The HTC One (M8) dethroned the LG G2 as Stuff’s favourite phone in the world, and it’s successfully fended off attacks from the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2. And now it’s got a smaller sibling – the HTC One Mini 2.
As well as being dinkier, its price tag will be considerably lower. So, where are the compromises?
READ MORE: HTC One (M8) review
Not flawless, but still miles ahead
One glance at the HTC One (M8) is all you need to fall in love with it, and your feelings will only get stronger when you cradle its curved aluminium body in your hands. Thanks to its shared design DNA, it’s a similar experience to the HTC One Mini 2.
Despite its smaller size, the One Mini 2 feels almost identical in weight to the One (M8), if not a little heavier. In reality, it’s actually nearly 20g lighter, so we’re putting it down to the fact that the M8 spreads its weight over a larger area.
Rub your fingers over the surfaces and you begin to notice other subtle differences. The rear plastic accents on the One Mini 2 are raised as opposed to flush, the speaker grilles feel a little rougher and more puckered, and the power and volume buttons aren't so perfectly enveloped by the chassis as they are on the One (M8).
Rather than machined to minute tolerances, its smooth, cool back panel appears to be pressed from a sheet of metal. The edges of the One Mini 2 are also plastic as opposed to metal.
You’ll only notice these small shortcomings if you search for them - which, of course, we did, because the M8 is so damn near flawless. Even getting close to that makes the One Mini 2 head and shoulders over almost all other Android smartphones.
There are some functional differences between the Mini and the M8, too. The power button has shifted to the left-hand side, which we (being predominantly right-handed) actually prefer, as it's easier to access with a right index finger. Thankfully the microSD slot hasn't had the axe, so memory should never be a concern.
The headphone jack has also moved to the top, presumably due to the fact that unlike the One (M8), the Mini has no IR blaster to fill the space.
So, while the One Mini 2 might be cheaper, it still screams class. Good job, HTC.
The One Mini 2's curved design is a stark contrast to the angular industrial appearance of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, perhaps the One Mini 2’s key rival.
Both are beautiful devices, but the Z1 Compact's slightly thicker body and rectangular shape lend it a more rugged feel. Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder and all that, but for us the HTC is the prettier device.
A smaller screen that's not actually small
The One 2 Mini isn’t as small as you might expect. Its screen is actually 4.5 inches diagonally - not far off the 4.7in of the original HTC One, substantially bigger than the 4in iPhone 5s', marginally larger than that of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, but, to be fair, substantially smaller than the 5.1in of the M8.
For many that will mean it's easier to navigate one-handed than the M8 is, although reaching the status bar could still be a slight problem if you’ve got small hands, thanks to the extra body length caused by the front-facing speakers. In fact, the One Mini 2 is almost identical in height to the LG G2, despite the G2's substantially larger 5.2in display.
As with the Z1 Compact, the One Mini 2 has a 720p resolution, and because of the smaller size you’re unlikely to notice any real difference in sharpness between it and the full HD One (M8), unless you go nose-to-screen.
Size and resolution aren’t all that matter, though - the One M8’s screen is superb beyond those simple measurement. Unfortunately the One Mini 2 falls a little short in comparison.
READ MORE: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review
Colours on the One Mini 2 appear washed out in next to the M8, although viewing angles remain excellent.
The M8 also provide superior blacks, and therefore much better contrast. This means that the M8's screen shows off more detail, while photos on the One Mini 2 look flatter by comparison.
At the other end of the spectrum, whites on the One Mini 2 are excellent, and even slightly purer than whites on the One (M8) and Z1 Compact. Colours on its Sony rival's display are a little more oversaturated, but you'll prefer the One Mini 2's screen if you're looking for a more realistic representation of colours.
The One Mini 2 also throws up sharper details than the Z1 Compact's screen, so although it can’t match its big brother for quality it is at least a match for its nearest size rival.
READ MORE: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review
Bye bye UltraPixel
Ding, dong, the UltraPixel camera is dead, at least in the One Mini 2. In its place is a 13MP sensor that, depending on your photographic proclivities, will either be a great thing or a crying shame.
Also AWOL is the M8's depth sensor, which allowed you to refocus images after shooting to impressive, creative effect. It's hardly surprising that a cut-price handset would lose such a premium feature, however, and the selfie-tastic 5MP front-facing camera is still present and correct.
We pitted the One Mini 2 against its One (M8) brother, the Z1 Compact, and the LG G2. In well-lit shots the One Mini 2 performs well, and actually outclasses the M8 in some areas, serving up more detail, especially when you crop into areas of interest.
The G2 and Z1 Compact serve up even more detail. Cropping into the Z1 Compact's 21MP photos still allowed us to distinguish individual leaves on trees, while the One Mini 2's offering proved to be a little fuzzier.
In low light conditions the One (M8) comfortably beats the One Mini 2 for detail and colour reproduction, as expected. The One (M8)'s 4MP UltraPixel camera might be best in low light, but the extra light guzzled up by its larger pixels pushes it ahead of the One Mini 2 in dim conditions.
The LG G2 also outshines the One Mini 2 in low light, thanks to its optical image stabilisation, which allows its shutter to remain open for longer, capturing more light while reducing blur.
Macro shots on the One Mini 2 are generally good, although we found that it had more trouble focusing at close range than the competition.
The One Mini 2 actually outshone the G2 when it came to taking HDR shots. Photos were exposed more evenly, showing off more detail in dark areas.
If you find yourself shooting landscape shots while you're out and about then the One Mini 2 will be the better choice against the One (M8), although its still beaten there by the G2 and Xperia Z1 Compact overall.
If you're more of a night owl, frequenting dim-lit bars and enjoying an evening stroll in town then you'll fare better with the One (M8)'s low light speciality.
Essentially the One Mini 2’s snapper is a perfectly adequate workhorse of a smartphone camera, but it’s not a specialist in any area.
Boom boom boom
HTC’s dual front-facing BoomSound speakers grace the front of the One 2 Mini, and we’re pleased to say they’re almost as rambunctious as the ones on the M8.
Their clarity is superb, and while they don’t reach quite the same volume, they still embarrass other smartphone speakers and easily drowned out our LG G2 in a sing-off.
An interface that makes sense
You can read about the goodies that HTC Sense 6.0 has to offer in our full HTC One (M8) review, and we’re pleased to report that the One Mini 2 benefits from the same class-leading functionality, layered over Android 4.4 KitKat.
That means BlinkFeed is ready to serve you up rich, customised web feeds with a simple flick of the home screen, and it looks just as smooth and slick on the One Mini 2 as it does on the M8.
There are a few cutbacks, however. The One (M8)'s excellent ability to wake up the screen with a double tap or swipe are absent. We're not sure whether that's down to the One Mini 2's less powerful innards, but we can't imagine it being too strenuous on Qualcomm's silicon, so it's a shame to see it missing.
The One (M8)'s fantastically innovative dot view case also appears to be missing for the One Mini 2, which is a real loss as it's a genuinely useful accessory which delivers notifications in a fun, yet stylish way.
Thankfully the One Mini 2 retains Sense 6.0's Extreme Power Saving Mode, which disables all but the most essential of apps, leaving messaging and email running in the background to ensure you can still communicate.
The One Mini 2 eschews the Snapdragon 801 or 805 processors of the latest flagships for a run-of-the-mill quad-core Snapdragon 400. This is the same silicon you'll find inside last year's One Mini or a new Motorola Moto G, and much less powerful than the Snapdragon 800 inside the Sony Z1 Compact.
We were hoping for a little more - something in keeping with the Z1 Compact's 'better, not bigger' mantra - particularly as it's complemented by 1GB of RAM rather than the performance-boosting 2GB or 3GB of modern flagships, making it less future-proof, on paper at least.
That said, we haven’t encountered any lag or stutter during our time spent with the One Mini 2.
We did our best to strain the processor and RAM with multiple games and apps running at the same time, but it met even the graphically demanding Asphalt 8 with open arms. Apart from the occasional slight delay in switching between apps, the One Mini 2 kept on running along smoothly, even with only a few hundred megabytes of free RAM available for use.
This is likely in part due to Android 4.4 KitKat's less strenuous system requirements, and it’s a very encouraging thing to see, paving the way for a bright future where even budget phones no longer have to compromise performance for price.
If the One Mini 2 can maintain this performance over long-term use, and if it's closer toS$400 than S$800 in price, there will be little to complain about.
Like the One (M8), the One Mini 2's 2110mAh battery is non-removable, so there's no option to swap out for an instant on-the-go power boost.
We managed to run down the One Mini 2's battery to 50%, after four hours of heavy usage. During that time, we streamed a 20 minute video and played one hour of the beautiful Room Two.
After that, we browsed Reddit, checked our emails and streamed music via Bluetooth for a solid hour, with a screen on time of around an hour and a half.
That means that the One Mini 2 should last around a day with moderate usage, but you're still looking at charging it up overnight if you don't want it to die on you before lunchtime the next day.
We’re still confirming the One Mini 2’s retail price, but we expect it'll be considerably cheaper than other Android flagships. Despite this, it offers one of the most premium examples of smartphone build quality around - a fantastic achievement on HTC's part.
Its BoomSound speakers are seriously impressive, Sense 6.0 is as pretty as ever, and its camera - while not the best we've seen overall - is more than capable, and even outshines the flagship One (M8) in specific scenarios.
We would have liked more on-paper raw power, but the performance we've seen so far suggests the Mini 2 will take on all tasks without stuttering.
Yes, the Z1 Compact remains the first and only truly no-compromise mini smartphone, thanks to its pixel-packed camera and more powerful innards, but the One Mini 2's stunning design will be very hard to resist.
READ MORE: HTC One (M8) review