Design, screen and camera
If you’re stuck looking for a new phone, you will likely have stumbled across many-a-Samsung handset, including both the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini. Both handsets are still proving incredibly popular, so which one should you choose?
Samsung began the rewriting of the mid-range handset market in 2012 with the launch of the Galaxy S3 Mini, a cut down version of its immensely popular Galaxy S3 flagship. This was to be followed a year later with the launch of Galaxy S4 Mini to accompany the upgraded Galaxy S4.
The Galaxy S3 Mini and S4 Mini are handsets born of the same idea, with stripped down specs from their bigger brothers, but equally both come with a much smaller and more palatable price tag.
If you’re going to tie yourself into a contract for the next two years, or fork over your hard-earned money for a new device, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got the right device. Thankfully, we’ve created this handy guide to give you a run through of the key features of Samsung’s baby flagships.
It should be of no surprise that both the Galaxy S3 Mini and S4 Mini follow in the same design natures that were begun with the full fat Galaxy S3 and S4 flagships.
Samsung completely overhauled its mobile design with the Galaxy S3 removing the hard industrial edges of the ageing S2 and replacing them with a curvier nature-inspired pebble design.
This was a design continued and shrunk down with the Galaxy S3 Mini resulting in a more diminutive handset that sits nicely in one hand whilst leaving no hard edges that can make holding a phone a little more unpleasant.
Samsung’s curvier design nature was also carried forward the to the Galaxy S4 flagship and consequently the Galaxy S4 Mini.
Measuring 121.6 x 63 x 9.9m, the Galaxy S3 Mini tips the scales at 111.5 g allowing it to sit in the pocket relatively unnoticed. More elongated than the Galaxy S3 Mini, the Galaxy S4 Mini measures at 124.6 x 6.3 x 8.9mm and also weighs only 107g.
Both handsets provide a nice alternative to their larger brothers, sitting more comfortably in one hand than their larger-screened equivalents.
One of the reasons for the larger footprint of the Galaxy S4 Mini is that it packs a slightly larger screen. Where the Galaxy S3 Mini comes with a 4-inch screen, the Galaxy S4 Mini comes with a 4.2-inch display and also packs an increased resolution; 540 x 960 compared to 480 x 800.
Despite the extra screen space, this gives the Galaxy S4 Mini a slightly increased pixel density of 256ppi to the 233ppi of the S3 Mini and gives it the edge for watching YouTube videos and browsing the web.
On the whole, both the Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini come with relatively similar screens as they both pack in the Super AMOLED technology that has made Samsung handsets so popular.
Neither handset is ideal for those that plan on watching a wide range of films, the lower screen resolutions certainly don’t lend themselves to HD movies, but both are more than sufficient for texting and web browsing.
One of the more noticeable differences between the Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini is the size of the camera sensors that adorn the rears of the mini devices, as well as the forward facing sensors that capture those all important selfies.
Samsung fitted the Galaxy S3 Mini with a smaller 5MP offering, cut down from the 8MP Galaxy S3 although still allowing it to capture decent images.
Where the Galaxy S4 took an upgrade from 8MP to 13MP, the Galaxy S4 Mini also took an upgrade in size, shipping with an 8MP sensor.
On the front of the Galaxy S3 Mini comes a VGA snapper, again smaller than the 1.9MP offering of the Galaxy S4 Mini. If you’re really into Snapchat or sharing self portraits via other social media, the added pixels on Galaxy S4 Mini will eventually prove to be invaluable.
The Galaxy S4 Mini also benefits from a whole new camera app that brings a whole raft of features that take a lot of the complications out of snapping a candid image. Samsung has given the S4 Mini the Auto, Best Photo, Continuous Shot, Best Face, Sound & Shot, Rich Tone (HDR), Panorama, Sports and Night modes found in the Galaxy S4.
That’s not to say that the Galaxy S3 Mini misses out, coming with its own tricks. Equipped with Smile Shot and Buddy Photo Share, these allow you to capture an image as soon as the subject smiles, as well as instantaneous capture and tagging of friends photos to make social sharing that bit easier.
For video recording, both the Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini are able to record HD images, although this is 720p on the S3 Mini as opposed 1080p on the S4 Mini.
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Inside, colours are warmer and increased levels of detail are noticeable, especially on the label.
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Colour reproduction is much more impressive on the Galaxy S4 Mini, with much higher contrast levels and more detail in the leaves.
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Again, colours appear richer on the shot taken by the S4 Mini. There is noticeably more detail in the background too, rather than disappearing into a bright patch.
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Colours appear richer with greater contrast, with the Galaxy S4 Mini capturing more detail in the brick work.
Performance, price, extras and verdict
Where the Galaxy S flagships both shipped with quad-core CPU’s, both the Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini ship with dual-core innards. Given that the Galaxy S4 Mini has taken a specifications boost all round it should be no surprise that the Galaxy S4 Mini comes with an upgraded CPU and RAM.
The Galaxy S3 Mini ships with a dual-core 1GHz CPU backed with 1GB RAM which in our review we found was more than sufficient to keep the Galaxy S3 Mini moving along at a decent pace.
The Galaxy S3 Mini suffers a little when you throw a lot of heavy lifting its way (such as downloading large files whilst performing other tasks),but general day to day use of texting and web browsing is more than covered.
The insides of the Galaxy S4 Mini are a fair bit larger with the dual-core CPU this time being clocked at 1.7GHz and backed up with 50% more RAM at 1.5GB.
This made moving around the Galaxy S4 Mini smoother than on the S3 Mini, able to cope with more strenuous tasks such as playing more graphically intensive games.
Price and Colours
With all round increased specifications it shouldn’t be a massive surprise that the Galaxy S4 Mini matches that to an increased price tag, albeit one that doesn’t quite reach the same heights of the Galaxy S flagships.
All the extra features currently mean the Galaxy S4 Mini sits at about twice the price of the Galaxy S3 Mini; around £350-400 for a pay as you go S4 Mini compared to the £150-200 PAYG S3 Mini.
This price disparity is also evident in contracts, with the Galaxy S4 Mini available at about £21pm whereas the Galaxy S3 Mini can be picked up for around £11pm.
If colours are important, both the Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini have you covered. Both are available in white, with the S3 Mini also coming in the same blue colour that came with the Galaxy S3. A red and white floral version are also available.
Although not coming with a floral pattern, the Galaxy S4 Mini comes in black, and the far brighter orange, pink, and purple models.
With the more premium price tag it would be reasonable to expect the Galaxy S4 Mini to pack a few more tricks above the spec increase over the Galaxy S3 Mini.
One of the biggest is that being a newer model, Samsung has been able to equip the Galaxy S4 Mini with the newest version of Android Jelly Bean (4.3 rather than 4.1). This means that the Galaxy S4 Mini is able to connect to the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, as well as coming with a newer version of TouchWiz.
In terms of updates, a leaked document shows that both the Galaxy S4 Mini and Galaxy S3 Mini are being tested with KitKat, although there has been no official word out of Korea.
If you’re constantly losing track of your television’s remote control, the Galaxy S4 Mini will also prove to be the handset of choice as it comes with an IR blaster.
Coupled with Samsung’s WatchOn app this turns the S4 Mini into a universal remote capable of controlling televisions, digital set top boxes and dvd/blu ray players.
The Galaxy S4 Mini also benefits from the advancements in 4G LTE, making the most of the super fast web offerings. We should point out that the ability to access this will depend on the contract and network you sign up to, as well as your geographical location.
This isn’t too much of a problem on the Galaxy S3 Mini as it still comes equipped with HSDPA 1.4. Mbps and HSUPA 5.76 Mbps which is generally enough for browsing the mobile web.
NFC is also present on the Galaxy S4 Mini allowing users to share information by tapping devices together. At the moment there are few apps that are able to make the most of NFC, most of them allowing quicker device connection than Bluetooth such as in the Sony SmartWatch 2 and the aforementioned Galaxy Gear.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini are decent handsets providing a decent return for your hard-earned cash.
Where the Galaxy S4 Mini requires a larger outlay it returns a much larger array of features; from an upgraded chipset to an IR blaster, a better camera to 4G support. The larger screen is also a benefit as it provides greater real estate to watch videos and browse the web.
If you’re looking for a flagship experience at a smaller price tag the Galaxy S4 Mini is the handset for you. The Galaxy S3 is more suited to those looking for a reliable and capable device that can make and receive calls, take decent photos and perform basic web browsing at a much more pleasant price point – but it’s much farther removed from its flagship father than the S4 Mini.