The Samsung Galaxy S4 released months ago, and given the fact that a Galaxy S3 Mini accompanied the Galaxy S3 last year, it was inevitable that we’d see a Galaxy S4 Mini, and it’s finally here! Is it a great performer? Can it fit in such a crowded market? Find out in our review.
Even at first glance, design is a no brainer — it’s the usual Samsung build here. You have the usual plastic build, rounded corners, silver spine, and even the button layout. The only difference here is that it’s been brought down to size. The Galaxy S4 Mini is a little slimmer, a little thinner, and a little shorter than the S4, making it also lighter all around.
And that’s the big difference. The 4.3-inch screen makes the entire body easy to handle in one hand, which is a very refreshing feeling compared to all of the larger devices out there. In the hand it is easy to throw around because of its light profile. If you thought idly tossing around the Galaxy S4 was particularly dangerous, you might feel more comfortable doing so with the Mini.
If you’re looking for the most comfortable device, the original Galaxy S4 is the best 5-inch handling screen, but it isn’t for everyone, and that’s where the Galaxy S4 Mini.
As for the display, both the Galaxy S4 Mini and original Galaxy S4 are Super AMOLED panels with the usual high saturation and contrast. The Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch screen capable of 1080p, rated at 441ppi. A larger screen makes for a great experience when it comes to media consumption — games, movies, videos, you name it. The text is especially sharp because of the high pixel density. The Galaxy S4 is a great example of how 5-inch screen are pretty darn cool.
As for the Galaxy S4 Mini, the screen is well, smaller. Coming in at 4.3-inches, it’s capable of 960 x 540 resolution, rated at 256ppi. If it the Mini was sporting a 720p display, I think it would make the overall experience a lot better, but it’s still a great performer. The lowered pixel density doesn’t makes smaller text difficult to read, and as for movies and games, the smaller, 4.3-inch screen may make them uncomfortable to watch and play.
For getting pretty much any typical task done, the Mini is more than capable. And when it’s so easy to use, that might be a good trade-off.
In the performance realm, it’s a battle of mid and top tier packages. In the Samsung Galaxy S4, you have a Snapdragon 600 quad-core CPU clocked at 1.9GHz, backed by the tried and true Adreno 320 and 2GB of RAM. This performance package is what has been powering all of the top tier phones, including the HTC One. There’s no lag whatsoever, and swiping through the home screens is a breeze. It should handle intensive apps without any sort of difficulty, as well.
Performance is a bit of a different story for the Mini, as it gets a less powerful, Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz. With it, you get a Adreno 305 GPU and a 1.5GB of RAM. Even if its significantly less powerful than the Galaxy S4, I didn’t have much trouble lag, the UI is a breeze, and it handles intensive apps fine.
Very intensive games obviously results in a little bit of lag, but not enough to hinder the overall experience. Scores put the Galaxy S4 Mini about 10000 points below the S4, which comes as no surprise. Ultimately if you really need the best of the best out of everything you do, the S4 is the obvious choice. Otherwise, most regular users will find the Galaxy S4 Mini capable of doing just about anything they might need.
The hardware department is where things really change up. While Samsung did want to make a smaller version of the Galaxy S4, the original Galaxy S4 remains king of the Galaxy line. After all, the Galaxy S4 comes with all of the senors and extras you didn’t ask for. Sensors for temperature, a barometer, motion sensors for hand gestures and even a sensitive screen for Air View all accompany this device. Perhaps the most sought after features are the removable battery and microSD card slot.
And that’s just what you get in the Galaxy S4 Mini, although, the Mini only comes with 8GB of onboard storage, however, it’s expandable via a microSD card. All of those extra sensors are absent, though, which means you don’t get hand gestures, Air View, or even the eye scrolling. Really, the Mini is a very simplistic device compared to its older brother.
You do get an IR Blaster, though. So controlling your TV and other devices with this phone should be a breeze. This version of the Galaxy S4 Mini is capable of dual-SIMs, which is great for those who travel a lot. Much like the Galaxy S4, there are multiple version of this smartphone, so be careful of which one you get for your network.
In the end, it comes down to what you really want. Do you want all of the extras in the original Galaxy S4 or do you want a more simplified version of Samsung’s flagship device for this year?
The word “mini” applies to just about everything with this device. The original Galaxy S4 was loaded with a 2,600 mAh battery, but the Galaxy S4 Mini has a miniature 1,900 mAh unit. This isn’t particular a bad thing, though. A lot of the hardware has been downgraded in this device, so you just don’t as much power as the original Galaxy S4 does.
The lower, 1,900 mAh battery obviously isn’t going to be enough for power users. However, due to it being a removable unit, having a spare on hand can easily get power users through the day. For normal usage, the battery will easily last through the work day, and maybe even beyond, but if that isn’t the case, taking advantage of the built-in power saving features will help you eek out that last bit of juice.
On the other hand, if you need as much juice as possible, the Galaxy S4 might be the way to go. Chances are, under normal or light usage, you’ll be able to get a little bit more than day out of it, but that just isn’t the case with the Galaxy S4 Mini.
Now we come to the cameras, and surprisingly, there’s been a few significant changes when it comes to the Galaxy S4 Mini. With the original Galaxy S4, you get a 13-megapixel rear shooter, with a full featured camera app. You get everything to make your photos more fun, including Eraser mode, Drama modes, and dual recording, along with a variety of other features. When it comes to smartphones, picture quality is some of the best on market, and it captures great detail and reproduces color really well.
Looking at the Galaxy S4 Mini, we have a lower, 8-megapixel camera, which performs much like last year’s flagship handsets. The camera app isn’t as full featured as the original Galaxy S4′s, though. It’s been stripped down quite a bit, as it doesn’t include dual recording, Drama, or Eraser modes.
As for pictures, the quality is about the same level as the original S4. You can rest assured that the pictures you get from both phones will be satisfactory.
Finally, we arrive at the software. With either phone you choose, you get the TouchWiz interface here, only bigger or smaller. Otherwise, there’s not much difference. Obviously, the original Galaxy S4 gets all of the extra navigational features for things like hand gestures and Air View. As per the norm, there are a few of Samsung’s own apps bundled in, such was S Voice, Group Play, WatchON, and S Health. It’s a very complete package, that thankfully benefited from the larger screen.
Which is why it’s actually nice that TouchWiz was scaled down well enough to look good on the Galaxy S4 Mini’s smaller screen. It doesn’t come with all the extra navigation options and as far as apps go, and it doesn’t include S Health preinstalled. Of course, if you really want S Health, there are a plethora of APKs that can be found with a quick Google search, though you may have your best luck looking at XDA.
Other than that, you’re looking at the same general experience. This one comes down to whether or not you want the new ways introduced by the S4 to navigate.
With the Samsung Galaxy S4 being out for awhile, it’ll cost you around $700 unlocked or $199 on a new two-year contract with a carrier. We don’t know as much about the Galaxy S4 Mini, but looking at its overall lower profile in the hardware and performance department, it’ll likely come in at around $500 unlocked.
And so, there you have it. The Galaxy S4 is, no doubt, one of the top phones on the market today but Samsung isn’t about to rest on its laurels. With so many different versions of the S4 soon to come out, the Mini is admittedly a very refreshing experience. Today’s general offerings in yesterday’s form factor. And you know what, it works really well. The Galaxy S4 Mini is a phone that anyone can easily use and thus has its place. But if you really want to be on the cutting edge, the S4 is still king.