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Review: HTC One Mini 2

By Leigh D. Stark | 5:31 pm 09/09/2014

If you loved the look of the 5 inch metal-bodied One M8 but didn’t want that 5 inch size, HTC’s One Mini 2 may fit the bill, even with its awkward name.

Features

Big phones may be the trend of the moment, but not everyone fancies a big phone, and so manufacturers are now making pint-sized editions of those bigger devices.

We saw that last year for HTC’s 2013 One with the One Mini, and now we’re seeing the same thing with the 2014 edition of the One being made into the One Mini 2.

While the name is a touch confusing, the specs are at least familiar, with an update on last year’s handset and a different design brought in to bring the handset closer to what HTC offered in the current incarnation of the One flagship.

Inside the handset, HTC has upgraded last year’s dual-core Snapdragon 400 to a quad-core version of the same chip, now running at 1.2GHz and working alongside identical memory and storage, with 1GB RAM and 16GB storage. In a change from last year, however, the storage can now be upgraded with a microSD slot.

Android 4.4 “KitKat” is also here, running with HTC’s latest version of its Sense overlay, now in version 6.

Connections are mostly standard, though a little under what flagship models offer, with 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Near-Field Communication (NFC), GPS, and Category 4 4G LTE mobile connectivity, with a microUSB port, of course, found on this handset at the bottom.

The camera is also different from HTC’s old One Mini and current One (2014), with the Ultrapixel sensor rated for 4 megapixels in each swapped out and replaced with a 13 megapixel shooter, while the front megapixel is straight out of the One M8 and is rated for 5 megapixels.

This technology sits under a 4.5 inch high definition display, showing off 1280×720 with 326 pixels per inch and protected by Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3.

Buttons on the HTC One Mini 2 are mostly on-screen, now that HTC is reliant on Google’s on-screen soft buttons, with the few remaining physical buttons handled by the power button up top, and a volume rocker on the right edge.

Ports are equally limited, with a 3.5mm headset jack up top and a microUSB charge and data port at the bottom edge.

Slots are also limited, with only two to speak of: SIM and expandable memory.

The SIM is different from last year’s One Mini, with microSIM being switched out for nanoSIM, a move which brings the One Mini 2 in line with the other HTC handsets, all of which have adopted nanoSIM, while a microSD slot has been added for expandable memory, something which wasn’t present last year.

The battery is rated for 2110mAh and is not removable.

Performance

Handsets may well be getting bigger, but not everyone wants or needs a phone that fits the 5, 5.2, 5.5, and 6 inch sizes top-end devices are now fetching. In fact, some people want downright smaller handsets, because while it might be important to take the web with you, it should never be uncomfortable in either a hand or a pocket, and for some people, big phones are certainly that.

Enter the miniature range of handsets, and on HTC, that’s the “One Mini” devices. Last year, HTC made waves with the One Mini, a pint-sized version of the 2013 One with a metal body, lowered specs, and the Ultrapixel camera from the original. This year, though, HTC is changing the formula slightly, remaking the 2014 One for a different pocket.

Does it work, or would you be better off with the full 5 inch model?

Pick up the handset and it’s hard not to be impressed, with an aluminium body similar to the HTC One M8 shrunk down and brought to a smaller size. It’s not exactly the same, with the brushed metal a touch shorter at the bottom, cut off before it reaches the glass on the front of the phone, with plastic holding the bottom and top together.

The look is simple, though, and easy on the eyes, with more of what we loved about the One M8, except smaller.

Basically, if you loved the look of this year’s One, but wanted it in a smaller more pocket-friendly size, the One Mini 2 is that phone. Sure, it has a terrible name — seriously, HTC: One Mini 2… what were you thinking?! — but it has a fantastically modern look.

In the hands, that excellence continues, because metal is almost always superior to plastic. That’s a feeling we can’t escape, with only a few exceptions to the rule, and most of them from the hockey puck polycarbonate that Nokia used to use, which it too is beginning to pull away from.

Overall, though, the One Mini 2 feels great in the hands, with a slick and soft metal back, slight rubberisation on the side that makes it easy to feel for, and a width that bodes well for both small and large hands to grip with ease.

Even in the pockets, the HTC One Mini 2 is extraordinarily comfortable, with a tiny size making a comparatively small impact on your clothing as you walk, and making us long for the days when phones didn’t tear holes in our garments.

Like the 5 inch One, the power button is up top and the volume on the right side, and with a smaller screen than the 5 inch model, this means the buttons are easy for anyone to grasp, so grasp hard and press the power button to see that screen get brought to life.

There has been a slight improvement here, with the 4.3 inch in last year’s Mini jumping to a 4.5 inch with the same 1280×720 resolution.

While it’s not a Full HD display like we hope for, the pixel count comes in at 326ppi, spot on to what Apple offers in its iPhone 5S and 5C, making this perfectly clear for our eyes, and likely for yours too.

Is it as good as the current One (M8)?

No, not by a good one hundred pixels per inch, but for most people, it should be plenty sharp.

The operating system, however, is exactly the same as the M8, with Android 4.4 “KitKat” running with the latest version of HTC’s Sense overlay, complete with its multiple homescreens, grid-size controllable menu, and BlinkFeed activity screen all the way on the left side.

Just like on the M8, this is one of the prettiest and cleanest Android overlays around, with colour-coded top bars to identify the type of app you’re in, clean black dropdown bars, lockscreen widgets if you want them, and and transparent Android soft buttons across the entire interface.

Getting used to it shouldn’t take long, and just like on the One M8, a swipe from the lockscreen (when the power is on) will deliver either the main homescreen, the BlinkFeed screen, or the last screen used on the handset.

Performance on the handset is mostly fine, though with some niggles here and there, which we’ll get to later on.

It’s not the same high-end blistering performance that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 and 2GB RAM delivers in its One M8 brother, which is a shame, but it’s still decent all the same.

Mobile broadband is strong, though, with speeds ranging from 20 to 60Mbps in our tests, and support for Category 4 4G networks, which in Australia could see download speeds as high as 150Mbps, network dependent, of course.

Battery life is acceptable, as well, though it won’t win awards like the 5 inch version of a similar name.

While we pulled a day and a half out of the One M8, we could only find a little over a day here on the One Mini 2, that was with us surfing the web, taking photos, playing the odd game, making phone calls, texting, writing and reading emails, and doing that whole social network think.

Essentially, you’ll get the full 24 hours here, but probably not much more, so make sure to find an outlet if you’re running down the clock outside your home.

If you can’t find a USB port to charge from, you will find an extreme power saving mode here, like on other handsets.

Over to the camera, and this is one area where it feels like HTC is correcting one of the mistakes of the One M8, and yet also ignoring other positive aspects of that otherwise excellent smartphone camera.

On the one hand, there’s a new camera here, with the 4 megapixel — sorry, “Ultrapixel” — sensor replaced with a reasonable 13 megapixel shooter, capable of some strong daylight and macro shots, and some usable night shots. Further testing reveals that images in daylight are bright and relatively sharp, while night time images appear with obvious noise in shadows.

Speed-wise, the camera behaves a little slower, often taking half a second to fire the image, but still getting the job done.

Ultimately, this replacement brings HTC’s camera more firmly into 2014, since 13 megapixel shots can’t really be faulted for social networking or Instagram, and for many will likely be even more useful than the 4 megapixel shots made with the One Mini 2’s big brother, the One M8 from this year, even though that was a cool camera itself.

An image from the HTC One Mini 2's rear camera

But the HTC One Mini 2’s 13 megapixel camera ignores some of the cool interactive editing functionality that the HTC Ultrapixel concept brought when paired with HTC Zoe, an idea which captured a few seconds of video and allowed you to remove elements from the frame, changing the image altogether than just applying small edits.

Also not here is the extra camera lens on the back of the handset, meaning you won’t get to play with any of the cool depth technologies the One M8 shipped with.

On the upside, though, you have a 13 megapixel sensor, which is more likely to be used stock and standard than with some of HTC’s neato effects that you’ll get tired of quickly on the One M8, so it’s no big loss, anyway.

An image from the HTC One Mini 2's rear camera

While this is basically an updated and stronger One Mini, there are the odd performance lags here and there, and something missing from the One M8 that would have been a welcome inclusion.

First is the performance, and while the quad-core Snapdragon is an increase from two cores to four, there’s still lag here and there to report, with delays when you jump from apps, and a few more if you’re scrolling up and down on webpages.

It’s minor, but still noticeable, and something we suspect is happening from the 1GB RAM, which has stayed around from last year with no increases, which is a shame.

It's an increase on the 2013 One Mini's score of 6086, but the 1GB RAM keeps the performance a little choppy.

Another thing bugs us, and that’s the omission of infrared.

It wasn’t in the first One Mini, and it’s not in this one either, meaning you can’t use the pint-sized HTC One in 2014 as a remote, which is a genuine shame if you like the look and feel of the 5 inch One, but want it in a smaller size, which we’re sure there are a few people who do.

At least the company has thrown NFC in the new One Mini, something that just didn’t exist at all in last year’s, but the lack of infrared is still a touch frustrating, and is one of the things that stops the One Mini from really being what its name suggests: a miniature version of HTC’s famed One.

There’s one final thing that gets to us, and it bugs us because it was a cool feature on the One M8 that is missing here: standby gestures.

On HTC’s One M8, you could double tap the screen to wake the phone up, or swipe in from different sides in standby to turn the phone on, but those features are missing on the Mini 2. They simply don’t exist here, and neither does HTC’s cool albeit gimmicky Dot View case, which turns the One M8 into a retro pixel display that you can use the phone through.

That doesn’t exist for the One Mini 2, however, and that’s sad, since that was one of our favourite little accessories for the One M8.

Conclusion

While the name isn’t quite accurate, the HTC’s One Mini 2 gets close to offering a miniature version of HTC’s One.

If you love the look and feel of HTC’s 5 inch One but the size doesn’t quite match up, we’d look at the One Mini 2.

If that extra half an inch doesn’t matter much, the features and build differences make the HTC One M8 a better deal altogether, but if 5 inches is a deal breaker, this is one phone you’ll want to check out.

Price (RRP)

$599

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Beautiful mostly aluminium body like its HTC One M8 brother; Solid 4G performance; Larger camera (in megapixels) than the One M8; Upgradeable with microSD;

Product Cons

Performance lags here and there; None of the extra HTC Zoe camera features that its M8 brother has, nor any from the older M7; No infrared (still); Screen doesn't respond to gestures in standby like its brother;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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