HTC One mini preview: First look

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With 5-inch, 6-inch and even 7-inch screened phones cropping up, high-end smart phones seem to be ballooning out of all proportion. Human evolution is a bit slow to respond though, meaning we’re still left with thumbs that can’t stretch across the screen without some kind of invasive surgery.

To help avoid such drastic measures, HTC has shrunk its flagship Onesmart phone, creating the One Mini. It’s gone from 4.7 inches to a much more manageable 4.3 inches. It still keeps the attractive, luxurious metal body and packs a 720p display and dual-core processor, plus the same 4-megapixel camera.

It’ll be going head-to-head with Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Mini, which has similar specs, plastic S4 stylings and a high price. HTC hasn’t confirmed its price yet, but fingers crossed it’s more competitive than Samsung’s £380 micro mobile.

It’s due to hit the shelves here in the UK in August, so keep your eyes peeled for detailed prices nearer the time.

 

Design

At 63mm wide and 132mm long, the One Mini is about 5mm slimmer and shorter than the standard One. That might not seem like much, but in my time with the phone, I found it more comfortable to hold in one hand and didn’t struggle to tap icons on the far side of the screen. It’s 20g lighter than the One as well, which you’ll appreciate if you’re holding it up for hours on end trying to earn three stars on every Angry Birds level.

It’s easy to see the family resemblance to its bigger brother. The Mini is still made from aluminium, which not only looks good, but feels just as luxurious to hold as the full-size version does. The only difference in the Mini’s design is that it now sports a white plastic band around the edge that gives it a slightly toy-like aesthetic.

HTC One Mini and HTC One

The One brothers side by side.

It’s a nice addition to look at and should give extra protection from knocks. I found my review model of the One picked up quite a few scuffs and chips on its sharp metal edge over time, so I’m keen to see if this plastic surround helps keep it looking fresh.

The Mini will be available in the same black and silver colours the One was originally available in. I’ve also seen a lovely red version of the HTC One, which you can see in this photo gallery, but HTC didn’t confirm if this colour will ever be available on the Mini.

HTC One Mini and HTC One on top

The One Mini’s white plastic bumper should stop some scuffing.

On the front are the same two ‘BoomSound’ speakers found in the Mini’s bigger brother. I wasn’t able to give these a proper test, but they sounded good — for a phone, at least — on the standard One, so hopefully they’re just as good here. Around the sides are a micro USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and volume and power buttons. Like the One, there’s no slot to pop in a micro SD card and you can’t swap out the battery.

 

Display

To match its smaller size, the screen’s resolution has seen a drop from Full HD down to 720p. A smaller size, however, means it doesn’t need to cram in quite as many pixels to remain sharp.

In fact, the Mini boasts 341 pixels per inch, which is a little over the iPhone 5’s 326ppi and kicks the proverbial out of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini’s 256ppi. I found it to be satisfyingly sharp in my eyes-on time, with no noticeable fuzziness around icons. Colours seemed bold too with similarly deep black levels when I compared it side-by-side against the One.

HTC One Mini screen

It’s a cracking little screen at first glance.

I wasn’t able to fire up my usual set of screen tests in my time with the Mini, so I won’t give any final conclusions about its quality. I didn’t come away from it with any concerns though. I’ll be seeing how it stacks up against its sibling and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini in the full review.

 

Software, processor and camera

The One Mini will come running the latest version of Google’s Android operating system known as 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The full-sized One has only just received its update to this latest version, so it’s good to see the Mini will have it on board from launch.

You’ll see the same HTC Sense software as on the One with big, minimalist tiles in the menu. Also present is BlinkFeed, which shows a rolling news panel from social sources such as Facebook and Twitter and news outlets such as the Independent and, of course, CNET. It’s fine in theory, but it’s spoiled by the lack of ability to subscribe to your own news sources and by the fact that it can’t be removed from your homescreen.

The interface looks generally very different from other Jelly Bean phones you might have used. It’s attractive and simple to learn, while not being too simplistic as to put off dedicated tech fans.

It’s powered by a dual-core rather than quad-core processor. Qualcomm — which makes the chip — reckons that this new silicon is extremely powerful and will be able to provide the power you’d normally expect from quad-core chips without being as draining on battery life. That’s a pretty big claim, so I look forward to seeing exactly how it performs when I give it the review treatment. Like the One, it’ll work with the UK’s nascent 4G network, so you’re future-proofed there.

HTC One Mini camera

Impressively, it’s the same camera as the HTC One.

Around the back you’ll find exactly the same 4-megapixel camera as on the One. While 4 megapixels might not seem a lot — especially compared to the whopping 13 megapixels of the Galaxy S4 — HTC reckons the individual pixels are larger, giving better image quality overall. I was certainly impressed with the camera on the One, so I’m hoping to see at least the same performance here.

 

Outlook

The HTC One Mini takes the sleek, metal design of the regular One and scales it down into a size that’s a little easier on your thumbs. Die-hard tech fans won’t approve of the dual-core chip or 720p screen, but it could be a smart option for those of you who’d happily sacrifice blistering speed for comfort and pocket space.

Hopefully it will come with a mid-range price to match the mid-range specs.

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