HTC One Mini Review

It’s difficult and perhaps severe to make a big deal out of a smartphone these days as they have become a common thing in our day to day lives. I know this phone was released way back in July but its never too late give a review about it. This was basically HTC’s response to the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. But could this phone help HTC get out of its current financial woes?  Will it save the company or create a new different market? Perhaps that was valid in the days just following original iPhone, but a lot has changed since then. With the One mini, HTC was attempting to deliver a compromise-free flagship experience in a more pocket-friendly size and indeed we love what we see.  So does the ‘cut-down’ One feel as good as the bigger brother the HTC One? Read on to find out more.

 

Video Review

[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulNO0Gm9Rwk&feature=share”]

Hardware Gallery

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Crafted for Small hands

The HTC One mini is a good-looking phone; it’s a good-feeling phone too. As far as raw materials and build quality go, it ranks among the best Smartphones I’ve tested. The device is a solid — if somewhat anonymous — One mini’s aesthetics stick as close as possible to its older sibling the HTC One. One of the areas where HTC has  cut a few corners to make the phone affordable revolves around the sides of the phone. Yes, the edges are plain glossy white plastic polycarbonate, and gone are the sexy looking chamfered aluminum edges like we see on the One.

If you hold this phone with the bigger brother, you can immediately see the difference in weight and size. The pictures on the side can give you a comparison between the iPhone 5c, HTC One and this phone. To me i feel that the combination of the softer plastic edges with a narrower and lighter body means you can actually use this phone with one hand and with little to no strain at all. With the HTC One you practically have to struggle to place your thumbs comfortably reach every corner of the display, and with this phone all those issues seem to disappear. It’s now possible to reach the poorly positioned top-mounted power button with ease.

 

The first time you glance at the HTC One you can’t help but appreciate as its design is loved by everyone, HTC tried to pull down the same aesthetics to this little baby and they never disappointed. I have dropped this phone a couple of times and I’ve come to appreciate the aluminum case’s enduringness; that portends well for the One mini’s long-term longevity and ruggedness. The Boom Speakers located at the top and bottom bezel on the front give a tremendously impressive audio output as expected with superior sound. The local HTC supplier tells us they have sold the One Mini like hot cakes given the size, price and the availability of LTE out of the box  unlike Samsung and Nokia LTE capable phones we have come to test that has questionable LTE connectivity even if their manufacturers claim they do. Yes we here at techjaja believe every medium and high end phone should have no excuse of not having LTE, access to fast internet speeds should be a human right by now.

The 720p on-screen goodness

Let me guess, you thinking that a 720p LCD display cannot tantamount to a high-end phone in 2013. Well think again! I was thinking the same thing when I got this device in my hands. Currently high end phones are all singing the 1080p display song, but that doesn’t mean 720p is a downgrade.  It is true that the numerical 1280 x 720 resolution, on the One mini is a step down but when put on a 4.3-inch screen, you will get yourself a whopping pixel density of 341 ppi, which is already retina standards in Apple’s eyes and that’s all that matters.

The Super LCD screen on the One mini, which in itself was building on the prominent line of descent of last year’s One X display which we came to love is great. Color accuracy, contrast, and viewing angles are all brilliant. Apart from the fact that the automatic brightness don’t go as high as we wanted, making it hard for outside use, but all in all we have less to complain about the screen. Manual control of the screen brightness is always the best solution at least in my books. If you are into the habit of baby sitting your phone’s brightness you will  need to install a brightness control app called Lux to moderate dimming on the display. In an attempt to conserve every possible drop of battery life in these new phones, the system-software brightness control seems to be over-attenuated to the point of making the screen unreadable at times. To cut the long story short, if you’re after the phone with the best screen on the market today, HTC’s 2013 One models, LG’s G2 and Apple’s iPhone 5 and 5s are the ones to look out for.

Let the spec sheet speak for it’s self

The question that was on everyone’s mind before this phone was released mid this year was how HTC will be able to strip down the One without removing too much. It’s true the company has to make some big budgetary modifications with the One mini specially with the  internal specs. For a dual-core 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor,  1GB of RAM, and 16GB of non-expandable storage; that’s a great deal considering the price of the phone. HTC had to reduce the number of cores, the memory, and the storage by half, in order to keep the device price worthy. In fact most of my friends consider to buy themselves the One mini as its pocket favorable to them.  Besides octa cores, and 3GB of RAM no longer matter its all about the overall performance of the phone refer to Motorola’s Moto X phone. No doubt that the HTC One or Galaxy S4 have higher performance peaks, but i can bet the vast majority of day-to-day tasks of the One mini will match them one by one. Sense as has been known for being a heavy Android skin but this phone peruses through the UI animations plus browser performance is also remarkable.

NFC, an IR blaster, and optical image stabilization (OIS) for the camera were all omitted unlike in the HTC One of course to keep the price down. Apart from OIS I don’t believe the rest of the above are that important — commercial use of NFC in Africa is still a dream so I won’t start with that topic, the IR blaster is more of a gimmick as I always end up reaching for my remote controls than the phone while watching TV.

One thing i think HTC did wisely was not to omit LTE connectivity unlike on the Huawei P6.

Battery life sucks

1800 mAh is the amount of battery juice you will squeeze out of this One mini, it’s just 500 mAh less than the HTC One which translates to a tangible reduction in its day to day use. The One mini will last a full day especially if you use HTC’s Power Saver mode but get ready recharge it a lot more often. I used it heavily for 10 hours before it died, and if you use it like most people use their phones, you won’t need to charge till night.

 

‘Ultra failure Pixels’

In case you are wondering what Ultra pixels are, you can read this article before you continue any further.  I have personally used the HTC One camera for some time now and of course i have mixed views, HTC’s Ultra Pixel camera technology side stepped the megapixel race and put more emphasis on image quality instead. With only 4 mega pixels you get very little image detail to play around with, I always look on the bright side of things, the large pixels are capable of collecting more light more quickly. Which in turn means  faster image capture — minimizing motion blur, whether from the photographer’s shaking hand or subjects moving in the frame. The problem is that HTC’s take on this camera technology wasn‘t the very best out there.

Sample Shoots from the One mini

From the gallery of you can see that most of the photos I took with the One mini can be described as sharp. The details of the photos are on the softer side, even on the areas that are supposed to be in focus. There are diffused images from this camera, as well as a hazy appearance that tends to result from taking in too much light. The latter is particularly apparent when shooting sunlight scenes outdoors as you will see on the plants i shot in the gallery. HTC also has to work on its contrast and dynamic range in both photos or video.

No OIS? What a bummer!

Having no Optical Image Stabilization is such a bummer for this phone, as images won’t come out as great like on the HTC One especially in low light conditions. With the latest HTC software, we saw the company’s solid imaging app take the center stage. It allows you to capture video or photos without switching modes, it can apply filters to images as you take them or afterwards, and it has a basic editing suite that comes in handy.

 

The other ‘One’ Ingredients

HTC  made the One mini with mid-range specs, and isn’t at all ashamed of it. It shouldn’t be: the phone is fast and smooth even with the a low processor and HTC’s sense UI on top of Android. It’s more than sufficient for everyday use. I played games, watched movies, made crystal clear calls; everything worked better than fine. The graphically intensive Dead Trigger  game ran at a near-constant 60 frames per second (FPS) with the highest graphics settings on. It’s not as fast as the Galaxy S4, but I only noticed the difference when I looked at them side by side.

Zoe photos. BlinkFeed, Beats Audio, Sense. The phone‘s UI is smeared with over avid branding of features you will easily forget. Zoe photos are a great way to shoot a burst of photos that can then also be turned into very brief video clips. Beats Audio has been a systematically useless addition to HTC phones, because there are Music players on the Play store that can give a great audio output with same or better ‘beat effect’ with the right equalizer settings.  I really wont miss it once its removed as the HTC-beats deal is now off. All it did was to fattens the bass, makes the high-end more shrill, and generally erodes the quality of your music, — well to some they might like that kind of thing.

HTC Sense is here to stay

HTC’s plucks and step-ups augmentations to Android are not all bad: right from the camera suite, quick settings sub-menu in the notifications and clean app shortcuts on the lock-screen.  The trouble is that these tweaks are only a small percentage of the changes HTC makes to Android’s interface — most of the rest is either injurious or change with no logical reason. The annoying part of it is the way HTC found it fit to drastically change Android’s decent app drawer and an unreasonable way to create home screen shortcuts — to its own useless and pain staking implementation. A really horrible waste of time? Let me just come out and say it — even if Sense is my best Android Skin, HTC’s Android is being iterated upon badly in some areas.

The One mini is a mid-range phone with commendable LTE speeds, in my view speeds exceeding 20mbps for a smartphone become useless. I mean all you need to watch or stream an HD movie is a minimum of 2mbps. In my test i  managed to squeeze out up to 20 mbps peak download.

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