HTC Goes Compact
News of a smaller variant of the One surfaced in May when the device was given the code name M4. The rumors thrilled us quite a bit as we are huge fans of the aluminum unibody chassis of the 4.7-inch HTC One and what's not to like about a smaller and handier version such as these sub 5-inch LTE phones that we last rounded-up? In fact, it brings a touch 'premium' class to the mainstream LTE phones.
HTC officially unveiled the One mini on 19 July, nearly two months after Samsung announced the Galaxy S4 mini. Will the HTC One mini's late entry into the market hurt its chances of being another smash hit? Read on to find out more. Here's a quick look at the specs of the HTC One mini and the comparison with the One:
Key highlights of the HTC One mini
Design & Features
Seeing double? Well, not to worry as the One mini is an almost exact replica of the original One - from the placement of the front-facing speakers, camera location, the annoying two-button layout, right down to the location of the proximity and ambient light sensors. Even the nicely curved back is retained on the Mini. For a better understanding of the design considerations and of HTC's signature design, do check out our review of the HTC One.
But it's not quite 100% identical to the original premium aluminum chassis on the One mini as HTC increased the thickness of the polycarbonate strip that runs along the side of the device. If you have handled the One before, you wouldn't have felt or noticed the thin strip. However, the polycarbonate strip makes its presence felt on the One mini in a positive way as the sides are no longer cold like the bare aluminium that comes in contact with your hand with the original One, and hence this provides a slightly better handling experience. From an aesthetics point of view, the plastic strip detracts slightly from its premium build, but it's a fine balance between comfort, design and product positioning (the One is still the best offering from HTC along with the Butterfly S).
Due to the use of aluminum, the One mini weighs about 15g heavier than the plasticky Galaxy S4 mini. It is also thicker at 9.25mm, although both physical attributes are not a cause of concern. Ironically, the One mini is closer to the One in terms of length and width compared to the Galaxy S4 mini.
Nonetheless, the more compact body of the One mini makes it very suitable for one-handed usage as compared to the One. We could easily type in one hand, and reach the corners of the display without much stretching or straining.
What's missing on the One mini is the the IR blaster which is integrated into the power button on the One. Also, the One mini does not have a memory card slot. This means you only have 16GB of fixed internal storage, of which only 11.89GB is usable out of the box. As such, the One mini is not ideal to rely upon as a portable entertainment device (or it has been purposely dumbed down) as the limited storage capacity prevents users from loading too many games or videos onto the device. It's a pity considering
Being a smaller variant of the One, the One mini obviously sports a smaller display at 4.3 inches across diagonally. It's good to see HTC didn't cut corners here as the display resolution is rather high at 1,280 x 720 pixels. This translates to a pixel density of 342 ppi, which is a tad higher than the Apple iPhones.
The 4.6-inch Sony Xperia SP is on-par with the One mini in terms of resolution, but due to the bigger screen, the pixel density falls to 319 ppi. The Galaxy S4 mini, on the other hand, has a display resolution of 960 x 540 pixels (256ppi). Interestingly, the One mini ties with the Sony Xperia V in both resolution and pixel density, a phone that was announced nearly a year ago.
The display panel used on the One mini is Super LCD 2, which is also found in last year's flagship devices such as the HTC One X+ and One X. Text and graphics look great on the One mini and has one of the best displays of all the compact smartphones we've reviewed.
The One mini runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and Sense 5.0, which is similar to the One at launch (the One was updated to Android 4.2.2 in July). We have explored the features of Sense 5.0 in our review of the One and the Butterfly S, but here's a quick re-cap of the main features:
- A simplistic layout with flatter icons
- Minimalist black, white and blue color scheme
- Use of Google's Roboto font makes the Sense UI closer to the stock Android
- BlinkFeed with Instagram integration
- Show battery level in status bar
- Vertical scrolling
Overall, Sense 5.0 is more refined and streamlined compared to the previous iterations, and less daunting to what Samsung has offered on TouchWiz. Don't get us wrong - Samsung's TouchWiz has more features (e.g. Smart Stay) than HTC, but the sheer number of features may overwhelm some users. For more details of the Sense 5.0 UI, you can check out what we've covered here and here.
The One mini loses a critical imaging feature which makes the One a very capable imaging device - optical image stabilization (OIS). This feature is also absent on the Butterfly S, which led us to believe that HTC deliberately made OIS an exclusive feature for its flagship device. In addition, the cost factor has to be taken into consideration for the One mini.
Other than the lack of OIS, the One mini has similar camera hardware and software like the One, which are the 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera, BSI sensor, dedicated HTC ImageChip 2, F2.0 aperture, 28mm lens, Smart Flash, Full-HD video recording with HDR, HTC Zoe, and a front-facing 1.6-megapixel camera.
For a more detailed analysis comparing its photo capturing capabilities against other competitive phones the market and to see if the HTC Ultrapixel concept is any good, tune into this article.
The One mini lacks the processing power of the One; it runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core 1.4GHz processor and 1GB RAM. In comparison, the Galaxy S4 mini runs on a similar chipset with slightly higher clock speed (1.7GHz) and comes with 1.5GB RAM. We will be pitting the One mini against rivals of its class, the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, LG Optimus F5 and Sony Xperia SP in a series of benchmarks.
Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. The One mini held its own against competing handsets with a score of 5,873. Its average performance could be due to two reasons:
- Slightly higher clock speeds of the processors in the Galaxy S4 mini and Xperia SP
- Better hardware and software optimizations from its competition
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of two test sections:
3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
The HTC One mini fared the worst among the four phones compared. If you are wondering why the Xperia SP topped the 3DMark charts, it is due to the type of GPU used by the Snapdragon S4 Pro pocessor in the Xperia SP. The Xperia SP uses the more advanced Adreno 320 GPU while the One mini and Galaxy S4 mini use the older Adreno 305 GPU.
Apart from our benchmark based tests, during our day to day usage, we found the user experience on the One mini to be snappy. Multitasking was surprisingly seamless despite it having 1GB RAM only. Overall, we had no complaints of the phone's performance even though benchmarks peg it at the lower end of the scale.
Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:
• Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
In our looping video playback test, the One mini lasted 5 hours and 58 minutes which is pretty good considering that it has the smallest battery capacity among the phones compared. It could last longer than the Optimus F5 (about 30 minutes more) and the Xperia SP (about an hour more).
Looking at the Power Consumption chart, our assumptions are confirmed with the LG and Sony handsets having higher power draw the contributed to the less than expected battery up-time. The Galaxy S4 mini had a low power consumption thanks to its power-efficient AMOLED display which consequently led to its class-leading battery up-time in our media-consumption test scenario.
In the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage against its size and mass, the compact form factor and good battery mileage helped the One mini keep a step ahead of the Optimus F5 and Xperia SP, but still ranked behind the Galaxy S4 mini by a wide margin. The difference is mostly attributed to the difference in battery life and helped by the Galaxy S4 mini's more compact dimensions all around.
Actual Usage Results
To give you a more realistic understanding on how the One mini fared under real world usage conditions, we included screenshots of the usage and history graphs which are available on Android 4.0 and later devices.
As seen from the graphs above, the One mini could last close to a day at work. Some notes:-
- The SIM card used does not support 4G LTE.
- The device was using a data connection and was connected to Wi-Fi occasionally.
- Power saver mode was not enabled - until the battery level hit 14% when the phone automatically activated it.
- Our typical usage scenarios include making some voice calls, texting via WhatsApp, taking some photos and sharing them on social networking sites (Facebook and Instagram), the occasional web browsing via Pulse News Reader and emailing.
If power saver mode is enabled, we believe the One mini would be able to last much longer. Our guess is that it could possibly last till lunchtime the following day. In case you are wondering this mode maximizes battery life through conserving CPU usage, reducing screen brightness, disabling vibration feedback and turning off data connection when the screen is off.
There is no doubt that the One mini is another excellent device from HTC. We like how HTC adopted the strategy of maintaining as many features as it could on the One mini from the original One - the design, build quality, UltraPixel camera (OIS is missing though), Android 4.1.2, Sense 5.0 and a great display.
However, the One mini is not without flaws, some of which are disappointing. We still don't understand why HTC refused to add in a memory card slot for the One mini, especially when it only comes only with 16GB internal model. 1GB RAM is sufficient for today's needs, but we feel that arming it with an additional memory would future-proof the device should apps occupy bigger memory footprint. A more power efficient phone would be a bonus, but that's a tall order seeing who holds the key to most of the screen technologies and production.
Its main competitor in the market is obviously the Galaxy S4 Mini, which trumps the One mini in terms of storage expansion and overall performance (both in test benchmarks, and battery stamina). It also has a more compact form factor. Perhaps the most important edge the Galaxy S4 Mini has over the One mini is the price. Having been in the market for two months, consumers can easily grab the Galaxy S4 mini at street prices that are lower than the One mini. Other competing compact smartphones also have lower street prices although their performances leave much to be desired.
Price and Availability
The HTC One mini (Glacier Silver) is slated for a launch from 28 September at a retail price of $688. The Stealth Black model will be released at a later date.