We've often said that despite all their advantages, large touchscreen phones like the iPhone 3GS, HTC Desire, or HTC HD2 are just a little too big. Were there a phone that could offer the same usability and features but in a slightly more manageable size then we'd be beating down doors to get to it. Some have come close like the HTC Tattoo, Palm Pre, or HTC Legend but none have quite found the right balance. Enter the HTC HD mini, a touchscreen phone with a 3.2in screen, great build quality, and generally compact design. With it using the generally non-finger-friendly Windows Phone 6.5 operating system, can it possibly jump to the top of our pick of small touchscreen phones? Let's find out.
As we've come to expect from HTC, the HD mini is beautifully turned out. Sure, it doesn't quite have the minimalist chic of the iPhone and we're definitely not sure about the strange 'three-point star' bolts on the back, but overall it looks classy and has a sense of understated quality. This is an impression reinforced when holding the device as its glass front and tightly fitted plastic back feels solid and very well put together. It also has a reassuring weight to it that belies its modest dimensions (104 x 58 x 12mm), though at 110g it's not actually all that heavy.
Understated and functional the outside maybe, but remove the backplate and along with slots for the SIM and microSD cards you're met with an intriguing spectacle – the insides are yellow. Along with the exposed bolt heads, HTC thinks it adds a bit of intrigue and flair to the device and we're inclined to agree. In fact, we love it! Of course, it is entirely pointless unless you make a habit of taking your phone apart in front of friends but sometimes there doesn't have to be a point to something to make one smile.
Putting the mini back together - a pleasingly simple operation compared to forcing on the flimsy backplates of some phones - and looking at the rest of the hardware, there's a power/screen-lock button and headphone jack on the top edge, and a volume rocker switch on the left edge. The bottom is home to a micro-USB data syncing and charging socket, and on the back is a 5-megapixel camera. Thanks to the phone's small size, its power button is far easier to reach than the HTC Desire's. Conversely the camera doesn't have a flash of any sort, which is very disappointing in this day and age.
The 3.2in screen is incorporated into the single piece of glass that adorns the HD mini's front. While this may not sound much smaller than the 3.5in screen of the iPhone, in practice it feels markedly smaller - around 5mm less in width and height. In general use, this doesn't feel at all restrictive but on other phones we've used, with screens of this size, the onscreen keyboards have felt cramped and more difficult to use. However, we had no such problems here and in fact found the onscreen keyboard to be excellent – a real testament to how much work HTC has put into customising the standard Windows Phone interface. Something that helps greatly in this regard is the screen's support of multi-touch, which also means you can perform the much loved pinch-to-zoom gesture in the web browser and while viewing photos.
To view, the screen is about as good as we've seen. It's bright with strong saturated colours and with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, it can pack in plenty of detail. Moreover, despite using only LCD rather than OLED technology, it has superb viewing angles and very impressive black levels making it great for the shared viewing of a video clips.