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REVIEW: HTC One mini Android 4.2.2 Smartphone with HTC Sense 5
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 01.08.13 - 17:33:36 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 16012x
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For one week, I have the pleasure to test and use the upcoming and just recently announced HTC One mini as my main device, which replaced the HTC One as my main smartphone. Therefore, the switch wasn't too difficult for me since both devices are (now) running Android 4.2.2, something the One mini will be immediately launched with, as well as HTC Sense 5. The HTC One mini follows in the tradition of the One-series of HTC's high-end line-up, but like the HTC One S was to the HTC One X(L), the HTC One mini is to the HTC One. It's sharing the same DNA and spirit; but this time HTC went even further by making the One mini similar looking to the One. But it's nevertheless not the same device just smaller but a different device.

The Hardware
Therefore is the One mini not such a CPU power-horse like the One, since it's "only" powered by a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (MSM8930) dual-core CPU with an Adreno 305 GPU. On the bright side, the One mini supports the same radio technologies and frequencies like the One and is therefore supporting quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE at 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS/HSPA+ at 900/1900/2100 MHz as well as triband LTE at 800/1800/2600 MHz.

Furthermore aboard are Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, WiFi a/b/g/n at 2.4 and 5 GHz as well as MHL, DLNA and screen sharing via HTC Media Link HD and Miracast. The sensors are the Android typical gyroscope, accelerometer, digital compass, proximity sensor and for sure an ambient light sensor. Last but not least is the One mini supporting GPS and GLONASS but unfortunately lacking NFC and the infrared radio transmitter. Nevertheless, both features are yet not widely used and therefore is the lack of NFC and consumer infrared acceptable. It doesn't make the device better or worse at all.

A little bit more dramatic is the reduced memory size. The One mini has only half of the RAM of the One, which means 1 GB instead of 2 GB; and only half of the flash memory, which means 16 GB instead of 32 GB storage space. That's pretty much standard for a mid-range smartphone in this class but if you downgrade from the HTC One, you might notice it. If you aren't switching from one of the best in class Android smartphones, you will hardly notice this shrunken memory. Not as dramatic, or to say it the other way around, pretty much appreciated, is the shrunken display size. The HTC One mini comes with a 4.3", Super LCD2, Gorilla Glass 3 protected touchscreen which has a 720p HD resolution at 341 PPI. This helps to make the overall footprint of the device noticeable smaller.

And while the HTC One mini is using a slightly different design and manufacturing method, it's also coming with HTC's typical zero gap aluminum unibody design on the back, which makes the One mini 132 x 63 x 9.2 mm big and 128 grams heavy, including the embedded 1,800 mAh Li-polymer battery. But the housing is slightly different to the original HTC One design. The backside looks pretty much the same, including the two times interrupted aluminum shell, but the side comes with a glossy polycarbonate frame which goes to the front of the device to hold the aluminum-looking stereo speaker covers on the top and bottom as well as the touchscreen in between. If you have seen a white HTC One X, you can imagine how this looks. While the frame seems to look pretty massive on photos, in reality it's looking much better and less disturbing. Also slightly different are the volume keys on the right side which are two separated buttons instead of a single rocker. I even like this design more.

Also different to the One is the the power button on the top. As mentioned above, the One mini is lacking the infrared transmitter and therefore is the power button not acting as an infrared eye. Not changed were the touch sensitive and backlight illuminated menu keys bellow the touchscreen which are again Home, on the right and Back, on the left. There's again no 3rd button but where you would expect the Home button, HTC put its logo.

The One mini is featuring HTC's new 4 megapixel "UltraPixel" autofocus camera on the back, which also comes with HTC's new 1/3" BSI sensor and a pixel size of 2.0 µm. All this is powered by HTC's dedicated ImageChip 2 and an f/2.0 aperture and 28 mm lens. However, and I'm not sure if this is due to the decreased size or different price, HTC's Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), which was just introduced with the One for the first time, was left - unfortunately. In bright environments you will not notice any differences in picture quality but the OIS is convenient in darker environments of for video recordings. Nevertheless, the main camera also features HTC's Smart Flash light with five levels which are automatically set by the distance to the photographed subject. Also slightly different to the One is the not so ultra-wide-angle front facing camera which features a rather untypical resolutions of 1.6 megapixel, a BSI Sensor with f/2.2 and HDR capabilities. The main camera allows to record Full HD 1080p videos (even in HDR) or alternatively 720p HD videos with up to 60 fps; while the front facing camera allows to record standard 720p HD videos.

Next to the UltraPixel camera, BoomSound is the second One-typical hardware feature which also made it to the One mini. This means, as you saw on the photos above, that the One mini is also sporting front facing stereo speakers which are powered by dedicated built-in amplifiers and extra large sound chambers as well as a so called "studio-quality sound with Beats Audio". To enhance the telephony quality, the One mini is also featuring dual microphones and Sense Voice for improved communication in loud environments.

The Software and Services
The One mini is straight released with Android 4.2.2, no more Android 4.1.2 as the One was initially launched with, and this means it's also coming with all the latest Android enhancements Google has brought to 4.2.2. On top of this framework, HTC has put its HTC Sense 5 UI which is far more than just a skin. It replaces original Android apps, like contacts, calendar or the inbox, and adds further features. I have to admit that I like the HTC replacement-apps more than the stock Android apps but this is for sure a question of taste. Others might see it different. Nevertheless, HTC Sense 5 isn't only replacing apps but also spicing-up the OS with apps and services. For instance we have the HTC BlinkFeed, which is said to give you all your "favorite content on one screen". It's basically replacing the home screen and transforming it into a single live stream of relevant information, HTC BlinkFeed delivers social updates (from Facebook and Twitter), news and photo updates as well as relevant calendar entries. New is also that the BlinkFeed is now also supporting Instagram photos. Content is aggregated from more than 10,000 feeds from around the world and the BlinkFeed can be customized pretty much to show you only the for your relevant news, info and social media updates. However, the rather more traditional home screen is still alive and can be used to put shortcuts and widgets on.

The HTC UltraPixel camera isn't just a piece of hardware but also feature the so called HTC Zoe and Video Highlights. HTC Zoe brings special moments to life in three-second videos, enabling a range of advanced editing capabilities and creative flexibility. The Video Highlights allows to create a 30 seconds video from still photos or Zoe videos, which are then mixed with predefined templates. New - and for now exclusively for the One mini - is the option to use your own music rather than the prerecorded music HTC has added for each template. This works amazing good, as you can see with the demo bellow.

There is no professional editing software or skill required to create a highlight from the past excursion or trip; the One mini is doing it pretty much on its own. All you have to do is to select the photos and Zoes you want to use, select the video theme and maybe select a custom soundtrack from your personal music library.

Other than that, the HTC Sense typical imaging features are pretty much the same as for the One. The One mini is also coming with continuous shooting and VideoPic as well as slow motion video recording with variable playback speed. Also onboard are retouch with object removal, Face Bautification, Always Smile and Sequence Shot.

Final Conclusion

The HTC One mini isn't mini in features but in size and price - at least compared to the HTC One and other competing smartphones. In this case mini means a smaller 4.3" "only" display with "only" 720p. However, I haven't missed the One's 1080p Full HD display at all and in general should 720p be good enough for most of us. What I have really noticed is the difference in size and weight and I appreciate it. For me, a smartphone is still a mobile phone and one hand use is one of the main tasks for me. That's where the One mini jumps in since it can be easily used with just one hand, I would even go that far to call it "frequent traveler's best friend" since you can easily open your boarding passes or E-Mails, while carrying your luggage around with the other hand. I also appreciate the job HTC did by transferring the original One design, maybe at the moment the best looking smartphone, to the One mini. Sure, the side looks slightly different but not worse in any kind. In my experience, the changed design makes the device even more robust.

The technical sepcs are pretty much updated One S specs and I must say that, even if I heavily use my smartphones, the One mini has so far done a great job. Neither speed nor memory usage failed so far and it's simply a good enough combination. Therefore I would definitely say that the One mini is even sufficient enough for high-end users, even if it doesn't seem to be the über geek device. Sure, more is always better and I wouldn't mind if HTC has added 2 GB RAM instead of only 1 GB, and also 32 GB, or at least a microSD memory card slot wouldn't have hurt me, but the better GPU alone makes the device faster noticeable faster (than a One S).

Somehow sad - for me - is the fact that HTC has left NFC and consumer infrared but as I said earlier, both aren't killer features today and not that widely used. It's indeed something for the super high-end phones and the alternative is the HTC One. If it comes to the typical One features, HTC has virtually not done any tradeoffs from what customers might expect. The One mini is featuring HTC's excellent UltraPixel camera and HTC BoomSound as well as all the HTC Sense 5 features and enhancements; including the yet exclusive one to add own soundtrack to Video Highlights. This, and the way leaner HTC Sense 5 UI is all very attractive to use. No more overload of unnecessary features and services but straight forward, as the One unibody design. It's the combination of this design, the size and weight, the important features and the UI which makes the One mini really attractive and a mass-market device for users with style.

And while we are talking about mass-market and attractiveness, the price is also mass-market compatible and attractive. The HTC One mini, which will be initially available in silver (the black version is going to follow a little bit later) will be available in Europe from early August and the suggested retail price, without any subsidizations, is 449 Euro. That's more than just reasonable for this combination of hardware, software and features. And the classy design and high-end material customers will get on top - free of charge.

Cheers ~ Arne

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