People have been very straightforward with this device. They call it “the smaller Galaxy S3”, but is there anything more to it than meets the eye? Get to know the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini in our full review.
Samsung banked on the popularity of the Galaxy S3 so it’s no surprise that they’d offer a watered-down specs of the device, called it a Mini and sold it at half the price. The Galaxy S3 Mini is a great example of how brand image can drive sales across a product line.
Design and Construction
There might have been several Mini phones from Samsung (Galaxy Mini, Galaxy Mini 2), but the S3 Mini adopts the flagship moniker with it – making the impression that it’s just a smaller SGS3. But the S3 Mini is not a Samsung Galaxy S3 hit with a shrink ray; it has a different heart powering the internals – hardware and software. The element keeping it an S3 Mini is the design.
The feeling is the same with its older brother; the curves in the back make it ergonomic to hold, but the impression is far from premium. The employment of so much round elements makes it feel generic, and the plastic isn’t helping at all.
On the front you’ll find the earpiece, the sensors, the camera, the 4-inch screen, the physical home button, which isn’t as tactile as we’d expect, and the 2 capacitive keys. On the right you’ll find the power button & on the left is the volume rocker. Up top is the audio port and down below is the microphone & the micro USB port. On the back is the 5MP camera, the flash and the speakers.
The larger size of the SGS3 may add a premium feel to itself, but here, it’s quite at a lost, and though the looks have been retained. Dirt isn’t really attracted as much with the blue version, and oh, it looks more like a pebble now.
Up front is the 4-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 480 x 800. It gives out a decent pixel density of 233ppi with fair responsiveness, but the quality is less impressive than other Super AMOLED displays. We’re guessing the panel used is similar to the first Galaxy S as the colors look undersaturated when compared to, say, the Samsung Galaxy S2.
Handling a 4-inch phone brings us back to the times where phones were extremely manageable, and it’s a joy navigating through the phone (except typing with the keyboard). The sad part of that is, we often associate 4-inch phones now into the mid-range category, and that is what Samsung has done here – a mid-range SGS3.
OS, Apps and UI
The phone runs Android 4.1.2, skinned with the same Samsung UI we’d expect – TouchWiz Nature UX. But just like the other smaller phones from Samsung, it’s a stripped down version. It uses the same visual elements and manufacturer software, but it lacks some functionalities that are found with its bigger brother.
For example, it doesn’t allow you to change the screen mode (saturation levels), and it doesn’t feature that small ripple effect with the lockscreen – all of which are small complaints but important details. On the other hand, it still features Samsung’s usual software – the Hubs, S-Voice & the like. Things like Pop-up Play and Motion navigation are still found within the phone, so no worries; the software is just a little less than a Samsung Galaxy S3.
Multimedia & Camera
Speakers are loud & clear for a small phone while video playback works well too, although the experience can be cramped with a 4-inch display.
The 5MP camera delivers great amount of sharpness & saturation in average lighting. Colors pop out & noise isn’t as abundant as other sucky cameras.
720p video capture does the same, but it captures unwanted solar flare which messes the quality. Audio capture works well, but it isn’t exceptional as windy situations can make it quite crappy. There’s no auto-focus here which is sad.
The S3’s camera prowess isn’t found here (burst shot and etc.), but all-in-all, the camera is more than enough for a smartphone at this price category.
Performance & Battery Life
The phone is fast. We really expected it to be slow, but in simple tasks like opening the app drawer, it’s just on par with a Nexus 4. Exynos or no Exynos, it gets the job done with a dual-core NovaThor chipset & 1GB RAM. That’s probably enough for most types of use.
While Samsung’s flagships really are benchmark monsters, this one doesn’t even reach half the SGS3’s scores. It only scores 6,736 on Antutu & 3,253 on Quadrant.
We looped 720p video (50% brightness and volume) with the Galaxy S3 Mini for 5 hours, and it managed to drain 75% of the battery, leaving us with a quarter left for use.
We guess what keeps this an S3 is the software, while the hardware deserves to be called S3 Lite rather. We loved a part of the hardware and the software, but there are a few things that hold it back. It needs a larger screen for most people as typing really was difficult, design is much unappealing, video only goes up to 720p without auto-focus and all that.
But regardless of its flaws, it does deliver what the user needs and more. It has a capable camera, a decent display, and a good set of software features. The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini may be an SGS3 with compromises, but the shortcomings are worth it – especially with the price of Php14,990.
Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini specs:
4-inch Super AMOLED display @ 800×480 pixels
1GHz dual-core processor
8GB/16GB internal storage
micro SD up to 32GB
GPS w/ aGPS support
FM Radio (RDS)
5-megapixel (rear) camera w/ LED flash
VGA front camera
720p video capture
TouchWiz UI 4.0 (Nature UX)
Android Jellybean (4.1.2)
121.55 x 63 x 9.85 mm (dimensions)
What we liked about it:
- Great alternative to the S3
- Good camera
- Long lasting battery
- Software has little compromise
What we didn’t like about it:
- Cramped experience
- S-AMOLED display could be better
- Plastic & uninspired feel
- Video captures flare, no 1080p
Editor’s Note: This review took a while longer since the original unit sent to us by Samsung was not working. Fortunately, we also got another unit from Globe a few weeks later so that’s the one we used here. – Yuga