Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

By Pat Pilcher

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Smaller more affordable versions of flagship smartphones are all the rage and now it looks like Telecom have scored mini-me's version of Samsung's flagship phone, the Galaxy S4.

As would be expected, smaller also translates into less features. For a start the S4 Mini display in shrunk to 4.3" and S4's quad-core CPU has been replaced by dual core silicon instead.

This said, the smaller display is still incredibly vivid and the mini manages to hang onto a lot of the good stuff that made the original S4 such a success, such as NFC, Android 4.2.2 and a removable battery.

Another added benefit of its smaller size is its sheer pocketability.

Look and feel
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is almost an exact (but smaller) clone of the original Galaxy S4 that seems to forgone growth hormones back at the factory.

From its plastic body, thin bezel and the metal band on its sides, the mini is a smaller and lighter S4.

All buttons and ports are located in the same spots on the Minis chassis as with the S4. A pushbutton Home key has capacitive buttons either side.

Volume buttons and the on/off button plus headphone jack are all in the same place as the bigger S4.

Its smaller form factor also translates into considerably less heft and bulk. Weighing in at a mere 107g, the Mini is considerably lighter than the already light S4.

Its smaller form factor doesn't translate into a slimmer waistline and at 8.94mm thick, the mini is a tad chunkier than the S4.

As with its larger sibling, the Mini has a removable rear cover which cover unclips via a small gap and some fiddling about with a fingernail.

Like the larger S4, the cover feels somewhat flimsy, but when attached felt reasonably solid. Removing the cover reveals a 1,900 mAh battery, micro-SIM card slot and MicroSD card slot.

The Mini fits nicely in the hand and in use was pretty comfy to operate one handed. The plastic build is deceptive in that the mini proved considerably more durable than initial impressions would have you believe.

Having accidentally subjected it to an involuntary drop-test onto a wooden floor at home, I was pleased to see the Mini survived without a scratch (even though the floorboard received a small ding).

This said, I can't help but wonder why one of the more popular smartphones (and its mini-me counterpart) is still built out of Tupperware? Here's hoping Samsung will take a leaf out of HTCs book with the HTC One and use alloy/glass in their next release?

In Use
The most immediately noticeable difference between the S4 Mini and the full blown S4 is screen size. The S4 Mini has a 4.3" Super AMOLED 960 x 540 screen at 255 PPI.

On paper those specs might sound a bit down market, but powering up the mini reveals a bright and vivid display that was more than adequate for anything I used the Mini for.

The Mini runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean overlaid with Samsung's TouchWiz skin.

In use I found TouchWiz wasn't intrusive and didn't get in the way of the Mini's functionality.

Interface aside, I did experience one niggle, which was the absence of a notification LED. Being able to get an at-a-glance view to check for email and incoming messages is incredibly useful.

As with the full-sized S4, there is also a bunch of Samsung apps and software, I tested the Travel, S Translator and S-Voice, although both worked fine, In many instances there are better free alternatives available via Google's play store.

Given the space the Samsung apps consume, my personal preference would have been to downloaded only the apps I needed given the space they consume.

The Mini can be had in 8GB and 16GB storage versions. With the 8GB model, the Samsung software consumes 3GB, leaving you with a barely useable 5GB.

Thankfully the inclusion of a microSD slot helps, but the extra cost of a MicroSD card will be an inconvenience for many buyers.

The Mini's CPU (a 1.7GHz dual-core) delivered smooth glitch free operation.

For day to day use things ran smoothly and were pretty seamless. Helping things along is 4G LTE compatibility which will be a real boon once Telecom switch on 4G coverage. Surprisingly, gaming was also smooth and stutter free.

The S4 Mini has shrunk the S4's 13 mega pixel sensor down to a still usable 8-mega pixel sensor on the rear camera.

There's the usual plethora of shooting modes and an automatic mode can take care of settings. For more photography savvy users, there's also an expert mode so you can set exposure levels and whit4e balance levels etc.

There are also 10 other shooting modes, most of which I'd be pretty unlikely to ever use, except both the HDR and Best Shot modes which delivered impressive results.

One the video front, the Mini can capture 1080p video at 30fps, that under daylight conditions delivered good quality video.

Flipping the Mini over reveals the same 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera as found on the S4. For use with Skype it delivered great results.

The Mini sports a 1,900 mAh capacity battery, which with typical use sees the Mini just making it through a days use.

Heavier use such as intensive gaming, surfing or media consumption saw the Mini demanding quality time with the bundled charger by late afternoon. In standby however, the Mini seemed to last forever.

Verdict
All told, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini represents pretty good value for those wanting an affordable and pocketable version of the S4. Its specs mightn't be hugely exciting, but its sticker price and performance make the S4 Mini one of the better compromises between portability and performance. Good things do indeed come in small packages.

Tech Specs
RRP$ dependent on plan/term
Connectivity:2G, 3G (HSDPA), 4G
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, LE, EDR
Infrared port
NFC
Size: 124.6mm x 61.3mm x 8.9mm
Weight:107g
Display: 4.3" Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen (540 x 960 pixels, 256 ppi)
MEMORY: 8GB/16GB, microSD Card slot (up to 64GB)
CAMERA (rear) 8 Megapixel Features (Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama), (front) 1.9 MP
Video Yes, 1080p@30fps, check quality
FEATURESOS Android OS, v4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
CPU: Dual-core 1.7 GHz Krait
GPU: Adreno 305
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
BATTERY: Li-Ion 1900 mAh battery

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