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HTC One Mini 2 REVIEW – Do Good Things Really Come In Small Packages?

by Todd Haselton | May 26, 2014May 26, 2014 12:01 am PDT

Earlier this month HTC introduced the One Mini 2, its miniaturized version of the HTC One (M8) flagship smartphone. Like last year, and the introduction of the One Mini following the launch of the One (M7), HTC has opted to include different hardware inside of the smaller handset in an effort to keep costs down.

However, in a meeting with the company we also learned that HTC didn’t want to make as many design sacrifices as it did last year — the goal, HTC said, was to largely keep the same design language and premium look, something that it believes any handset in the “One” family deserves. To achieve that, it opted to use more metal this time around, instead of plastic as it did last year, and the result largely paid off.

HTC One mini 2 3

Of course, as the Mini name implies, the handset also has a smaller screen and a much more compact form factor. As the industry moves toward larger screens (HTC included with phones like the One Max and the Desire 816), the company knows that there’s still a market for folks who like more petite smartphones. This device is for them — though HTC didn’t opt to choose the route that Sony did with the Xperia Z1 Compact and has not included the same flagship hardware. Still, there are areas like the camera where some users may find the experience is actually improved over HTC’s own flagship.

We’ve had the HTC One Mini 2 for a while now, so let’s dive in to our full review of the smartphone.

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Hardware

Again, this isn’t simply a smaller version of HTC’s flagship, there are other areas where sacrifices were made under the hood, too.

The One Mini 2 is equipped with a 4.5-inch display with a 720p resolution. The screen still looks crisp at that size, though, so you’re not getting the pixelation you’d see with a 720p resolution on a larger display, like on the Desire 816, for example. Overall I was perfectly pleased with the display during my testing period.

The One Mini 2 is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz and offers just 1GB of RAM. I didn’t really run into any issues with the processor, but down the road as you load up the phone with apps running at the same time, you’re probably going to see some stuttering that you wouldn’t see on a phone with more RAM and a faster processor, like the One (M8). In general, though, Sense 6 whizzes around and, since Android KitKat was built to run smoothly without a boatload of power, the experience is really solid.

HTC One mini 2 15

The One Mini 2 has 16GB of storage which shouldn’t be a problem for anyone as there’s also the added option to increase the storage capacity with up to a 128GB microSD card.

Moving around the device, you’ll find the nanoSIM tray on the upper left side of the phone, the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack up top, where there’s no longer the IR blaster that you’ll find on the One (M8). The microSD card slot is just above the silver metal volume buttons on the right side, and there’s a microUSB charging port on the bottom. On the front face, there’s a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and HTC’s BoomSound speakers. On the back, you’ll find the 13-megapixel shooter and a single LED flash.

HTC One mini 2 2

As for the design, I really love the industrial build of the device and, while HTC didn’t use as much metal as it did on the One (M8), the body still looks and feels like a solid chunk of metal. There are, however, small plastic strips running around the phone, which widen up at the top and bottom. They blend in nicely, however. It’s a first class design through and through.

The BoomSound speakers are crisp and loud enough, better than any other phone in this price range that we’ve tested, but they’re not as powerful or deep as the BoomSound speakers on the One (M8). Both phones were easily able to fill my living room with music, though, and I’m still impressed at the sound HTC’s BoomSound speakers offer.

I’ll talk a bit more about this in the camera section, but I do like HTC’s decision to add a 13-megapixel camera. I think fans of the One (M8) who don’t like the Ultrapixel approach may even be drawn to this handset for that reason. I’m also glad HTC didn’t sacrifice the 5-megapixel front-facing camera, a feature I’ve been enjoying on HTC’s phones since the Butterfly.

Software

I won’t spend too much time on the software part of this review because it’s largely the same experience that you’ll find one the One (M8), so be sure to check out our section in that review for a deeper dive into Sense 6.

Sense 6 is still my favorite Android skin, but I understand that different folks prefer TouchWiz or no skin at all, so it’s purely a matter of personal opinion. I really enjoy BlinkFeed, though, and love that I can add specific topics that I want to read more about (like Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn) and that they’ll populate a custom feed. Also, the ability to have all of the stories automatically cache for offline reading has been great for keeping me entertained on my frequent subway trips into New York City.

HTC One mini 2 8

I also really like that you can customize the quick settings available in the navigation bar at the top of the screen. I can just pull down the shade and turn on Extreme Battery Power saving mode, for example, quickly toggle Bluetooth or GPS on and off and more.

HTC, as we said in the One M8 review, really went through all of Sense and tweaked every single pixel. There are a lot of brand new applications, like Music, for example, but my favorite is the gallery app, which is better than anything offered by any of HTC’s competitors. It’s clean, fluid, and you can quickly switch to sort images by location, date and more.

HTC’s Zoe app is on board, even though the camera can’t actually create Zoes and even though the app isn’t actually live yet. It seems like HTC is going to rebrand the Highlight videos as Zoes, though. The service is set to launch later this year, and I’m not quite sure what to expect just yet.

Camera

HTC includes a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I prefer having the larger megapixel count that the One Mini 2 offers over the Dual Camera setup that focuses on larger pixels but a smaller 4-megapixel sensor on the One (M8).

I’m no expert, but I think I took some really great shots with the One Mini 2 camera over the weekend, and it performed well at a low-lit brunch, outdoors, up close with a bunch of flowers and in other situations.

I did notice that the image quality wasn’t fantastic outdoors on a cloudy day overlooking some boats, however. I was also taking pictures with a Galaxy S5, and those seemed to come out a bit better than the ones shot on the One Mini 2. Also, pictures taken out my window of the skyline at night weren’t as good as they are on other phones; there was noticeable noise in the pictures.

I do miss the Zoes that I’m able to shoot with the camera on the One (M8), however, though you can still see Highlight reels inside the Gallery application. HTC also included the ability to create and save custom camera settings, which is awesome. You can have one setting for low-light situations, for example, so you don’t have to manually tweak the settings every single time.

The camera interface is super easy to use but also powerful, easily making it among the best on any Android smartphone out there, even better than Google’s in some cases. Overall, I think most folks are going to be pleased with what the One Mini 2 has to offer on the camera front.

Battery Life, Call Quality and Data

HTC told me from the start that the One Mini 2 doesn’t offer the same great all-day battery life as the One (M8) and I found that to be true. It has a 2,100mAh battery and even without an LTE connection (we tested an unlocked version on AT&T’s network, and the device doesn’t support LTE bands in the U.S.), the phone was often dead by early evening. HTC also has Power Saver and Extreme Power Saving modes, the latter of which will certainly get you through more than a full day of use.

Call quality on the One Mini 2 was fine, and again I particularly like the BoomSound speakers for speakerphone use. The device doesn’t support LTE bands in the U.S., as we said, and I mostly had access to AT&T’s HSPA network. Speeds were on a par with what you expect surfing with 3G, and I didn’t notice anything particularly out of the ordinary. As I said in our One (M8) review, that’s particularly impressive given the large amount of metal used in the phone’s body.

BUY

For the mid-range market, the HTC One Mini 2 is the best in its class.

I think the One Mini 2 is a much better follow-up to the One (M8) than the original One Mini was to the One (M7) last year. It maintains much more of the overall look and feel of its flagship brother and, while there are some sacrifices made, I like that HTC didn’t water down the camera (for some it’s an improvement), and that it generally looks like a smaller flagship device.

I didn’t go into this review expecting to be overly blown away by the One Mini 2, but I’m leaving it impressed with what HTC was able to deliver. I saw some arguments that anyone interested in the One Mini 2 should just buy last year’s One M7 instead. I think there’s some truth to that, but I prefer the expandable storage of the One Mini 2 and the overall design language. Plus, you’ll get Sense 6 right now, and it’s way better than any Sense before it (though I know Sense 6 is coming to the M7 also).

HTC’s One Mini 2 doesn’t have the internal hardware to blow anyone’s minds, but that’s not its purpose. It offers the most premium build in its class, and I think there are going to be a lot of happy consumers once this hits the market. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t any plans to bring it to the U.S. now, and I hope that changes. For the mid-range market, the HTC One Mini 2 is the best in its class.

Yes, good things really do come in small packages.

HTC provided TechnoBuffalo with two HTC One Mini 2 review units, one for video that was used in Irvine for more than a week, and another for the written review. Todd Haselton spent three days with the One Mini 2 before writing the review, while Jonathan had it for a good deal longer. TechnoBuffalo adhered to a Monday, May 26 embargo for the review.

PROS

  • Metal design
  • Great form factor
  • Solid camera

CONS

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Camera could be better in low light

 


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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