HTC One Mini

Even with its scaled-down specs, the HTC One Mini is a go-to performer with style to match.

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The HTC One Mini has everything it should to bear the chic HTC One name: a gorgeously crafted hardware and software design, with solid performance chops to match.

But don't think that "Mini" means you're simply getting a shrunken HTC One. Instead, this only slightly smaller handset steps back the internals across the board in video-capture resolution, processing brawn, storage capacity and extra features like the (absent) IR blaster and near-field communication (NFC). Make no mistake, this Mini is a fantastic mid-tier, mid-price choice with enough stamina, speed and style to go the distance.

Design and build

The way HTC presents this phone, you'd think it'd be a fraction of the One's size. In fact, HTC barely shaved down its dimensions. At 132x63.5x9.1mm, the Mini loses only 50.8mm in height and width compared with the One.

When it comes to body style, the Mini and One aren't exactly mirror images, but they're clearly cut from the same cloth. They share the same unibody shape, gently bowed-out back and finely tooled details. To HTC's credit, the Mini manages to look like a premium stunner despite the introduction of a plastic rim around the face and spines, because it keeps the aluminium back and face plates. Losing some of that heavy metal makes the Mini a lighter phone, as well; 128g versus the One's 142g weight.

Screen size is a bit smaller, a 4.3-inch 720p display made using Super LCD 2 material instead of a 4.7-inch screen with 1080p resolution and Super LCD 3. Pixel pushers will note the Mini's 340ppi versus the One's pixel density of 468 pixels per inch (ppi).

Side by side with the One, the Mini's LCD screen isn't quite as colourful or bright at full brightness levels. The drop in resolution is also noticeable at such a close range, and colours aren't quite as vibrant. On its own, however, websites are easy to read, photos and videos look good and the screen is still visible at lower brightness levels, though it isn't as punched up as it is at full brightness (of course).

Both typing on the virtual keyboard and tapping icons did feel more cramped with the Mini's relatively smaller 4.3-inch screen, especially compared to the One and other phones with much larger screens. I have smaller hands and didn't mind the size. For those who do, it helps that HTC will let you increase system font size, and that the virtual keyboard supports word tracing.

Other changes are evident, as well. The flash moves above the camera lens from the side, and the Mini's power button gets a different finish (since the Mini lacks the infrared beam to control the TV). The volume rocker also splits into two distinct parts that stand out a little more from the surface; I actually prefer this to the One's shallow, ridged bar, though the buttons still weren't quite as easy for me to find with my thumb at first. You just have to know they're there.

The HTC One Mini isn't all that smaller than the larger, heavier One.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

While the Mini uses the same main camera as the One, with a 4-megapixel "UltraPixel" sensor with an LED flash and 1080p HD video recording, the front-facing camera drops from 2.1 megapixels with 1080p HD recording to 1.6 megapixels with 720p HD video capture.

Beyond these tiny adjustments, the handset's port placement and dual-speaker grille proportions remain the same. You'll plug the micro USB into the bottom of the phone and the headset jack into the top. As with the One, there's no microSD card slot for extra storage, so you'll need to make do with the Mini's 16GB.

OS and features

When it comes to software, the Mini is happily up to date, with Android 4.2.2 topped with HTC's Sense 5.0 interface. Yes, BlinkFeed commands the main home screen by default with social networks, news outlets and other content you set up.

Otherwise, navigation and customisation features remain the same on the Mini as they did on the original One, down to tapping the Home button twice to pull up recent apps and pressing Home to launch Google Now.

A plastic band around the spines modified the One's all-metal chassis.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Those who are new to Sense from another OS or Android interface will need a little time to adjust to the look and feel, though it's fairly quick to pick up, and the layout is extremely easy on the eye. Uncover settings and you can customise a lot, from app arrangement to lock-screen style, to the LED notification light. Sense may not have all the gestures and toggles of Samsung or LG phones, but you won't get bogged down in features, either.

Like the original, the Mini is blessed with HTC Beats and BoomSound for enhanced audio through the phone's twin external speakers. Music, vocals and voices all sounded loud and rich, even with volume set midway. To compare the two Ones, I tested them side by side by playing the same song at full volume. Each phone impressively flooded the room. While the One's audio sounded rounder and fuller than the slightly tinnier Mini, the gap between the two was relatively narrow.

Although it's unlikely that the Mini's absent NFC support will turn prospective buyers away, it's a bummer that this now-basic Android feature isn't here.

HTC shuffled the flash placement on the back on the Mini and removed a decorative line.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Camera and video

HTC gave the Mini the same 4-megapixel "UltraPixel" camera resolution as it did the flagship One. That means you'll have the same layout, controls, filters and add-ons, including HDR, panorama and anti-shake, slow and fast motion and white balance presets. You also get Zoe mode, which groups photos into three-second snippets.

Photos captured in automatic mode were often very good, though not the

CNET's standard studio shot, taken with flash indoors, comes out with an icky brown cast to the ordinarily white-grey scene.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

There aren't quite as many shooting modes or effects as competitors, especially Samsung, but those who mostly take photos in auto mode won't miss them. More meticulous photographers will appreciate sliding scales for exposure, sharpness and contrast settings. When all's said and done, an add-on called HTC Share will offer to group photos and videos into bite-sized collections that are easy to share.

Like the One, the Mini's main camera has 1080p HD video capture, which took smooth, colourful videos that look best in ample lighting situations. Self-shots looked fine on the 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera with fairly even exposure, though details are less defined (that de facto airbrushed look is usually a good thing). The shooter captures 720p HD video, which is nice for video chats, though ultimately, the quality that your voice-over-IP (VoIP) caller sees will also depend on the strength of both your data or broadband connections.

This pup held still long enough to snap this photo outside in midday light.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

We focused on the blue cheese blob in this outdoor photo taken at dusk.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

The Mini's low-light compensation kicked in, brightening this hanging garden, shot at dusk.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Call quality

Call quality was good overall, with strong volume at both medium and high levels. Vocal tones were natural on both sides of the line, with no distortion, peaks or blips. We did hear a noticeable and persistent background hum that became more evident the quieter the environment, and melted into the background in noisier surroundings. On his end, our main test partner also heard a thin layer of white noise when he listened hard. On the balance, he really liked the call quality.

Speakerphone was also good when we tested the Mini at hip level, though there were a few flaws. Volume dropped on our caller's end, and he said our voice wasn't as clear as it is with other speakerphones. Volume remained fine for us, and we were impressed that the speakerphone didn't make our caller's voice echoey, though he did sound slightly nasal and strained.


Its 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor may be less brawny than the HTC One's 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset, but I was still able to do everything I needed to on the Mini without delay. You may find the biggest discrepancy in gameplay, especially for very graphics-intensive titles, but casual gamers shouldn't get too hung up on losing the finest details. I had no complaints with navigational delays.

Battery life on the Mini lasted from morning till night on a single charge. It has a rated talk time of up to 21 hours (13.3 over 3G) and about 21 days of standby on its 1800mAh battery. It has a digital SAR of 1.09 watts per kilogram.

Buy it or skip it?

With its classy design and strong midrange feature set, the HTC One Mini is currently our favourite smartphone in its class. Its major constraint is its limited storage with no option to expand, so skip it if you require more than 16GB total. The absent NFC and IR blaster aren't major enough omissions to turn away most prospective buyers, and though it has fewer ancillary software extras, there's no way you're going hungry. I highly recommend the One Mini.


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