HTC One mini preview: First look
Design and build quality
The HTC One mini is little else, but a downscaled One on the outside - premium aluminum, with the solid feel of a unibody phone all whipped into an attractive design. While the 5" Butterfly S went with polycarbonate (perhaps due to weight considerations), the HTC One mini should earn as much praise for its design as the regular One did.
The One mini measures 132 x 63.2 x 9.3mm or about 5mm smaller than the One in the width and height dimensions. It's also lighter by about 20g too, it weighs 122g.
The mini also differs from the One in the polycarbonate strip that runs along the sides of the phone. The regular One has it too, but the one on the mini is thicker, covering the entire sides. We think this is an advantage - plastic can take a knock, while aluminum is more brittle (it dents and its paint peels off more easily when hit). And the polycarbonate plastic is nice enough to keep the premium feel, so if anything the mini is an upgrade over the full-sized One.
The front of the HTC One mini follows the established design used by the regular One and the Butterfly S. It's The whole front panel is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, there are two capacitive keys below the screen - Back and Home - and a speaker on either side of the display. Next to the top speaker is the front-facing camera (1.6MP / 720p) along with proximity and ambient light sensors.
With the 4.2.2 software, you can long press the Home key to activate the Menu, instead of having an on-screen button that eats into the usable screen space. The HTC One got this as an update, but the mini stood in the R&D lab long enough to get it out of the box (actually, it was part of the pre-release software for the One too, until HTC decided to remove it).
The screen is gorgeous - it's not quite as sharp as the 1080p screen on the One, but at this size spotting the difference takes some effort. It has great viewing angles and great colors too. Overall, we find the screen is worthy of the One name, unlike the uninspiring qHD unit of the Galaxy S4 mini.
The top of the HTC One mini features the Power/Lock key (sorry, no IR function this time around), the 3.5mm audio jack and one of the two mics. The bottom of the phone holds the second mic along with the microUSB port.
The two mics are used for stereo recording in videos but work with Sense Voice too. This feature keeps track of how loud the environment is during a call and ups the gain on the mic to make sure the other side can hear you.
The left side of the One mini is where the microSIM card tray goes. The right side has two volume buttons, an uncommon design.
We get to the back. Aluminum spans the entire surface (save for two thin plastic strips) and comes in either naked metallic grey or in painted black (at launch anyway, we might see a Red version later on). The camera and its flash are the main attractions on the back, but the Beats Audio logo reminds you that the phone provides a high-end audio experience.
Anyway, back to the camera. It has a 1/3" UltraPixel sensor with 4MP resolution (16:9 aspect ratio). UltraPixel refers to the larger than usual pixels on the sensor - 2 microns on a side, bigger than the standard 1.4 micron and 1.1 micron pixels in most other cameras.
The big pixels, Backside Illuminated (BSI) sensor design and fast F/2.0 lens promise great low-light performance. The LED flash can be fired in one of five power levels, depending on how close you are to your subject.
The camera on the HTC One mini uses the same ImageChip 2 as the big One. This chip handles a lot of the special processing needed by the camera (so the less powerful chipset shouldn't matter), including recording 3 second videos each time you take a photo in Zoe mode. These videos are stitched into cool 30 second Video highlights. The chip also records what is necessary for the Always Smile and Object Removal options.
What's missing is the Optical Image Stabilization - outside the flagship Nokia Lumia phones, the HTC One was the only phone to offer it. It remains its exclusive feature though as even the big HTC Butterfly S doesn't have it.
Cutting down "only" 5mm from the height and width of the HTC One to make the mini might not sound like much, but that's because it's difficult to picture. In reality, the One mini feels noticeably more compact than its bigger siblings. It's roughly the size of last year's HTC One S, which is impressive as you are getting a pair of stereo speakers at the front.