HTC One mini 2 review
Nice enough, but the price is too high for a phone with such middling specifications
Review Date: 28 May 2014
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £300 (£360 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
When we first encountered the HTC One M8, we were bowled over by its sumptuous metal chassis, and the HTC One mini 2 has achieved the same feat. This slightly cheaper, slightly smaller version of HTC's flagship smartphone boasts the same gunmetal-grey aluminium on the rear, buffed to a smooth sheen, and similar detailing. So much so that from a distance you'd be forgiven for mistaking the mini for its bigger brother. Continue reading past the photo for our HTC One mini 2 review.
As you may have guessed from the name, the HTC One mini 2 is a smaller device than the (M8), but it's far from mini in any other respect. It has a 4.5in display with a resolution of 720 x 1,280, and it's a substantial thing to hold, measuring 137mm in height, 11mm thick, and weighing 137g. Its smaller size makes the mini 2 a mite more practical than the 5in-screened (M8), but there isn't as much in it as you might expect.
The similarities continue when you turn the phone on, with HTC's Sense 6 user interface (a heavily modified version of Android 4.4 KitKat) offering a very similar line-up of features to the HTC One M8. This includes HTC's BlinkFeed – a vertically scrolling feed of news and social network items that lives on one of the phone's homescreens – and the Extreme Power Saving mode, which allows you to quickly switch off most of the phone's power-hungry features so you can extend battery life when capacity is low.
HTC One mini 2 review: specifications
Look closely at the specifications sheet, however, and the differences become apparent. At the rear there's only one camera, instead of the Duo camera of the (M8), and this has a much higher resolution of 13 megapixels. The flash is a single LED, instead of a dual-tone flash, although the front-facing "selfie" camera is the same resolution, at five megapixels.
The processor is where the two handsets diverge the most, with the mini 2 sporting a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU, an Adreno 305 GPU, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of integrated storage. That's the sort of line-up you're more likely to see on a sub-£200 budget phone – the Motorola Moto G, for instance – than a premium handset such as this.
Like the One M8, however, the mini 2 has a memory card slot that will accept microSD cards up to 128GB in size, and it supports almost as wide an array of wireless standards, including Cat4 4G for download speeds of up to 150Mbits/sec, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4 and NFC. The only thing missing from the mini 2's toolbox is AC wireless.
HTC One mini 2 review: display, benchmarks and battery life
In terms of all-out sharpness, the mini 2's display lags behind top-end flagship smartphones, with a pixel density of 326ppi. In general use, however, you'd struggle to tell the difference, and quality is exceptional.
The Super LCD 2 panel is capable of becoming very bright, and contrast is superb, with the balanced, slightly laid-back colour reproduction we've come to expect of HTC's smartphones. We measured maximum brightness at 476cd/m2 and contrast at a healthy 1,190:1, figures that aren't far off the HTC One M8.
The performance of the phone, at least subjectively, is on the money. The phone's UI runs perfectly smoothly, apps launch quickly, websites scroll and pan smoothly, and there's nothing critical that the mini 2 can't do for want of power. In general use, this phone feels as slick as the One M8.
But there's no ignoring the fact that the mini 2's core specification is identical to the Moto G's, a phone that's less than half the price of this one, and not far off the £89 Moto E either. This becomes obvious when you start running benchmarks and demanding 3D games.
A time of 1,202ms in SunSpider is a long way behind the M8's, and also much slower than our current favourite "mini" smartphone, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, which scored 860ms. It's a similar story in the GFXBench T-Rex HD gaming test, where the mini 2 attained 10.7fps, a score closer to the Moto G's 11fps than the Sony's 34.9fps.
One area where the One mini 2 performs well is battery life. Its 2,110mAh battery is only slightly larger, but significantly outperformed the Moto G in both our 3G audio-streaming and video-playback tests, draining capacity at a rate of 4.9% and 8.7% per hour respectively. The GFXBench battery test also showed the One mini 2 ahead of the Moto G, with a projected runtime of 4hrs 48mins.
HTC One mini 2 review: camera and audio quality
The HTC One mini 2's biggest strengths are its cameras, which comprise a 13-megapixel one on the rear and a 5-megapixel one facing the front. Both produce images that are a world away in terms of quality from the Moto G and phones of a similar price.
In good light, images from the rear-facing camera are detailed, crisp and full of bold colour – better, dare we say, than the far more expensive HTC One M8 – and it does a particularly good job with scenes with extremes of contrast. The camera app is responsive, too, allowing you to fire off shots quickly.
It struggles in low light, where high noise and a lack of optical image stabilisation combine to deliver results that are often blurry and always grainy, but it isn't all that different from most current smartphone cameras in this respect, and it's on a par with the Sony Z1 Compact's higher-resolution, 20.7-megapixel camera.
For selfie fanatics, meanwhile, the wide-angle 5-megapixel camera at the front delivers much crisper shots than you'd get from a budget phone, and the countdown timer really helps when it comes to framing and capturing that perfect shot.
Finally to the HTC One mini 2's stereo, front-facing speakers, which quite simply, blow the competition away. They're incredibly loud and clear, and although still a little tinny for pleasurable music listening, are perfect for satnav directions, watching YouTube clips, and listening to talk radio and podcasts when you don't want to plug your earphones in.
HTC One mini 2 review: verdict
Overall, we like the HTC One mini 2 because it reproduces a lot of what makes the One M8 so good. It's beautifully designed, has two very decent cameras, great audio quality, a top-notch screen and fine battery life. In its own right, this is an excellent handset, and one we'd be happy to use on a day-to-day basis.
But we do have a problem, and it's a major one. The HTC One mini 2 will set you back a not-insignificant £360 SIM-free when it appears in the shops at the end of May, which is £60 more expensive than even our A-List choice, the Nexus 5, and more expensive than the Sony Z1 Compact, which can now be had for £345. With both rivals significantly quicker, and the Sony offering water-resistance as well as a comparatively luxurious design, it leaves the HTC One mini 2 looking distinctly short on value.
Author: Jonathan Bray
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