The HTC One blasted onto the UK market earlier this year, toting enhanced Ultrapixel camera technology, a beefy quad-core processor and a single-piece Aluminium chassis. The perks of the phone made and make the One one of the finest smartphones ever crafted showcasing how, even with its ever-decreasing market share, HTC still knows how to make a great top-end smartphone.
Clearly aware of this, HTC's moved to monopolise on the One's popularity, taking a page out of chief Android competitor Samsung's book and unveiling a new shrunk-down Mini version of its flagship smartphone. Designed for small-handed individuals, or people that want a smartphone that is still pocket sized in the 2013's skinny jeans-wearing, hipster-laden world, HTC claims the Mini is an ideal choice for smartphone buyers on a budget, retaining all the perks of its larger sibling. However, having had some hands-on time with the device, we've already noticed a few key differences separating the two smartphones.
Design and build
From a distance the Mini is all but identical to its larger sibling. The device features the same aluminium, slightly curved chassis and identical port and button placements, with the USB port lying on its bottom, power button on its top and volume controls on its right-hand side. However, putting aside its smaller dimensions, there are a few tweaks that make the Mini feel very different.
Chief of these is the Mini's more pronounced plastic outer lining. Unlike the original One, whose plastic sides were very understated, so much so that you didn't notice the break between Gorilla Glass and metal, the Mini's protrude out a fraction of a millimetre, making it feel slightly less luxurious. That said, during our hands on we found the One Mini still feels much nicer in hand than its chief competition, the Galaxy S4 Mini, which takes a reverse approach, featuring a polycarbonate back and metal sides.
The Mini features a 4.3in 720p HD display that makes the One's 4.7in 1080x1920 pixel, 469ppi display look downright giant. While the display isn't 1080p, during our hands on we were reasonably impressed with it, with the smaller screen size ensuring the screen looked crisp and clear, even when viewed at awkward angles. We also found the Mini's screen boasted similarly rich and vibrant colour and brightness levels as its larger One sibling. In fact, the only time we noticed any issues with the display was when we moved to use it in direct bright sunlight, at which point it became slightly difficult to use - though this is an issue on next to all smartphones.
Operating system and software
The Mini comes running the latest Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean version of Google's operating system overlaid with HTC's custom Sense 5.0 skin. The skin radically redesigns Android's natural user interface, replacing the OS' main homescreen with HTC's Blinkfeed. Blinkfeed is an aggregator service debuted on the One. It's designed to pull articles from relevant news outlets and updates from social media services, like Twitter and Facebook into one easy feed. While some core news outlets - like V3 - aren't currently available via Blinkfeed, in general we were fans of the feature on the One, with it proving surprisingly good at pushing content we were actually interested in to us. Additionally, for those that don't like Blinkfeed, HTC's made it easy to remove as the phone's homescreen.
One key change is that the Mini runs using a slightly less powerful 1.4GHz dual, not quad-core processor and only boasts 1GB of RAM. While this isn't as impressive as the full-sized One, which featured a more robust 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and featured 2GB of RAM, HTC's promised the Mini will still offer above average performance. Sadly the demo unit we had wasn't connected to the internet and didn't have any benchmarking or demanding apps installed, meaning we didn't really get a chance to properly put it through its paces. However, testing the Mini with the features it did have installed we found the device is fairly nippy with it opening apps instantly and responding to all our commands hassle and lag free.
The Mini comes with the same 4MP, Ultrapixel rear camera as the full-sized One. It is a technology designed to let the sensor capture larger pixels than regular smartphone cameras, meaning the Mini camera's F2.0 lens should be able to soak in up to three times more light than most competitors'. The reduced pixel count also theoretically speeds up the One's shutter and processing speed by reducing the amount of data taken in when snapping a photo.
During our hands on we found, as we did on the One, images taken on the One Mini are very good, but fall slightly short of the stellar quality levels seen on Nokia's recent run of Lumias. Images taken on the Mini were vibrant, bright and featured great contrast levels. However, as we found on the One, they do become slightly blurry when blown up or zoomed in on - though this issue only occurs when you really zoom into the image.
We also found the Mini struggled slightly when confronted with a mix of artificial and natural light sources. In these occasions the Mini would only take in light from one source, making images look oddly silhouetted - though again this is an issue on 99 percent of all smartphone cameras.
The One comes with a non-upgradable 16GB built in. While avid music or movie fans will be disappointed by this, it's not a massive issue, as Android offers a host of free cloud storage services, including Dropbox and Google Drive.
Overall our opening impressions of the HTC One Mini are positive. The device on paper offers all of its larger sibling's core strengths but in a shrunk-down, small-hand friendly chassis. Add to this the fact HTC's confirmed it expects carriers to offer the Mini on deals "at least two steps below" those of the One, meaning it should be fairly affordable, we can see the Mini being a minor hit for smartphone buyers on a budget as well as size fanatics.
Written by V3's Alastair Stevenson
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