How do HTC and Samsung's miniature flagships measure up?
The vast number of mid-range Android devices on the market means there's no shortage of choice for those wanting a smaller, less expensive handset. This year, both HTC and Samsung have fielded "mini" versions of their popular high-end offerings in this form factor, both with 4.5-inch displays and similar hardware loadouts.
As is the case at the high end, HTC and Samsung's mid-level offerings reflect the differences in the two companies' approaches to smartphone design. HTC leads with a flashy metallic chassis and carefully considered software; Samsung is all about expandability and features — what the phone can do more than how it looks.
Hardware and build quality
The HTC One Mini 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini mostly stick to the design language of their larger, more premium siblings. So in a repeat of that great smartphone rivalry, it's a question of plastic versus metal, aesthetics versus features, removable stuff versus... slightly less removable stuff.
Plastic versus metal, aesthetics versus features, removable stuff versus... slightly less removable stuff.
Externally, the One Mini 2 is clearly the better-looking, more premium-feeling handset. Though its metal casing doesn't extend all the way around its sides, it's clearly a classier phone than Samsung's all-plastic effort — at least on the outside. The GS5 is lighter and a little grippier, with its textured plastic rear, but it's nowhere near as eye-catching as HTC's aluminum.
The trade-off? From a functional perspective, Samsung's battery is removable, whereas HTC's is fixed (both weigh in at 2,100mAh, for what that's worth.) So there's the potential to swap out a fresh battery in the GS5 Mini, or replace it if it eventually fails.
The GS5 Mini also offers an array of features you won't find in the One Mini 2, water resistance being the most useful. The home key also incorporates a fingerprint scanner for biometric security on your lock screen, or when making PayPal payments. And around the back there's a heart rate monitor, which works with the bundled S Health app.
With 4.5-inch displays, both handsets fit similarly in the hand — there's basically no difference in width between the two, though HTC's front-facing speakers make its phone noticeably taller, while also shifting the screen up slightly. The pay-off is significantly louder, bassier audio from the HTC device. Samsung's rear-mounted speaker isn't especially bad, but it can't match HTC's BoomSound.
The displays themselves are both 1280x720 resolution panels, but differ greatly in terms of their technology. HTC uses an LCD, whereas Samsung's opted for its home-grown SuperAMOLED. Text appears sharper on the One Mini 2 on account of its RGB subpixel matrix, compared to the GS5 Mini's diamond PenTile arrangement. For most users it'll be a subtle difference, but look closely at text on the GS5 Mini and you'll see signs of jagged edges in on-screen fonts. Whites also appear cleaner on the One Mini 2, whereas the GS5 gives them a very slight yellowish hue.
Both panels use artificial contrast enhancement to give colors a bolder, punchier appearance — the One Mini 2 more so than the GS5, based on viewing color charts on the devices. That said, Samsung's SuperAMOLED produces considerably more vibrant colors without looking excessively over-processed. By contrast, the One Mini 2's colors appear pretty washed-out compared to most modern smartphone displays. Samsung also offers a super-high brightness mode which engages in very bright sunlight to make things more visible, though at the cost of overall image contrast.
As for which one is more pleasing to look at... In our opinion that'd probably be the GS5 Mini's SuperAMOLED, on account of its more vibrant colors. And Samsung's use of off-screen buttons also means more of that 4.5-inch display is dedicated to your apps and content at all times.
|Category||Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini||HTC One Mini 2|
|Dimensions||131.1 x 64.8 x 9.1 mm||137.43 x 65.04 x 10.6mm|
|Colors||Shimmery White, Charcoal Black, Copper Gold, Electric Blue||Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, Amber Gold|
|Display||4.5-inch HD (720 x 1280) Super AMOLED||4.5-inch HD (720 x 1280) LCD|
|CPU||Quad-core processor at 1.4GHz||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core at 1.2 GHz|
|Platform||Android 4.4 with TouchWiz||Android 4.4 with HTC Sense 6|
|Internal Storage||16GB + microSD up to 64GB||16GB + microSD up to 128GB|
|Camera||Rear: 8.0MP with LED Flash
Front: 2.1MP (FHD)
|Rear: 13MP, BSI sensor with f/2.2 lens
Front: 5MP, BSI sensor
|Video||1080p, 30fps||1080p, 30fps|
|Value-added features||IP67 Dust and Water Resistant, Ultra Power Saving mode, S Health, Private Mode/Kids Mode||HTC BoomSound, HTC BlinkFeed, HTC Zoe Video Highlights, Extreme Power Saving Mode|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC (LTE ver. only), Bluetooth® v4.0 LE, USB 2.0, GPS, IR Remote||3.5mm stereo audio, NFC, Wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, HTC Connect, microUSB 2.0, GPS|
|Battery||2,100mAh removable||2,100mAh non-removable|
Performance and battery life
Outside of benchmarks, there's little difference in performance.
Both phones run quad-core CPUs at 1.4GHz, using ARM's Cortex A7 cores. However these are contained within different SoCs. Samsung uses its own Exynos design, which pairs it with an ARM Mali 400 MP GPU; HTC uses an off-the-shelf Snapdragon 400, with a Qualcomm Adreno 305 GPU. The One Mini 2 is loaded up with 1GB of RAM — about the minimum we'd expect even for an entry-level handsets — while Samsung totes a roomier 1.5GB.
In day-to-day usage, there's really not a whole lot to tell these two apart. Both perform well enough — there's a tangible difference compared to the top-level Android flagships, but neither really feels slow. It takes synthetic benchmarks to tell the two apart in any perceptible way.
|Benchmark||Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini||HTC One Mini 2|
|Antutu CPU integer||2084||1792|
|Antutu CPU float-point||1661||1446|
|Antutu 2D graphics||1519||1030|
|Antutu 3D graphics||5052||5348|
|GFXBench Manhattan 1080p Offscreen||N/A||104|
|GFXBench T-rex 1080p Offscreen||369||326|
Overall the GS5 Mini, with its extra RAM and speedier GPU, scores a little higher, but it's not a landslide victory. The most interesting difference between the two is graphical performance — the Mali 400 MP of the GS5 Mini appears to outperform the One Mini 2's Adreno 305 in most graphical benchmarks, though the lack of support for OpenGL ES 3.0 in the older Mali chip may limit its potential in newer titles.
When it comes to battery life, we've found in real-world use that both handsets keep going for about the same amount of time — a solid 16 hours of moderate use on LTE and Wifi, of which around four were spent with the screen on.
In synthetic benchmarks the GS5 Mini pulls ahead once again, scoring 322 minutes compared to the One Mini 2's 237 minutes in the GFXBench battery test, which loops the T-rex demo continuously. The GS5 Mini produced a lower performance score during the battery test, though — 522 versus 614 — and considering that the GS5 won in our initial run of this demo sequence, this suggests thermal throttling may have contributed to the GS5's higher battery life score.
Software and features
The HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini both run Android 4.4.2 KitKat, though it's topped with two radically different UIs. Samsung's TouchWiz is all about bright colors and an ever-expanding feature set, while HTC's Sense is a little more reserved and considered — and in our opinion, the better-looking of the two. TouchWiz is perfectly functional, but HTC's UI seems more thoughtfully designed, and more enjoyable to use as a result.
Samsung's mini retains more features from its flagship phone.
Samsung has arguably retained more of the headline features of its flagship phone, however. Aside from the previously mentioned fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor, the GS5 Mini's S Health app can make use if the built-in pedometer — a feature missing from the One Mini 2. In fact, the HTC device doesn't really have any bundled health features to speak of. Same deal with the inbuilt IR blaster, which works with Samsung's Smart Remote app.
Elsewhere, you'll find a labyrinthine layout of features and settings on the GS5 Mini — some useful, some less so. We've already gone over the vast array of TouchWiz features in our Galaxy S5 Mini review — basically, the vast majority of GS5 features of consequence have made it across.
HTC brings its core experience with a couple of notable exceptions.
Over on the HTC side, the core experience is there — the BlinkFeed home screen launcher, HTC's Zoe video highlight features and a selection of themes with which you can customize the UI, and the optional Zoe Beta app for sharing your creations on the web. But there's some fairly significant stuff missing. There's no IR blaster, and thus no Sense TV app. And the One Mini 2 doesn't support Motion Launch, HTC's method for unlocking the phone with a double-tap or swipe. Neither is a deal-breaker, but both take the user experience further away from what's available in HTC's flagship.
Ultimately, it's a question of style versus functionality. Everything in HTC's Sense 6 UI is incredibly polished and attractive — and fast to boot, thanks to HTC's legendary touch responsiveness. But there's no denying that the GS5 Mini is a phone that can do more out of the box.
On paper the HTC One Mini 2 would seem to have the advantage when it comes to mobile photography — a 13MP BSI sensor behind an f/2.2 lens, compared to the 8MP sensor of the GS5 Mini, with f/2.4. In reality, things are weighted in favor of the Samsung device.
The Galaxy S5 Mini produces photos with less visible noise, brighter, more accurate colors and wider dynamic range. HTC's 13-megapixel unit isn't bad for a mid-range device — and with its wide-angle lens, you'll capture a wider view of your scene, too — but overall Samsung just produces better-looking photos. And it's a similar story when it comes to video, with footage from the HTC One Mini 2 appearing more washed-out than video from the GS5 Mini.
Unfortunately, neither device performs well in low light — HTC's mini produces dark, noisy images, whereas Samsung's software stabilization mode results in brighter but much softer shots, lacking in fine detail.
That said, selfie enthusiasts should take into account the HTC One Mini 2's 5-megapixel front-facer — the same sensor as the HTC One M8 behind a different lens — which is one of the better front cameras we've used.
The bottom line
Like the full-sized phones upon which they're based, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 are vastly different handsets. HTC maintains its focus on design in terms of both hardware and software, while Samsung continues to expand its ever-growing feature set while fielding a less striking smartphone design.
And the choice between these two miniatures comes down to what's more important to you. On the Samsung side of the fence you get water resistance, a wide array of health features, IR remote controls, a decent camera, and biometric security — packaged together in a rather ho-hum plastic rectangle.
The HTC Mini 2 is our preference, but it's not the right phone for everyone.
Choose HTC and you'll enjoy a premium metal design, boomy front-facing speakers, quicker touch responses and genuinely enjoyable stuff like HTC BlinkFeed and Zoe video highlights. Less to do, perhaps, but then there's the old quality versus quantity argument. For roughly the same price — mid-£300s, depending on where you go — you'll get one of two very divergent smartphone experiences.
If you forced us to choose, we'd probably go for the HTC One Mini 2, mainly due to the build quality and a general preference for HTC's Sense over Samsung's TouchWiz. But that's not to say the Mini 2 is the right phone for everyone. If water resistance, health features and a better camera are important, then the GS5 Mini is definitely worth a look. In addition, we'd recommend you take a look at Sony's impressive Xperia Z1 Compact, also lurking around this price.
Do you own an HTC One Mini 2 or Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini? Share your thoughts down in the comments!