Naming a mid-range handset after its high-end counterpart has become something of a trend this year, with several firms following the lead set by Samsung at the end of 2012. While the Korean firm has recently unveiled the Galaxy S4 Mini, HTC has scaled-down its flagship to create the HTC One mini. So how do the two Android devices stand up against each other?
Each handset has a slim and compact form factor that fits well in one hand and can be stowed away with ease. The HTC One mini is slightly taller, giving it a more slender appearance than Samsung’s offering, but both devices are an excellent size that is more manageable than a 5-inch high-ender.
However, where HTC’s device feels fantastic in the hand, Samsung’s is a little plasticky and lacks the aura of quality. The One mini has a much more premium feel and sturdier build quality, with the aluminium backplate making it feel more expensive than it actually is. Samsung’s device benefits from a removable backplate and space for a microSD card, but overall it is the HTC than wins in physical terms.
Samsung has done a good job of building a quality display into its mid-range handset and while the screen can be a little dull even on full brightness it is nevertheless clear and crisp. One big bonus is the colour reproduction, which makes the UI and images shown on screen look bold and distinctive.
However, HTC has pulled another trick out of the hat and included an outstanding display with the One mini that is incredibly bright without being brash at all. The screen emits a cool light that doesn’t tire the eyes but makes anything shown on it look impressive.
Showing the same high-quality video clip on each yields markedly different results, and while colours certainly come out well on the S4 Mini the performance of the HTC is a step above that of its competitor.
The user interface that Samsung has used on its most recent high-enders makes the jump to the S4 Mini and brings a stylish look to the Android software that is very appealing. While Jelly Bean features an incredible number of control options, and Samsung adds even more of its own on top, they are arranged in a way that is very easy to navigate.
With a detailed notifications bar and plenty of homescreens to play with, the S4 Mini can boast one of the best user interface’s around. However, the gesture-based controls that were seen on the Galaxy S4, such as Air View and Smart Pause, are not in place here, and it would have been excellent to see them.
HTC takes a different approach, putting a heavy skin on Android that sees news and social updates pulled through to the homescreen by the BlinkFeed feature. This may not suit everyone, but it brightens up the mid-range device and brings it to life.
One interesting point to compare between the two devices is the photo galleries, with HTC’s offering being made up of a grid of thumbnails which animates and comes to life. In contrast, Samsung’s gallery is static and doesn’t have the same vibrancy, a point where it falls down a little.
Neither of these handsets features the kind of 13 megapixel monster cameras seen on modern high end handsets, but their capabilities do befit their mid-range price-point. The same UltraPixel camera seen on the HTC One makes its way to the One mini, while the S4 Mini features an 8 megapixel offering that is capable of excellent results.
Photos from the Samsung come out with a little more contrast while those from the HTC are brighter, and they certainly benefit from being shown on the bright display. The S4 Mini sees the inclusion of the excellent wheel-like menu system seen on the Galaxy S4, making its easy to switch between presets and effects, but the extent of its extra features is limited.
On the other hand, HTC has moved its Zoe suite to the One mini wholesale, allowing users to capture short clips and pick out individual frames, editing specific parts of the image as you go. This functionality is impressive on the high-end HTC One and is even more so on its mid-range cousin, with the dual-core 1.4GHz processor being more than up to the task.
The Galaxy S4 Mini certainly stands as a reasonable mid-range handset that would be an excellent choice for anyone who wants to steer away from the large, expensive high-end flagships. However, it is beaten on almost every count by the HTC One mini, an outstanding device with power and features far beyond its price range. HTC’s handset is stylish, has excellent camera features and an outstanding display, making it the best mid-range Android option on the market right now.