[Review] HTC's premium design arrives in a smaller suit

Discussion in 'HTC One Mini 2' started by Jeffrey, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Premium Member
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    Introduction and Design

    Here we are again. The first in what is expected to be a slew of new miniaturised flagship devices has arrived, and it's HTC first to the shrink ray with the confusingly named HTC One Mini 2.

    Okay, so the name does make sense if you look at last year's HTC One Mini, but considering the Taiwanese firm backed itself into a naming corner with the One M8 the One Mini 2 is only adding to the mixed up terminology.
    Perhaps the HTC One M8 Mini would have been a more sensible name, but it's no more elegant. To be clear the One Mini 2 is a shrunken version of the excellent HTC One M8 - although the design of the handset gives that away almost instantly.
    Glance quickly at the One Mini 2 and you'd be forgiven for thinking it's the full blown One M8. It's a lot closer in design to its bigger brother than the original One Mini was to the HTC One.

    Key Features

    HTC's Blinkfeed news and social aggregator makes the transition down from the One M8, and if you've used the original One or One Mini the good news is it has been greatly improved.
    Blinkfeed is worked into HTC's Sense 6 overlay on the One Mini 2, and it can be easily accessed with a left swipe from your home screen.
    You can choose to have Blinkfeed set as your default home screen too, so every time you hit the home key you'll be taken there instead of to the more traditional layout of apps and widgets.
    There's even an option to jump straight into Blinkfeed from the lockscreen of the One Mini 2 - so you shouldn't have any trouble locating it on the handset.
    Don't expect this service to chuck you excellent articles and updates right from the word go though. Blinkfeed, at times, can be a tedious collection of Twitter updates and Facebook statuses, but the more you read and refine the more it will adjust to your tastes and offer up relevant content.
    HTC has added more content feeds to Blinkfeed on the One Mini 2, providing a far greater range of articles to read. When you do find something you want to read, tap it and you're taken to a clean layout which removes the annoying page furniture found on websites for a pure reading experience.
    The side swiping interface feels pleasant under the thumb and I was easily able to skip between articles and access the menu to jump between topic areas.
    As was noted in the One M8 review, Blinkfeed isn't perfect and the sheer volume of social data that's pulled in from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube can become a little frustrating at times.
    More annoyingly you can't easily turn these social interactions off, although the more you use Blinkfeed the better it will become. It won't ever be perfect, but it does improve after a few weeks of use.

    Comparisons

    The One Mini 2 shares the same design as its bigger brother, but it fails to really live up to the five star greatness of the HTC One M8.
    Concessions are always going to be made in shrunken flagships, but I'd have liked to see HTC take a leaf out of Sony's book and shift more of the features from the M8 to the One Mini 2 - namely the Snapdragon 801 processor.
    If you're a fan of HTC's design, but don't have the hands or bank balance big enough to splash out on its top of the range handset then the One Mini 2 makes a suitable replacement.
    Some may be disappointed that the ultrapixel Duo Camera didn't make the leap down to the One Mini 2, but others will be happy to see it replaced by a more traditional 13MP snapper.

    iPhone 5S

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    The iPhone 5S has a smaller, 4-inch display, dual-core processor and 8MP camera, but performance wise it's superior to the One Mini 2.
    There's little to choose between the cameras on the two handsets, but the One Mini 2 does have a greater range of options, while battery life doesn't exactly dazzle on either handset.
    The iPhone comes running iOS 7, a fluid and efficient operating system which is simple to use and doesn't have the lag of the Sense overlay on the HTC.
    A key difference between the two handsets however is the price. With the One Mini 2 coming in cheaper and with a build quality comparable to that of the iPhone it is a pretty good deal.

    Sony Xperia Z1 Compact



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    While there's no sign of a compact Xperia Z2 just yet, the Xperia Z1 Compact only launched in January and it's somewhat upset the mini mobile apple cart by packing flagship specs into a smaller frame.

    Instead of downsizing pretty much every detail of the Z1, Sony stuck the same processor, RAM and camera inside the Z1 Compact making it a serious force to be reckoned with.
    Its specs put the One Mini 2 to shame and while it is more expensive, the price has dropped recently bringing it much closer to the HTC.
    That gives the Z1 Compact much better performance than the One Mini 2 and its premium design is also dust and water resistant.

    Interface and Performance


    The HTC One Mini 2 comes running the latest version of Google's platform - Android 4.4.2 KitKat - and in true HTC fashion it has been covered in its heavy Sense 6 user interface.
    Sense 6 debuted on the HTC One M8 and the One Mini 2 is a direct copy, just on a smaller, lower resolution display.

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    Android purists may well find Sense 6 rather overbearing, but for anyone who doesn't have a strong allegiance towards Google's vanilla software the HTC One Mini 2 is - for the most part - very pleasant to use.
    I've already talked about the Blinkfeed integration which is baked into the Sense 6 overlay, but that's not the only tinkering HTC has done here.
    On the lockscreen you can have four app shortcuts, allowing you to jump straight to messaging if you've got a new text, which ultimately saves you time.
    If you're really not a fan of Blinkfeed it can be removed completely - just hold down on an open space on a home screen and tap "manage home screen panels". From there you can delete the Blinkfeed page.
    This gives you greater flexibility and it's a welcome addition as in earlier builds of the Sense UI there was no way to turn Blinkfeed off.

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    Move into the app draw and HTC has a handy feature here too, allowing you to hide any unwanted pre-installed applications which you can't actually uninstall.
    Drag down from the top of the screen to access the notification bar and tap the icon in the top right corner to access the quick settings pane.
    There are 12 slots available to fill and you can pick from 24 different options to display here - that's considerably more than nine you get on stock Android. Perfect if you love that instant control.
    Use two fingers to swipe the notification bar down and it'll take you straight to the quick settings area, which is a useful touch.
    In terms of power the One Mini 2 has not inherited the powerhouse Snapdragon 801 chip from the One M8. Instead it has to make do with a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor.

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    That's the same chip that appeared in the original One Mini, although in that device it was only dual-core and clocked at 1.4GHz.
    You also get 1GB of RAM - down from 2GB in the One M8 - and an Adreno 305 GPU, again a downgrade from the Adreno 330 in its bigger brother.
    Can you tell there's less power under the hood of the HTC One Mini 2? And sadly it shows.
    During my time with the One Mini 2 it failed to really impress me when it came to load times and general navigation.
    Blinkfeed usually took quite a while to update feeds, while even simple apps such as messaging took a few seconds to load up properly.
    Sometimes the One Mini 2 would flash up with "no messages found" when I opened the messaging app before loading my conversations.
    The message only appeared for half a second, but it did detract from the overall experience and rammed home the fact the One Mini 2 is packing significantly less power.
    That said, the One Mini 2 managed to run all the games and applications I threw at it, and apart from some tardy load times operation was smooth throughout.
    Multi-tasking also wasn't an issue, and I was able to have several demanding applications open at the same time and skip between them without issue.
    I ran Geekbench 3 on the One Mini 2 and after three goes the HTC One Mini 2 ended up with an average of 1155. That's hardly a sparkling performance and it doesn't come close to the 2731 racked up by the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact.
    The Sony does have a much more powerful processor, but the 4-inch iPhone 5S also managed 2540, leaving the One Mini 2 lagging behind the competition.
    It's also worth noting that the HTC Desire 816, a handset which will slide in below the One Mini 2, sports a punchier 1.6GHz quad-core processor and a Geekbench 3 average of 1463.
    Overall though if you're coming from another mid-range mobile, or a low-end device you're unlikely to have any performance related complaints with the One Mini 2. It's just a shame it doesn't more closely mirror the performance of its bigger brother.

    Verdict

    The HTC One Mini 2 is a solid smartphone and provides a strong option for those seeking a high-end device closer in size to the iPhone 5S than the current fleet of Android flagships.
    With a premium design and decent feature set the One Mini 2 offers an enticing package, but unfortunately it isn't without some flaws.

    We liked

    Again HTC has impressed with its smartphone design. The curved metal chassis of the One Mini 2 looks and feels wonderfully premium and the clever engineering of the plastic frame makes it easy to miss. A clear advancement on last year's One Mini.
    The inclusion of a microSD slot is another big plus point over last year's offering, making the One Mini 2 a far stronger media machine.
    Some will be disappointed the Duo Camera from the One M8 isn't present here, but a 13MP offering means the One Mini 2 is still well equipped in this department, while the Boomsound speakers and audio enhancement still sound great.

    We disliked

    The thing I was most disappointed about with the HTC One Mini 2 was its performance.
    The lack of zip in the user interface and the slight lag when opening applications may not seem like a huge issue, but it makes for a jarring experience and one that begins to irk after a while.
    Battery life is another area where the One Mini 2 falls down. Considering HTC's dramatic improvement in battery efficiency in the One M8 I was hoping to see some of the fruits of that labour passed down. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, and the lower grade processor is a real shame.
    The slightly chunkier build may put some off, but I don't see it as a real problem, although the One Mini 2 is quite tall for a "mini" device and I wouldn't have said no to a full HD display with better colour reproduction.

    Verdict

    I like the idea of a smaller HTC One M8, one which is more manageable in the hand and easier to slide into a pocket.
    With the HTC One Mini 2 the Taiwanese firm has manage to keep the beautiful stylings, but on the inside it feels like attention to detail waned a little, with a sub-par processor and a battery which doesn't do the phone justice.
    That said, compare it to its size rivals - the iPhone 5S and 5C, Xperia Z1 Compact and Ascend P7 - and the One Mini 2 is still a very capable handset at a reasonable price point.


    Source: techradar