23 June 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini - First Impressions

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini has arrived with exactly zero surprise factor, as the Korean firm looks to milk its flagship brand for all its worth.

It takes over from the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini which launched a few months after the Galaxy S3 last year, but Samsung has not given the S4 as much time to find its feet before bringing out its smaller, cheaper brother.

Obviously you don't get the same stellar line up of specs as you do on the full fat Samsung Galaxy S4, with the Galaxy S4 Mini offering up a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED 960 x 540 display, 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, although only 5GB is actually available to use.

Luckily the microSD slot behind the removable rear cover means you can stick in a card up to 64GB in the size, although its placement behind the battery is far from ideal as you won't be able to swap cards in and out quickly.

In terms of a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini release date TechRadar has been told the 4G variant will arrive in the UK before the end of June, while availability for other markets is still unknown.

Pricing for the Galaxy S4 Mini hasn't been announced just yet, but we reckon it will come in around the £25 per month mark, or about £300 (around $460, AU$480) SIM-free.

The assumed price, along with the specs, pits the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini against the likes of the Sony Xperia SP, Nokia Lumia 820, Huawei Ascend P2 and BlackBerry Z10 in the tough middle to high end of the smartphone market.

The body is noticeably plastic, but it's solid in construction Galaxy S4 looks complete with the metal brand round the edge adds to the premium style of the handset.

We much prefer the look and feel of the Galaxy S4 Mini over its predecessor, which we felt was a little on the cheap side.

At 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.94mm the Galaxy S4 Mini sits comfortably in the hand and at 107g you won't be straining your wrists at any point, while slipping it into a pocket or bag won't make any difference to your load.

Its relatively diminutive size means the power/lock key on the right and the volume rocker on the left are easy to hit, while up top there's a headphone jack and the microUSB port completes the roundup at the base of the handset.

The distinctive Samsung physical home key features below the 4.3-inch of the Galaxy S4 Mini and is flanked by touch keys for menu and back functions - all of which are responsive enough.

Look above the keys and the qHD display which adorns the front of the Galaxy S4 Mini is bright and clear, providing that high level of colour saturation we've become accustomed to on Samsung devices.

Samsung's TouchWiz overlay is plastered over Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and while some may not be a fan it's a feature packed offering from the Korean firm which is relatively easy to use.

We found the screen to be responsive to all our various pokes and prods and the 1.7GHz dual-core processor, plus 1.5GB of RAM, does a good job at keeping everything running smoothly.

The Galaxy S4 Mini was never going to be as fluid as the Galaxy S4 and it does lack the slickness when sweeping through homescreens and opening apps, although to the untrained eye you're unlikely to notice much difference.

We were a little disappointed with the default keyboard on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, finding it rather cramped and tricky to manipulate at speed, which led to some errors as we bashed out messages to our imaginary unicorn friend Brian.

At least the screen was responsive, so the S4 Mini always picked up our key press, plus the presence of next word prediction and auto-correct soothed our initial anguish a little.

This issue can be resolved by downloading a third party board from Google Play, but we wish Samsung had spent a little more time on its own offering.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini we got our hands on came equipped with a EE SIM-card in the back, allowing us to test out its 4G browser speeds and we must say it gave an impressive showing.

The mobile version of TechRadar loaded up in just a few seconds, while the desktop site didn't take too much longer.

Sadly text reflow isn't available on the S4 Mini and considering its slightly smaller screen size this is a little frustrating as you generally have to zoom in to read what's on screen.

Text itself rendered crisply which made it easy to read and images looked detailed, although not quite as sharp as they do on the full HD handsets out there.

Round the back you'll find Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S4 mini with a decent 8MP camera with a single LED flash, while round the front you've got a 1.9MP camera for those all important vanity checks.
If you let the auto-focus settle before hitting the shutter than the Galaxy S4 Mini will instantly take a snap, and in less than a second you're ready to take another picture.

Tap-to-focus is also present, although we found the Galaxy S4 Mini usually took a second or so to readjust - but that isn't a big issue.

Image quality was acceptable for our dimly lit event space, and we did notice some graining on the images, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini will probably perform far better in well lit areas and outdoors - something we'll put to the test in our in-depth review.

For the budding photographers among you Samsung has stuck a heap of modes in the Galaxy S4 Mini camera app with the likes of HDR and panorama present, plus you can also record full HD video at the tap of a button, without having to switch modes first.

The news that the 1900mAh battery is removable will be music to some people's ears, and it's easily to get out along with the rear cover which peels off with no trouble - even when it's attached to a security gizmo. We're proper hackers here at TechRadar.

Early Verdict


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a surprisingly well built, premium looking handset with a good range of bells and whistles which will please any prospective buyer.

We weren't overly impressed with the microSD placement or the bundled Samsung keyboard, plus the amount of internal storage available is disappointing - but these aren't huge issues and overall the Galaxy S4 Mini appears to be an excellent smartphone.

As long as Samsung can keep the price sensible the Galaxy S4 Mini is going to be one of the big contenders in the mid-high end of the market and we'll struggle not to recommend it.


  1. I'm impressed with the Galaxy S4 Mini...it's stylish and has lot of great features. If the pricing is right, I'll gift one to my wife next month on her birthday.

  2. I'm also impressed with the S4 mini it has a great screen and the camera seems pretty good in low lighting and also outside the quality is good once set to 8meg instead of the standard 6meg, I find the internet speeds very fast and seems to keep good signal even when the signal is poor.. Yes the internal storage is very poor but you can upgrade it to 64gig with micro sd. Over all I rate the phone 8/10.


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