When it comes to smartphones, one size definitely does not fit all. So if the 4.8" display of Samsung’s S3 (review) is simply too much, how about the mini-me in the form of the Galaxy S3 mini?
The Galaxy S3 mini looks like a shrunken-down version of the S3, but with a more compact frame (121.55 x 63 x 9.85 mm; 111.5 g). Despite its smaller body, the mini is actually a bit thicker than the S3 (9.85 mm vs 8.6 mm) but not more taxing (R7 000 vs. R4 000).
Similarities between the S3 and S3 mini stop at the name and styling, since inside they are all too different. It’s not the same quad-core Exynos 4 Quad beast that does processing, instead the mini runs smoothly on a dual-core 1 GHz NovaThor U8420 processor, with the newest edition of Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean) handling the operating system.
Decent CPU performance
Despite packing a reduced amount of CPU firepower, the mini came up tops (for mid-range devices) within the majority of our benchmarking tests, including Vellamo, wherein it scored 1309 for the HTML5 test and produced a Metal test tally of 325, compared to the respective scores of 1146 and 324 for HTC’s fellow midrange Desire X (review). The mini also came up with the goods within AnTuTu by delivering a very respectable score of 6871, easily beating the Desire X’s 5206.
However, the Desire X outmatched the mini within Smartbench 2012 (as well as 2011), scoring 2205 within the productivity index and 2013 for the gaming index, compared to the mini’s productivity index score of 1925 and 1919 gaming Index tally. During normal daily usage though the CPU kept things snappy, and even whilst multitasking all the programs ran smoothly throughout.
Better on the small screen
It is not only the processing power of the mini which has been downgraded, as Samsung fitted the smartphone with a 4" (480 x 800) Super AMOLED display, compared to the massive 4.8" (720 x 1280) on offer on the S3. For those keeping track, this display is actually the same size and resolution as the original Galaxy S that appeared in 2010.
Luckily the reduced screen size means that the ppi tally of 233 still allows for a fairly decent amount of details in pictures, webpages and text, whilst colour saturations and viewing angles on the AMOLED remain excellent.
Also onboard is the latest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface and luckily it features the same extras that differentiate the S3 and Note II (review) from the rest of the Android brigade, including Smart Stay and pop-up play.
The former instructs the smartphone to monitor your eyes via the front-facing camera and refrain from dimming the screen while you are still busy working with the device, whilst the latter enables users to resize their video player in order to continue watching movies when performing other tasks such as surfing the web or replying to a Whatsapp message.
Despite sporting a non-HD display, you get a pretty decent viewing experience on the S3 mini.
In terms of optics, you will find a 5 MP rear-facing camera with LED Flash at the back that is capable of recording lag-free HD-Ready (720p) videos, along with a VGA front-facing snapper for video calls and capturing self-portrait shots. As on the full-size S3, you are able to take snaps whilst recording movies and capture burst shots as well as panorama photos.
Connectivity options are plentiful with Wi-Fi 802.11n, NFC (near field communication) support, Bluetooth 4.0, and 3G HSPA providing download speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps and upload speeds up to 5.76 Mbps, offered. Also onboard is 8 GB worth of internal storage space but only about 4.5 GB of that is user-accessible. You are able to expand the storage total to up to 40 GB via the mini’s microSD memory card.
The presence of a 1500 mAh battery delivers enough battery life for the phone to put in a full working day, unless you have a plethora of apps to download and update via Wi-Fi in which case you won’t even get half of that.
There's a 5 MP snapper at the back that can record buttery smooth videos in 720p resolution.
To the point
If you like the S3’s style, but can’t live with its 4.8" screen, then the S3 mini might be the solution. Although it does not have the same processing kick, this smartphone does offer the S3 experience and design for a lot less (R4 000), and within a more manageable 4" frame. Also keep in mind HTC’s delectable mid-range offering in the form of the Desire X (also R4 000, review), and Sony’s Xperia Sola (R4 300, review) with its innovative use of near field communication technology.
The S3 mini is a very decent all-round mid-range smartphone thanks to sporting the latest version of Android and the same TouchWiz feature set found in its bigger Galaxy siblings.
However, our pick for this price segment remains the capable Desire X, which offers the same spec bark as the mini but at a reduced cost bite.
Update: We've received revised prices for the Samsung Galaxy S3 mini, which now stands at R4 000 for the 8 GB version. The S3 mini offers the same spec bang as its rivals in this price class, but adds differentiating software features such as pop-up play and the most up-to-date Android edition, making the S3 mini our mid-range smartphone of choice.
More manageable size than the S3.
Runs the latest version of Android out of the box.
Same great TouchWiz additions also available on the mini.
Non-HD display is still excellent.
Lacks the CPU kick of the normal S3.
User-accessible storage is almost half of the phone’s internal storage.