Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini review

We review the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, it may be Galaxy S3 by name, but is it S3 by nature?

Rating: 
3
Typical Price: 
£300.00
Pros: 
Excellent performance, even on CPU/GPU-intensive games, great battery life, Android Jelly Bean (4.1.1)
Cons: 
Way too expensive, weak camera, limited storage
Verdict: 
At £200 the Galaxy S3 Mini would be a thoroughly excellent proposition with Android Jelly Bean, excellent battery life, and above average performance. But it costs around £300 offline and, given the competition, that’s way to expensive for what’s on offer here.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini shares more than a passing resemblance to its flagship older brother, the Samsung Galaxy S3. But it’s not simply a smaller version of the company’s hero handset. It’s a completely different proposition – one that’s aimed squarely at the middle of the market and a different type of user entirely. 

Powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor and packing in 1GB of RAM, the Galaxy S3 Mini is a mid-tier handset through and through. At least it is until you consider the price, which at around £300 SIM-free is very high given current levels of competition from the likes of HTC, LG, and Motorola.

It does feature Android Jelly Bean (version 4.1), which is sort of a USP at this price-point, at least for the time being anyway, and the use of a smaller 4-inch (480x800 pixel) Super AMOLED display will definitely appeal to users who prefer smaller-proportioned handsets more inline with the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini review – Design

The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini looks a lot like the Galaxy S3. It has the same overall shape though is a touch stouter. It’s constructed from the same plastic build materials, measures  121.6 x 63 x 9.9mm and weighs in at 111.5g.

Samsung has kept all the hardware keys – home button, volume rocker, and power button – in the same arrangement as its Galaxy S3 flagship, with the only disparity being where the headphone jack is positioned – it’s now off to the right-hand side.

And yet despite all this design uniformity, the difference between the two handsets is huge. With the Galaxy S3 the weight is distributed evenly throughout the chassis, creating a lightweight feel that runs contrary to its larger proportions. With the Mini it’s the exact opposite. It’s like a dying star, smaller but infinitely denser.

On the plus side it does feel pretty robust in the hand and it is also a lot better suited for one-handed use than the Galaxy S3, even more so when you activate continuous input through the settings. It’s also lighter than Apple’s iPhone 5, although build is no way near as premium – but that’s to be expected given the price difference.  

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini review – Screen

The 4-inch (480x800 pixel) Super AMOLED display is bright and colourful, with excellent colour reproduction and expansive viewing angles. Clocking in with a pixel density of 233ppi, the Galaxy S3 Mini’s display is identical to the one used on Samsung’s original Galaxy S handset, which launched back in 2010. 

By 2012 standards it’s not the best. Pixels are clearly visible thanks to the display’s PenTile matrix setup and compared to the quality of the Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the prior being available for less direct from Google. 

Performance in direct sunlight isn’t great, as is the case with 99.9 per cent of handsets. But colours do look bright and the blacks are extremely deep. All in all the display isn’t perfect but considering the pitch of the handset – it’s aimed at the middle of the market – this could hardly be used against it. 

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini review – OS and Interface

You’d be hard-pressed to find a mid-range handset running Android Jelly Bean in today’s marketplace, but that is just what you have here. And while the Mini doesn’t yet run the latest build of Jelly Bean (4.2) it’s still pretty bang up to date compared to most Androids out there.

With Jelly Bean (version 4.1.1) you get Google Now, the search giant’s new and improved Butter UI, increased stability and security, as well as expandable notifications, and improved app and widget icon arrangement abilities. 

But because it’s Samsung you’ll have to contend with the TouchWiz Nature UX interface, the company’s custom UI that sits atop Google’s Android OS. It's not quite as slick as Google’s stock UI requiring more from your device’s processor and GPU but, thanks to the inclusion of a dual core CPU and 1GB of RAM, everything flies along nicely with zero lag, at least in our time with the handset.

Customisation is simple and there are plenty of TouchWiz Nature UX widgets that you can put to use for aggregating content and information on your homescreens. Our favourite is Samsung’s TouchWiz Calendar, S Planner, which provides instant details of everything you’ve got planned for the next month. This thing is a godsend for anyone with a hectic schedule.

Specifications

Typical Price Around £300 SIM-free & free on contract
UK Launch Available
Network Latest Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini prices
Frequency Quad
Phone Style Candybar
Thickness 9.9mm
Length 1216
Width 63mm
Weight 111.5g
Built-in Memory 8/16GB
Additional Memory Up to 32GB via SD-slot
High-speed Data HSDPA —— no 4G, no HSPA+
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
Screen Size 4-inch Super AMOLED 480 x 800 pixels
Screen Colours 16M
Designer Lens 5-megaixel
Designer Lens No
Camera Resolution 2592x1944 pixels
Flash Yes
Video Resolution 720p
Ringtones Yes
Music Player Yes
Music Formats MP3/WAV/eAAC+/AC3/FLAC player
Radio Yes
Speaker Yes
Video Calling Yes
Internet Yes
Browser HTML5
Games Yes
Battery Standby Up to 450 h (2G) / Up to 430 h (3G)

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