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Thread: Our HTC One Mini review: The Small One

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    Our HTC One Mini review: The Small One

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    Since screen sizes have been creeping up with each new generation of smartphone, it was only a matter of time before companies started releasing smaller, less expensive versions of their flagship phones. The timing is perfect since Canadian carriers are now forced to offer 2 year contracts. Customers are forced to pick their poison.

    If you want a fancy phone you’ll have to pay more than you used to each month.

    This is where the less-costly smaller versions come in. If you don't want to spend so much each month you can opt for a cheaper plan and get a less expensive phone.

    I checked out the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 Mini a while back and now it’s time to give the HTC One Mini a twirl.

    What about the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini?

    On Rogers, the GS4 Mini is $449.99 outright while the One Mini is $399.99. Both are $0 on contract.

    I reviewed the GS4 Mini a while back and I loved it. While it’s down on specs compared to the full-sized GS4 the GS4 Mini’s size and the fact that Samsung stubbornly continues to use hardware back and menu buttons makes the Mini the easier phone to use.

    Specs-wise, the mini versions of the One and the GS4 are quite similar. Both have Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processors backed by 1GB of RAM which are pushing 4.3” displays.

    The GS4 Mini has a higher clocked processor, a removable battery and support for MicroSD cards.

    The One Mini counters with a metal body, better sounding speakers, a higher resolution display which works better outdoors and a camera with better low light performance.

    Again, deciding between these two is going to be tough. The worst thing about the One Mini is that the 16GB of storage isn’t expandable.

    The GS4 Mini is a more well rounded package in that it’s flaws aren’t as serious. The One Mini’s camera is better indoors but outdoors it lags behind the GS4 Mini’s.

    Here, I’d call it a draw but if you’re buying either phone outright I’d skip both and get either a Nexus 5, an Alcatel Idol X or Moto G.


    What about the Nexus 5?

    If the main reason you’re looking at the Mini is because of the price and NOT the size, then you might want to consider the Nexus 5.

    Outright, the One Mini is $399.99 on Rogers. While it’s true that the Nexus 5 is $499.99 outright from Rogers you can pick one up for around $370 from Google Play. On contract, the Nexus is $49.99 while the Mini is $0

    While the Nexus 5 is a larger phone you’re also getting more phone for your money. It has a faster processor, more RAM, more free storage a bigger battery, more resolution and a larger display. The Nexus will also receive updates in a timely fashion though HTC has been pretty good about updates lately. In fact the Mini I’m reviewing just got an update from 4.2 to 4.4 while I was writing this review.

    The Mini gets points for its sleek metal body, more manageable size, better sound speakers and better low light performance. It’s also nicer to hold.

    I’m not crazy about stock Android but HTC Sense on the Mini is much worse. From the annoying BlinkFeed home screen to the home screen that is 4 icons wide while the app drawer is only 3 (you can change this to 4 wide by why 3 as default?). I’ve used a One on and off for almost a year now and I still don’t like Sense. I do give HTC props for trying something different. Still, you can always stick on a 3rd party launcher.

    This is a really tough call which took me a while to decide. The Nexus is a better phone on paper, but the Mini has certain intangibles which are hard to understand unless you play with it. That said, of all the Nexus 5’s specs I think the 2GB of RAM makes it a slightly more attractive option if you multitask a lot.

    What about the Alcatel Idol X?

    The Idol X is available from Bell for $250 off contract. It’s $0 on contract but there’s less of a reason to consider the Idol X unless you’re buying it outright.

    The Idol X has 2GB of RAM, a bigger, higher resolution screen, memory card slot and I have to mention the $250 outright price again.

    The Mini has the edge with better speakers, plus better gaming performance because the screen resolution and SoC are a better match.

    If you’re not going to sign a contract then the Alcatel Idol X is really hard to pass up.

    What about the Moto G?

    The real wild card if you’re thinking about the $399.99 on Rogers HTC One Mini is that you can get a Moto G for around $200 though in Canada it’s a TELUS/Koodo exclusive.

    The Moto G has similar specs including the 1280x720 display. On the downside, the G’s sold here only come with 8GB of storage which is not expandable.

    The Moto G’s speaker doesn’t sound as good as the One's plus it doesn’t have the One Mini’s amazing metal body. The Moto G’s 5 megapixel camera is also much more suited for a entry level phone whereas the One Mini’s is something you’d get in a more expensive phone.

    Then again, the Moto G’s lower outright price mitigates all of these cons.

    The Moto G is a phone you buy outright. Don’t sign a contract to get it. There’s almost no point to a phone subsidy if it only costs $200.

    So, if you can deal with the Moto G’s storage issues, inferior camera, lack of metal body and worse sounding speakers then the Moto G is probably a better bet. However, if you’re signing a contract, check out the HTC One Mini.

    Body:

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    As nice as the HTC One’s body is I must say, the Mini’s is even nicer. The full-sized One has a really cool plastic inlayed in metal on the back, similar to what you’ll find on the side of an iPhone. Well the Mini one-ups the full size by having plastic inlay sides too. So not only do the sides of the Mini look more interesting but they feel nicer too.

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    In my hand I always thought that the One felt too big and the sides were too hard. Since the Mini is smaller and the sides are softer it also feels much nicer in my hand.

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    Otherwise the body is just like the One. From metal skin on the back along with the top and bottom of the front to the transition from plastic to metal and glass to metal. There aren’t many phones which are more tactile than the One Mini.

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    The power button is borderline hard to press while the volume buttons plain suck because they don't stick out enough though they’re not as bad as the buttons you’ll find on the HTC One.

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    MicroSIM slot
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    power button, headphone jack
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    volume buttons
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    microUSB
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    camera, LED flash
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    stereo speakers
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    Display:

    The Mini has a 4.3” 1280x720 display while its bigger brother has a 1920x1080 4.7”. So it’s 0.4” smaller and has about 40% less resolution. Does that mean it looks terrible and blocky? Actually it looks pretty damn good to me. It’s not quite sharp as HTC One but most of the time I don't notice it and I'm sure most users won’t notice it at all.

    Like the full sized One, the Mini’s display is one of the brightest on the market and is excellent outdoors in direct sunlight.

    Camera:

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    HTC turned a lot of heads last year when they released the One with a 4 megapixel ‘Ultrapixel’ sensor instead of trying to cram in the most megapixels like most of their competitors. The result was that the One’s low light performance is one of the best on the market. Off the top of my head, the only phone which has better low-light is the Nokia 1020 though the Apple iPhone 5s comes close.

    The One Mini has the same Ultrapixel sensor as the One but unfortunately, it omits the One’s image stabilization which is a bit of shame since it worked great with video.

    Still, like the One, Mini has a fairly wide 28mm (35mm equivalent) lens which is more forgiving when it comes to masking camera shake in video.

    Performance is similar to the full size though you’ll have to hold it more steady in low light. Fortunately, the Mini is smaller and thus easier to hold so I guess that sort of cancels out the lack of stabilization

    Speed is excellent. Focusing is very quick and there’s a brisk 10 frame per second burst mode.

    Picture quality is decent. In situations where other cameras have to resort to multi-frame exposure cheater modes, the One only has to take one picture.

    Outdoors, the One falls behind the competition in terms of resolution to the point that sometimes you’ll notice the lower resolution. I also found that the Mini sometimes tends to overexpose.

    One thing about the HTC One is that the pictures are always kind of gritty looking - even when there is lots of light. I get the feeling that the sensor is tuned for low light and thus always trying to exact as much detail from dark areas of pictures.

    HTC makes a big deal about their Zoe feature. Basically it snaps 20 pictures in about 2 seconds starting about half a second BEFORE you press the shutter button. To top it off it also records a 2 second video clip. I used to use this feature a lot but these days use it sparingly because the video clip is too short and unless I’m anticipating a shot I find it easier to just use the regular capture mode.

    Software:

    The One Mini has HTC’s Sense overlay. I already mentioned it earlier but in the almost one year I’ve been using my HTC One, Sense has never grown on me. After a few months I gave up and threw a third party launcher on it.

    One of the things I dislike most about it is Blinkfeed which you can basically think of as a fancy RSS reader (it’s actually more than that). Fortunately, the Mini literally just got an update which allows you to remove it.

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    Another thing that really annoys me is that by default the home screens are 4 icons wide while the app draw is only 3 wide (it can be changed to 4x5). Not only is this setup confusing but I think it looks terrible too. Then again, like I said a few times, you can just throw on a 3rd party launcher and wash your hands of Sense.

    Performance:

    Under the hood, the Mini has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC. You’ll also find it on the Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy Mega and Motorola Moto X all of which I’ve reviewed recently. While it’s not as fast as a Snapdragon 800, it offers good performance as long as you don’t over do the resolution.

    I’m not going to bother listing web browser benchmarks. I’ve reviewed a few Snapdragon 400 power phones and they’re all fine for web browsing.

    1280x720 is a lot of pixels to push and indeed, I think the GS4 with it’s 960x540 display is a better match. Still, the One should play most games you throw at it.

    As a Phone:

    Sound quality, maximum earpiece and speakerphone volume and RF performance are all average.

    Sound can be a little rough sounding and there is some hiss.

    RF performance and maximum speakerphone and earpiece volumes are all similar to my iPhone 5s.

    Media Playback:

    If you want to be able to store a lot of video on your phone you should look elsewhere. The Mini ships with 16GB of non expandable storage of which only 10.8GB is available.

    The Mini is missing the One’s infrared blaster so you can’t use it to replace your TV remote. Then again, the software HTC ships with the One is pretty useless so I guess you’re not missing out on much.

    You get Beats audio which comprises two features; First off you get an insanely powerful headphone amp. It’s so loud it can over drive some of my headphones including my Sennheiser Momentums. I question the inclusion of this feature since it will definitely damage your hearing. Maybe it’s for driving really high impedance headphones.

    Secondly you get a custom equalization/sound processing setting which make the headphone output and built-in speakers sound better. For the most part there’s no downside to using Beats compared to other phones. Music from the headphone out sounds great. The built-in speakers are literally the best sounding ones you’ll find on a phone though I’ve noticed they’re not quite as loud as most phones.

    Conclusion:

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    Like the HTC One, the One Mini has certain features which you have to try to understand. The metal body’s tactile feel and fit and finish are something you just won’t find on any other phones outside of the HTC One and Apple’s metal bodied iPhone.

    Another thing that really stands out are the stereo speakers. While they’re not quite as loud as most other phones they are on a completely different level when it comes to how they sound. There’s just nothing else that sounds this good.

    The display is excellent and the camera can do something things that most other phone cameras simply can’t.

    That said, I’m slightly disappointed that the One Mini only comes with 1GB of RAM but then again, it’s typical of it’s competitors so I won’t hold it against it.

    I am genuinely disappointed that it doesn’t come with a MicroSD slot which given the excellent display and sound, really goes against HTC’s message of outstanding multimedia. Still, 16GB is better than what you’d get with the Moto G so I guess things could be worse.

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    In the end, the HTC One Mini does some things well enough that it stands out. I’ll give it a solid 3.5 Howies out of 5

    Pros:
    • metal body
    • great speakers
    • display
    • good low light performance
    • feels good in hand


    Cons:
    • only 1GB RAM
    • no expandable memory
    Last edited by howard; 03-03-2014 at 07:52 AM.

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    The Samsung S4 Mini has 16gb internal memory, not 8! At least the one I got from Fido does (so the Rogers version most certainly does as well).

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    Quote Originally Posted by EricSony View Post
    The Samsung S4 Mini has 16gb internal memory, not 8! At least the one I got from Fido does (so the Rogers version most certainly does as well).
    Thanks, fixed that. I remembered wrong.

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    These "mini" versions of their bigger counterparts are....cute, but overpriced. For what they are asking for them you might as well wait a bit longer and just get their bigger brothers. Better resale value to boot. There are some great choices now in the $200.00 and under club, with the Moto G being the tip of the iceberg. Samsung has the Light, Alcatel has a few contenders, and the Nexus is always looming at not too much more than that.
    I guess if your looking for smaller, then these might be a good item to consider, but other than that I don't see the point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dragon2knight View Post
    These "mini" versions of their bigger counterparts are....cute, but overpriced. For what they are asking for them you might as well wait a bit longer and just get their bigger brothers. Better resale value to boot. There are some great choices now in the $200.00 and under club, with the Moto G being the tip of the iceberg. Samsung has the Light, Alcatel has a few contenders, and the Nexus is always looming at not too much more than that.
    I guess if your looking for smaller, then these might be a good item to consider, but other than that I don't see the point.
    Good point, unless you want something small, the difference between an inexpensive flagship like the Alcatel Idol X and and a 'mini' version of a flagship is usually pretty small so if you were to take brand out of the equation the mini's could get squeezed out of the equation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by howard View Post
    Good point, unless you want something small, the difference between an inexpensive flagship like the Alcatel Idol X and and a 'mini' version of a flagship is usually pretty small so if you were to take brand out of the equation the mini's could get squeezed out of the equation.
    Unfortunately most folks just don't realize that there are some good choices out there if they are willing to take brand out of said equation. That's why it's up to us big mouth---er---reviewers to let 'em know they exist 2014 will indeed be a big year for the off brands with low cost chip manufacturers like Mediatek stepping up their game with some nice, powerful chipsets that are bound to make a big splash. Here's to the near future

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    Quote Originally Posted by dragon2knight View Post
    Unfortunately most folks just don't realize that there are some good choices out there if they are willing to take brand out of said equation. That's why it's up to us big mouth---er---reviewers to let 'em know they exist 2014 will indeed be a big year for the off brands with low cost chip manufacturers like Mediatek stepping up their game with some nice, powerful chipsets that are bound to make a big splash. Here's to the near future
    While there are those who blindingly buy a phone because it's a brand they like, there are others who buy those mini phones for the very fact they are mini. I tried the Samsung S4 for two weeks and returned it; never got used to talking into what would've been a tablet only a couple of years ago. I also appreciate a light phone and no other phone in the market has the screen size, weight and features combination that the S4 mini does, which is why I bought it. Not everyone is out to buy the biggest spec monster they can get for their dough, especially if they're only going to use it to make phone calls/text/browse 99.9% of the time, which is what the vast majority of owners do. The S4 mini weight nothing, has a great, perfectly-sized screen (and putting it side by side with the large S4, I have to get a magnifying glass to notice any resolution difference), has a great camera and does any task I throw at it reliably and fast (no hanging or lagging to be found anywhere). I'm a happy camper.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EricSony View Post
    While there are those who blindingly buy a phone because it's a brand they like, there are others who buy those mini phones for the very fact they are mini. I tried the Samsung S4 for two weeks and returned it; never got used to talking into what would've been a tablet only a couple of years ago. I also appreciate a light phone and no other phone in the market has the screen size, weight and features combination that the S4 mini does, which is why I bought it. Not everyone is out to buy the biggest spec monster they can get for their dough, especially if they're only going to use it to make phone calls/text/browse 99.9% of the time, which is what the vast majority of owners do. The S4 mini weight nothing, has a great, perfectly-sized screen (and putting it side by side with the large S4, I have to get a magnifying glass to notice any resolution difference), has a great camera and does any task I throw at it reliably and fast (no hanging or lagging to be found anywhere). I'm a happy camper.
    Well I will say that I bought the Galaxy Light for exactly that same reason. I liked the smaller size compared to a 5" phone which are just too cumbersome to carry around in a jeans pocket,especially in the summer. I did find it to be a bit too small, though, a 4.5" screen is a sweet spot to me, good size without the bulk. As with all things, it will always vary from one person to another. One persons perfect phablet is another persons monstrosity....to each his/her own

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