Gigantic handsets may be surprisingly popular, but they're hardly appropriate for every smartphone user. Some of us prefer working with a more compact device, and for those customers, Motorola and Verizon have announced the new Droid Mini. The handset, a smaller variant of the Droid Ultra (and Ultra Maxx), stills packs plenty of punch. Moto calls it "compact without compromise," and while there's clearly less screen real estate here than on the larger Droids, it does look like a pretty compelling package.

For all intents and purposes, the Mini is a refresh of last year's Droid RAZR M. As expected, the phone packs a 4.3-inch display which, like the RAZR M, its nearly edge-to-edge. Though the Droid Mini retains nearly the same diminutive dimensions as the RAZR M, its overall impression is not as slick-looking. That's due to the glossy, unibody design (still Kevlar) Motorola's opted for on the Mini. Not everything's remained the same, though: the Mini distances itself from the past with a resolution bump to 1,280 x 720, although it reps a TFT display -- not the AMOLED of the Droid Ultra and Maxx.

Motorola Droid Mini hands-on

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Brace yourself for the sort of marketing fluff we're accustomed to seeing from the likes of Samsung. The Droid Mini is infused with the same load of features as its bigger brothers, the Ultra and Maxx, and it even shares the same processor arrangement, something Motorola's calling X8. In more layman's terms, that translates to 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm 8960 Pro CPU, a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU and two additional contextual cores (one for language and the other for a range of sensors). The Mini runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and also packs 2GB of RAM, a 2,000mAh battery, support for two LTE bands (presumably for AWS-LTE), WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, plus NFC. So how does all of that trickle down into actual performance? Well, you certainly won't want for more speed. The Mini is fast and it's immediately noticeable in the briskness of homescreen navigation to app drawer access and all the way to the smoothness with which it launches apps.

Motorola Droid Ultra, Maxx, Mini Motorola Droid RAZR HD (2012) Samsung Galaxy S 4 HTC One
Quadrant 2.0 8,775 4,982 12,684 12,495
AnTuTu 3.x 18,553 6,674 26,143 25,140
SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms) 844 1,914 772 991
CF-Bench 14,357 9,547 28,111 25,267
SunSpider: lower scores are better.

Motorola had a good thing with the proportions and design of the RAZR M and that's something the company has kept consistent in the Mini. Put simply, it just feels great to hold. Motorola's softened the Mini's body, giving its edges an all-around gentle curvature. We're confident you won't ever complain about this handset digging into your palms over the course of a long phone conversation (does anyone have those anymore?) or even an extended browsing / texting session.

Say goodbye to qHD, the Mini's got an updated face -- a 720p TFT LCD that may not have the AMOLED pop of its bigger siblings, but it looks good all the same. The combination of a smaller 4.3-inch screen size and 1,280 x 720 make for great clarity. Icons and images appear crisp and colors overall seem vibrant enough to satisfy the eyes of the mid-range customers it's being positioned towards. Up above the display, Motorola's added in a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and below are three Android capacitive buttons. Flip the device to its back and you'll find the 10-megapixel ClearPixel camera with f/2.4 (and accompanying flash) ensconced in its own metallic strip. Beneath, the Mini's emblazoned with three separate logos: the new Droid logo, a shiny, textured Motorola 'M' and, at the very base, Verizon's 'own branding.

We were only briefly able to test out a few of the new features Motorola's ushered in with this Droid series, among which there are Droid Zap, Active Display, Touchless Controls, Quick Capture and some new gestures. To launch into the camera app, all users need to do is "twist their wrist" -- that's how one Verizon rep put it. Imagine the motion of turning a doorknob... now do that with the Mini. That's how you can access the camera. Simple? Intuitive? Not really. You're probably better off just going the tried-and-true route of actually launching the camera application.

As for Droid Zap, that and Active Display are likely the two best innovations we've seen here today. With Zap, your Mini (or Ultra or Maxx) can upload any file to the cloud with a simple two-finger swipe upwards. After that, anyone within 100 meters using either of those phones or the companion app can effect a two-finger swipe down to download unlocked photos. The demo we witnessed came off without a hitch, so we have high hopes for that feature. Whereas Active Display will prompt your idle screen to wake with a icon indicating the notification type and number, further allowing a quick preview with a simple tap. It's a neat inclusion and one we're sure users will grow to love.

The Droid Mini hits Verizon's lineup just a few days after the launch of the Ultra and Maxx on August 29th for $99 on-contract. We'll have a full review of the device shortly, so stay tuned for that final verdict.

Sarah Silbert and Zach Honig contributed to this report.

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Motorola Droid Mini for Verizon hands-on (video)