The first thing you will notice about the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini is that it’s not as miniature as you might expect. In fact, the device is around the same size as the iPhone 5, and in everyday terms we would not consider it a small smartphone. However, the S 4 Mini is definitely dwarfed compared to super-sized handsets like the Sony Xperia Z, HTC One and the original Galaxy S 4, and of course those enormous phablet devices.
The Galaxy S 4 Mini has taken the design style and some features of its bigger brother, the Samsung Galaxy S 4, but it boasts a cheaper price tag, making this ideal for those who hate enormous mobiles or can’t afford a premium handset, but want to see what the fuss is all about.
Less is not always more
If you’re considering the Galaxy S4 Mini you need to be aware, this handset does not have the same specs as its big brother crammed into a smaller shell. As well as less screen real estate, you also get less power and less storage.
Starting with the display, the Galaxy S 4 Mini has a 4.3-inch AMOLED display compared to the 5-inch display of the original S 4. Despite this, the screen is really the phone’s highlight, even with the lower pixel density. It’s crisp, bright and vivid, and really bright when compared to the likes of Apple’s iPhone 5. The 540x 960 resolution may only give 256ppi but it really doesn’t matter as the screen really is stunning and detail levels are surprisingly sharp.
We tested some HD video running at 1080p and it really shone, even though 1080p resolution might be a bit of a waste on this size of device. It still shows the quality that Samsung has put into this mini device, as the colours you get from the AMOLED display really are bright and vivid.
There are two things you cannot get away from when buying a Samsung Android handset: TouchWiz, which is Samsung’s Android overlay, and Samsung Apps. TouchWiz may not be to everyone’s taste but this version is easy to use and looks great, proving easy on the eye and smooth to use. And with Samsung Apps you really are getting more compared to buying a vanilla Android smartphone. Samsung really does have some great apps like S Memo, S Voice and S Translator, the latter being the most impressive: all you have to do is speak into the app and it will transcribe what you say and present a translation for you, either in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese or Spanish. It works very well, for us mono-language people.
One thing that may confuse users is Samsung’s own versions of everything that you can get on Google. You have a Samsung apps store for downloading Samsung apps, plus the Samsung Hub which contains games, movies, music and books. This is just like the Google Play store and you will have to create an account for both if you want to use both, which is a little excessive and frustrating. None of these features detract from the smartphone, but it’s not ideal.
One of the features that Samsung has pushed heavily is the Group Play App. The idea is that if you and your friends have multiple Samsung devices, you can pair them up and play music together. This is a great idea that unfortunately requires everyone to have the latest Samsung device and all be running the latest software, something that proves quite challenging in the real world. We tested the Group Play feature with the Galaxy S 4 and the experience was not great: the pairing was easy and straight forward, but when the music played it wasn’t quite in sync and the music just didn’t sound right.
The camera is easy to use and the S4 mini features a decent 8-megapixels snapper, the images that we took produced nice colours with plenty of details and as with most modern smartphones you can easily share via Bluetooth, WhatsApp or wi-fi direct or post instantly to the various social platforms like, Twiter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. The front facing 1.9-megapizel HD camera is decent for anyone looking to take some selfies or for making video calls.
Thankfully the Galaxy S 4 Mini is really good at just being a phone as well. The call quality is great and volume was loud and clear, something you don’t always get from larger and more expensive phones like the Sony Xperia Z and even the Galaxy Note.
Performance and Battery life
The S 4 Mini’s processor is slower than its full-sized brethren’s, running a 1.7GHz dual-core processor compared to the 1.9GHz quad-core of the bigger S 4. Thankfully the S 4 Mini’s still more than powerful enough to run your apps and so on. Games looked flawless and ran really well, and the phone had no trouble with our media. It will of course age faster than the Galaxy S 4.
You also get less storage as the Galaxy S 4 Mini has 8GB of internal storage with only 5GB being made available to the user, when compared to the 16GB you get from the standard Galaxy S 4. Luckily you can add more storage via the microSD card slot, which is super easy to access: just unclip the back cover and remove the battery, and the slot is situated right next to the micro SIM card slot. Unfortunately users are no longer able to move apps over to the SD card, which could be a serious issue if you download a lot of software.
We don’t know what trickery Samsung has used, but the Galaxy S 4 Mini’s battery life is amazing. We downloaded apps, watched plenty of videos on YouTube on 4G, played games, used WhatsApp and made calls for a solid hour throughout the day, and after a full 24 hours of use the battery had only dropped by 40%. Most phones would be on their knees after that kind of punishment.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini packs a lot of S4 features in a smaller and more compact design and the screen will blow you away. If you’re tempted by the original Samsung Galaxy S 4 but you’re put off by the unwieldy design, the fact that you can comfortably use this phone one-handed should be a real turn-on.