Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Review

Both HTC and Samsung have produced smaller versions of their leading edge, flagship handsets in the past, and Samsung is continuing that strategy with the Galaxy S4 Mini. The small format phone retains lots of the things that have made the Samsung Galaxy S4 so popular, but puts them in a more hand-friendly shell. While it has 4G and NFC built in, not everything has been carried over.

Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is smaller than its full-sized counterpart. Its 4.3-inch screen (versus the five-inch screen of the full-sized Samsung Galaxy S4) is just about the perfect size for reading webpages and text, and for viewing video too. Samsung has reduced the pixel count considerably though, in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S4. The 960 x 540 pixels deliver just 251ppi compared to the Galaxy S4’s 1,920 x 1080, 441ppi. That’s a shame, however, the screen is still fine in everyday use.

A smaller screen means a smaller phone, and the Galaxy S4 Mini feels very comfortable in the hand. The design is every inch Samsung, and effort has been made to mimic the button placement and general look of the larger handset. While 1080p video capture and a 1.9-megapixel front camera are retained from the original Galaxy S4 model, Samsung has reduced the main camera’s capabilities of the Galaxy S4 Mini. There are eight megapixels as opposed to 13, and fewer fancy shooting modes.

You’ve still got quite a bit of fl exibility here, though, with high dynamic range, best face, beauty face, best photo, panorama, continuous shooting and Samsung’s sound shot mode, which adds a short sound clip to photos. A couple of those modes (best face and best photo), let you select from a range of photos taken in quick succession to produce the best composite single image.

There are more instances of reduced capabilities over the Samsung Galaxy S4 in the core specifi cations. 2GB of RAM in the full-sized model is reduced to 1.5GB here and the processor is a less capable 1.7GHz dual-core model rather than a 1.9GHz quad-core. To be frank, these reductions don’t affect performance hugely. If you are experienced with quad-core processors in handsets then you will notice a defi nite slowing, but for those people upgrading to this phone, the knowledge that the S4 Mini is smooth under the fi ngers will be welcome. The RAM is still above the average of 1GB and does help for switching between multiple apps as well.

This being a Samsung handset, Android 4.2 is bolstered not only by the TouchWiz user interface but also by a huge range of add-on applications and usability tweaks. Not everything from the full-sized handset has made it across the divide, and if you want everything the Samsung Galaxy S4 has to offer then you should do a detailed comparison online to check out all that’s missing.

Notably present features include Samsung’s S Planner, S Translate, Samsung Hub, WatchON and ChatON apps, variously duplicating some Android features and offering a separate app store. These features divide opinion – whether you see them as bloat or useful is a matter of personal opinion. If you are on the bloat side then you may be disgruntled to learn that the 8GB of built-in memory is reduced to 5GB that’s user accessible, partly because of Samsung’s pre-installed apps. There’s a micro SD card slot next to the micro SIM slot under the battery for extra data storage.

Many of the gesture and motion-based features that are loved by Samsung smartphone fans have also made it into the Galaxy S4 Mini. Air gestures are absent – the ones where you hover a finger above the screen – and S Health is not here either. But you can tilt the phone for plenty of actions and the rather good Smart Stay, which knows when you are looking at the phone, is present.

In the end, then, the S4 Mini is not only smaller in size to the Galaxy S4, it is also less capable. In a sector that is proving highly competitive with some excellent handsets from HTC and Sony, the decision to go with this model may not be quite as clear cut as it is for the flagship version.