Yes, you can call it Round 2 but we don't think it'll be up to the minis to sort out any unfinished business between the flagships. What we do know though is that taking the dispute to the junior league doesn't mean there'll be less pain in losing and less honor in victory.
This doesn't have to be a rerun - the minis don't necessarily have to repeat the result of the flagships. Just like smartphones don't necessarily have to be huge to have premium specs and push the limits of comfortable single-handed use to just prove a point or get noticed.
What we have here is two smartphones that try to deliver a premium experience without getting in the way of their seniors or venturing too far beyond the 4" screen diagonal. However there's a clear difference in how the two makers go about downsizing their flagships.
HTC decided in favor of screen resolution whereas Samsung skimped there. 720p is obviously better than qHD, at around 342ppi versus 256ppi in favor of the One mini. The S4 mini's 4.3-incher on the other hand is a Super AMOLED, which partially makes up for the lower resolution.
Then there's processing power where the two devices share a Snapdragon 400 chipset but the Samsung mini has the upper hand in terms of clock speed. It also gets 1.5GB of RAM against the 1GB of the One mini but more on that in the benchmarks chapter.
HTC One mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
The S4 mini goes for 8 gigs of onboard storage but offers a microSD card slot, while the One mini only has 16 gigs on tap. As to software, it's Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 either way but the One mini has the elaborate visuals of Sense 5 against the feature-packed TouchWiz on the Galaxy S4 mini.
The cameras are opposites too. The Galaxy S4 mini goes for an 8MP unit with plenty of TouchWiz bells and whistles, while the One mini has the 4MP UltraPixel camera with 2Âµm pixels, F/2.0 aperture and a wide-angle 28 mm lens. The HTC One mini has Zoe but not the optical image stabilization of its bigger brother, the full-sized One. Both devices have 1080p video recording too.
Then there's build quality and looks. Both devices traditionally reflect their manufacturer's design philosophies: the One mini looks the flagship part with its aluminum unibody, while the S4 mini goes for a hyperglazed all-plastic case, which is nowhere near aesthetically, but a user-replaceable battery and memory expansion earn it usability points.
Here are all the points neatly compiled in lists.
HTC One mini over Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
- Aluminum unibody
- Higher screen resolution
- HDR and 60fps video
- More built-in storage
- Better audio quality
- Stereo speakers with Beats audio amplifiers
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini over the HTC One mini
- Faster processor
- Higher resolution camera
- Expandable storage
- More RAM
- User-accessible battery
- NFC support
So, there's enough to compare in these two but one thing that sees them equal is the desire to fit as much of the flagships' features into more compact bodies at more affordable prices. And we love them for it. But we'll need to sort them out feature by feature, break them down to parts and pit them against each other.
The HTC One mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 mini at HQ
It's a battle in which most of you already have a side to root for, or a downright favorite. HTC and Samsung have always managed to attract different sorts of crowds and the same scenario plays out here too. In any case we're going all in over the following pages so get comfortable - next stop is the hardware checkup.
So, whether they're made of plastic or aluminum, these two devices are minis to begin with. Compact size is their main weapon in luring users away from the flagships.
At 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini clearly has the upper hand in pocketability and ergonomics. The HTC One mini is notably taller and a little thicker and wider at 132 x 63.2 x 9.3 mm. The One mini is also somewhat heavier at 122 g compared to the Samsung's 107 g.
So, while the HTC One mini is clearly the better looking phone, the Galaxy S4 mini manages to fit a screen of the same 4.3" diagonal in a more compact, body. Of course, the HTC One mini has the stereo BoomSound speakers to show for the added height.
In terms of design, both mini versions are nearly complete replicas of the respective flagship. The HTC One mini has got a wider polycarbonate frame around its sides, instead of sticking to aluminum for those too, which is the more practical solution - aluminum edges are very easy to chip and bend.
The two minis
There's nothing to visually set the Galaxy S4 mini apart from the original other than the size. The thing there is Samsung is using the same styling, which isn't that great to begin with. What the Galaxy S4 mini has to its advantage is the ultra-slim screen bezels and the overall compact size.
The hardware Home button with capacitive Menu and Back keys are the far more convenient choice compared to the two-key combo in the HTC One mini. You can still start task switcher and Google Now with double tapping and holding of the home key, that means you have one button in charge of three actions
Above and below the screen
The HTC One mini only has a pop-out SIM tray on the left side whereas the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini's removable back panel readily grants access to the battery and card slots. The Galaxy S4 mini solution is far more comfortable as it doesn't require you to carry a pin at all times to be able to exchange SIM cards.
SIM tray on the HTC One mini
The HTC One mini has lost its IR port, which on the bigger One was integrated in the power key. The S4 mini has kept the IR blaster of its bigger sibling, scoring another point for usability. Another usability problem with the HTC One mini buttons (after the capacitive keys issue) is the position of the power key. At the top of the rather long device, it is much harder to reach than on the Galaxy S4 mini, making unlocking the phone with one hand problematic on many occasions. And when you are talking a mini smartphone that's quite important.
The camera lenses are both centrally placed at the top, each with a single LED flash. The HTC One mini has a 4MP camera which HTC dubs UltraPixel technology with large 2Âµm pixels but lacks the OIS of the HTC One. The Samsung smartphone has a conventional 8MP unit, which is again a downgrade from the Galaxy S4 13MP camera.
The One mini's back feels more refined than the S4 mini one. It's a unibody design with thin plastic ridges across the subtly curved cold aluminum casing. The HTC mini just feels better to hold in hand.
On the back
The hyperglaze finish could well be one of those things that work better on a larger scale. It does make the Galaxy S4 mini look like just another glossy plastic midrange smartphone. To be fair though, the all-plastic construction doesn't take away from the build quality - the Galaxy S4 mini is well put together and quite durable in the long run.
Not that the HTC One mini has given us reasons to doubt its build either. The HTC One mini is overall more refined and mature. Plus, having the speakers up front does make a difference in terms of sound experience.
Held in hand
However, the Samsung mini gets extra points for convenience. It has a removable battery and expandable storage via a microSD card slot. Not that the HTC mini's shorthanded with 16 gigs of storage, but a microSD slot offers more than just memory expansion. The battery backup is perhaps even more important in some scenarios and even the IR port is worth having in your daily driver of a device so we give the nod again to Samsung's Galaxy S4 mini.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. Both devices have their strong points which at first glance balance out very well - HTC's One mini has the more conveniently located speakers, and the superior finish and looks, while the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini is the far more practical unit with a compact body, expandable storage, user-accessible battery and an IR blaster.
Had it remained like this we would have called it a draw, but the awkwardly placed power key on the One mini and the two key capacitive combo lost further points for the HTC smartphone. And the fact that a 32GB version isn't available make the lack of expandable storage even more problematic so we have to call this one in favor of the Samsung. A real shame considering how beautiful the One mini is.