Samsung Galaxy S5 mini review: Do big things come in small packages?

ByDuncan Heaney
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini

The newest member of the Samsung Galaxy family might be smaller than the Galaxy S5, but it packs in many of the same features. Is it any good though? We pass judgement...

Before we'd even had a chance to take the Galaxy S5 Mini out of the box, all the denizens of broadbandchoices HQ were asking was: "How mini is the Galaxy S5 mini?"

Obviously, it's smaller than the full-size Galaxy S5, with a 4.5in screen instead of a 5.1in display, but what does that mean in practical terms? Well, we're never ones to ignore the people's questions, even if they're our own people, so we did some science:

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini


So according to our crack in-house team of sizeologists, how mini is the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini? "More mini than a mini rugby ball, but less mini than a LEGO Minifigure."

Well, that answers that then.

Video: Samsung Galaxy S5 mini - 5 things we love

Display and design

It's actually slightly smaller than an iPhone 6 in size. In terms of design, it's retains the attractive look and feel of Samsung's flagship smartphone. The screen has a lower resolution, but it still looks great in action, making colours really pop out.

The casing is familiar too, with its removable back sporting a pleasant-feeling dimpled finish. However, the lightness of the handset, couple with some awkward flourishes like the faux-metal band around the casing - which looks nice, but feels incredibly plasticky - makes it feel less robust and, for lack of a better description, less premium than that both its big brother and its rivals.

Of course, that might because it is, and that's actually an important point to highlight.

Managing expectations

If you expect the Galaxy S5 mini to be the same phone as the Galaxy S5 but in a smaller package - as we suspect many users will - then you need to manage your expectations. The S5 mini isn't just scaled back in size - it's scaled back in performance as well, with a slower processor, that lower resolution screen, and a slightly less capable camera, for example.

That's reflected in the price, which indicates its mid-range status, but the name Galaxy S5 conjures up expectations the phone can't meet.

Galaxy S5 Mini expectations


Our advice is to judge the Galaxy S5 mini for what it is, not what on its name, because once you get past that, there's actually a fair amount to admire.


For example, while it lacks the specs of the Galaxy S5, the Galaxy S5 Mini does have most of the features we loved from the original.

That includes the fingerprint scanner, which can be used to unlock the phone and authorise PayPal payments. Overall, it seems slightly less reliable than the iPhone's similar TouchID, but works well enough that unlocking with it becomes second nature.


And then there's S Health, Samsung's excellent suite of health and fitness tools, which syncs with the heart rate monitor below the camera. Some of us - by which I mean me - have maintained a certain amount of cynicism about health and fitness apps, primarily due to being fundamentally lazy.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini heart rate monitor


However, S Health is so well-integrated into the S5 mini it's easy to see how it would seamlessly slot into your lifestyle. Basic movement is automatically tracked, and tracking other data, such as heart rate and what you eat, is admirably straightforward. All in all, it's a solid app for fitness freaks and those who just want to work up a sweat.

And you don't need to worry about that sweat getting all over the Galaxy S5 mini, as its dust and water-resistant like big brother. 


Sadly the camera is less impressive. It's not that the eight megapixel (MP) snapper is bad, it's just that it's merely adequate.

Sure enough, photos look good enough, with natural colours and decent detail, but compared to the likes of the HTC One mini 2, which has a 13MP camera, and the far superior camera of the full-size Galaxy S5, the S5 mini's undeniably lags behind.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini photo


At least there's plenty for photographers to do. The Galaxy S5 mini has most of the camera features the Galaxy S5 and photo-focused Galaxy K Zoom have, including panoramic shots, continuous shots, Virtual Tour, which lets you take multiple images of an area to provide a Google Street View-esque collage, and Beauty Face, which smooths out skin with a magazine-style airbrush effect.  

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini photo


It does make a difference, but who needs it? You're perfect as you are. No matter how much evidence S Health provides to the contrary.


The battery, on the other hand, is good. We got a full day out of the handset with moderate use, which included watching a few movies on Netflix and taking a fair amount of photos. Games and video drained it faster, as you'd expect, but while it's not the best we've ever seen, we're more than happy with the life expectancy of the Galaxy S5 mini.


Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini

Also appreciated is its power-saving mode, which limits the number of apps running in the background, turns the screen to greyscale, reduces brightness and so on to conserve the battery. Samsung says the phone can last days on standby when in this mode, and having left if for hours overnight, with nary a drop in battery, we're inclined to believe it.


It's a something of a shame that Samsung has scaled back the specs of the so much along with the size, particularly the camera, and we're not in love with the cheap feel of the handset either.

But the best of the original Galaxy S5's apps and features - S Health, the fingerprint scanner, water and dust resistance - are there, and it's undeniably more comfortable to use than its big brother.

Ultimately, if impressive specs are what you want from a new mobile phone, you're better off with the Galaxy S5, or LG G3. But if those are too big, or you want the features of a high-end phone at a lower price, you'll be more than satisfied with the Samsung Galaxy S5 mini.

Rating: 7/10

Tempted to pick up the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini or do you think big is better? Share your thoughts in the comments.



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