HTC One mini review

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HTC One mini review
Hot on the heels of the power-packed HTC One comes the relatively lower powered, but also more pocket-friendly, HTC One mini. It's a mini-variant, models that of late have become popular with handset makers.
HTC seems to following a consistent design strategy across the revamped One series - and the HTC One mini certainly seems to bear this theory out.
Could the combination of decent hardware, software and elegant design make the HTC One mini the turnaround vehicle for HTC in the country? Or will its high price kill off its chances? We find out our in our review:

Design/ Build
We have seen our share of elegantly designed phones, but we were still taken aback by the understated looks of the HTC One mini. You get a feeling of awe when you hold the One mini in your hands. The sheer slimness and compact form factor of the phone did impress, when the HTC One mini came to our doorsteps.

The HTC One mini looks like a replica of the One (except for its size), and this is a good thing, as it gives the One mini the same premium look as its bigger, elder sibling.

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The front of the HTC One mini houses the display, positioned between the front-facing dual BoomSound speakers. The speaker grill on the One mini is not as wide as it is on the flagship device. Coming to the back, we see a a 4-megapixel UltraPixel rear camera lens located towards the top. Like the One, the lens unit on the device doesn't protrude out and is flush with the body of the phone. The rear panel also houses an LED flash on the above the primary camera as opposed to being on its side.

The HTC One mini does not feature a removable cover, while the HTC logo is engraved in the middle of rear panel accompanied by Beats audio branding, towards the bottom of the phone. The top plastic strip at the rear above the primary camera houses a noise-cancellation microphone.

Just like the HTC One, the One mini's rear panel is a curved piece of zero-gap aluminium. A major difference between both the One and One mini is the latter does have a bit more plastic along the edges. The company has opted for plastic frames and have given a miss to chamfered edges.

htc-one-mini-rear-panel.jpg

While the HTC One mini doesn't look quite as stylish as the One, the white plastic surrounding the phone manages to match its other highlights, and doesn't look cheap.

The key advantage here is the ergonomics (as with most mini-variants) - the HTC One mini is easy to hold and use with a single hand. The volume and power buttons are all in same configuration as on the One. The One mini is available in the same Black and Silver colours, as well. We got a silver unit for review, which looks nice and we think has an edge over the black variant thanks to the visibly aluminium body.

The One mini comes with 4.3-inch display fitted on slightly smaller and lighter chassis, which makes it comfortable to hold in even relatively small palms. The Taiwanese handset maker has focused more on the device's width rather than its height, thanks to which the One mini is actually easier to hold one-handed, and also allows users to reach more of the display with just their thumbs.

Talking about the buttons and ports on the HTC One mini, the front also houses two feather-touch keys for home and back, with the HTC logo in the middle, and a secondary camera on top of the display. The sides have the micro-SIM slot and a volume rocker key.

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However, as we mentioned,in place of the polished aluminum edges of the HTC One and its spun-metal volume rocker, the One mini has white polycarbonate edging and two metal volume buttons.

This is one element we do like over the HTC One, as the volume rocker buttons are more distinct, making it easier to find and hit them when not looking directly at the phone (even when on a call or listening to music).  The volume rocker buttons on the HTC One mini do feel a little wobbly and not as premium, but we still prefer the layout to the single block on the One.

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The audio jack along with power button is located on the top of the HTC One mini, while the bottom panel features a microphone and a Micro-USB port.

Display
It's worth pointing out that the HTC One's full-HD display won a lot of accolades and even was considered one of the best displays in the premium segment. The HTC One mini features a 4.3-inch Super LCD 2 display that sports a resolution of 720x1280 pixels and pixel density of 341ppi. The company has also used Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the device, making it stronger, and more scratch-resistant.

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The Super LCD 2 display doesn't gives the fullest colours or the deepest blacks like AMOLED displays do, but it is a bright panel at nearly all times. Colours on the One mini are quite vibrant nevertheless, and consistently reproduced well. The viewing angles were never a problem. The display is not very reflective, and sunlight-legibility was acceptable. Reading text on the device was always crisp and clear against white backgrounds. Typing on the 4.3-inch display of the One mini would be imprecise for large-handed people, though we assume that there's nothing that Swype can't fix.

After using the HTC One min for some time, we experienced that although it doesn't comes with a full-HD display, 341ppi is more than enough for a screen of this size. All that said, using the One mini with 4.3-inch display did take some time to get used to as we shifted from larger Android device.

Camera
HTC,earlier this year, instead of continuing to run the race for higher megapixel counts, defected and introduced the UltraPixel technology on its flagship device, the One, which features a 4-megapixel rear camera. The megapixel count might be on the lower side, but the sensor size is bigger which enables the camera to capture more light. The result is usually better than regular cameras and one gets crisp and vivid shots. HTC ships the One mini with the same 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera at the back.

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The HTC One mini's 4-megapixel rear camera delivers uninspiring, but decent shots in both good and low-light conditions. In fact, the camera's sensor did remarkably well in low-light conditions - they were relatively low on noise and retained nearly as much detail as under good light.

A big difference in cameras of the One and One mini is OIS (optical image stabilization) - the latter doesn't includes it.

The HTC One mini's camera also features the Zoe mode, another new addition first seen on the full-sized counterpart. The Zoe mode feature takes a four-second burst shot including the audio of any sight, clicking a second before and three seconds after the camera soft key is completely pressed. It actually gives an option to edit remove redundant objects from the image and creating action shots. The HTC's Zoe feature is somewhat similar to the effect seen in the Harry Potter movies, where still pictures come to life.

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The HTC One mini further comes with a dedicated HTC ImageChip 2, the Taiwanese handset maker's own Image Signal processor (ISP), which enables faster and better shots in any light conditions. We did not face any lag, both in capturing and saving an image.

HTC also ships the device with its own camera app that offers different scene settings like normal, landscape, portrait, backlight, night, text and macro for still photography, and other modes like HDR, sweep Panorama and group portrait.

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Additionally, the HTC One mini's camera app comes with options like face and smile detection, geo-tagging, shutter sound and a grid interface. The One mini, much like other HTC smartphones, also offers 'lenses' for adding effects like sepia, negative, and vintage.

Videos recorded on the One mini top out at full-HD (1080p) with a steady 30 frames per second. The recorded video quality is good, with no stuttering and sharp details. The 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera shouldn't be relied on for anything other than self portrait.

The HTC One mini shares an obvious lineage with its elder sibling, but where the original was innovative and inspiring; the One mini is decent - we expect better that the price.

Software/ Interface
The HTC One mini runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Sense 5 UI on top, (slightly updated from the UI seen on the One) which is HTC's own skin that includes some custom apps as well.

The flagship HTC One natively runs Android 4.1.2 out of the box and is still waiting for the updated Sense 5.0. The device is expected to be going straight to Android 4.3 update, giving Android 4.2.2 a miss.

The central homescreen on the One mini is replaced by the BlinkFeed, the most popular Sense 5.0 UI feature that was first seen on the HTC One.

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BlinkFeed is basically a blend of several Internet and social feeds running on the homescreen in the form of panels or tiles, as seen on Windows Phone. One can select which feeds to show on this screen and can pick categories of interests from topics like astrology, news, sports, lifestyle, society, videos, technology and others. There is also an option of having local news services in the BlinkFeed that popularly includes NDTV, Hindustan Times, India Today, Aaj Tak and a few others.

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Users can also have feeds on the One mini from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Plurk and even from instant messaging app, WeChat, which comes preloaded on the One mini. The updates appear in the form of tiles that can be tapped to offer full text or videos. BlinkFeed also has an option to share the updates via social networks and also through email.

In addition to the BlinkFeed, users also get two more homescreen panes, where users can house their apps and other widgets. Aesthetic changes can be seen to the app panel as well. The Sense 5.0 UI on the One mini also comes with new addition that allows group of app icons and such groups can be scrolled vertically. One can group their favourite apps in one icon to make scrolling and browsing through apps easy. The app icons seen in Sense 5.0 UI are a bit small for our liking but do give the HTC One mini a crisp, non-tangled feel.

At the bottom of the display, one can find four customisable shortcuts for the dialler, messaging, browser and camera, which are also available on the lock screen.

The HTC One mini's menu has a neat look and one can arrange apps in either a 3x4 or 4x5 grids  which make scanning the apps easier. However, we were a bit disappointed by the placement of search, settings, Google Play and customise options as these only appear when one pulls down the apps grid.

htc-one-mini-screenshot2.jpg

HTC One mini ships with the revamped Gallery app that allows browsing images and videos on the device, along with ones present on online services like Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa. The Gallery app allows browsing based on Events (Time, Date and Place) and Albums, first seen on the HTC One.

The HTC One mini's messaging app offers some interesting features, including a secure inbox, a password protected folder for storing confidential messages, and the option to block messages from select senders. The messaging app offers similar options as seen in Sense 4.0 and above UI. The messaging interface is also customisable with different colour options for message bubbles and the ability to choose a background image.

However, there were some disappointments in the interface of the One mini in terms of personalisation, as Sense 5.0 UI has removed scenes and skins to change the look and feel of the overall interface. In fact, we could say that the new HTC Sense 5.0 UI has reduced the amount of skinning options. In addition, the familiar ring-like lock screen has also been removed. One can further choose between five lock screen styles which include no lock screen option, music, photo album, productivity and wallpaper. The new lock screen still follows the similar pattern of unlocking the device by dragging any of the dialler, message, browser and camera icons on the screen.

There are two capacitive buttons for back and home below the display. Much like the One, the One mini also gives a miss to the third capacitive touch button, instead comes with HTC logo branding which is placed in the middle below the display of phone. It takes some time getting used to the new arrangement.

htc-one-mini-screenshot3.jpg

On long pressing the One mini's home button it launches Google Now and on double tap it offers the app switcher. One can change the double-tap speed of the home button through settings. The recent Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update has also brought in Google Now, which has to be initialised for the first time, and can be accessed directly by long pressing the home button or through the search widget.

The notification tray on the HTC One mini features a settings shortcut and a clear all notifications button, along with expandable notifications (expanded with the two finger pull gesture).

The HTC One mini comes with a host of preloaded apps like Car app, that shows only essential apps while one drives; Kid mode which is sort of child lock, where only those apps will be enabled which one wants the child to access; Zoodles, another kind of kid mode that allows users to enable selective access to some apps for kids. Other popular apps includes on the One mini are Dropbox, Polaris Office to edit Microsoft Office files, TuneIn Radio and SoundHound among others.

Performance/ Battery Life

The HTC One mini is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with Adreno 305 for graphics processing. It comes with only 1GB of RAM onboard. There is 16GB of inbuilt storage, out of which only 11GB is user-accessible and sadly the phone does not support expandable storage. Considering that the One mini comes at a premium price, the limited storage on the device is definitely a deal breaker. We wished that the One mini could come with at least 32GB onboard storage at its price, if not a microSD card slot.

Yes, it also comes with 25GB of Dropbox space free for two years; however, we know that cloud storage is not always handy.

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Considering there is a fairly respectable dual-core processor running under the hood, the HTC One mini manages to chug along just fine. In day to day activities the phone feels smooth enough and you are not really left wanting for more power until you are stuck with BlinkFeed lags. However, the lags were not always because of hardware inefficiency but sometimes due to bad internet connectivity.

The HTC One mini could easily handle games like Temple Run 2 and Subway Surfers which are not that heavy graphics game but things get a bit choppy when playing games like Shadow Gun and Dead Trigger.

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On the sound front, the HTC One mini impressed us much like its full-sized counterpart. The device features BoomSound and Beats Audio, premium features of the revamped One smartphone series. BoomSound is HTC's marketing term for dual front-facing speakers backed by an amplifier. The set of speakers on the One mini can be considered as the best in the price segment, offering loud audio with decent quality, and the addition of two speakers in a stereo setup help while watching videos and also while playing games.

The 4.3-inch HD display is good for viewing movies and videos. The device was able to play full-HD videos and supported popular video formats like .AVI, .MOV, .MKV and .MP4.

Call quality on the One mini was impressive and the device was able to latch on to cellular networks even in weak signal areas which came in handy at times.

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The HTC One mini ships with a 1800mAh battery that according to the company can deliver up to 692 hours of standby and up to 13 hours of talktime on 3G networks. Based on our testing period the One mini delivered satisfying battery performance.

We were able to get about 14-16 hours with normal usage on the One mini that included Wi-Fi switched on for all time; Web browsing for about an hour; a few calls lasting for about an hour; display set on auto-brightness and with the usual notifications for messages, emails, Facebook, Hike and WhatsApp. This means, the phone would roughly last a full day from full-charge in the morning.

Though with heavy usage of the One mini, that included full screen brightness level, calls lasting for about two hours, 3G turned on all time, clicking some casual shots with the UltraPixel camera, watching videos for around two hours through YouTube and also on the device, three to four hours of gaming, and with usual notifications for messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, the device lasted for only about 8-10 hours. Not too bad, considering that BlinkFeed auto-sync was turned on.

However, altering these settings can help in increasing the durability of the phone for longer period.

Verdict

The HTC One mini scores heavily in terms of style and substance, with our biggest quibbles being the lack of processing power and the limited storage, at its price. The device definitely feels like a premium one and includes much of the full HTC Sense 5 experience, such as BlinkFeed, the updated Gallery. It also has premium hardware features like BoomSound, UltraPixel camera, and Zoe photos.

Despite the glaring hardware difference with the HTC One, the One mini shares a similar aesthetic design, and arguably has better ergonomics than the full-sized counterpart.

Unfortunately however, as expected for a dual-core Android phone at price of Rs. 36,790, the  HTC One mini underperforms noticeably. The market features a plethora of quad-core Android phones today, from budget to top-end, and we have better performing devices that are much cheaper (the recent price cuts of the S III further driving the point home).

Samsung seems to have set its mini-variant pricing a little more accurately (now) with the S4 mini, though it skipped out on some of the premium features the HTC One mini still manages to retain from its flagship original. The S4 mini also has only 8GB of built-in storage (though expandable up to 64GB via microSD card), and a low-resolution qHD display.

Right now, at its pricing, the HTC One mini would be hard to recommend. It astoundingly competes against some of the high-end devices in the market, such as the Sony Xperia Z, Nokia Lumia 925, LG Optimus G, and the Apple iPhone 4S, while delivering an obvious stutter in performance.

Of course, if price is not the bone of contention for you, rather, a 4.3-inch form factor is your preference, apart from the iPhone 4S, you can look at the BlackBerry Z10, or even the S4 mini. For quad-core performance and decent build on Android however, you'll have to look to at least the 4.5-inch form factor to get sufficient choice. 


HTC One mini in pictures


Price: Rs. 36,790

  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Premium build and style
  • Good ergonomics
  • BoomSound feature
  • UltraPixel camera
  • Bad
  • Expensive
  • Lags often
  • Limited storage
Display 4.30-inch
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Front Camera 1.6-megapixel
Rear Camera 4-Ultrapixel
RAM 1GB
Storage 16GB
Battery Capacity 1800mAh
OS Android 4.2
Resolution 720x1280 pixels
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