Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini review

Can the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini match up to its bigger brother?

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fits great in the hand

  • +

    Nice screen

  • +

    Micro SD

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    TouchWiz is a drag

  • -

    Plastic design feels cheap

  • -

    Less features than the S4

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a smaller, more affordable version of the Galaxy S4, but does it deliver what it promises?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini has one major problem - while it may resemble the design of the South Korean company's ever popular flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S4, it's far from just a shrunken version of the same device.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini lacks the processor grunt, the sharp screen and a number of features found on its bigger brother, but can it still compete with other mid-range handsets like the HTC One Mini, Nokia Lumia 625 and to some extent, the more expensive, iPhone 5c? Read on to find out!

With the size of phone displays getting bigger by the month, it's no surprise companies are deciding to shrink everything down a bit and produce 'Mini' versions of their top-selling flagship devices.

It's fair to say that Samsung's first attempt to create one of these devices - the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, was pretty much a failure. It had an awful display, poor camera, a disappointing amount of storage and hardly deserved to be named after one of our favourite phones of 2012.

Can Samsung improve upon things this time around? In some ways yes, but there's still that lingering feeling that this device could have been so much more.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Size and build

Picking up the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, the first thing you'll notice is just how well it sits in your hand. The slightly curved rear nestles nicely into your palm, and the fact the display is only 4.3 inches means you can easily use it all with one hand. This is a nice change from the 4-7-inch to 5-inch range of displays found on devices like the HTC One, LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy S4.

While the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini sits nicely in the hand, it doesnít really feel very good. The same slimy, slippery plastic casing that was used on the full-sized Galaxy S4 is still sticking around, picking up an enormous amount of fingerprints and oily residue.

The plastic rim around the device, deceivingly trying to mask itself as metal, just adds to the budget feel of the phone.
One positive point to take from the use of plastic is its durability. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini feels like a sturdy device and one that could take a fair bit of beating before it starts to show wear and tear.

We were testing out the white model, which Samsung labels as White Frost, but there's also a black model - Black Mist. The white colour just increases the plasticky feel even more, while the black version does look a tad slicker.

Measurements-wise, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini comes in at 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.94mm, weighing just 107g. In comparison, the HTC One Mini measures 132 x 63.2 x 9.3 mm and is a touch heavier at 122g, while the iPhone 5c - which only has a 4-inch display comes in at 124.4 x 59.2 x 8.97, with a weight of 132g.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Features

Running Samsung's TouchWiz skin over Android version 4.2.2, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a far cry from the professional, slick version of the Google operating system you can find on the Nexus 4.

While TouchWiz has been toned down slightly in the past few versions, it still has that glossy sheen that makes everything look a bit childlike. Icons are ugly, the menus are basic and the annoying water droplet sound is the first thing you should turn off if you buy this phone.

One feature that we're really glad Samsung kept around is the IR blaster and WatchOn software. This is a great way to ditch your bunch of television remotes and streamline your set up with just your phone. Set up is simple and in a few clicks youíll be ready to go.

Preloaded apps like Group Play and S Translator come as standard, though none of the fitness stuff we saw on the full-sized S4 seems to have made its way across.

Smart stay - a nifty trick that keeps the screen on while you're looking at it is here, but the Smart scroll feature is not - hardly a disappointment but it does show Samsung is not fussed about cutting highlight features from the S4 on this device.

Outside of the software, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini features Wi-Fi, LTE compatibility, Bluetooth, NFC and either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage. There's also a MicroSD card slot and a removable battery so you can add extra juice.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Screen

The 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini packs a qHD resolution of 540 x 960 and for the most part is pretty impressive. As is typical with a Super AMOLED display, colours are bright and blacks are deep, though sometimes over saturation is an issue.

The overall brightness wasn't particularly impressive, so you might have to manually crank it all the way to its highest setting to get good results.

Text reproduction was a bit shoddy as well and reading web-pages was often a chore due to some fairly frequent blurriness. Videos and pictures though, look great and it can be tricky to pick out individual pixels when you're just flicking through homescreens.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Performance

Tucked inside the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, paired with 1.5GB of RAM.

The fairly generous amount of RAM makes multitasking smooth and the dual-core chip ensures using this phone is pretty much a lag-free experience - even playing high-end games like Asphalt 8: Airborne produced impressive results, with barely any slow-down or frame drops.

Phone call quality was impressive too; obviously still a vital feature for a mobile phone. While you shouldn't come here expecting Samsung Galaxy S4 levels of processor power, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is nippy and definitely no slouch.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Battery

Samsung states you should be able to get around nine hours of browsing and 12 hours of talktime on the Galaxy S4 Mini and that seems pretty accurate. If you're the sort of person who unplugs their phone at around 8am, the S4 Mini should easily last a full day's usage with a fair bit leftover.

It's also handy to know that even if you forget to pop it on charge before you fall into slumber, you'll have some left over juice in the morning.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Camera

Two cameras are present here, a rather decent 8-megapixel snapper on the back and on the front you'll find a 1.9-megapixel version. Sitting below the rear camera is an LED flash, though you probably should try and avoid ever using it.

Pictures were detailed, bright and had decent clarity - even low-light shots were perfectly acceptable and of course you've got the whole suite of camera enhancements including burst mode and shoot and sound. Video recording at 1080p was also good, though stabilisation was an issue and the captured clips often looked very shaky.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a little frustrating. It has the pieces to make it an affordable alternative to some of the gargantuan top-tier phones, but it falls short of the mark.

It's not, as the name suggest, simply a mini version of the Samsung Galaxy 4, but a completely different phone with wildly different specs and the only part that's the same is the plastic-fuelled design. The wait for a really good small screened Android phone continues.

Been won over by the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and bought one? Well check out these 7 Secret Tips for your new S4...

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini release: Out Now

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini price: £329.95