HTC One Mini is short on size, not on features (hands-on)

HTC just hit its HTC One flagship with a shrink ray. The result is the new HTC One Mini, which sports a similar lavish metal design and camera, but has a dialed-down processor.

Brian Bennett
Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
6 min read
First Look
Watch this: The hand-friendly HTC One Mini

Editors' note: Our colleagues at CNET UK reviewed the new HTC One Mini on July 25. Take a look here for their full rated review.

If you admired the HTC One, but thought it was too big, then the HTC One Mini may be just what you need. It shoehorns many of the HTC One's superb features into a smaller and more pocket-friendly package and it retains much of its predecessor's aluminum beauty. The result is a smaller, less powerful, and less daunting handset that still looks like a member of the One family.

After so many leaks and rumors, confirmation of the One Mini's existence is hardly shocking, and I wasn't particularly surprised at what's inside. Still, although I didn't have time to give it a full test-drive, I came away impressed. The slower processor is worrisome, and it will face competition from the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (just like its bigger brother squares off against the Galaxy S4), but HTC's newest device holds a lot of promise. HTC's challenge, though, will be to get to multiple carriers at the right price.

Slight alteration, big gain in comfort (pictures)

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A huge part of the HTC One's appeal is its premium build quality. Chiseled from a solid hunk of aluminum, the One doesn't flex, bend, or creak when gripped -- something lesser phones have done in my hands. The HTC One Mini definitely exuded the same level of sturdiness when I dropped the little guy into my eager paws. That sense of strength shouldn't come as a surprise, since HTC told me the One Mini also leverages unibody construction for increased durability.

The One Mini departs from its bigger brother's design in another area: its edges are lined by less expensive polycarbonate and not polished metal. The upside, says HTC, is that it takes less time and effort to create the smaller phone, which will translate into a lower expected price for consumers.

HTC One Mini
The Mini uses plastic around its edges, not aluminum. Brian Bennett/CNET

At 122 grams (4.3 ounces), the One Mini is 21 grams (0.74 ounce) lighter than the HTC One. Even so, the One Mini didn't seem to have less heft, perhaps because the gadget is more compact.

HTC One Mini
The HTC One Mini keeps a trim profile. Brian Bennett/CNET

Indeed, the One Mini measures 5.2 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.36 inch thick. When you think about it, that's not a whole lot smaller than the HTC One's dimensions of 5.4 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.37 inch. Essentially it boils down to a difference of 0.2 inch in height and width.

On paper I admit that doesn't add up to much of a difference. With my fingers wrapped around it, though, it was immediately clear that the Mini's frame is narrower and shorter than the larger One. As a result the smaller phone was easier to grip and should squeeze into spots where the One would run into trouble.

HTC One Mini
The One Mini is more compact yet mostly metal. Brian Bennett/CNET

A major drawback to shaving inches off the HTC One Mini's chassis is a smaller screen. It wasn't that long ago when phones with screens larger than 4 inches across were considered gargantuan. Boy, have those days gone by. At 4.3 inches, the One Mini's display is decidedly midrange compared with the monsters now occupying store shelves.

The phone's LCD also has a lower 720p resolution and pixel density (341ppi) compared with that of the One (4.7-inch, 1080p, 468ppi). Of course I have to say it was hard to notice the difference between the two displays, besides the smaller visual real estate, in the brief time I had in the One Mini's presence.

If you're a fan of the HTC One's robust stereo speakers, a feature HTC has labeled "BoomSound," you'll be glad to know the Mini boasts the same ability. HTC confirmed with me that the One Mini will deliver a comparable audio experience, with each of its speakers powered by its own amp.

I can vouch that the One Mini sports two perforated audio grilles framing its screen. The speakers are slightly smaller, though, and since I didn't have time to fire them up during my short time with it, it's still unclear whether they'll belt out as much of a sonic impact.

You won't find the HTC One's nifty power key that doubles as an IR blaster here, either. The back of the handset retains its comfortably curved aluminum backing, though.

Features, components, and camera
Despite its shrunken size the HTC One Mini offers a feature set almost identical to the HTC One (specifically the global model). The device runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with the freshest version of the company's Sense UI slathered over it. That means the BlinkFeed news aggregator still occupies the first home screen, whether you want it or not, and HTC's weather animations are sprinkled across the UI.

Be advised that the One Mini is powered by a dialed-down 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 CPU as opposed to the HTC One's beefier 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor. The scrappy gadget also has half the RAM, 1GB instead of 2GB. While the One Mini handled smoothly during my short test-drive, the watered-down processor and diminished memory are bound to negatively affect overall application speed and performance.

HTC One Mini
The One Mini's camera app offers the same essential features. Brian Bennett/CNET

I was particularly impressed with the camera, which snapped pictures quickly. HTC explained that the Mini relies on an essentially identical imaging system as its predecessor. Like the HTC One, the One Mini uses HTC Image Sense backed up by the same 4-megapixel "Ultrapixel" sensor. One important omission is that the One Mini lacks optical image stabilization, which is a shame since it could result in weaker low-light performance, or at least slower shutter speeds.

The camera app itself is just as jam-packed with shooting modes, filters, and settings. It also has HTC's Zoe image capture and sappy video highlight abilities (which I like, by the way) onboard.

I'm glad to see the new HTC One Mini hit the scene, since it looks to pack many of the HTC One's premium features and its design into a smaller, more manageable size. What's really interesting here is that with the entrance of the One Mini, we very well might see a repeat of the titanic battle between Samsung's Galaxy S4 and HTC's One.

Samsung has already unveiled the Galaxy S4 Mini, which, like the HTC One Mini, packs in a great many of the company's top-tier abilities but in a scaled-down and pocketable form. The S4 Mini also uses a slower dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor, though at a faster 1.7GHz compared with the HTC One Mini's 1.4GHz chip. Additionally, the S4 Mini relies on less RAM than its more powerful sibling (1.5GB instead of 2GB) but more than the HTC Mini (1GB).

The Galaxy S4 Mini takes a comparable step down in screen size and resolution as well, featuring a 4.3-inch qHD AMOLED display (960x540 pixels). Frankly it's shaping up to be a really close and interesting matchup of mini smartphones.

I do have concerns whether the One Mini is up to the task. I really hope the device won't prove too underpowered or overly pricey. I'm thinking a fair subsidized price range for the One Mini would be $89 to $129; anything higher would never fly. I also hope HTC will have the bargaining power to ensure that the One Mini will make it to multiple carriers here in the U.S. It could really beat Samsung to the punch if it can get the surly American carriers to play ball. Of course, only time will tell.

As it stands, the HTC One Mini is a global phone that the company expects to land worldwide by August. There's still no word yet on pricing, but hopefully we won't have to wait too long for further details.

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