HTC One Mini Written Review

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: September 8, 2013

If you're a fan of the latest flagship devices but aren't necessarily a fan of the size, you might be happy to know that it's been a growing trend lately to include a "mini" version of the same flagship device that we know and love. But of course, with a smaller phone you can probably guess that you will come across some sacrifices made in order to make creating such a device possible. It might be the same device in body, but is it really the same device on the inside that made it a flagship in the first place?

The HTC One is one of the hottest phones to hit the market this year, and has been #1 on our PhoneDog Official Smartphone Rankings for weeks on end. It's been compared to other high-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S 4, Sony Xperia Z, and even the iPhone in terms of design and build quality. While the 4.7-inch screen on the HTC One is certainly not the largest we've seen on the market, especially with recent additions like the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3, it's still a fairly large device. For many people, like those who are coming from iPhones, the jump in size from a 3.5-inch screen or a 4-inch screen can be deterring. Fortunately, HTC decided to make a smaller version of the device for those who prefer smaller phones. Thus, the HTC One Mini was born.

But how does the Mini hold up to its older brother? The HTC One has been praised for its sleek build quality and aluminum unibody design, its extreme high-quality display and the front-facing BoomSound speakers. Does the HTC One Mini have what it takes to share the same name as the original HTC One? Let's find out just how it measures up (but not literally) to HTC's latest smash hit device.

 

Design and Features

The HTC One Mini almost fully replicates the HTC One in terms of design. It shares the same aluminum finish and curved-back design, but there are some key elements that you'll notice the HTC One Mini doesn't share with the One. While the One is made from aluminum all across the board, the Mini changes it up with the frame being made out of white polycarbonate. I find that the color scheme of the HTC One Mini, white and silver, to actually complement each other very well. The volume rocker and power buttons are made out of metal as well, which means that the HTC One Mini also loses the nice power button from the HTC One that also served as an IR blaster to control your TV. But that's why televisions come with remote controls, so it's not that big of a deal... unless you've lost your remote control, of course.

The size of the HTC One Mini really isn't all that big of a jump from size in comparison to its progenitor. The original HTC One measures in at 4.7-inches, but the HTC One Mini is only 0.5-inches smaller with a 4.3-inch display. From the looks of it, it seems as if the HTC One Mini isn't all that "mini" at all, but when you hold it in your hand, you can really feel the difference that the 0.5-inches makes.

Looking at the front of the device, you'll notice that the HTC One Mini keeps the exact same layout as the One, which means that you do get to keep those wonderful BoomSound speakers. The front also features the proximity and ambient light sensors to the left of the top speaker grille, along with the 2-megapixel camera to the right of the speaker. Under the 4.3-inch 720p display, you'll find the HTC logo with two capacitive buttons on either side of the logo: one for back and one for home. Under that you'll find the bottom speaker grille.

Turning the device to its underside will reveal the micro USB charging port and the microphone. On the right side you have the volume rocker, and on the top you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack along with the power button on the left. The left side of the device features the micro SIM card slot, and that's it.

The back of the device is where you'll notice the real change in design between the HTC One and the One Mini, and that lies with the camera. On the HTC One, the camera's LED flash rests on the left side of the lens, while on the Mini the LED is set above the lens. Aside from that, you have the metal HTC logo in the middle of the back, a second microphone above the camera, and the Beats Audio logo is near the bottom.

Display-wise, the HTC One Mini is only 720p compared to the HTC One's 1080p display, but unless you have the two side-by-side it's really not that noticeable. In fact, even when I had the two devices side-by-side I didn't notice a difference in sharpness, but I did notice that the colors on the original HTC One were a little more true-to-life and the screen was more vibrant than the One Mini. The Mini's screen might not be as high quality, but it definitely still checks out as a beautiful screen.

Overall, the design of the One Mini is reflected rather well compared to the HTC One. It feels good in the hand, and the smaller size makes it easy to access all parts of the screen for one-handed use.

 

Usability and Performance

This is the section were we're really able to find out whether the HTC One Mini can live up to its name or not. While any phone can mimic another phone in looks despite size, it takes a lot more to be able to fit certain key elements in a smaller device. 

First, we'll take a look at the specs. The HTC One Mini features a 4.3-inch 720 x 1280 pixel display, giving it 342 ppi. The device features a Dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and has 1GB of RAM. The only storage option for this device is 16GB of internal, and no microSD card slot. On the back of the device you'll find a 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera, and the front features a 1.6-megapixel shooter. The device runs on Sense 5 and ships with Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), and will be upgradeable to Android 4.3 in the future.  The HTC One Mini runs on an 1800 mAh battery.

As you can see, the internals of the device are pretty much non-reflective of the HTC One at all, but specs don't really matter as long as the performance is decent, right? Although you can expect some things to be slower due to the Dual-core processor, and of course slashing the amount of RAM in half, the usability of the device wasn't really any less pleasant than it was to use on my original HTC One.

For one, launching applications had about the same response time. The HTC One was a hair faster, but it's nothing you would really notice. The HTC One Mini also gave me no lag issues switching from screen to screen or opening apps. BlinkFeed was also extremely fast at updating when prompted. The biggest difference that I noticed in performance between the HTC One and the One Mini was that loading Internet pages could take seconds longer than it would on the One. Depending on how data heavy the page was, the HTC One Mini could take as long as 5 seconds longer to fully load the same page as the One. This was having them both connected to the same Wi=Fi network. However, even if it took a few seconds longer to work its magic, 5 seconds isn't really that long of a time in retrospect. Still, the difference was definitely obvious in that aspect of the device.

Multitasking and functionality are identical on the Mini as they are to the original One; BlinkFeed is still present at all times in Sense 5, but you are able to move it to another screen if you want. You are also able to still double tap the home button to bring up recent and running applications, and swipe them up in order to force stop them. I find this method of closing out and switching applications very user-friendly, and definitely a pro to using either the One or the One Mini.

When it comes to some of the more defining features of the phone, I've been saying for a long time now that BoomSound speakers have been an earful of pleasure for me when it comes to speakers on mobile device, and as hoped the One Mini still delivers a very pleasant experience with its smaller variant of the same speakers that are seen on the One. I tried different genres of music from classical, hip hop, rock, alternative, country and even a little bit of screamo to see how the sound came through for each one. Although in my comparison the HTC One was able to create both a louder and slightly crisper sound than the One Mini, audio performance is still leaps better than any other speakers have used in the past. I'm very happy that HTC was able to keep the BoomSound speakers on the Mini, because for audiophiles (or even people who didn't know they were audiophiles) this is definitely a big seller in the One brand as a whole.

The Mini also features the same UltraPixel that the One uses, although the Mini's camera doesn't have Optical Image Stabilization. Still, for the most part the camera takes about the same quality of photos as the One, and as long as you use Zoe, which takes a short video for 20 photo frames, you should be able to find that perfect shot regardless. I'm not the biggest fan of the UltraPixel camera, and given that this is a smaller device (albeit newer) I wasn't expecting to see a better camera come along with it. It takes decent photos, but it's still only as good as you would expect a smartphone camera to be. I wouldn't consider it a complete replacement for even a basic point-and-shoot. 

The amount of storage is probably the most concerning, as with only a couple of applications installed, the phone was already using up 5GB of my 16GB of data, so really that leaves me with only 11GB of data. Without a microSD card slot, if I want extra room for media I'll have to resort to using cloud storage. The HTC One Mini makes you create a Dropbox account from the beginning with 25GB of free storage, so at least you do have that. But if you're not really into cloud storage, it is something to consider if you need a lot of available memory.

Finally, we should discuss the battery life. The HTC One Mini uses an 1800 mAh battery, which is pretty measly compared to the HTC One's 2300 mAh battery. However, given that it's a smaller screen, how does the battery life play out for the One Mini? For me, the phone lasted at least all day, but was cutting it close at about the 12 hour mark during a day with heavier use. The battery life wasn't awful on the Mini, but it wasn't the best, which was expected.

 

Conclusion

The HTC One Mini is one of the better Minis out there in my opinion, mostly because it's able to take all that makes the One such an iconic phone and packs it all into a more compact device. While the lowering of specs can seem a bit alarming at first, when it comes to performance the HTC One Mini doesn't really seem to perform that much less than the HTC One does. As a standalone device, without being compared to the HTC One, the HTC One Mini is a nice speedy little mid-range device that packs some high quality features.

The One Mini takes some of the best parts of the One and not only makes the device smaller, but by lowering some of the specs to a more modest range you're also saving $100 as the HTC One Mini sells for $99.99 on contract with AT&T. The HTC One Mini is definitely a good buy if you're looking for a phone with features that the original HTC One has but don't necessarily need all of the power that comes with it.

 

The Verdict

The Good: Same UltraPixel camera; BoomSound speakers; nearly-same aluminum unibody design; speedy performance

The Bad: Okay battery life; BoomSound speakers sometimes weren't clear when it came to intensive sounds; 16GB of internal storage really comes to about 11GB, and no microSD card slot limits storage options.

The Verdict: I would recommend this phone to anybody who A.) wants a smaller phone and B.) liked the HTC One, but didn't like the price or the size. HTC did a really good job of capturing the essense of the One, but even by cutting corners in regards to specs still made performance on this device speedy and lag-free. The only thing that might really be of any concern is the lack of a sufficient amount of memory by today's standards. The HTC One did a good job of making their original device available in 32 or 64GB variants, completely skipping over the 16GB model that we still see in many devices today. However, as long as you're not opposed to cloud storage, which Dropbox gives you 25GB for free straight from the get-go, this little device might just be worth your while.

Products mentioned

This Week's "People's Choice Rankings" Best Smartphone

 
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