It looks like a top tier HTC, but things aren't quite as they seem. Is the new HTC One Mini 2 a downscaled flagship, or simply a mid-range smartphone in a fancy suit?
As we mentioned in our hands-on, the One Mini 2 is the latest offering in the 'mini phones' landscape, a slice of the smartphone pie that's grown in popularity immensely over the last year or so, but the recipe has proven difficult to get right, with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact serving as the most popular example thus far.
HTC One Mini 2 design: Not-so-little looker
HTC doesn’t appear to have skimped on the build quality with the One Mini 2. Unlike the more affordable mid-rangers in its lineup such as the Desire 601, the Mini 2 boasts a similarly attractive aluminium body to the flagship HTC One (M8).
The One (M8) has in fact been a clear inspiration for the majority of the phone’s aesthetic. A wraparound back with rounded corners feels nice in the hand and along each side you’ll find trays for a nano-SIM and microSD card slot respectively. There’s a volume rocker on the right too, but unfortunately the lack of motion launch (the ability to jump into select features of the phone using the gyroscope and touchscreen whilst in sleep mode) means you can’t use it to jump into the camera app from sleep, just by picking up the phone.
Last year’s HTC One Mini suffered from an overuse of nasty, glossy white plastic along its edge, something almost completely eradicated in this year’s version. There’s a matt black rubberised border around the front of the phone that highlights a lack of IR blaster, but the ratio of plastic to metal sides heavily with the latter, upping the premium feel and leaving you with a phone boasting classy look that you’ll definitely appreciate time and again.
HTC One Mini 2 screen: Crisp and colourful
Another point that muddies the waters somewhat is the display. 0.2-inches larger than its predecessor, the 4.5-inch 720p HD panel means this isn’t really a mini phone at all, and that’s before you included the added height as a result of the BoomSound stereo speakers, sitting behind grilles above and below the display.
The quality of the screen itself is actually very good. Slightly larger than the One Mini’s screen, the One Mini 2 does technically sport a lower pixel density than that of its predecessor, but in real-world use it looks sharp, bright and colourful.
Viewing angles hold up well, albeit with a little loss in brightness, sunlight legibility is more than usable and discerning individual pixels is tricky at the best of times. For web browsing, photos and videos this is a competent 720p display that’s a joy to use.
HTC One Mini 2 OS: Makes perfect Sense
HTC has done a very good job distilling its flagship smartphone experience down onto the One Mini 2. The latest version of Sense, HTC’s custom user interface can be found when you boot the phone up.
BlinkFeed – a social feed aggregator that merges stories from popular websites as well as your social networks, is a swipe away from the homescreen and accessible via a lockscreen gesture too. There are toggles tucked away in the notifications panel at the top of the screen to quickly turn features like Bluetooth, WiFi and NFC on or off, not to mention the general layout and fluid nature of Sense makes for a wonderfully snappy user experience.
Underneath you’ll also get Android 4.4.2 KitKat which ensures support for additional features like the latest Google Now functionality and HTC has even thrown on popular apps and services like Facebook and Twitter out-the-box, so you can be switched-on and connected to the wider world in no time.
HTC One Mini 2 performance and battery: Bigger is only a bit better
Whilst the One Mini 2 may resemble HTC’s 2014 flagship, its innards tell a very different story. There’s a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM to keep things ticking over.
It’s a worthy step up from the dual-core chip of last year’s One Mini, ensuring that Sense 6 and all manner of apps run without issue, but it doesn’t match the mighty Snapdragon 801s and higher found in the One (M8), Z2 and Galaxy S5. Truth be told, the Snapdragon 400’s limits are only highlighted when trying to shoot slow-motion video, which records at a slightly lower resolution than the M8. A minor inconvenience at best, otherwise you won’t notice the difference in everyday use.
There’s 16GB of internal space, the aforementioned microSD slot, which accepts cards up to a whopping 128GB and an additional 50GB of Google Drive storage, which you’ll have the opportunity to link to your account when you first set the phone up.
The lack of an IR blaster means you won’t be able to control your TV with the Mini 2, that’s a feature reserved for the M7, M8, One Max and a slew of Samsung devices too. Connectivity is otherwise solid with Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, 4G LTE and NFC which didn’t make it to last year’s Mini.
On the battery life front, expect a day without worry, but not much more. The bigger 2110mAh battery is a nice upgrade from last year’s model but the extra capabilities of the One Mini 2 soften the longevity. This is perhaps another key area where the HTC One Mini 2 is unlike it flagship sibling. That said, Extreme Power Saving Mode is on hand in a pinch to disable features in the pursuit of squeezing out a few more hours of life.
HTC One Mini 2 camera: Don't turn out the lights
The HTC One Mini 2 may look like a flagship, but it’s camera delivers a more mid-range experience than any other element of the phone. It’s a solid camera, the same 13-megapixel sensor you’ll find in the HTC Desire 816 and the newly announced HTC One (E8), but whilst the photos are larger than the M8’s, clarity, especially in low light doesn’t quite qualify as flagship standard.
Detail in natural light is good although it tends to struggle a little in high contrast situations. Macro photography is also pretty pleasing, although low light environments are breeding grounds for colourful speckles of noise.
The camera experience is divided into three sections: snapping regular stills, a selfie mode which counts down from three when you press the shutter allowing you to arrange your face into a suitable duckface before the nice 5-megapixel front-face fires off and then there’s video mode.
Full HD video recording is present and works well and although they’re not HD both slow and fast-motion (60fps) video recording are also fun options too, the latter proving handy if you want to snap frames out of action-centric footage.
HTC One Mini 2 verdict: This or more for less?
The HTC One Mini 2 is a gorgeous device with great capabilities. HTC knows how to make a solid all-round smartphone experience, and whilst the HTC One (M8) has spoilt us somewhat, those on a tighter budget will still feel like they have a great looking, great handling smartphone in the form of the One Mini 2.
It’s biggest barrier right now is in fact on of its comrades; the HTC One (M7). So long as HTC continues to sell last year’s flagship alongside the One Mini 2, it makes choosing the right phone that little bit tougher, the One (M7) as it’s now known, features a better screen, a faster processor and we’ve seen it available for up to £100 less off-contract.
The One Mini 2 will receive greater support for longer and comes with a better camera, but whether it’s the better purchase ultimately falls to you.