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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

We take a closer look at the compact version of the Samsung flagship in our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini!

Published onOctober 13, 2014

If you loved everything about the Samsung Galaxy S5, but thought that it was too big, the Galaxy S5 Mini is the device for you.

Samsung started the trend of releasing variants of flagship smartphones, in order to profit from the brand recognition of its most popular products. This is something that many OEMs do now, so the market is flooded with mini, compact, max, and ultra versions of phones from LG, HTC, Sony, and more. With these devices, you get the design of the flagship, in a different form factor, and in most cases, with lowered specifications and price tags.

In the case of Samsung and its flagship Galaxy S5, we’ve already taken a look at the Galaxy S5 Sport and the Galaxy S5 Active, and today, we’ll be giving the full review treatment to the compact version of the device, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini!

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When it comes to design, the Galaxy S5 Mini is truly a mini version of its flagship sibling, in every sense of the word. If you thought that the Galaxy S5 was too big, but otherwise loved everything about it, you’ll definitely not have any complaints about the Galaxy S5 Mini, which retains the design language and some of the hardware features of its namesake.

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The Galaxy S5 Mini is shorter and lighter than the Galaxy S5, but a tad thicker. The great news is that the Mini version boasts the same IP67 rating for protection against dust and water, which means that the phone is almost completely protected from dust, and can be submerged in up to one meter of water for as long as 30 minutes. What’s interesting is that, despite boasting the same protection rating, the flap covering the microUSB port on the Galaxy S5 is nowhere to be seen here.

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Of course, you get the signature physical home button up front, with an integrated fingerprint scanner, which is flanked by capacitive back and recent apps keys. The familiar chrome ring around the perimeter also returns, but in this case, it does pick up dents and scratches easily, and in fact, chips away. The power button is on the right side of the device, ideally placed for easy access when you grip the phone, and the volume rocker can be found to the left.

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You get the same dimpled soft touch plastic back cover, and a heart rate monitor can be found just below the camera unit. The back cover is removable, giving you access to the replaceable battery, microSD card slot, and — because this is the international version of the device — you also get dual SIM slots.

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Keeping with its mini nature, the Galaxy S5 Mini sports a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display, with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 326 ppi. This is not what’s considered flagship standard these days, but a higher than 720p resolution at this size would probably be overkill.

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Samsung’s display prowess shines through with the Galaxy S5 Mini as well. Everything we love about Super AMOLED displays, including vivid colors, deep blacks, fantastic brightness, and good viewing angles, are all features of this display. Overall, you’ll have a great time doing anything on the S5 Mini, be it reading text, browsing through images, or watching videos.

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When it comes to hardware, the Galaxy S5 Mini sports a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, clocked at 1.4 GHz, the Adreno 305 GPU, and 1.5 GB of RAM. This processing package has become the standard in the mid-range smartphone game, but nevertheless, performance is quite good given the product category.

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As with all Samsung devices, TouchWiz UI tends to stump even the fastest of processing packages. But with the latest version of Samsung’s user interface, instances of lag are rarer than they used to be on previous iterations. There is a very slight delay when launching an app, but overall performance is as smooth as you’d expect. The device also handles gaming well for the most part. Occasional lag or stutter does show up in the more processor-intensive games though, which isn’t particularly unexpected, and more than anything, serves as a reminder that this device is a mid-range smartphone after all.

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Just like its flagship sibling, there is no shortage of hardware features on the Galaxy S5 Mini. Everything from expandable storage and an IR blaster, to a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner are available here, so you certainly aren’t missing out on some of the key features of the Galaxy S5. You get 16GB of onboard storage, and a potential 64GB more thanks to the microSD card slot. Call quality is good, with conversations sounding loud and clear at both ends. The external speaker located on the back left corner performs better than average.

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The Galaxy S5 Mini packs a 2,100 mAh battery, but considering the components it has to power, battery life isn’t an issue at all. I was able to get up to 2 days of battery life with around 3 hours of screen-on time, which is on par with most high-end devices with larger batteries. Even with above moderate use, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a full day out of this battery.

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When it comes to the camera, you get an 8MP rear shooter and 2.1 MP front-facing camera. The aspect ratio of images is 4:3, which is great when uploading images to social media, but if you change the aspect ratio, picture quality does take a hit. As is the case with any Samsung smartphone, the camera app is packed with features. Almost any shooting mode you may want is built in the software, including panorama and a sports mode. You also have the ability to easily adjust any settings you want, which lets you set the shot to your liking. But, with so many settings and features at your disposal, you will likely find yourself using the auto mode more often than not.

The sharp and colorful images produced by the Galaxy S5 Mini look great. This 8MP shooter captures a lot of details when taking a picture in good lighting. But the true star of the show is the depth of field. You can get a really nice blurry background and sharp foreground, and when done right, the results are awesome. In mid- to low-light, you’ll lose some of that quality, but considering the price range, it’s still one of the better cameras out there.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, with the TouchWiz UI on top. As always, TouchWiz offers one of the most feature-packed software experiences you can get. Since this is the international version of the device, the UI is a little less cluttered than what you’d get from a US carrier version, thanks to the absence of added carrier bloatware.

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The software package is largely the same across the current crop of Samsung smartphones, with the user interface featuring some minor aesthetic changes across, including the circular motif of the quick settings menu. In terms of additional software features, some of the most interesting and useful are S Health, Smart Remote, and Kids Mode.

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Kids Mode, available from the Samsung App store, lets you control access to apps and features, allowing you to lock down anything you think it’s inappropriate for children. The S Health app is Samsung’s attempt at providing a one-stop solution for all your health needs. When set up, it serves as a pedometer, lets you track your workouts, and also takes advantage of the heart rate monitor. There are still some kinks to work out, and it’s not quite enough for fitness freaks out there, but it’s definitely a good start to a feature that should get a lot better over time.

So there you have it – a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini! Available for around $450 unlocked, the Galaxy S5 Mini gives you LTE connectivity, decent performance, a great camera experience, and hardware features that include a heart rate monitor and a fingerprint scanner. Everything is packed into a body that is more compact, but otherwise very similar to the Galaxy S5.

If you’re in the market for a solid mid-ranger with all the hardware features of Samsung’s flagship devices, the Galaxy S5 Mini is the one for you.

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