Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Review
Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: is it as good as the S4?
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is both the predecessor to the Galaxy S3 and the younger brother of the Galaxy S4, and as such, it can be compared with both devices. Samsung effectively coined the winning formula of releasing a range of near-identical smartphones in varying sizes, from minis to phablets.
But will the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini wow us as much as the flagship model did? And will it be an improvement on last year’s Galaxy S3? Let’s find out…
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini looks and feels a great deal smaller as the S4 (as you would no doubt expect). It has a 4.3-inch screen (which is still bigger than any of the iPhones as well as the S3 Mini!) and weighs just 107g. This means that the device is just a slim-line (measuring just 8.9mm thick), and fits comfortably in your hand, unlike many of the larger-screened smartphones that are trending.
In every other way, though, the S4 Mini looks identical to any other Galaxy smartphone; it has the same holographic shell and plastic chassis, alongside the one physical home button in the middle of the phone’s bottom edge. The only problem that I did have was that the phone was a little too slippery in my hand; a combination of the device’s plastic shell and light-weight design meant that I found myself dropping it quite often (though that has just as much to do with my clumsiness as anything else).
Again, like with any other Galaxy device, the S4 Mini has a removable back, which makes it easy for users to change the battery, SIM card and SD card. The SD slot is a key feature of the S4 Mini, especially considering it only has 8GB of internal storage (which equates to 4.97GB of available storage once you turn the phone on, that is).
The last thing I want to add is that the S4 Mini’s display is really impressive, and although, pixel per inch, it only just beat the S3 Mini (256ppi vs. 233ppi), I found that the S4 Mini’s display was much more vibrant.
Phone Set Up
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is powered by a dual core 1.7GHz krait processor, which, while not matching up to the S4’s mighty quad-core 1.6GHz CPU, is perfectly adequate for a mid-range smartphone, and is a remarkable improvement on the somewhat sluggish Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini’s 1GHz single-core processor.
As you would expect from a Samsung device, the S4 Mini runs the Jelly Bean version of Android (v.4.1) which means it looks and act like any other Android.
Like I mention with every Samsung that I review, I like the fact that the S4 Mini’s home screens are on a continuous scroll, as there’s nothing that I find more annoying than getting to page 5 of my personalised screens and having to go through them all again to get to page 1.
One major issue that I have with the S4 Mini, which I also found with the S3 Mini, was the lack of haptic feedback. While you might think that this is a minor feature, on a screen that it’s only 4.3-inches as it is, I found it really difficult to type messages accurately without having the tiny vibrations respond to my gestures.
Being part of the Samsung Galaxy S4 range, the S4 Mini includes many of the same features that were debuted on the flagship device back in March. Some of these cool Samsung-only features include:
By switching on Driving Mode, the S4 Mini will read out any incoming text messages and give you callers’ information when you receive incoming calls, which is much safer [and legal] than trying to check your phone whilst behind the wheel.
S Travel is a widget which sits on your home screen and works using Samsung’s partner app, Travel Advisor. The app allows you to select either a specific city, or recommended locations for you to travel to, displaying images of landscapes, hotels and beautiful beaches- just what you might need to get you through a dreary Friday afternoon..!
WatchON is another feature which appears on all S4 devices, and essentially acts as your own personalised TV guide. You can change the settings to see programs that you like to watch, whether it’s a catch-up of the week’s soaps or the latest episode of CSI Miami.
You can also turn your phone into a remote control using its in-built infrared. After a quick set up with your television, simply point your phone and change the channel.
In line with Samsung’s Galaxy S4 range, the S4 Mini features Group Play, allowing the users of any S4 device to turn their phones into stereo speakers to play music and movies.
Camera & Video
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini’s camera is an improvement on the S3 Mini’s 5 megapixel count, and with an 8MP rear-facing lens, I expected the device to produce images similar to the Galaxy S3, which it more or less did!
I road tested the S4 Mini on a drizzly day in the North East, and was pleasantly surprised by the photos, which emerged really sharp despite the grey clouds and damp scenery. As you can see in the gallery on the left, the phone dealt well with the low lighting in alleyways, and doesn’t wash out the texture of the bricks in the buildings either.
The S4 Mini is another huge improvement on the S3 Mini in terms of its camera features, too. Like the S4, it offers a variety of modes, including Auto, Night, Sports, Panorama, HDR, Sound & Shot, Best Face, Continuous Shot, Best Photo and Beauty Face.
There is also a small selection of filters which allow you to lace your photos with fish eye, nostalgic, and sketched effects. However, compared with the S4, there aren’t as many Instagram-style filters to choose from, though with Instagram free to download from the Google Play Store, it’s not a huge problem.
If you want to jazz up your photos and make them fun, the Galaxy S4 Mini does allow you to layer stickers and even draw over your images. I found this feature a little gimmicky, but I suppose from time to time, being able to annotate your photos without launching another app can come in handy.
With a 1900mAh battery, I wasn’t expecting the S4 Mini to live for the entire weekend without being recharged. With a dual-core processor (as opposed to a quad-core), far less battery is required to keep the phone ticking over, meaning we were expecting to see the S4 Mini cope averagely when it came down to its battery.
However, I was disappointed to find on whipping out the device after leaving it idle in my bag overnight that it was on the verge of dying a death. I managed to take a few precious snaps before enacting Power Mode, but realised, after the screen turned completely black, that it was too little too late!
That said, when we tested the S4 Mini more vigorously by playing a video on a continuous loop, whilst taking photos and sending messages, the S4 Mini battery lasted just as long as any other smartphone, meaning it must have been having an off day (or perhaps I left an app running in the background) the first time I reviewed the device first-time round!