HTC One mini vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini: Young guns

GSMArena team, 14 Nov 2013.
 

Tags: Samsung, HTC, Android

Introduction

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 2µm 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
  • Cheaper
  • User-accessible battery
  • NFC support
  • Lighter

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.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
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.

Hardware comparison

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.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
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

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
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.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
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.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
The top

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 2µm 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.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
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.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
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 beautifu

Screen

Even though reduced in size, a screen has to represent the phone in a manner worthy of its price tag and market position. So let’s get to it – how do the two minis fare in the display department.

On paper, the HTC One mini is the clear winner – it’s an HD unit of 1280 x 720 resolution resulting in around 342 pixels per inch, meaning you won’t discern individual pixels with a naked eye from a normal viewing distance. The Super LCD2 is also a proven name and we loved it on the 4.7″ HTC One X.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini goes for the same 4.3″ diagonal but lowers the resolution to qHD (540 x 960) which amounts to around 256 ppi, meaning it’s not quite as sharp, but the Super AMOLED panel gives it an edge in other aspects of the image quality. The Galaxy S4 screen has naturally superior contrast to any LCD and offers more vibrant colors with more saturation. It also features Samsung’s screen modes settings that let you tune down the effect and get the natural and realistic looks of the LCD screens.

HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini HTC One mini Vs Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
Both screens side by side

Despite being an AMOLED unit the screen on the Galaxy S4 mini isn’t using a Pentile matrix but instead goes for a somewhat unorthodox RGB. Check out the pixel arrangement below. The HTC One mini has the same pixel arrangement as its 1080p brother but pixels are larger, while the S4 mini uses the pixel arrangement of the Galaxy Note II.

HTC One mini reviewSamsung I9190 Galaxy S4 Mini Preview
HTC One mini • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini

We come up comes to the more scientific analysis part of the screen test. The Galaxy S4 mini has all-natural blacks but the HTC One mini doesn’t do too bad either. Speaking of which, brightness is way superior on the HTC One mini, which is mainly due to the LCD technology – AMOLEDs tend to be a little dimmer to preserve power.

Contrast on the Super AMOLED is practically infinite, but the HTC One mini isn’t doing too bad for the LCD league either.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung I9195 Galaxy S4 mini 0 166 0 396
HTC One mini 0.15 177 1197 0.5 685 1361

Next up is the sunlight legibility test. What you need to know before we continue is that AMOLEDs have a tendency to be less reflective than LCD’s because they have one less layer to worry about. This helps the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini take the victory and despite its lower native brightness.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini 3.127
  • HTC One mini 2.003

Winner: HTC One mini (only just). The large resolution advantage helped the HTC smartphone to victory here. It found itself trailing in terms of contrast, sunlight legibility and color reproduction, but differences aren’t too large there so they couldn’t turn this one around. Feel free to disagree if you do more video watching than web browsing though.

Battery life

Battery life is one of the most important aspects of a smartphone, and one that we watch very closely. The HTC One mini is powered by a 1800mAh Li-Po unit against a 1900mAh Li-Ion unit in the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini.

Let’s see how the devices did at talk time. The HTC One mini managed a little over 12 hours while the Galaxy S4 mini got an hour and 6 minutes more for a total of 13:10 hours of talking. A clear win for the Samsung mini here.

Talk time

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini 13:10
  • HTC One mini 12:04

In web browsing, the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini once again outdid its rival with 9:47 hours against 8:12.

Web browsing

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini 9:47
  • HTC One mini 8:12

Watching hours of video seems more of a task for those full-HD 5″ flagships but if you want to test out the minis we’ve got you covered. This is a shameful defeat for the HTC One mini – it managed 7:23 hours against the impressive 13:12 hours straight for the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini.

Video playback

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini 13:12
  • HTC One mini 7:23

Adding the numbers up and factoring in stand-by efficiency gets a decisive victory for the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini in the battery life test, with an endurance rating of 54 hours. What this means is you can count on more than two full days and then some between charges if you do an hour of calling, browsing and watching video daily.

HTC One mini review

The HTC One mini didn’t have the best of times here, its rating of 40h not nearly good enough to compete with the Galaxy S4 mini. And to make matters worse the Galaxy S4 mini offers a user-replaceable battery so you can carry a spare unit or easily replace your original one when it starts to degrade.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. Not only did it complete a clean sweep in the individual challenges, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini downright trashed the HTC One mini when it came to the overall rating. And that user-replaceable battery also played in its favor   

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