Review: HTC One Mini

HTC One MinI

The HTC One is considered one of the best handsets of 2013. I was lucky enough to play with one for a month or so, and loved its sleek lines, beautiful screen, and awesome camera software. But I still needed to juggle the device to wrap my tiny little girl hands around its giant screen, so I was thrilled when HTC announced the One mini.

back of phone

Surprisingly, the One mini is actually not that much smaller than the One, when you place them side by side. But the mini feels smaller, the shaved half-inch makes poking at those top left corner apps manageable. Still, I wish HTC were able to fit all this tech into a 4” handset.

There are notable tradeoffs in the mini. First, no NFC, which I couldn’t care less about.

Second, the screen is reduced from 1080p video to 720p, but that’s still crisp enough to make the device better than Retina™. The screen is absolutely beautiful, and Android 4.2.2 runs smooth as butter on the device.

beer

Most noticeable is the kinda cheap-looking plastic edge around the phone. While the plastic makes the device quite comfortable to hold, it still looks a little cheap, especially compared to its stunning big brother. As an aside, the black mini seems to look a little cooler than the white review unit I’ve been playing with.

So are the compromises worth it? I’d say so.

The camera in the HTC One mini is still pretty damn good; images I took were nice and crisp with fantastic contrast, and great low-light performance. The camera was never out of focus when I just pointed-and-shot, and really, that’s all I want; the freedom to take a photo without worrying.

An Artsy Shot with the One Mini

An Artsy Shot Taken with the One mini

The Zoe software that ships with the One line-up lives up to the marketing hype, grabbing the best possible pic available. It actually works by taking a short video, then grabbing the most interesting frame from the video. Zoe has a bunch of other cool features that enable short videos and event collages to be made, but that’s getting out of the scope of this review. If you’re interested, check out HTC’s Zoe page.

sense

Battery life was fantastic most of the time. Even while constantly streaming music and podcasts, and using the phone all day, I was able to make it home with a enough juice left over that I was never worried. That’s all I really need from a smart phone; anything else is a bonus. Like the Sony Xperia, HTC has it’s own battery saving mode that can stretch the phone further. I like to think of it as weekend mode, and it’s one of the features I wish Apple would steal from Android. There were one or two days when the phone battery suddenly sucked for no reason. I’m not sure why, but the phone seemed to correct itself pretty quickly, so all in all, it was a positive experience.

Software

Android purists will only accept vanilla Android. I’m not one of those guys. I’ve always thought HTC Sense was one of the nicer of the Android Launchers, and it’s been interesting to watch it evolve over the years, from the iconic clock of the HTC Desire, to today’s Blinkfeed.

doge

Blinkfeed is beautiful and very easy to set up. While I expected to become bored of it quickly, I found myself using it for quite a few weeks. When I switched to a new lock screen, it wasn’t because I was sick of Blinkfeed, more that switching home screens is half the fun of owning an Android.

Cover - An Alternative Lockscreen

Cover – An Alternative Lockscreen

Better still, the built-in Mail and Calendar apps are excellent. One of my biggest complaints over the years using Android is just how butt ugly the Exchange mail and calendar apps are. While the Gmail and Google calendar Apps are always great, and constanty updated, the apps that support exchange are often neglected. That’s not case here. Calendar, Mail (and a Tasks app that most Android phones ignore) are as nice to use as they are to look at. They’re just –I don’t know– classy, which makes the One mini a great work phone. There is a common design between the apps, it’s all clean lines, black borders and just a hint of colour. Classy as hell.

work

Conclusion

I really love this phone. About two weeks into testing, I was enjoying it so much more than my main phone (the iPhone 5) that I switched my SIM so it could become my main phone. The mini just feels like a more solid experience right now, and while I’m happy to keep beta testing iOS 7 for Apple, it’s nice to use a fully finished phone day to day. A non-geek would be quite happy sticking with HTC Sense and it’s built in suite of goodies, but a tinkerer like me can waste days testing new launchers, lock screen replacements, and all the other fun Android has to offer. The hardware never feels like it’s being pushed by the software, everything is responsive and smooth, even when you throw a bunch of competing hacks and launchers at it.

At $480 RRP, the HTC One mini is a high-end phone with a mid-range price, and is the best damn small Android I’ve played with.

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

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