Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini: A Review

SHARE

The Samsung Galaxy SIII is an awesome piece of mobile technology. A lot of the technology that has gone into the SIII is representative of the current state of computing technology, and it’s in a package that sits happily in a pants pocket. The Galaxy SIII brought into a single device, everything that Samsung had to offer: super-fast internet, a huge, high-resolution screen, lots of processor cores and more creature comforts than we had ever seen in a device in the past. While this is all well and good for those who want nothing short but the culmination of all mobile tech to that point, this is often far more than the average user needs, and the top-tier pricing can sometimes be past what many are willing to shell out. Recently, we got our hands on an unassuming little gadget that bridges the gap between the Samsung Flagship and all the other phones in the market. The Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini is a handy little device that brings to the table a lot of what’s great about the SIII, while keeping the price low enough to compete with other Android phones much less capable than itself.

The Mini is exactly that: a scaled-down copy of its full-sized namesake. The little guy is a very handy 4.79×2.48x.39 inches small; roughly the size of a large PC mouse, length and width-wise. The model we received was a very clean white with silver trim, and despite being made entirely of plastic, it didn’t feel cheap at all. It has Samsung’s characteristic solid build quality and sits very comfortably in the hand despite a slick finish. It tips the scales at a very light 111 grams, and will disappear quite handily inside a pants pocket with no problem. You’ll slip the Mini into your pocket and almost instantly forget it is there. The four-inch screen takes up most of the device’s front face. It’s an excellent use of space, and slows the phone to have a big display without making the phone overly large. The layout is more or less the same as the Galaxy SIII, and without a size reference, one would be hard-pressed to tell the two apart. I do find that the Mini is much easier to hold than its big brother, just because of the weight. It feels like it wants to run away from your hand a lot less. Buttons are sparse. On the right edge, there is a single power/sleep button and on the left, the volume rocker. A “home” hardkey as well as a “back” and “menu” softkey are on the bottom of the face of the device.

Here’s the SIII Mini next to a standard Zippo lighter

Another shot, showing thickness

The Mini has the same bright AMOLED screen as the SIII, though the smaller of the two has a lower pixel density, at 233 PPI. It’s not the greatest pixel density on the market today, but for most uses, you really won’t be able to tell. It’s crisp enough to read text even when zoomed out, and more importantly, video comes out clear and stutter-free, without any ghosting or jagged edges. If you’re the kind to rely on just a single device for communication and entertainment, the Mini will deliver. It comes with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug in your favorite pair of headphones, as well as either 8 or 16 GB of internal memory, plus microSD expansion up to 32GB. This, along with the wealth of apps in the Google Play store geared towards multimedia playback ensure that you have a phone that is more than you’ll need for the quick TV show or odd music track when on the go.

The Mini is no slouch when it comes to connectivity. It has the standard 2G and 3G connectivity, as well as a Wi-Fi radio that will not only allow you to broadcast and share your data with multiple devices, removing the need to carry a separate pocket Wi-Fi router for your other Wi-Fi only devices. The device is also DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct compliant, and can stream media files to other compliant devices. On top of this, the Mini also comes with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity for file transfers, data sharing and wireless audio.

Samsung has always had a solid reputation with their on-board cameras. The Mini is no exception. It comes with a very capable 5-Megapixel camera with on-board LED flash. Picture quality with the Mini’s camera is quite good. It faithfully reproduces colors, and is capable of reasonably fast focus speeds. They even threw in the SIII’s photo burst function to make sure you don’t miss a single important frame. It is also capable of taking 720p at 30 FPS. The Mini even comes with a front VGA camera for video calls and self-portraits. Being VGA, it’s a little grainy for taking photos, but it serves very well on Skype, as long as the data connection is solid enough. It also comes with GPS to give you pinpoint accuracy with the included (or third-part) map apps, and, quite pleasantly, an FM radio.

A sample shot with the 5-MP camera, scaled down. (Ambient light, indoors)

The mini comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean as its OS, with Samsung’s UI overlay on top. It looks, runs and feels just like the same OS the larger SIII has. There is no noticeable lag when transitioning between screens, despite background tasks and other applications in the foreground. The current hardware is more than powerful enough to handle multitasking, even with the heavier Samsung UI adding strain to the system. Under the hood, the Mini packs a solid 1GHz dual-core Coretex-A9 processor, a Mali-400 GPU and a very healthy 1GB of RAM for its size and market segment. It is, all things considered, a pretty zippy device. It scored an aggregate 6850 on the Antutu test. For comparison, the Antutu graphs put the SIII’s score at something over twice the SIII Mini managed. Again, these are just numbers, and performance-wise, you are very unlikely to see any crushing differences between the two.
We ran the Antutu benchmarking software, and, as expected, the SIII Mini wasn’t at the top of the heap, though we were surprised it came in just a shade under the original Galaxy Nexus’ score. This was no real surprise, as the Mini really wasn’t made to be a computing powerhouse. Still, the 1GB of RAM and two 1GHz cores go a long way to keeping the device above water when it comes to some of the heavier apps. Shy of the hardcore 3D games out for Android, the SIII Mini should see no problem at all.

Samsung was nice enough to include the S Voice Assistant with the SIII, proving that it does have enough brains to handle the voice recognition software, and as long as you have a data connection, this little feature is pretty useful. The assistant is triggered by tappng the home” key twice. For the entirety of the review, I made set most of my alarms, meetings and did a fair number of Google searched with S Voice. It can be programmed to listen for a spoken “wake” command which makes the experience of calling up the software mostly hands-free. Couple this with a headset, and you’re all set to go full hands-free.

Powering everything is a 1500mAh battery. It’s not the greatest capacity out there, but it was more than enough to keep the Mini going for a solid two days, with about half an hour of calls, an hour of browsing and a few hundred text messages. I have little doubt that this phone will have more than enough power to keep going through a whole day of (realistic) heavy use, though tethering devices to the Mini causes the battery to drain surprisingly fast, so be prepared to find an outlet if that’s what you have in mind.

If I had to sum up the SIII Mini in two words, it would be “SIII Lite.” It’s not quite the whole package you’d get with a full-on SIII, but then again, you don’t have to give up a whole payday to get yourself one. This brings me to the greatest feature of this device: Its price. The SIII Mini can be yours for about PHP15,000. That’s far cheaper than all but the cheapest Android devices out there, and it’s from a reputable manufacturer. I expect this to go flying off the shelves when it hits the market in the next few days, so if you’re shopping for a new phone, you might want to set a little (not very much at all, really) for this little guy. I doubt you will regret it.

 

What’s hot:

Small form factor
Decent spec sheet
Excellent Price

What’s not:

Not the fastest phone in the market
Lower pixel density

Bottomline:

If you want the SIII Experience without the SIII Price tag, this is just the ticket

Specs:

  • Operating System: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • CPU: NovaThor U8420 dual-core Cortex-A9 1GHz processor with 1GB of RAM
  • LCD size: 480 x 800 pixels, 4.0 inches (~233 ppi pixel density)
  • Physical Dimensions: 4.79 x 2.48 x 0.39 inches
  • Weight: 111.5 grams
  • Band: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100
  • Internal memory: 8/16 GB, 1 GB RAM