20/11/2012 15:00 | By Richard Melville, contributor, MSN Tech

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini review

Hands on with Sammy's latest Android smartphone


What is it?
The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini is a pint sized reboot of the Samsung Galaxy S3 for smaller pockets with a (slightly) smaller price tag to match.

What’s great?
Small profile, good display and the latest Google operating system with impressive battery life.

What’s not?
The price tag seems high and rivals now offer more speed and storage for your money.

The bottom line:
The S3 Mini is an impressive and slim Android smartphone with useful features and good battery life but it doesn’t offer anything new or unique compared to better specified rivals for the same (or less) money.

Samsung Galaxy S III Mini review (© Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Review

The original Samsung Galaxy S3 was released earlier this year and is, without doubt, the biggest headache for Apple and the iPhone 5. Boasting a 4.8-inch display with a higher resolution and ultra slim profile, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is proof that Apple no longer offer the most advanced smartphone on the block and rivals can offer more in terms of value.

The large inch screen isn’t for everyone, however, and neither is the price tag of course  - Apple fans can always opt for a smaller, cheaper iPhone 4S instead of the iPhone 5 and so Samsung has created a smaller Samsung Galaxy S3 after riding a wave of commercial and critical success for the original, bigger Samsung Galaxy S3.

So, how much smaller is the display of the Galaxy S3 Mini? It’s a 4-inch display with Super AMOLED technology as before, so it’s just an inch smaller, though it’s surprisingly noticeable if you’ve tried the 4.8 inch original S3 display. The slim profile matches the iPhone 5 in the hand and both feel similar in weight. In reality, the Galaxy S3 Mini is identical, or half a gram lighter to fans of facts and figures.

The shiny plastic body lacks the premium feel of recent Android based smartphones like the Motorola Razr i and is still a big leap away from the metal and glass all-in-one iPhone range. All things considered though, it is still rugged and does come in a range of colours, should you fancy something other than ice white.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Power and performance

There’s a lesser processor and the screen resolution takes a hit too, though it still looks sharp against rivals and is fast enough to satisfy anyone wanting to play games like Angry Birds or run apps like Spotify, Facebook and browse Google Play at the same time.

The battery is roughly a third smaller than before but it’s powering a smaller screen and works well - we managed to get a day and a half of heavy use from the Galaxy S3 Mini, which is on a par with the iPhone 5. The hidden benefit of Samsung smartphones is that the battery is removable so buying a second battery for when you’re away from a power socket is relatively cheap and easy so you’re aren’t tied to the one internal battery like rivals. If you’re into hiking trips or festivals, it’s definitely something worth remembering.

The surprise let-down is the camera which is an acceptable 5-megapixel snapper - a downgrade from the full fat Galaxy S3 but one that struggles to match the iPhone 4S and similar smartphones from Sony. If your smartphone replaces your normal camera and you’re an avid snap happy Facebook fan, you’ll get better results elsewhere for a similar (or lower) price tag.

Ironically, other images from the web look great on the display and browsing other people’s snaps on Facebook is impressive and fast.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini homescreen (© Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Apps and media

One obvious win that the Galaxy S3 Mini has over Apple devices is Google Maps which works brilliantly when on foot or in the car and the Siri style S Voice function means telling the Galaxy S3 Mini where you want to go is accurate and speedy. The mic also allows voice recording out of the box and call-quality is loud and clear when chatting to friends and family.

Storage space is small for the price tag at 8GB but there is a microSD card slot which simply means boosting this with a 32GB memory card is easy and a cheap and worthwhile upgrade if you’re going to be buying albums from the new Google Music service or transferring loads of your current music. The transfer process isn’t as simple as, say, iTunes but once you’ve done it, audio playback sounds good and, surprisingly, the supplied headphones are a step-up from the Apple EarPods bundled with the iPhone 5 and beat many rival Android headphones supplied in the box.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: User interface

The general user interface uses Google’s latest Android (Jelly Bean) and a host of useful extras from Samsung such as simple note taking app Memo and calendar app S Planner. Using the Galaxy S3 day to day was pleasant but there were nagging issues - we’ve seen its bigger brother and become used to the larger screen. Motorola’s Razr i smartphone manages a bigger, better 4.3-inch screen in the same body dimensions too, making the screen stretch as far to the edge as possible.

The other issue is the lack of a camera shutter button - there’s just a power button and volume control. It’s simple but touching the screen to capture that impulse Facebook snap is a little tricky and soon becomes irritating.

S3 Mini camera (© Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini:Verdict

Competition is fierce and this price point and while the Galaxy S3 mini does exactly what is sets out to achieve, its bigger brother isn’t that much more expensive (around £100 extra) and an entry level iPhone 4 with the same amount of storage costs the same.

However, the original Samsung Galaxy S 3 is regarded as the king of Android smartphones by many and while this downsized Galaxy S3  is impressive, it loses the power, giant display and large storage of the original while the price no longer matches the specification.

Android fans are likely to hunger for the full fat 4.8-inch screen of the Galaxy S3 or faster, slicker rivals which retain the same small profile as the Galaxy S3 Mini. While the full size Galaxy S3 trumps the iPhone 5 in terms of specs, the Galaxy S 3 Mini struggles to keep pace with the iPhone 4, which now costs the same as the Galaxy S 3 Mini and offers better build quality alongside a faster camera which provides sharper photos.

Battery life is impressive as is the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system and Google Maps performance  but, overall, we can’t help but feel you’re paying over the odds for a smartphone that doesn’t offer the extras or quality of rival smartphones from Motorola, Apple and HTC...

3 stars Samsung S3 Mini

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Available now - £310 (8GB)

See if the Galaxy S3 Mini made the grade in our pick of the 10 best smartphones that money can buy
Ultimate guide: What Samsung Galaxy should you buy?

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