Does Samsung's miniaturized Galaxy S4 live up to its name?
Each new generation of smartphones seems to bring with it ever larger screens. Just a couple of years ago a 4.3-inch screen was considered large -- unwieldy, even -- in the grand scheme of things. But as screens for flagship phones reach five inches and beyond, manufacturers seem to be realizing that big screens aren't for everyone. And the result of that realization is phones like the Galaxy S4 Mini.
Featuring a familiar chassis design and a "smaller" 4.3-inch display, the Galaxy S4 Mini seems to promise a high-end experience in a smaller body. And in part, it delivers -- the S4 Mini boasts much of the feature set of its full-size namesake. You'll get everything from S Health -- the food and weight tracking app -- to WatchON -- the IR blaster-based TV remote app.
The chassis design is almost identical to the full-sized S4, right down to the flattened sides, the curves of the profile and the slight camera bulge around the back. But unfortunately the spec sheet has taken a hit, and the S4 Mini packs a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU versus the more powerful quad-core Snapdragon 600 in its big brother. The CPU change doesn't have a huge impact on performance -- Samsung's TouchWiz UI runs as smoothly on the Mini as it does on any other device. But the display has received the biggest downgrade, going from full HD (1080p) to qHD (960x540). Having used higher-resolution phones, the difference is clear, especially when viewing photos and text in the web browser.
If we were to be harsh, we might say the Galaxy S4 Mini name is a little misleading. Buy this device and you're not really getting a Galaxy S4 -- you're getting a mid-range Samsung phone. It's a fast, full-featured mid-range phone, but the display resolution in particular betrays the Mini as a less-than-flagship product. The screen is one of the most important parts of a smartphone -- it's the thing you're looking at whenever you use it -- and so it's disappointing to see Samsung skimping in this area.
Nevertheless, at the right price point, the Galaxy S4 Mini could be a compelling mid-level smartphone. Aside from our gripes with the device's screen, you can't argue with the feature set Samsung's brought to bear, and the Mini benefits from the same feature-packed software experience as the full-sized S4.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is due to go on sale in the UK from July.