Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The Samsung doesn't fall far from the tree

Our score: 4/5
Reviewed: September 5, 2013 11:19 AM
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Published: September 5, 2013 11:19 AM
Updated: March 3, 2014 12:18 PM
By Romain Thuret
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
With Morgane Alzieu
Rémi Jacquet
Axel Mendy
After introducing its current pet design and interface with the Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3, then following those up with the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 8.0 and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and 10.1, now Samsung is plunging the concept into miniature waters with the Galaxy S4 Mini. The name might be misleading, because it implies that the GS4 Mini is simply a GS4 in a smaller body—which is not the case. But it's still a gigantic improvement over the S3 Mini, which slashed a lot of good specs just for the sake of marketing and brand name. 

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The Galaxy S4 Mini sports a 4.3-inch (apparently "mini" is relative) Super AMOLED screen with qHD 960 x 540 resolution. It's loaded with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal memory, expandable via microSD. The main rear-facing camera is fitted with an 8-Megapixel sensor with an LED flash that films in 1080p, while the front houses a 1.9-Mpx camera. 
The GS4 Mini's wireless capabilities include Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and 4G LTE.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The Mini runs on Android 4.2.2 cloaked with Samsung's homespun TouchWiz overlay, adding in several of its own apps and features.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is priced at £380 SIM-free.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

Design & Handling4/5



Visually speaking, this Samsung doesn't fall far from the tree—the GS4 looks like a downsized replica of the GS4. It has the same polycarbonate shell (which helps give the handset its low specific absorption rate of 0.33 W/kg) and the same "grid" finish on the pearly white front and back. Suffice it to say that anyone who has used any of Samsung's mid-range or high-end mobile devices from the past 18 months will feel right at home.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The GS4 Mini fits snugly in the palm of the hand. It's small and light (107 grams), but it isn't looking to beat any records for thinness. The compact form makes it feel as though it can handle a drop or two.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The microSD slot is located below the battery—not the most practical place, as any time you want to change it you have to turn the phone off and back on again.

We didn't notice any overheating while using the phone, even with processor-intensive apps running.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

All in all, this is a well-finished phone made primarily with plastic, but it's good quality plastic. That said, it would be nice to see Samsung someday move away from the "GS3" design, which in this website's humble opinion is starting to get a little old.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

Display4/5



Samsung's Super AMOLED devices have been making bounds with every new generation. But is the same true for a  mid-range handset like this? Yes! By definition, this screen has almost infinite contrast and can count on brightness of 298 cd/m², which, for an AMOLED screen, should make you do a little happy dance. It's probably good to point out that just like the other Galaxy mobiles, the S4 Mini includes various display modes, with Standard, Professional Photo, Movie, Dynamic and Adaptive. The latter doesn't really do much to improve the image. We ultimately got the best results in "Movie" mode, as is often the case. However, you should avoid "Dynamic" mode like the plague because it distorts the entire display.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

As for colour fidelity, we're close to perfection with a Delta E of 3.5 (this measures the difference between ideal colours and those displayed onscreen; it should be as close to zero as possible). At 6,784 Kelvins, the colour temperature is nearly perfect and uniform over the entire spectrum.

In portrait mode the results are much less satisfying—as often happens on AMOLED displays—with completely out of whack colours and a maximum white brightness that drops by half in order to save power. Again, "Movie" mode slows this down and lets you properly enjoy videos on the GS4 Mini. The viewing angles are near perfect and thanks to the AMOLED display, ghosting is non-existent.

It's such a shame that Samsung opted for a qHD screen! An HD panel with 1280 x 720 pixels would've been the bee's knees, offering much better readability for any kind of text. Because Samsung skimped on the display, the GS4 Mini isn't as pleasant to read on as the HTC One Mini (1280 x 720p).

Interface & Navigation5/5



The graphical user interface adorning the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system—Samsung's TouchWiz UI—needs no introduction. Not only does it define the overreaching visual style of the Galaxy range's  homescreens and menus, but it also includes multimedia apps such as the video player with its live icons, S Translator, S Memo and Group Play for wireless content sharing between Galaxies. In other words, the GS4 Mini is trying to emulate its older brother, which is a good thing.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini     Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

Like the HTC One Mini, which has the same Snapdragon 400 and 1 GB of RAM, the GS4 Mini is fast when navigating through the interface and generally responsive, with very few hiccups and zero bugs. It's quite a mini-achievement.

Multimedia4/5



Web browsing is fast on the GS4 Mini, easily one of the speediest and most enjoyable online experiences we've seen on a mid-range mobile. But as mentioned earlier, the 840 x 560-pixel resolution is a major party pooper, making text on web pages less well-defined than on the HTC One Mini. Fortunately, the zoom is precise and fluid.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

As always with Samsung, the video player supports an incredible range of file formats, many more than the standard Android player.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

As paradoxical as it may sound for a smartphone with 540p resolution, Full HD movies in MKV or AVI files run extremely well. The Mini plays them all without a flinch.

Kudos to the Snapdragon 400 and Adreno 305, because they allow the Mini to run any video game from the Android catalogue nice and smoothly.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

But that doesn't mean everything's peachy, game-wise. On bigger games that require lots of graphical manpower, such as Real Racing 3, the graphics come out simplistic in places, with less detail than there should be.

Battery Life3/5



The battery is just as mini as the rest of the phone, having been demoted from 2,350 mAh on the GS4 to 1,800 mAh here. But this time 1,800 mAh is perfectly satisfactory, as the reduced screen resolution and fewer hare-brained Galaxy functions means the phone eats less power. Using our raw battery performance test the GS4 Mini lasted 10 hours 40 minutes on average, which in real life translates to just over a day of use. That's also what we found in practice, as long as we didn't play too many video games (especially big ones with lots of 3D graphics). The important thing to know is you won't have to charge the GS4 Mini again before your commute home.

Camera4/5



The Mini's 8-Megapixel camera produces decent photos. Although the colours slightly veer towards red (especially in low lighting), and even though the black is often flooded and the flash could honestly use some work, there's nonetheless a great deal of detail across the entire frame and very little noise, even in low lighting. Videos also come out in high quality, making great 1080p movies.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
4/5 Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini DigitalVersus 2013-09-05 12:19:00

Pros

  • Comfortable to hold
  • Great screen (in video mode)
  • Responsive
  • 4G-compatible
  • Video player
  • Battery life
  • Camera

Cons

  • Screen resolution
  • Not great graphics for video games
  • It's time for a new design
  • Even with the microSD slot, 16 GB would have been better than 8 GB

Conclusion

The Galaxy S4 Mini is a huge improvement over the GS3 Mini! With a responsive interface, versatile multimedia functions and longer battery life than the competition, it's almost a slam dunk.

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