Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini is smaller version of the famous flagship

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
  • +

    Water resistant

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  • +

    colourful screen

  • +

    Lots of tech

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Average battery life

  • -

    Divisive design

  • -

    Small virtual keyboard

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Liked the Samsung Galaxy S5 but found it just too big to handle? Maybe smaller is better! Fnd out in our Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

There's a trend, now that phones have tended to the hefty, that manufacturers follow their flagship blowers with smaller versions that will suit smaller hands. When they launch them the makers say, actually always say, that they have not cut any corners with their new, diddier device.

But usually they have. So is Samsung's story any different with its new Galaxy S5 Mini?

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Size and build

Well, it's certainly smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S5, so it lives up to its name. And it looks very like the bigger model with the perforated-effect back and shiny metallic-effect edging that was introduced on the S5 earlier this year. Of course, if you don't like it on the bigger phone, and many don't, you wonít adore it here.

Although the Galaxy S5 isn't as finger-stretching as some larger-screened phones, thanks mostly to its slim profile and just-right curved back, the S5 Mini feels much more manageable - indeed it feels great as you hold it. It's absolutely usable with just one hand, unlike many big blowers.

Design-wise, this is absolutely a Mini-Me of the S5. This is in contrast to, say, the HTC One M8 whose smaller sibling - the HTC One Mini 2 - has a plastic edge against the bigger phone's metal one. True, the plastic bit is well-disguised so that you don't feel it too much but it's still a less high-end build.

Here, the design is near-identical. Which is handy, unless you didn't fancy the bigger one either.
The phone's measurements are 131.1 x 64.8 x 9.1 mm and it weighs 120g so it's light as well as reasonably sized.

It's not as svelte as the iPhone 5s, say, but at these dimensions it's not as important to be super-slim. And the company has come up with four colours: white, black, blue and gold or to be precise in Samsung-speak, Charcoal Black, Shimmery White, Electric Blue and Copper Gold. So there you are.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Features

It's usually in the features department that smaller phones reveal their inferiority, but there's not much sign of that here. First of all, the S5 Mini is water- and dust-resistant, just like the bigger model. The relevant statistic is the Ingress Protection rating which here is IP67.

The first figure refers to dust resistance - six is the highest rating there is - and the second to water-resistance. Seven is good, and protects against immersion in water between 15cm and 1m for half an hour.

But there is also a higher rating, eight, which means your phone will survive in water under pressure for long periods. The Sony Xperia Z2, for instance, reaches this waterproof level.

Still, IP67 is good. And the S5 Mini beats the S5 in one crucial area: there's no annoying flap over the microUSB socket on the S5 Mini. Hurrah! And it still doesn't let the water in. This is a rare example of a smaller, cheaper phone offering something better than the bigger flagship. The headphone socket is also flapless but waterproof, as on the S5.

Many other hardware features of the S5 are replicated on the S5 Mini. In fact, apart from screen resolution and camera sensor, the S5 Mini keeps up with the S5 pretty well. The processor speed is lower here, too, but fewer pixels and a smaller screen mean that's not really an issue.

So you might have expected the heart rate monitor, which sits next to the camera flash on the back of the phone, to be absent from the S5 Mini. But no, it's still here and works just as well: rest your finger on it, launch the S Health app, sit still and a few seconds later you find out your heart rate.

And the infra-red blaster on the S5? Surely that's been elided here? No, it's there on the top edge, ready for you to use the phone as a handy and EPG-friendly TV remote.

The fingerprint sensor is intact on the S5 Mini, too. It's still not as seamless as on the Apple iPhone 5s where you simply rest your finger or thumb on the Home button. Here you stroke the button which is a less intuitive action. But it works well and its PayPal compatibility is a stroke (sorry) of genius.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Display

Okay, so it's not a full HD screen on the Mini, but the 720p display is still impressive. Since itís a 4.5-inch screen the need for 1080p isn't as great as on bigger models - though the HTC One (M7) has a 4.7-inch 1080p screen and looks amazing.

This screen is bright, colourful and has the vividness that Super AMOLED offers. Samsung is king of Super AMOLED and matches software to hardware with shortcut icons, wallpapers and app choices that all make the most of the colour saturation the tech excels at. Even if this means the results are sometimes eye-searingly colourful.

Even so, it's capable of realistic and understated colours, too. The trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks spectacular on this screen, butter-smooth and rich with details in shadows and gentle skin tones. Okay, this is Hollywood-real rather than grey, rainy British afternoon real, but it's pretty fantastic.

The 720 x 1280 resolution gives a pixels per inch count of 326, the same as the iPhone's Retina display, so no wonder it looks great.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Camera

This is the other area where the specs have dropped. The 16MP camera on the S5 is replaced by an 8MP model here. Even so, that's the same as the iPhone 5s sensor resolution or indeed lots of other phones. True, the HTC One Mini 2 has a 13MP camera and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has a whopping 20.7MP sensor, so higher-resolution sensors are far from impossible.

Results are what matter and the snaps you can take on the S5 Mini are decent enough. The Samsung software is pretty advanced, especially when it comes to mimicking the scene modes found on standalone cameras. These include the Beauty Shot feature favoured on smartphones to soft-focus your portraits.

If you're a photo addict, there are better cameraphones out there, large and small, but the S5 Mini is not bad.

Note that the camera on the S5 is capable of 4K recording but that's not the case here. Still, the 1080p video looks pretty good, too.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Performance

Although the processor on the S5 Mini isn't a patch on the bigger phone, it's absolutely enough to keep the phone moving at speed whether you're playing back music or video or have a bunch of apps open at the same time.

True, the smaller virtual keyboard on the mini takes a little more care to type accurately, but, on the other hand, as it were, a little less reach is needed. Snug but usable.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Battery

The battery is smaller than on the S5 but it's enough to keep the phone going for a fullish day without problem. You will need to charge it every night, or you'll panic in the morning.

The other option is to carry a spare battery - Samsung's almost the only manufacturer that puts removable batteries in its flagships, so this is an option. And let's take note of the considerable technical accomplishment in creating a water-resistant phone with a removable back - just make sure you push it right into place.

Still, charging an extra battery is arguably even more of a faff than remembering to plug it in when you turn in.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: Verdict

This is a well-designed, powerfully specced phone that will suit all sizes of hands from the smallest to the most sausage-fingered - though the latter will need to type carefully.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 mini succeeds because it's a more widely usable size than the bigger S5, and because it cuts few corners in the shrinking process. To include a fingerprint sensor, infra-red blaster and heart rate monitor on a phone that you can splash without ruining are significant achievements. And the size and software mean that it's very pleasing to use.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini release date: Out now

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini price: £389