Hands-on: HTC One mini 2 review

The HTC One mini 2 wants to capitalise on the good looks of the HTC One (M8), if not the good name. 

There's been no shortage of confusion around what HTC is going to call its devices: the HTC One and the HTC One mini made sense last year. The HTC One (M8) name didn't make sense this year, and the HTC One mini 2 is quite a tongue twister. 

It is, however, an accurate description: the second iteration of a mini version of the HTC One. What the title fails to depict is one of its strongest points, that's the design is based on that of the M8. 

That dalliance aside, this just-announced device landed in our hands for a quick pawing prior to launch, and here are our first impressions. We will follow-up with an exhaustive review closer to the launch date. 

Design

The HTC One mini 2 takes its cues from the M8, presenting much the same aesthetic with the new flagship's zero-gap unibody design. From the rear, it's every bit like the mini M8, although under closer scrutiny, it's not built to such exacting standards.

But in a repeat of last year's mini efforts, HTC has added a band of plastic that runs around the sides. This frames the display and means that some of the touch points when gripping the device are plastic, rather than the luscious metal of the M8.

It marks out the HTC One mini 2 as a lesser device, which it is. But from a pure design point of view, there's plenty of flourish with the mostly metal casing.

The trays for the nano SIM and microSD card are discrete and these parts are metal, including the volume rocker. Where Sony boast about an aluminium standby button on the Xperia Z line, here you're looking at a phone that's mostly aluminium.

As an aside, the device we played with was one of the first off the production line and HTC asked us to point out that the volume rocker on this grey device doesn't match - it's silver - but that won't be the case on the devices that make it into retail channels.

Of course, one of the big features is those front-facing BoomSound speakers. We didn't have the chance to give them a proper test, but if they perform like previous devices, they'll be very impressive.

Hardware and display

The HTC One mini 2 features a 4.5-inch display, with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, 326ppi. We didn't have the opportunity to test it outdoors to any great length, but Sense 6.0 looks lovely. 

There's plenty of detail packed into that display and our first impressions are good. We praised the original One mini for the display, and it still looks to have the same strengths.

When it comes the other hardware load-out, the HTC One mini 2 gets itself equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset, in a 1.2GHz quad-core variety. This is backed by 1GB of RAM, placing this device in the mid-range.

That's where it really makes a departure from the HTC One (M8): this isn't the powerhouse that the flagship is, with HTC deciding to take a different tack to Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact.

READ: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

That's a shame, because we very much like Sony's approach: it's the most powerful small format device around, a boast that HTC can't quite make.

How this manifests itself in day-to-day use remains to be seen and we'll be playing close attention to performance, and whether the hardware delivers, when we come to a full review.

There's a generous 16GB of internal storage, as well as the benefit of a microSD card slot, making the One mini 2 well positioned when it comes to filling with apps, music and more.

The HTC One mini 2 launches on Android 4.4 KitKat with Sense 6.0, making it bang up to date. The software appears to have most of the features you'll find in the HTC One (M8): visually, you have a sophisticated Sense experience, one we're big fans of on the bigger HTC One.

Missing, however is the sensor hub that brings some great features to the M8: there's no double tap to wake, no motion gestures, no support for the neat Dot Case that the bigger phone gets, and we suspect no low-power support for apps like Fitbit (which isn't pre-installed on this device).

Cameras

There's pretty big difference in the camera app and that draws our attention back to the outside of the device: there's no Duo Camera. Saving the second sensor for the flagship we can understand and there's a solid argument that there wasn't the space on this smaller-framed device.

But there's also no UltraPixel sensor, with HTC opting instead to put a regular 13-megapixel BSI sensor in this handset instead. That's much more conventional option than we perhaps expected, especially as HTC has pushed the UltraPixel message hard and it was in the original One mini in 2013.

We didn't have the chance to test the camera's performance, but noted that many features are still there - obviously, you miss out on those that rely on the Duo Camera, so there's no focus shifting, but there's also no dual capture, or pan 360. 

Strangely, there's no Zoe capture either, one of the unique features that HTC boasts. This is something we'll have to investigate in more detail when we fully review the phone.

First impressions

There's a lot we like about the HTC One mini 2 from the short time we've spent with the phone. We like the solid design: it feels good in the hand and well-built, if not quite as premium as the M8 due to that plastic band. 

A quick play with Sense 6.0 reveals there's a lot like the bigger brother on offer, and we suspect that the day-to-day experience will be fast enough from that quad-core processor.

The HTC One mini 2 doesn't appear to do anything particularly wrong as a mid-range device, but the camera seems like an oddity, drifting from the message of the rest of the One family.

Things like overall performance and the battery life we will have to come back to when we fully review the HTC One mini 2.

READ: HTC One mini 2 vs Motorola Moto G: What's the difference?

The elephant in the corner is price, which HTC is yet to declare. With the Motorola Moto G (in its new 4G version) being closely matched in specs, we suspect the One mini 2 will come across as too expensive.

At the other end of the scale, there's the impressive Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. That's going to be more expensive, but it offers all the power of a flagship device, without some of the compromise found in this mid-range device.

The HTC One mini 2 faces more of a challenge than it did in 2013, with stronger rivals. We'll bring you a full review in the coming weeks.



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