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Samsung has had quite the run with its Galaxy S4 as the company has released numerous iterations of the device that range from simply offering a new color for the phone, to new devices, such as the Galaxy S4 Active and Galaxy S4 Mini. We took a look at the Galaxy S4 Active a few months ago, and now we take a look at Galaxy S4 Mini to complete our look at all of the different variants Samsung made available for its popular Android phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini brings the best of the original Galaxy S4 into a much smaller frame. Its smaller size comes at a cost as The S4 Mini features only a dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 8GB of internal storage and less memory, although that shouldn’t mean the phone is any less worthy of your hard-earned dollars. With that said, let’s take a closer look at Galaxy S4 Mini in our review.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Specs

Display: 960 x 540
Display Size: 4.3 inches
Display Type: Super AMOLED
Processor: 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400
RAM: 1.5GB
Storage: 8GB
MicroSD: Yes > Up to 64GB
Battery Capacity: 1900mAh
Rear-Facing Camera: 8MP
Front-Facing Camera: 1.9MP
Weight: 107g
Dimensions: 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm

Context

We all use our smartphones differently, so we feel it’s important to touch exactly how we use our devices prior to reviewing them. I personally don’t put too much emphasis on actually making phone calls with smartphones as I tend to communicate with friends and family through texts, instant messages and social networking.

While I’m traveling, I tend to keep up with my emails through my smartphone and pass the time either listening to podcasts or browsing through my Facebook news feed or randomly browsing news aggregators such as Reddit. On occasion, I have been known to spend some time browsing YouTube, although it’s pretty infrequent.

Industrial Design

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Samsung didn’t make any drastic changes to the overall look and feel of the Galaxy S4 from the Galaxy S3, so if you’ve familiarized yourself with the phone, then you’ll feel right at home with the Galaxy S4 Mini. The front of the S4 Mini features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display which has a physical Home button sitting just below it along with a capacitive Home and Back button. A Samsung logo sits directly above the display along with the phone’s speaker, front-facing camera, sensors and a small LED for notifications.

Surrounding the Galaxy S4 Mini is a brushed metal frame, which has been synonymous with the Galaxy S line. The placement of buttons and ports are unchanged from its larger Galaxy S4 as you’ll find its power / sleep button on the right side of the device, volume rocker on the left, microUSB port below and a 3.5mm headphone jack, IR blaster and microphone sitting on its top.

The rear of the S4 Mini is still made of a plastic material, which has been the topic of debate for many smartphone aficionados for years now. For the S4 Mini, Samsung jazzed up the look of its rear by offering a mesh look, which it also did for the original Galaxy S4. It certainly adds a bit more detail to the rear of the S4 Mini as just having a plastic rear cover in a solid color can be a bit boring.

"THE S4 MINI IS DEFINITELY MORE MANAGEABLE TO USE IN ONE HAND"    Aside from the rear cover, you’ll be able to find the S4 Mini’s 8MP main camera along with its flash sitting towards the top of the phone’s rear. Logos for Verizon and the Galaxy S4 Mini are also on display, and a speaker can be found located at the bottom-left corner of the device. Just like the Galaxy S4, the S4 Mini has a removable rear cover, which allows users to access its 1900mAh battery as well the phone’s SIM card and microSD card slot. Both the SIM card and microSD card slot sit underneath the phone’s battery, which means you won’t be able to swap out either card without completely turning off the S4 Mini.

One of the major reasons why you’re probably considering the Galaxy S4 Mini is due to its small size when compared the original Galaxy S4. The S4 Mini is definitely more manageable to use in one hand than a device with a 5 inch display and above as my hands and fingers didn’t have to shift too much to access the phone’s physical buttons or display. If you wanted the features of the Galaxy S4, but not the size, the S4 Mini is exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Display (good+)

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In a world filled with smartphones that feature 1080p displays, the Galaxy S4 Mini’s 900 x 540 is certainly a modest resolution as it sits right between a 720p & 1080p display. For a 4.3-inch device, the S4 Mini’s display performed as well as we expected it to partly due to the inclusion of a Super AMOLED display. Images look very well detailed, colors pop and text is easily readable on the S4 Mini’s display.

When viewing the display in direct sunlight, we noticed the S4 Mini didn’t perform as well as the Galaxy S4 as we found it challenging to make out what we were looking at. With a maximum brightness nits of below 300, we can certainly see why this would be a challenge. If you’re going to be in direct sunlight most of the time while using your Galaxy S4 Mini, then you might want to reconsider.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Custom Apps

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini has all of the custom applications that can be found in the original Galaxy S4, which means you’ll be able to use such custom apps like S Voice, S Translator, S Memo and Samsung Link. You’ll also be able to use Air Gestures, Air View, Group Play, Smart Stay, Smart Pause, Smart Scroll and pretty much anything else Samsung announced it would include in the Galaxy S4.

If you’re interested to learn more about the custom applications included in the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, be sure to check out our review of the Galaxy S4 as we go into detail as to what each feature offers and whether they’re helpful or not.

Killer Apps

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Virtual Keyboard (excellent)

The Galaxy S4 Mini features a virtual keyboard that is pretty much identical with what we’ve seen on other Samsung Galaxy devices, such as the original Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Active and Galaxy Note. The first page of the QWERTY keyboard features secondary keys on each key that include numbers as well as characters that are used often. The second page brings up the secondary keys on the first page in addition to two more pages of special characters.

During our time with the keyboard, we noticed absolutely no lag when tapping each key and we were impressed with just how well its autocorrect and built-in swiping feature performed.

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Facebook (very good)

The Facebook application on the Galaxy S4 Mini is pretty much what you’d expect from most Android devices. With a 4.3-inch display, you’ll probably be doing more scrolling through your news feed than you would on the original Galaxy S4.

Aside from the smaller screen, everything else is pretty much on par with Facebook on all Android devices as you’ll be able to browse through your News Feed, message your friends and access Pages and anything else you would on Facebook.

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Google Maps (very good)

Google Maps has been one of the best mapping applications available across multiple mobile and desktop platforms. On the Galaxy S4 Mini, you can expect a standard version of Google Maps, which already is a fantastic product on its own. Google Maps isn’t as snappy or quick as we’ve experienced on other Android devices featuring quad-core processors, but it’s still very good and will be able to give you exactly what you’re looking for.

Entertainment (good+)

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Video Playback (good+)

The video player that’s available on the Galaxy S4 Mini offers a pretty standard experience as you’ll be able to play, pause, fast forward and rewind your video at any time during playback. You can change the view of your videos, wirelessly play them on supported devices and multitask by having the video play on the S4 Mini’s screen while performing other tasks.

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Gaming (good+)

With a dual-core processor, the Galaxy S4 Mini isn’t exactly what you’d consider a smartphone that can push the limits as far as gaming goes. You’ll be able to enjoy a number of casual games such as Candy Crush Saga, but when it comes to games that demand more from the S4 Mini, you might experience some stuttering or lag, depending on the game.

For example: we played Riptide GP2 on the S4 Mini and noticed a drop in the game’s framerate at different times. On the other hand, while playing Dead Trigger, there wasn’t any sign of any issues like the ones we experienced with Riptide GP2.

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Speaker Quality (very good)

Most smartphones these days tend to have a speaker that doesn’t deliver an experience that would please the majority of audiophiles out there. The speaker on the S4 Mini offers a really good overall sound as it gives a nice mixture of highs, mids and low sounds, although just like most phones, the bass is lacking. The quality of the mix is done so well, nothing sounds out of place when listening to music through the speaker.

"THE SPEAKER ON THE S4 MINI OFFERS A REALLY GOOD OVERALL SOUND"    The volume level can get pretty loud at its max as we were able to enjoy tunes one or two rooms away from where the S4 Mini was located, although we’re sure you won’t be finding yourself farther than that from your phone at any time.

Digital Imaging (very good)

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Camera Application (excellent)

The Galaxy S4 Mini might lack some of what makes the original Galaxy S4 such an amazing smartphone, but we’re happy to report the camera application we thoroughly enjoyed has been largely left unchanged. The S4 Mini’s camera application allows you to take photos within a number of settings such as Beauty Face, Best Photo, Continuous Shot, Sound & Shot and Best Face to name a few of the options.

"THE MODES AVAILABLE FOR CAPTURING VIDEO ARE NOWHERE NEAR AS COMPLEX"  

In addition to the multiple modes, you’ll be able to control the camera’s flash, toggle voice control, a timer and be able to share your photo with your friends as well as use the phone as a remote viewfinder.

As much attention as the camera application received, the modes available for capturing video are nowhere near as complex. You’ll pretty much only be able to record video and that’s about it.

Photo and Video Quality (very good)

Samsung has included an 8MP main camera on the S4 Mini, which is yet another downgrade from the Galaxy S4’s 13MP camera. The S4 Mini’s camera is still able to take some nice, detailed photos, which you can see for yourself below compared to the 8MP camera of an iPhone 5.

Performance (good+)

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The Galaxy S4 Mini features a dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor, which certainly isn’t as powerful as the quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor that is available in the Galaxy S4. Although if you’re considering purchasing the Galaxy S4 Mini, it’s probably due to its overall smaller size and not for its performance capabilities. Even though the S4 Mini isn’t as powerful as the Galaxy S4, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t perform well enough to keep up with most tasks. Let’s take a look at how well the S4 Mini performs by running through our benchmarks.

Antutu 4 is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything an Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.

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With an Antutu score of 18974, the Galaxy S4 Mini scored a little higher than most mid-range Android phones with 4-inch displays. It easily beats out the HTC One Mini and even the Moto G, which means those who decide to pick up the device can expect a pretty smooth experience when using it.

GFXBench 3.0.6 was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in a number of different environments.

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The S4 Mini scored a 332 in GFXBench 3.0.6 and was able to run the benchmark up to 5.9fps. This score is pretty much on par with most Android devices this size and should allow you to enjoy casual games with ease, although more graphic-intense games may give you some issues.

The final benchmark we like to run is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the mobile device’s ability with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it.

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Perceived Performance

Benchmarks help give us a better understanding of the performance of a device, but we believe reporting on its perceived performance is also equally important. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini felt quick and responsive for the majority of tasks that we performed on the phone. There was a bit of noticeable lag when playing games that were graphics heavy, although other than that, the S4 Mini performed well.

Battery (very good)

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Another downgrade the Galaxy S4 Mini receives is in its battery department. A smaller body means a small battery, so the Galaxy S4’s 2600mAh battery gets cut down to a 1900mAh for the S4 Mini. This may not be a bad thing considering the S4 Mini has a less intense processor running it, as well as a smaller screen to power up. So let’s take a look at just how well the S4 Mini’s battery performs.

Moderate Usage (good)

For our moderate usage battery test, we use the Galaxy S4 Mini off and on for about an hour performing tasks that don’t push the hardware of the phone too hard. Our moderate usage test had us checking Facebook, corresponding to emails, reading some news stories and other activities that would be considered moderate. After an hour, we noticed a significant battery drop of 20%, which means during moderate use, you should expect around 5 hours of battery life.

Video Streaming Test (excellent)

For our video streaming test, we streamed a 1080p YouTube video for an hour with the Galaxy S4 Mini’s display set at 50% of its full brightness. After an hour, we noticed a drop in the phone’s battery by 6%, which means you could expect around 16 hours of streaming video play. Keep in mind a number of factors could affect this score, such as the brightness of the screen or if there are applications running in the background.

Intense Usage (good+)

For our intense usage battery test, we find its best to push the limits of a phone’s hardware as hard as possible to see just how well its battery will last. For this particular test, we ran Riptide GP2 for an hour straight. Once the hour was up, we noticed a drop in battery life by 21%, which means during intense usage, such as gaming, you should expect over 4 hours of battery life.

Charging Time

As important as it is to gauge how long a device’s battery will last, we also feel it’s important to make a note of how long it’ll take for a battery to fully recharge itself. For the Galaxy S4 Mini, we noticed an increase in its battery by 34% after recharging it for an hour. This means if your S4 Mini is drained completely, you should have a completely filled battery after three or so hours.

Conclusion (very good)

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Samsung successfully brought everything customers loved about the Galaxy S4 into the Galaxy S4 Mini, giving those who prefer a phone with a 4-inch screen something to enjoy. Sure – the S4 Mini doesn’t have the specs of the Galaxy S4, but it’s still able to offer a great experience for those looking for a mid-range phone of this size.

"SAMSUNG SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT EVERYTHING CUSTOMERS LOVED ABOUT THE GALAXY S4 INTO THE GALAXY S4 MINI"   All eyes will soon be on the S5 Mini once Samsung makes their official announcement of its existence, but until then, the S4 Mini will give you a solid Galaxy experience within a small frame. And best of all, once the S5 Mini is announced, you can expect the price of the S4 Mini to drop a great deal.

Overall product rating: 8/10

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Reviews. Read more about galaxy s4 mini and Samsung.

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