Review: Samsung Galaxy S III Mini

Samsung's Galaxy S III has been superseded by the brand-new Galaxy S 4 - however, its name lives on with the recently-introduced Galaxy S III Mini.

NameSmartphone: Samsung Galaxy S III Mini
At a glance:4.0-inch, 480 x 800-pixel Super AMOLED display,Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPU,Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean),8GB onboard storage, accepts microSD cards up to 32GB
Summary:Its resemblance to the Galaxy S III is only skin-deep, but the Mini stands on its own merits as a reasonable, if not particularly exciting smartphone.
Rating:3.5/5
RRP:$599
Contact:samsung.co.nz

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Samsung’s Galaxy S III is a remarkable smartphone. It’s arguably the only smartphone to achieve anywhere near the sort of consumer recognition and sales as Apple’s iconic iPhone. It's now been superseded by the brand-new Galaxy S 4 – however, the S III name lives on with the recently-introduced Galaxy S III Mini.

You could be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that the S III Mini would be a miniaturisation of the high-res, high-spec smartphone for which it was named. Seems a reasonable assumption, right? That’s not the case at all.

The S III boasts a 1.4GHz quad-core processor – at the time of its release, that gave it chart-topping performance. The Mini is far more sedate, with a 1GHz dual-core processor that delivers performance marginally below that of the outdated-but-still-available Galaxy S II.

Another of the S III’s headline features was a high resolution screen (306 pixels per inch) that competes with the iPhone’s 326 PPI ‘Retina’ display. The S III Mini can make no such claim: its four-inch screen has an uninspiring 480 x 800 resolution, which works out to 233 PPI. That’s just slightly sharper than the Galaxy S II and right on the average for the Mini’s size and price range. The screen uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, which is bright enough to be viewed outdoors, and has great colour.

Slightly disappointing, given the existence of dual-carrier (42Mbit/sec 3G technology) and LTE/4G now available from Vodafone, the S III Mini has maximum 3G data speeds of 14.4Mbit/sec down, 5.76Mbit/sec up. Again, common for a phone at this price, but it’s not the sort of boundary-pushing tech I’d have hoped for in a Galaxy S III-branded device.

In software, at least, the S III Mini is up-to-date. It runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface overlay. The experience is very smooth – there’s no noticeable lag when moving through menu screens, launching or switching applications.

The S III’s two headline software features also made it onto the Mini: Samsung’s S Voice (a direct competitor to Apple’s Siri) and the Smart Stay technology that keeps the phone awake as long as you’re looking at it.

S Voice works just the same as it does on the S III – its performance depends entirely on how well it can understand your accent, which in my case was ‘not very much’. It’s pretty neat if it works for you, letting you issue voice directions such as ‘New event, Coffee with Alex, 11:00 AM tomorrow, for one and a half hours’ that inserts an event in your calendar.

Smart Stay is barely noticeable, but very, very useful. As someone who reads articles and sometimes even books on my phone, using a small font size which results in large pages of text, I’m used to my phone falling asleep while I’m still using it. Put on a short screen timeout, like Android’s minimum of 15 seconds, and the problem is even worse. Smart Stay keeps the phone awake as long as the front-facing camera can detect your eyes. It works well from most comfortable viewing angles, and didn’t have any trouble with my glasses.

Samsung has taken a leaf from Apple’s book. Just as the iPad Mini is based on the hardware of the iPad 2 rather than the third- or fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display, so the Galaxy S III Mini, rather than being a smaller S III, is really a mini Galaxy S II with the latest software.

The four-inch S III Mini is comfortable to hold, and offers the same stylish plastic body as the full-sized S III and the giant-sized Galaxy Note II. It also ships with the S III’s proprietary software, giving you the same user experience but without the chart-topping performance.

If you want Galaxy S III style, but find it just a bit too large or too expensive for your tastes, the Mini is a reasonable option.

Tags smartphone

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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