We’ve seen no shortage of big blowers this year. Indeed, around 5 inches has quickly become the standard size for a flagship phone.
Even Apple is said to be going big for the iPhone 6. But there’s still plenty of interest at the smaller end of the market.
Until recently, companies’ ‘mini me’ handsets were poor relations to their flagship models.
Then Sony launched the Xperia Z1 Compact, which crammed in almost the same specs as the full-size Z1, and everyone sat up and took notice.
Suddenly mini mobiles weren’t pale imitations of the ‘proper’ size ones.
Instead, they could be decent phones in their own right, and could be used with one hand to boot. After all, not everyone wants a massive mobile.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest device to get the shrink-ray treatment, and the result is this, the Galaxy S5 Mini.
Like the HTC One Mini 2, it boasts an impressive spec list and similar build quality to its bigger brother. But is it worth considering?
First impressions and design
As we say, the S5 Mini has the same design as the S5. But that’s not entirely a good thing.
The back is the same tacky perforated plastic we derided on the S5. It feels cheap enough when it’s on, but take it off and you’ll see how flimsy it is.
We wouldn’t expect this from a phone costing £100, let alone one costing nearly four times that.
It’s so flimsy you can feel it vibrate when playing something through the speaker.
It’s not a massive issue, but it’s a bit annoying. And it’s hard to imagine Apple or HTC making the same mistake.
The design isn’t all bad though. 4.5 inches is a much more manageable size than the S5’s 5.1 inches.
We could reach the top left portion of the screen with our thumb without too much of a stretch, for example.
It also retains the S5’s IP67 rating, which means it’s waterproof and dustproof.
And unlike the S5, it doesn’t need a flap to cover the miniUSB port. So that’s progress.
It has the same fingerprint sensor and heart rate monitor as the S5, and comes in the same four colours: black, white, gold and blue.
Android KitKat comes as standard, which is par for the course nowadays, even for budget blowers.
On top of that, you get Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, which we’re still not sold on. It’s less intrusive than previous incarnations, but still looks a bit cheap.
Thankfully, the S5 Mini comes preloaded with less bloatware than previous Samsung Galaxy handsets.
Some of the features are actually quite useful too. Such as Ultra Power Saving Mode, which saves power while still giving you access to basic features.
Samsung is going in the right direction with TouchWiz, but it’s still a lot more unsightly and bloated than pure Android.
The S5 Mini certainly isn’t short of features.
It has the same heart rate monitor and fingerprint sensor as the S5, and also works with Samsung’s smartwatches, so you can use certain functions from your timepiece without taking out your phone.
There’s the aforementioned Ultra Power Saving Mode, as well as Samsung’s own roster of apps like S Health, S Planner and S Voice.
Admittedly the spec sheet is less impressive than the S5. Inside is a 1.4GHz quad-core chip, compared to the S5’s monster 2.5GHz.
It also has 1.5GB of RAM, compared to the S5’s 2GB.
But the real question is how does this impact on performance?
We’re happy to report you won’t notice a massive difference between the S5 Mini and S5 in terms of performance.
It whips through menus as fast as you could want, and handles basic tasks like web surfing and emailing with ease.
All the games we tried ran without a hitch too.
While not the most graphically demanding title around, Swing Copters was just as fiendishly difficult as we’d been led to believe, while Shadow Fight 2 ran smoothly with no let up in the punching and kicking action.
While only 4.5 inches large, the screen is an absolute beaut.
Its 1,280x720-pixel resolution is a step down from the S5’s, but at this size, it gives it a pixel per inch count of 326ppi, which is on a par with the iPhone 5S’s retina display. (And let’s not forget it’s half an inch bigger.) Which is certainly not to be sniffed at.
Colours are vivid and bright, and it has nice wide viewing angles too.
Sure, it’s not a patch on the LG G3’s 4K effort, but then what is?
OK, you can find the same screen size and resolution on the Motorola Moto G, which costs a lot less than the Galaxy S5 Mini.
But for our money, the S5 Mini’s display has richer, more vivid colours.
The eight-megapixel camera does a good job, but it’s no match for the S5’s 16-megapixel jobby.
Snaps have less detail, the difference between light and dark is less stark, and it can’t shoot in 4K video.
Nevertheless, it’s fine for everyday snaps, and puts the likes of the Moto G and Nexus 5 to shame.
The fingerprint sensor and heart rate monitor are also a bit gimmicky, as on the S5. The fingerprint scanner is very hit and miss, and the heart rate sensor isn’t as accurate as some rivals.
Finally, battery life isn’t bad at all. In our time testing it, it lasted more than a full day on more than one occasion, which is more than a lot of handsets.
If you like the S5 but want something smaller, chances are you’ll love the S5 Mini. But it’s not without its faults.
There are plenty of compromises, its build quality isn’t going to win any awards, and some features still feel a bit ‘me too’.
But it’s a decent handset, and worth a look. We’d say the Xperia Z1 Compact is still king of the small smarties though, especially now it’s getting on a bit, and the price is coming down.
- Eight-megapixel rear camera
- Fingerprint sensor (PayPal certified)
- 4G Cat4
- 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera
- 4.5" SuperAMOLED display
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- Quad-core 1.4GHz processor
- 16GB internal storage
- 64GB MicroSD
The review unit of the Galaxy S5 Mini was provided by Three