HTC HD mini review: Smart pup

GSMArena team, 23 April 2010.
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Design and construction (continued)

Moving on to the front inevitably brings us to the 3.2” capacitive touchscreen of HVGA resolution. Its image quality is pretty decent, though nowhere near Super AMOLED standards (not even regular AMOLED). In the TFT world the HD mini doesn’t rank too bad at all.

The HD mini has a HVGA display, instead of the WVGA unit of the HTC HD2. The downsides are obvious but the good news is the mini doesn’t need a 1 GHz Snapdragon to offer similar performance.

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The HD mini display in the dark, next to those of the iPhone 3G and the LG GD880 mini

The lower screen resolution is most noticeable in some applications like the web browser (where less content fits on the screen) and image gallery (where the photos look less detailed). But still the HD mini display doesn’t fare too bad in terms of pixel density. After all, if the iPhone can get away with stretching HVGA over 3.5 inches, then why should the HTC HD mini be criticized about it.

We have discussed the 65K-color limitation of Windows Mobile many times before but here’s the short summary. You will notice banding when looking at single-color gradients on the HTC HD mini but the 3.2” display makes it less prominent than on 3.7” and larger screens.

Finally, an area where the HD mini fails to impress is sunlight legibility. The HTC latest device isn’t the worst we have seen but is still less than enjoyable to operate in the bright sun. Windows Mobile phones have never actually done particularly well under direct sunlight so fans of the OS are probably used to it by now.

Below the display we find five capacitive controls – the two call keys along with the home, menu and back buttons. It’s the same layout as the HD2 but this time they’re all touch-sensitive instead of actual press buttons. The haptic-enabled capacitive keys are well sized and spaced. The transition from and to the display is always seamless.

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There are five touch-sensitive keys below the display

Above the HTC HD mini display is the earpiece dead center and a status LED to the left of it. A stylish chrome accent at the top marks the earpiece out and hosts the power/lock key.

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The earpiece is above the display

The left side hosts the volume rocker, which works throughout the interface, controlling the ringing and system volumes. It’s well sized and solid to press.

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The volume rocker works throughout the interface

The right side is completely bare and that’s bad news for all those who expected to find a camera key there. HTC might’ve thought touch focus makes up for the lack of an actual half-press shutter key but it would’ve been handy to have a shortcut to start the camera too.

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There’s no camera key on the right

The mouthpiece is at the bottom of the HTC HD mini, right next to the microUSB port. There is no cover over the connectivity port to keep dust and moisture away.

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The unprotected microUSB slot is next to the mouthpiece

The same holds true for the 3.5mm audio jack on top. It is placed on a sloping surface so the jacks you plug in will always slightly stick out even if they are properly connected.

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The 3.5mm audio jack and the power/lock key are on top

The other thing of interest at the top is the power key, which also acts as a screen lock button.

The HTC HD mini back hosts the unprotected but deeply embedded camera lens, located right next to the loudspeaker grill.

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The 5 megapixel camera and the loudspeaker grill

There is no flash of any kind so the HD mini won’t be doing much of a job in low-light shoots.

The screw heads at the four corners at the back might not be everyone’s cup of tea but we do like them. Another design quirk is only revealed if you remove the rear cover. The phone’s inner body – including the battery – is flashy yellow. The lower bit is semi transparent and you can see the bits and pieces the thing is made of, a bit like a Swatch watch.

You’ll also notice that the screws are real, not just decoration. Not that you’ll possibly have – or need – the right screwdriver.

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Taking a peek under the hood

Under the hood we find the SIM card compratment, the microSD card slot and the 1200 mAh battery. Despite being under the cover, the microSD card is fully hot-swappable. We had no issues with a 16GB microSD card so we are guessing 32GB won’t be any trouble too.

The HTC HD mini lasted for two days on a single charge under what might be considered regular use (15 minutes of telephony, 30 minutes of browsing over Wi-Fi, several shots with the camera and 30 minutes of fiddling with the other apps a day). If you tend to push your phone harder, chances are you’ll have to charge daily.

The build quality of the HTC HD mini is commendable, the handset feeling sturdy in the hand and all. We suspect the rubbery rear panel might start showing signs of wear and tear sooner than the rest of the body but we cannot be certain of that.

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The HD mini held in hand

As to styling, we do like the solid gadgety feel and the industrial accents. This mini lives up to its name – it looks and feels friendly and inviting. At the same time, a 3.2” capacitive screen is quite a good deal in a handset this size. The great response is an added gain. Of course, sunlight legibility and resolution are less than stellar, but you can’t have it all in a mini. Basically, you get what you signed for: a smaller (and cheaper) HTC HD2.

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