to 2GB, and comes with 16GB of internal memory instead of the One's 32GB. There's also no microSD card slot, though that limitation is one feature that's been carried over from the original One. Given the downgrade in internal storage capacity, the lack of removable storage is more of an issue on the HTC One Mini than its bigger brother.
Performance doesn't seem to be affected by the downgraded specifications, though the One Mini is clearly not as smooth as its bigger brother. We didn't encounter or experience any lag when using the camera, or playing graphically intense game titles, but the Mini can occasionally become sluggish when using basic apps like messaging and phone.
Where HTC doesn't compromise at all is on software.
Where HTC doesn't compromise at all is on software. What you get is a very similar user experience to the larger One. It runs the same Android software (4.2 Jelly Bean), almost the same HTC Sense 5 user interface and of course, the same BlinkFeed home screen feature that debuted on the One. Like the original One, we like most of the new fonts, graphics and animations on HTC's Sense software, save for a few ugly app icons that have been changed for no apparent reason.
There are a few new features. The most notable is a new shortcut menu in the notifications panel which includes toggles and switches for brightness, settings, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode, power saver, auto rotate, mobile data, sound profile, Wi-Fi hotspot and screenshot. The toggles can't be edited but we do like the fact the menu can be immediately accessed by swiping down on the notifications bar with two fingers, just like stock Android.
Lack of NFC, no Infrared port, no optical image stabilisation.
The BlinkFeed home screen is front and centre of the HTC One Mini, but the idea of seeing social networking status updates and feeds every time you unlock your phone isn't appealing to us. Annoyingly, BlinkFeed must be one of your home screens, but at least doesn't have to be the primary one. Thankfully, the main elements of the One Mini's interface, including the app drawer, home screen and lock screen, are user friendly, though the default keyboard remains poor and is best replaced with a third-party option from the Play Store.
Other compromises include a lack of NFC connectivity, no Infrared port, and no optical image stabilisation (OIS) on the camera. We don't think these missing features are reason enough to avoid the One Mini completely, though just be aware that it's hardly a case of no compromises as HTC wants you to believe.
The biggest issue is mobile reception. When compared side by side with a Samsung Galaxy S4 (full five bars) and a Nokia Lumia 1020 (four bars) in the same North Sydney test location, the One Mini only managed to hold three bars of signal on Telstra's 4G network. Further, it couldn't even manage to connect to get a 4G signal in multiple locations where both the Galaxy and the Lumia easily could. Multiple callers during our tests also complained of poor outgoing voice quality, and reception seemed erratic at most times.
UltraPixel camera, decent battery life
Very good low-light performance is a highlight compared to most other smartphone cameras.
The HTC One Mini has an identical rear camera to the larger HTC One, sans optical image stabilisation (OIS). The 4-megapixel 'UltraPixel' camera uses a custom image sensor with enlarged pixels that the company says can absorb up to three times more light than most other smartphone camera. While very good low-light performance is a highlight compared to most other smartphone cameras, photos captured with the One Mini do suffer from plenty of image noise. You won't notice this if you're using your photos to upload to Facebook and Instagram but when you want to zoom or crop images the quality isn't as crisp as you would expect.
The HTC One Mini includes the ability to record a new media called "Zoe" which captures one second of video before you take the photo and three seconds after. It's useful for capturing an action shot which you may normally miss and the editing options are plentiful. Annoyingly, you can only share these Zoe files through HTC Share, which stores them on HTC's servers for a limit of 180 days. HTC has downgraded the front-facing camera on the One Mini from 2-megapixels to 1.6-megapixels, and the lens isn't ultra wide like its larger counterpart. Thankfully, full HD video recording remains of a very good quality.
The HTC One Mini has below average battery life. During our tests the 1800mAh battery lasted around 14 hours on average before needing to be charged. While this is better than many 4G-capable Android phones, it's still a below average result given the smaller screen size. Heavy users will likely need to top up the One Mini before the day is out.
The HTC One Mini is available in Australia through Telstra in glacial silver, and Vodafone in stealth black. While the $480 outright price through Telstra is competitive, the contract plan prices are less appealing given some of the Mini's downgraded features and reception issues.
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