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Dublin: 23.11.2014 10.13PM
The 4.3-inch Galaxy S4 Mini from Samsung is certainly more pocket-friendly than its 5-inch big brother, but how does it hold up when its performance is tested?
True to its name, the S4 Mini really is a shrunken-down version of the full-grown S4. While 1mm thicker than the larger counterpart, the Mini is smaller in both height and width to fit its 4.3-inch display, and it’s also remarkably light at just 107g.
Where the S4 has room to fit 1,080 x 1,920 pixels at 441ppi, the Mini accommodates just 540 x 960 at 256ppi, so you are lacking that rich definition offered by flagship devices. The Super AMOLED screen is still bright and beautiful, though, and stands up well to use in direct sunlight.
The S4 Mini’s camera comes with plenty of fun and functionality built in. You’ve got in-app effects to apply various colour modes in live view. You’ve got Buddy Photo Share to automatically share images with the people recognised in them. You’ve got voice control to take pictures hands-free – as long as you speak loud and clear and without an accent!
Some photo modes and filters perform better than others. The top performers are Best Face, which lets you pick the best of five faces your subjects made; Best Photo, which takes eight shots in quick succession, letting you choose the best ones to save; Continuous, which shoots 20 photos in one short burst; Beauty, which softens skin tones and brightens eyes for better portraits; Panorama, with which you can create super-wide images (as long as you have a steady hand!); and Sound & Shot, which lets you add a little personality to your pics with a recorded message. With this last one, though, you do need to be close to the phone’s microphones for the audio to be picked up clearly.
The camera modes that let the Mini down are Night, which adds a lot of noise and processing that disimproves the image; HDR, which takes time to process but in the end doesn’t really add much to the image; and Sports, which just doesn’t have the sharp focus to keep up with fast-moving subjects. In fact, motion capture on the S4 Mini camera in general isn’t great, which is really disappointing as still shots look quite good.
For your better shots, you can bring them into physical being with the in-built Story Album app. Partnering with photobook-maker Blurb, this app lets you easily create and order a printed album of all your favourite smartphone pics and doodles from S Memo. If you don’t want to pay for professional printing, you can also save your creations as a PDF to print at home.
Another unique app pre-installed on the S4 Mini is Group Play, which lets you quickly and easily pair with other Galaxy devices using NFC connectivity. This can be used to amplify playback of a song, display images or even share files.
WatchOn is an app for Samsung that turns your S4 Mini into an infrared remote for your television. Pairing won’t work with every TV set, but in credit to the app there is a long list of manufacturers accounted for. Even if you can’t use the remote control function, WatchOn also provides you with a searchable TV guide letting you know what’s on. You can even mark your favourites and feed the app information on your preferences in order to receive personalised recommendations of what to watch.
(Full disclosure: the WatchOn TV guide does not appear in the video above because of a Wi-Fi issue while filming. In truth, the app works well as long as your internet connection does.)
The Galaxy S4 Mini is billed as the S4 packed into a smaller, more compact package. While it fits that description, some of the S4’s features are not necessarily suited to lower specifications. The processing power of the Mini simply isn’t made for high-intensity apps and even just opening the Camera app or switching between cameras can result in lag.
You’ve also got some camera features that are superfluous for an 8MP shooter when other features such as Dual Shot would have been much more welcome, particularly with a 1.9MP front-facing camera at your disposal.
However, what the S4 Mini does offer is a substantial smartphone that can still fit into your pocket. With phones becoming larger with each flagship release, I was delighted with a slight design that doesn’t skimp on technology. This device is incredibly light yet still holds its own among the giants in this category, not to mention battery performance that does not disappoint.
In terms of practicality, the S4 Mini gets top marks and, for many users, this can take precedence over fancy bells and whistles that often prove unnecessary in day-to-day use.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini available in white or black from free from all operators and Carphone Warehouse.