Made of brushed metal and plastic, Verizon's Remix has the grace, style, and superior speakers of its bigger sibling the HTC One M8, with reliable specs that in many cases skim the surface of premium quality.
For the price of a two year-commitment and $100 (or as low as $50 on a promotional sale), the Remix is a decent value for what you get. Off-contract, though, its $450 full retail price (or $22.50 a month for 24 months) is significantly higher than the roughly $200 Motorola Moto G LTE (which isn't sold with Verizon) and $50 on-contract Moto X. Most of that cost difference pays for the phone's build, camera quality, and audio upgrades.
For my money, the Remix is worth the price for a smartphone that is clearly just a step below the top-of-the-line M8, and high above the typical "bargain" phone.
Editors' note: This review focuses on the Verizon model. You can read even more in CNET's full review of the HTC One Mini 2, as the Remix is globally known.
Design and build
Classy, luxurious, and stunning are three words that describe the Remix's mostly metal build. With rounded corners and white accents, the silvery phone is absolutely kin to the larger One M8, though there's only one camera lens and LED flash on the back (versus two of each on the M8), and the power/lock button has a different placement on the phone's top edge.
One hardware difference, the Remix's 4.5-inch display has a 720p HD screen versus to the M8's larger 1080p display, but photos, text, and video still looked clear and sharp. In comparison, the Remix's 326ppi display shares the same pixel density as Apple's iPhone 5S.
You'll find a 5-megapixel shooter on the front, a 13-megapixel camera on the back, a nano-SIM card tray on the left, and a microSD card tray on the right. The latter two pop open with the help of an included tool (but a paperclip tip or earring back will work just as well.) A sealed phone, there's no getting to the Remix's 2,100mAh embedded battery.
Though smaller than the original M8, everything about the Remix screams "substance." At 5.4 inches tall, 2.6 inches wide, 0.42 inch thick, and 4.8 ounces, it's hardly tiny, though its slightly curved back helps it fit well into the palm. Slimmer than a lot of phones you can buy these days, it didn't permanently stretch out my back pocket.
In HTC One family tradition, the stereo speakers along the top and bottom edge of the phone's face project sound better than most other smartphones. They aren't as large as the One M8's so they're also not quite as loud, but the Boom Sound speakers, as they're called, are impressive nonetheless.
OS and apps
Running on Android 4.4 KitKat with the attractive, elegant HTC Sense 6.0 custom layer on top, you'll find such mainstays as the BlinkFeed news feed and Zoe camera effects. All the Android apps are there, too, including Google Search with Google Now, a ton of Amazon shopping portals, and a car docking mode.
Verizon piles on its own suite of apps and services for account maintenance and more, and also includes partner programs like Scribble and Slacker Radio, Isis Wallet, Kid Mode (a third-party app), IMDB, and NFL Football.
Camera and video
HTC decided against using the 4-"ultrapixel" camera module with the One Mini 2/Remix, opting for a 13-megapixel camera instead. Both CNET Editor Andrew Hoyle and I agree that HTC should have taken this tack all along. The Remix's images were colorful, crisp, and clear in photos taken on automatic mode as well as HDR. It handled close-ups well, and did a better job battling trickier exposure situations than the M8.
One scene especially stood out during my testing period was when the Remix faithfully captured an image of bees flying around a flower that was itself swaying in the wind. One moving object is hard enough to catch on a good day; this camera imprinted the moment without any softness or blur. Of course, the more carefully you set up your shot, the higher chance you'll get an image you like.
I was also impressed with the front-facing camera. A 5-megapixel lens doesn't necessarily mean you'll get higher-quality images, and in truth, you may not want to see that much of your own face in lifelike detail. The Remix exposed faces and scenes well, keeping skin tones fairly lifelike (they have a tendency to look overly gray). It also worked well for groups.
Video capture and playback was also smooth, avoiding stuttering, adjusting well to scenes, and picking up audio from subjects near the microphone. Although the camera is capable of 1080p HD recording, you'll need to change the default from 720p for larger resolution and files.
I'm including a few images from my testing below, but for more, including how the Remix/HTC One Mini 2 compares with the HTC One M8, see CNET's photo comparison in the HTC One Mini 2 review.