March 6, 2013

HTC HD MINI


While everyone else has given up on Windows Mobile, HTC is still striving to keep it alive with handsets such as the new HD mini. It's basically a scaled down version of the HD2, the HD mini packs in a lot of features in a smaller design. But will that be able to overcome its biggest hurdle - the outdated Windows Mobile operating system? Let's find out. 



Bundle 
  • HTC HD mini
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Stereo Headset
  • Quick Start Guide
Design & Construction

HTC has been making some really great looking phones for some time now. It started with the HTC Diamond and ever since, their designer team has been on a roll, producing one good looking phone after another. The HD mini is no exception; it has that simple yet sophisticated and extremely classy design of the phones that came before it. 



The front of the phone is completely flat, devoid of any physical buttons. On the top you will see a strip of chrome with the power button in it that drops down to a wide earpiece. Below you will see the 3.2-inch touchscreen display and right below the display the touch sensitive buttons. The entire front surface is covered by a glass panel.



On the left side of the phone is a long volume control button that is synonymous with other HTC designs. On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom is a micro USB port. Turn the phone around and you will notice the large screws holding the phone together poking through the rear cover. On the top is the camera lens with the loudspeaker grille right beside it. Unfortunately, the loudspeaker location is not well thought out as it tends to get completely blocked when you place the phone on a surface, almost halving its output.





The sides and the rear are actually part of the large battery cover for the phone. Unlike most other phones the battery cover on the HD mini is not just a small panel. It's more like a large jacket and the phone actually sits inside it, covering its sides and the rear. The edges of the cover extend slightly beyond the display, so even when you keep it upside down the phone rests on the edges of the cover instead of on the display. 



To remove the cover you have to hold on to the phone with the help of the chrome strip at the top and then gently pull out the cover. The cover is not black as it might seem in pictures but a dark shade of brown. It also has a nice rubberized texture to it, which feels great to hold.


The real surprise, however, rests below the battery cover. Underneath the svelte exterior lies a bright yellow-colored body that would make most people go "What the..." the first time they open the battery cover. Also, most phones don't look so good with their battery covers removed, but on the HD mini you can clearly see that HTC took some effort to make sure that that the HD mini looks as good with the cover off as it does with it on.

The build quality of the phone feels mostly solid, however, there is a bit of flex from the battery cover, especially towards the top. Also, the cover does seem like it may pop out if the phone were to fall down. 

Display

The HTC HD mini comes with a 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, capable of displaying 65k colors, which is limited by the operating system. Despite the color limitation the display on the HD mini does look quite good. Colors are vibrant and images look sharp with good resolution. Unfortunately though, the display washes out considerable outdoors under the sun but it remains readable.

The touch response on the HD mini was very good. Unlike most Windows Mobile phones the HD mini uses a capacitive touchscreen that responds better to touch. Multi-touch is also supported on the phone and you can use pinch to zoom gesture in the browser, image gallery as well in Google Maps.


UI & Applications

The HTC HD mini runs on Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional. To make this now completely outdated operating system more usable, HTC has gone to great lengths to produce and refine their Sense UI. What the Sense UI does is, it basically covers up the mess of Windows Mobile by offering most of its functions to the user in a simplified and much better looking interface.

HTC has done a remarkable job with the Sense UI so much so that today if anyone wants to buy a Windows Mobile phone then they should look no further than those from HTC. Having said that you cannot always stay in the wonderland that HTC has created and will sooner or later come face to face with the real Windows Mobile, and that is when things could get ugly.

The interface runs pretty smoothly most of the times but sometimes there are these moments when it stutters. It seems the phone is doing something in the background but has a hard time keeping it in the background. You usually know what it is up to when the phone suddenly slows down for a couple of second. This also affects music playback, which stutters at times during playback, even when you are not doing anything. This problem was not solved even after updating the ROM to the latest version. 

 



The HD mini comes with a good deal of applications pre-installed. There are two browsers, Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile. For office work, the phone has Microsoft Office, with Excel Mobile, Word Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile and OneNote Mobile. It can create as well as open documents. For mail there is Outlook and for PDFs there is Adobe Reader. Then there's also Facebook, YouTube and Google Maps application pre-installed. You also get HTC's Peep for Twitter, but it's pretty basic.

In multimedia, you have the Windows Media Player and HTC's own music player. Audio Booster app increases the volume and the MP3 trimmer lets you trim your audio files to create ringtones. The HD mini also comes with FM radio built-in.

As with every Windows Mobile 6.5 device, the HD mini also comes with Windows Marketplace pre-installed. Unfortunately, the choice of applications available is very poor and considering the fact that Windows Mobile is now dying, you are not going to see any growth in the number of apps anytime soon.


Connectivity

The HTC HD mini is a quad band GSM handset with dual band HSPA (7.2 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload). You also get Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth v2.1+EDR and A-GPS.

The call quality and network reception were both satisfactory on the HD mini. The loudspeaker was also powerful but you will need to keep the phone upside down so that you don't muffle the loudspeaker. HTC has put in some nifty features in the phone, such as the ability to increase the volume of the ringer when it detects it is inside a bag and automatically reducing the volume of the ringer when it detects that it has been picked up.

Another cool feature of the phone is the ability to use the phone as a Wi-Fi router. You can then connect a laptop or any mobile device with Wi-Fi on it to connect to the phone, which in turn will connect to the EDGE or 3G connection. 
Multimedia

The HTC HD mini has a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus. Unfortunately, there is no flash for the camera nor is there any dedicated shutter button. To control the camera you have to use the on-screen button.

The camera interface is good. It uses large buttons with clearly marked functions. The camera also has touch to focus, so you can tap anywhere on the screen to focus on that point. The camera automatically focuses when you move the camera around. Once you know that the camera has focused, you press the shutter button on the screen to take a picture. This may not go down well with some people as it does not give you full control of the camera.

The image quality wasn't quite impressive. The colors were good but the details were average. The focusing usually was only at one point in the frame where it would look sharp whereas the rest of the frame would appear a bit blurred. There were also a lot of blown highlights in brightly lit conditions. There was also a fair amount of chromatic noise in the images. For a phone in this price range the image quality was below average.

The HD mini also records videos in VGA resolution, however, at 24FPS and not at 30FPS as advertised. You only get 30FPS if you drop the resolution to CIF or QVGA resolution. The video quality was decent but there was an occasional stuttering in the videos.

The music player in the HTC Sense UI is pretty decent. You also have a 3.5mm headphone jack to connect your headphones to the phone. The bundled headset is also pretty decent and is one of the better ones that I've seen of the non in-ear variety. The audio quality of the phone itself is pretty good and it can also get pretty loud. The loudspeaker is also quite powerful but as mentioned before it tends to get muffled when you keep the phone on a surface. 

There is an issue with the volume control system with the music player. It is seperate from the default volume control of Windows Mobile and as such is only accessible in the music player's (or FM radio) interface. Elsewhere you get the standard volume control which has far fewer levels (five) than the one in the music player (fifteen). So if you want finer control over the volume you will have to go to the music player's interface every time.

The video player on the HD mini does not support DivX/Xvid playback, although I'm not really surprised. In comparison, the Samsung Wave support files in the MKV format in 720p resolution and is cheaper than the HD mini.


Battery Life 


I wasn't particularly impressed with the battery life. On a full charge the phone barely lasted me one day and this despite the fact that I did not browse the Internet as much as I usually do due to some network issue. Even the calls were fewer than usual. The display brightness was set at auto mode, although I noticed that the HD mini tends to use a slightly brighter setting at auto mode than most phones. It looks good but it obviously drains more power. I did not even have any mail client set up in the background nor any apps running. As such the battery life was quite low considering the usage.


Verdict


The HTC HD mini is priced at Rs. 21,500. At that price you get a phone with a good design and display, but running an outdated operating system, average battery life and poor camera. The phone has a tendency to get bit sluggish at times for reasons that aren't very clear and video playback is quite sad. As such, the 21k price tag is just not justified.

You would be better off spending slightly more and getting the HTC Legend, which is better in almost every way. Or you can opt for the cheaper Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini pro, which is pretty awesome as well. The HD mini's biggest flaw is the operating system it is running. HTC should have just put Android on this phone. That way I could have recommended it to at least someone.

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