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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review: Not worth it in 2017

Alan Martin Katharine Byrne
7 Sep 2016
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini header
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
324
inc VAT SIM-free

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini has excellent battery life and a decent camera, but its downgraded performance holds it back

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 3470, Screen Size: 4.5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 8-megapixel, Storage: 16GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 131x65x9.1mm, Weight: 120g, Operating system: Android 4.4.2

Update: Phones have gotten bigger, it's fair to say – especially if you're a fan of Samsung. Handsets start at 5in, and the S6 and S7 didn't get their own "mini" versions, leaving the Galaxy S5 Mini the last small (sort of) flagship Samsung produced. Assuming you can find one in 2017 (most places have retired it), is it worth owning?

No, is the short answer. As you'll see from Katherine's original review below, the S5 Mini was significantly less powerful than the phone it was based on. Nearly three generations of phone later, that gap is more insurmountable now than it ever was.

If you really do want a smaller phone, Sony's Xperia Z5 Compact has aged far more gracefully. Not only was it pretty much identical to that year's flagship in a smaller package, it was also released more recently, meaning it feels more up to date. 

You'll probably want to act fast though, as it's also getting harder to track down. Though at the time of writing, you can still get one via Amazon Marketplace for just over £200.

Katherine's original review continues below.

DESIGN

In terms of looks, the S5 Mini shares many of the same design cues as its big brother. Besides the obvious decrease in size, you'd be hard pushed to tell them apart as they both have the same pimpled rear panel to help provide more grip (although the S5 Mini had a decidedly more oily texture than our well-worn S5), and the metallic plastic rim has an identical ribbed design. Even the heart rate sensor is in the same place, sitting just below the rear 8-megapixel camera.

It's a great looking handset for something so small, and it feels tough and well-made despite its plastic chassis. At 9.1mm thick, it's a fraction fatter than its larger sibling, but the S5 Mini's slimmer dimensions make it easier to fit in a pocket and use one-handed. However, now that the metal-rimmed Galaxy Alpha has come down in price to just £280 SIM-free, the S5 Mini looks incredibly cheap and tacky by comparison.

However, unlike the Alpha, the S5 Mini is IP67 certified, which means it's protected against dust and can survive being dunked in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes. Best of all, Samsung's managed to do this without covering the microUSB port with a cheap plastic flap, which is something that made charging the original S5 a bit of a pain.

DISPLAY

The S5 Mini only has a 4.5in screen and a 1,280x720 resolution, but its Super AMOLED display is just as lovely to look at as the S5's. Our colour calibrator showed it was displaying an outstanding 100 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, so you can expect colours to look their very best when watching films and videos.

Likewise, its contrast ratio was off the charts, so much so that our calibrator couldn't even give us a score. Needless to say, there was a huge amount of detail on show in our high contrast test images and its viewing angles were absolutely flawless. Black levels were also superb, measuring a perfect 0.00cd/m2. Brightness wasn't quite as high as other Samsung phones, but our measurement of 313.02cd/m2 meant we could still use the phone outside without any problems whatsoever.

PERFORMANCE

Inside, the S5 Mini takes a more radical departure from the Qualcomm-powered Galaxy S5 we got in the UK. That  handset used a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 chipset, while the Mini uses one of Samsung's own quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos 3470 processors instead. While the Exynos 3470 is perfectly fast enough to run Android 4.4.2 and Samsung's customised TouchWiz interface, the phone's web browsing performance was much slower than we were expecting.

It scored just 1,108ms in our SunSpider JavaScript benchmarks using its default browser, and Chrome was even slower, finishing in a sluggish 1,510ms. The former is still a decent score for a mid-range handset, but compared to the S5's lightning fast score of 391ms, it's a little disappointing for those hoping for S5 speeds in a smaller, cheaper handset. In fact, the S5 Mini's SunSpider scores aren't that far in front of Samsung's Galaxy Ace 3, which is half the price of the S5 Mini both on contract and when bought SIM-free. 

In practice, pages loaded smoothly on the S5 Mini, but we did notice a constant stutter and delay when scrolling up and down The Guardian's desktop site. This is something we noticed on the S4 Mini as well, so it's a shame this hasn't been improved on here. Things improved when we scrolled more slowly to read a story at a natural pace. This meant web browsing could get a little frustrating, particularly when browsing for long periods of time.

Graphics performance was also much lower than the its big brother, as the S5 Mini struggled to get above 20fps in all three of our 3DMark Ice Storm tests. It scored 3,558 in Ice Storm Unlimited, which translates to 19.5fps, and 2,841 in Ice Storm Extreme, which averaged at 15.2fps. The S5, by comparison, maxed out Ice Storm Extreme and scored a huge 18,451 in Ice Storm Unlimited, which equates to more than 60fps. Comparing the S5 Mini to simiarly priced handsets was equally dissapointing with both the Moto X and Nexus 5 clearly outscoring it in every test.

The S5 Mini wasn't able to run Epic Citadel at our usual Ultra High Quality setting either, so we had to settle for running our benchmarks on High Quality instead. On this setting, it managed a very smooth average of 53.7fps. This is promising for anyone who likes playing more demanding games on the move, but graphical fidelity was disappointing.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini Assassin's Creed Pirates screenshot

For example, when we ran Assassin's Creed Pirates, the water detail was almost non-existent and the environment had several jagged edges and flat-looking textures. The original S5, however, was much more detailed with clear waves and wood panelling on the ship's deck.

CAMERA

The 8-megapixel camera is another step down from the S5's 16-megapixel sensor, but we were pleased with the quality of our photos. Outdoors, the brickwork in one of our test shots was incredibly detailed and the image only started to become a little muddy toward the very outer edges. Details in the background were also crisp and sharp and colours looked much more natural than those we took on the Motorola Moto X and the new Moto G at the same time.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini camera test

^ The S5 Mini may only have an 8-megapixel camera, but our photos were very detailed and had very natural colours

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini camera test01

^ Shadow areas weren't too muddy either and the sky was very well exposed

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini camera test HDR mode

^ The S5 Mini also has an HDR mode, but we found it didn't make a huge amount of difference 
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini camera test HDR mode01

^ If anything, HDR mode made the clouds look positively stormy despite the bright sunshine

BATTERY LIFE

The most impressive part of the S5 Mini is its battery life. It may have a smaller battery than the S5 (2,100mAh compared to 2,800mAh), but we still managed an outstanding 14 hours and 57 minutes out of it in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to half brightness. This is an excellent score and is just a few hours behind the original S5, which lasted seventeen and a half hours under the same conditions.

FITNESS

The S5 Mini also comes with all the same fitness features as the original S5. In addition to the heart rate sensor on the back of the phone, there's also a built-in accelerometer to record the number of steps you take each day. Both of these feed directly into Samsung's S Health app, which you can use to count calories and keep on top of your fitness regime. It works well enough, but both these features are made a little redundant you use the phone together with Samsung's Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo or Gear Fit wearables, which have their own heart rate monitors and accelerometers built-in.

CONCLUSION

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini does several things right, but we feel its sluggish performance is ultimately too slow to justify its current price. Now that you can find the original Galaxy S5 for less or the same price on contract as the S5 Mini, there's simply no competition as to which handset you should buy. 

Hardware
ProcessorQuad-core 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 3470
RAM1.5GB
Screen size4.5in
Screen resolution1,280x720
Screen typeSuper AMOLED
Front camera2.1-megapixel
Rear camera8-megapixel
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage16GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11n
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
NFCYes
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size131x65x9.1mm
Weight120g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 4.4.2
Battery size2,100mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£324
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £30-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)£370
SIM-free supplierwww.handtec.co.uk
Contract/prepay supplierwww.phones4u.co.uk / www.o2.co.uk
Detailswww.samsung.co.uk
Part codeSM-G800F

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