The Galaxy S5 mini is a solid mid-engine with a nice housing, good battery life and an excellent screen with a high contrast. Just like its big brother, it has a number of features that Samsung could just as well have omitted in our opinion, such as the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor. That might have resulted in a more attractive price, because that’s the biggest problem with this S5 mini at the moment. For the same money you can buy the Galaxy S4, last year’s high-end model. It has a better screen, is faster and takes better photos. Or you can buy a Moto G for a good 150 euros less. It has slightly less memory, but works much more smoothly and also has a nice screen. Although the S5 mini is not a bad device, we would not recommend it due to its high price at the time of writing.
- Fine housing
- Good battery life
- Water and dust proof
- Relatively expensive
- Not very smoothly
- TouchWiz feels bloated
Two phone generations ago, Samsung invented the concept of the ‘mini’, a small and cheap derivative of a high-end smartphone. Because the company did use the name of the top device, for example with the Galaxy S III mini, it initially seemed to be the same phone, but smaller. However, that is not the case; the minis from Samsung not only compromise on screen size, but also on image quality, battery life and speed.
A few months ago, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S5, its latest top model, and this summer, as expected, the company introduced the S5 mini, a phone that is smaller, has lesser specs, but has many of the same features, such as a fingerprint scanner and a heart rate monitor. We looked at whether the S5 mini can somewhat uphold the name of its big brother.
The name ‘mini’ is clearly a relative term, because we would have called the 4.5″ screen of the S5 mini two years ago large. However, if we compare it with the ‘normal’ Galaxy S5, the difference in size is obvious.The mini is especially a lot less wide, so you can operate it much more easily with one hand.
Aside from the smaller size, the S5 mini resembles the larger version like two drops of water, with a fake chrome bezel and a back made of a hard plastic with pits in it. The water and dust resistance have also been adopted. We still don’t like the design very much, but it is functional, especially the back. The material hardly gets dirty, fingerprints do not stick to it and it also seems difficult to scratch. The back is removable, so you can change the battery.
As we are used to from Samsung, there is a home button below the screen, with capacitive buttons on either side for multitasking and ‘back’. The home button has a built-in fingerprint scanner, but we didn’t like that in practice, because you have to swipe your finger over it. Simply placing your finger on the sensor is not enough. Because it’s difficult to perform that swipe in the same way, at the same speed and at the same angle, time after time, it often happened that the print was not recognized.
The other feature that the S5 mini shares with the S5, the heart rate monitor, has also not made much of an impression. If you’re patient, you can indeed perform a heart rate measurement by placing your fingertip on the sensor below the camera, sitting completely still and waiting a few seconds. However, we don’t think many average smartphone users will do that, especially since the first attempt often doesn’t go well, which leads to frustration.
The 4.5″ screen has a resolution of 1280×720 pixels; a step down compared to more expensive phones. It is also a so-called PenTile display, which uses fewer subpixels than a ‘normal’ screen and, in theory, therefore less At a distance of 10 cm, so with your nose almost on the screen, you can see serrated edges, but we didn’t mind it during normal use.
The screen uses OLEDs, as we are used to from Samsung, so that each pixel can be controlled separately. As a result, they can also be turned off individually, which in turn means that blacks are much deeper and the contrast is therefore much higher than with LCDs. That makes the screen immediately look impressive.
What helps are the bright colors that the screen produces, although they are certainly not true to life right out of the box. Fortunately, Samsung offers the option to select other profiles for the color reproduction. We measured them all and the Cinema profile shows colors the most accurately by far. The brightness is about 375cd/m², or nits. That’s not a fat pot; in situations with bright lighting conditions, we prefer to see a little more to prevent reflections.
Hardware, performance and battery life
These types of minis often save on components and that is certainly the case with the S5 mini. The phone is powered by an Exynos 3470 soc, consisting of four relatively slow Cortex A7 processor cores at 1.4 GHz and a Mali 400 GPU. The latter has been around since the days of the Galaxy SII and is certainly no longer a powerhouse these days. Still, it shouldn’t be a problem to play a fun 3D game, although it will look less beautiful than on a more powerful phone.
That chip is linked to 1.5GB of RAM. A thick 11GB is available for the storage of apps and other files. If that is not enough, you can add extra memory via the micro SD slot. In the wireless field, there is support for 4g, bluetooth 4.0, wifi-n and nfc.
Motorola already proved with the Moto G that you can build a phone that feels fast with four Cortex A7 cores, but Samsung unfortunately did not succeed as well. The culprit is probably TouchWiz, Samsung’s heavy skin that overlays it on Android. In practice, the interface regularly falters, returning to the home screen is far from smooth and animations are not displayed smoothly every time. Our expectations are of course lower than with high-end devices, but we know that this hardware can be better.
That relatively slow processor does have a positive downside; the power consumption remains within limits, which results in excellent battery life. On a full charge of the 2100mAh battery, the S5 mini manages to last almost eight and a half hours in our browsing test and when watching video it even lasts an hour longer. Those are good scores for an expensive smartphone, let alone a mid-range model like the S5 mini.
Software and cameras
As mentioned, the S5 mini runs on TouchWiz, Samsung’s own Android shell, and as far as we can see, no important functions have been removed compared to the large S5 . The interface and color scheme are completely the same, and features such as My Magazine, the Kids Mode, the fingerprint scanner, the heart rate monitor, Air View and the Extreme Power Saving Mode are also present again. We already wrote that we don’t think the heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner are great additions, and we feel that way with more aspects of TouchWiz. In addition, the interface is quite busy in places, with a settings menu overflowing with options, making it sometimes difficult to find the option you’re looking for.
The camera software also looks familiar; buttons for taking photos and videos are constantly displayed on the right, and you can open an extensive options menu via a button at the bottom left. There you can then set the resolution and switch things like stabilization and face recognition on or off. The camera itself is not very impressive, especially compared to that of the S5. It has a 16-megapixel copy with a new kind of pixel structure and autofocus technology for higher image quality and faster focusing. The S5 mini has a simple 8 megapixel camera module, without any frills, and the image quality is as you would expect from a phone in this class: nothing special. You can easily take a snapshot and as long as you only view the photos on the screen of the phone, everything still looks pretty nice,
The Galaxy S5 mini is a solid mid-engine with a nice housing, good battery life and an excellent screen with a high contrast. Just like its big brother, it has a number of features that, in our opinion, could just as well have been omitted. That might have resulted in a more attractive price, because that’s the biggest problem with this S5 mini at the moment. At the better-known web shops it costs around 400 euros, although you can also find it for a few tens less at a number of price fighters.
Even then, however, it is still very expensive in our eyes. For the same money you can buy the Galaxy S4, last year’s high-end model. It has a better screen, is faster and takes better photos. Or for a good 150 euros less you can buy a Moto G. It has slightly less memory, but works much more smoothly. Although the S5 mini is not a bad device, we would not recommend it at the moment due to its high price.