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Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini expert review

Following Samsung’s success with the S3 Mini, they decided to continue the trend and release a smaller version of the S4 too. The Galaxy S4 Mini has taken a whole host of features from its flagship big brother and crammed it all into a tiny shell that offers up a similar experience. Find out what Agent Collins thinks about this new phone in his latest expert review.

Pros

  • Small form factor
  • Low price point
  • Incredible internal hardware

Cons

  • Still has a slight plastic feel similar to S4
  • Only 5GB of usable internal memory
S4 Mini - 267 - 2
The S4 Mini maintains the classic styling of its older, bigger brother the Galaxy S4

Design - SAMSUNG Galaxy S4 MINI

Upon picking up the S4 Mini it felt exactly how I hoped it would and that is just like the S4. The Mini has taken some of the key features that the S4 has to offer and thrown them into a slightly smaller shell. These features include:

  • S4 Mini - 4_3 - 2
    Subtle connections and ports don't hamper the S4 Mini's sleek design
    Making full use of all available space
  • Pin-point sized infrared sensor on the top
  • Smooth finish on the edge, including power and volume buttons
  • Flat panel screen

I think this is a really smart move from Samsung since the S4 is such an incredibly popular device they have no reason to change the design at all..

Dimensions

Although it is named the Mini, its size doesn’t seem all that different to the S4 coming in at 124.6 x 61.3mm, whereas the S4 is 136.6 x 69.8mm, which is a marginal difference.

Weight

When dropping the size of a device, you also expect it to be lighter; this is definitely the case here. The Mini weighs in at a minimal 107 grams, which is 23 grams lighter than its bigger brother, although it is 1mm thicker, coming in at 8.9mm.

Hardware - SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 MINI

Processor

S4 Mini - 4_3 - 3
Quite simply the S4 Mini is the fastest mid-range phone you can buy

The hardware found in the S4 Mini is second to none in this category. I have absolutely no concerns with how well this device will perform, even when used to its full potential it holds up extremely well. Handling all of the intense day to day tasks thrown at a device with relative ease. Internally, the Mini has an impressive set of specs at this price point. These include:

  • Dual core 1.7GHz Snapdragon Processor
  • 1.5GB RAM

The S4 Mini took little time to go from a fully powered off state to be up and running ready for me to unleash the power. After I began playing with the Mini I was pleasantly surprised to see just how powerful the dual-core processor was; flicking through screens, opening up apps and even switching between apps was seamless and extremely fast. I experienced little to no slow down at all whilst doing so.

Storage

S4 Mini - 4_3 - 14
A removable battery and MicroSD card slot are welcome on a modern smartphone

The S4 Mini came preloaded with 8GB of internal storage, although only 5GB of this was available to use, but with the option to add up to a 64GB Micro SD card I don’t see this being an issue. Samsung are also offering up 50GB of free storage through Dropbox, which is a cloud storage service that allows you to save your documents, keep your photos backed up and even stream content you have uploaded from another device.

Battery Life and Charging

Battery life is something that is becoming harder and harder to maintain as phones are getting a whole lot more horsepower inside them. To help counteract any power draining the S4 has been given a generous 1900 mAh battery which is capable of lasting up to two days with light use, although with regular use I see it being charged daily. Charging the Mini through the mains will take around about 2-3 hours and through a USB cable plugged into a computer, around 4-5 hours.

Connectivity

The S4 Mini packs in everything you would expect in a top end device, just in a smaller shell, from WiFi to Bluetooth. There are two variants of the S4 Mini, one which has 4G LTE and NFC, the other which has neither - unfortunately the version we got our hands on was the latter. The main addition to the S4 Mini that we have not seen before in a phone at this price point is infrared. Much like the S4, this means the S4 Mini can be used as a TV remote through the WatchON app that comes preloaded on the device.

Camera

S4 Mini - 4_3 - 14
The Mini is capable of a good snap and the camera has a great user interface

Samsung have become known for the impressive cameras in their devices and the S4 Mini is no exception. Boasting an 8-megapixel rear camera capable of recording full HD video and a 1.9-megapixel front facing camera it's well equipped. This is a significant improvement from the 5-megapixel camera in the S3 Mini.

Image quality

I found the quality of this camera to be absolutely stunning. The quality was clear and crisp, and colours were accurate down to the finest shadow, although unfortunately we do not see its bigger brother's dual camera mode within the Mini.

One thing to take note of is that although the camera is in fact an 8-megapixel beauty, you will usually only take photos at 6-megapixels. This is due to the fact that the 8-megapixel photos are shot with a 4:3 aspect ratio, whereas the 6-megapixel is shot with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. However, I found that this did not affect the quality of the image and even found that the 6-megapixel images were in fact sharper on occasion.

Video

Shooting video produced some great looking footage. Since it is full HD viewing this content on another device, such as your home TV, was awesome. The application itself has been cleaned up and is very similar to the layout the S4 has to offer, although it does not give you live previews of the in-built effects.

Screen

S4 Mini - 4_3 - 5
The screen held up well in our tests offering a great range of colours and brightness

The screen we found on the S4 Mini is superior to the S3 Mini, and in my eyes it showed more detail than the S4 was able to offer. All of this is due to an impressive set of specs:

  • 4.3-inch display
  • Super AMOLED screen
  • 540 x 960 resolution
  • 256ppi (pixels per inch)

The jump from a 4.0-inch screen with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels on the S3 Mini to the 4.3-inch, 540 x 960 pixel S4 Mini is only a small jump, it makes all the difference. I found that the screen provided natural, clear and bright colours that even rivalled the top dog, the S4.

Software - SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 MINI

The Galaxy S4 Mini comes preloaded with Android version 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), the latest version of Google’s operating system.

S4 Mini - 4_3 - 11
The S4 Mini comes with the majority of the features launched by the S4 earlier this year

Samsung hasn't adjusted their TouchWiz UI with the latest updates, but they have added in some new features. Some of these are:

  • Group Play
  • WatchON
  • S Translator
  • Story Album
  • Lock Screen Widgets
  • Gestures

Group Play

Group Play is being rolled out on all new Samsung devices. Group Play lets you host a party with up to 8 friends and share music, photos, videos and even play multiplayer games together. When streaming music between devices, you can create a virtual surround sound by setting each individual device as a different speaker giving you the ultimate entertainment experience.

This is all done by one device creating a mobile access point that all the other devices automatically connect to when you select to join a group on the Group Play app. I set up four devices and shared a song amongst them all and found that the devices never fell out of sync and maintained a stable connection constantly.

WatchON

WatchON is an application that works with the in-built infrared sensor allowing you to take complete control of your TV, DVD/BluRay player, home theatre system and set top box. The flexibility you have with the controls is fairly basic, usually ranging from volume up and down, changing channels and switching the device on and off, although the remote is slightly more advanced if you own a Samsung Smart TV.

The application itself also becomes a TV guide that is tailored to suit your preference in content and allows you to see when your favourite shows are being aired. This is a fantastic feature that we are seeing a lot more of in our top end phones, but this is one of the first phones to implement this in the mid-range and I am looking forward to seeing what other manufacturers will do with this in the near future.

S Translator

S Translator is another feature I found to be incredibly useful amongst Samsung’s preloaded apps since I can only speak English and find it difficult to get by in other countries.

S Translator allows you to either speak or type your phrase in to the device and it will populate a translation in your selected language. The translation can either be spoken back through the phone or it can be displayed on the phone's screen.

The main flaw I found with S Translator was that it requires you to download an individual pack for each language, which I found was worth doing ahead of time and downloading at home on your WiFi connection to save on using up your data allowance.

Story Album

Another feature is the Story Album app. If you are anything like me and you constantly take photos with your phone then this app is for you. Story Album creates albums based on common details found within your photos such as date, time and location. The app will automatically group all of your images from events and holidays you have attended and will also allow you to purchase a physical copy to be delivered directly to your home.

Lock Screen Widgets

S4 Screen Colours - 4_3
The S4 was the first samsung device to introduce real flexibility on the lock screen

With the release of Android 4.2.2 we have also been exposed to the addition of lock screen widgets. Lock screen widgets allow for your lock screen to be customised exactly how you like by adding a widget. These include:

  • Clock
  • App shortcuts
  • Email inbox
  • Text messages
  • Music player

These widgets allow quick access to your favourite features without even needing to unlock your screen; this one of those great features that you never know you want until they arrive.

Gestures

Much like the S4, the Mini has some of Samsung's new gesture features, although nowhere near as many. With the Mini you have access to the mute/pause Palm Motion, which allow you to pause a song by covering the whole front of the device with your hand.

Also included is Smart Stay, which prevents your screen from switching off as long as you’re looking at the device. Unfortunately the other gestures we saw in the S4 are missing from the Mini. This is probably due to the size of the smaller device not having enough space for the required sensors.

Who is this phone for?

S4 Mini - 4_3 - 12
Small, stylish and lightweight means a great mid-tier smartphone

The S4 Mini is ideal for either a first or second smartphone as it is light, compact and very simple to use. The impressive camera combined with the beautiful screen quality makes this device ideal for anyone who is looking to use it as a quick and easy camera or to watch movies on. Overall I would say media enthusiasts and anyone who is interested in joining the smartphone game would absolutely love this phone and should definitely consider buying one.

Verdict Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The S4 Mini is designed primarily as a mid-range device, but I personally find it is much more than that. The 4.3-inch screen feels as though it is the perfect size no matter how big your hands are, and doesn’t look anywhere near as big as it actually is. The processor behind this device makes it an absolute powerhouse and I didn't experience any sort of slow down or failure even when running every app possible.

The quality of the camera is higher than I would have expected and photos, even when compared with its big brother, the S4, hold up extremely well. The battery life for such a small device is impressive and will be a turning point for a lot of people.

The screen quality is superior to most top end devices out there. It offers up sharp, crisp and clean images whilst maintaining a decent brightness. Combine this with its ability to be viewed easily in bright light conditions and it's it a winner for me.

I give this device an 8/10 purely because it is a whole lot more powerful than I expected and I really hold high hopes for such devices in the near future. I applaud Samsung for producing something as incredible as this so soon after the launch of the S4.

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