Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini

22nd Aug 2014 | 14:20

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini

The Galaxy S5 gets shrunk, but smaller isn't always better

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

The S5 Mini is a solid smartphone with an impressive range of features borrowed from its bigger brother, but it fails to really impress at what is now a highly competitive price point.

Like:

Water and dust resistant; Decent battery life; Screen is bright and colourful;

Dislike:

Dodgy fingerprint scanner; Interface isn't the quickest; Plastic body feels cheap;

Introduction

Ratings in depth

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini was quietly announced at the beginning of July, and it's now finding its way into stores around the world, so how does the pint-sized smartphone shape up?

Well it's replacing the Galaxy S4 Mini from 2013, but rather than taking cues from that handset it instead looks to its bigger brother, the Samsung Galaxy S5, for inspiration.

As far as design goes there's no mistaking this is a close relative to the Galaxy S5, with the Galaxy S5 Mini sporting the familiar ribbed faux-metal band around its circumference and the dimpled polycarbonate rear linking it directly to its bigger brother.

It's got the HTC One Mini 2, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, iPhone 5C and the LG G3 Beat in its sights, as these shrunken smartphones look to do battle a couple of tiers below their flagship brethren.

SIM-free you'll need at least £360 (about $600, AU$650) for the Galaxy S5 Mini, while on contact it can be had for free on two year deals starting at £24.99 in the UK.

As I've mentioned when it comes to design it really is a mini version of the Galaxy S5, although there's no annoying flap over the microUSB port at the base of the handset.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Now you may think the omission of this protective flap means the Galaxy S5 Mini has lost the dust and water resistant features of Samsung's flagship, but you'd be wrong.

In fact the Galaxy S5 Mini holds the same IP67 water and dust resistant rating, meaning you can drop your phone in the bath without it dying.

Seeing as this can be done with an open microUSB port it'll be frustrating for any Galaxy S5 owners who are having to manipulate the fiddly flap every time they want to charge the device.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

It's not the exposed connection port at the base of the S5 Mini that's got me worried if the phone hits water though - it's the removable rear cover.

The thin piece of dimpled polycarbonate does snap snugly onto the rear of the Galaxy S5 Mini, but it's not exactly difficult to remove and the slender rubber seal that runs around part of the inside doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

Behind that rear cover you'll find microSIM and microSD slots as well as removable 2100mAh battery which should provide a strong offering, although the Galaxy S5 Mini won't benefit from the power efficiency of the Qualcomm processor its big brother houses as it's stuck with a Samsung own-brand 1.4GHz quad-core chip.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Slightly annoyingly you have to remove the battery to gain access to the microSIM and microSD slots, so you can't easily switch out a card while keeping the phone on.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini measures 131.1 x 64.8 x 9.1mm, meaning it's a little chunkier than the 8.1mm Galaxy S5, but its smaller 4.5-inch display means that in terms of height and width it's easier to manage.

I found the Galaxy S5 Mini sat in the palm nicely, but the metallic effect band and plastic rear offered very little in the way of grip and I did come close to dropping the handset on numerous occasions. You may want to invest in a cover for this device.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

At 120g the S5 Mini is a comfortable weight, and it's certainly not overbearing on the wrists allowing you to hold and operate it one handed with relative ease.

The volume rocker on the left, and power switch on the right, are easy to hit during one handed operation, and I was also easily able to reach the physical home key below the screen.

That key is flanked by a back button on its right and a multi-tasking option on the left - again mirroring the setup on the Galaxy S5.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Up top you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a small black square which is hiding the Infra Red (IR) blaster.

This allows you to utilise the Smart Remote app which comes pre-installed on the Galaxy S5 Mini, and it lets you control TVs, set top boxes, DVD players, Hi-Fi and other entertainment equipment from your phone.

It works nicely and the app is easy to set up, so you'll be channel hopping in no time.

The S5 Mini does feel solid and capable of taking a few knocks, but it fails to ooze any premium quality, with the overly noticeable plastic body making it feel pretty cheap in the hand - especially when you compare it to the One Mini 2 and Xperia Z1 Compact.

Key features

Fingerprint scanner

There are a few clever tricks built into the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini that it's inherited from its big brother - and that's good to see as all too often features are left by the wayside in these 'mini' reincarnations.

The first feature pass-down is the fingerprint scanner that resides under the home key - but don't get too excited.

You'll need to head to the Finger Scanner section in Settings to set it up, and once you've registered a digit or two, you'll be able to unlock the S5 Mini and approve PayPal payments without a password by just swiping of your finger.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Trouble is the system isn't all that great. TouchID on the iPhone 5S can read your finger at pretty much any angle without the need for swiping, making it quick and easy to use.

On the Galaxy S5 Mini I had more trouble. Your finger has to be straight on over the home key, which isn't a natural position when you're trying to use the thumb of the hand you're using to hold the handset.

Secondly you can't go too quickly. And finally, it hardly ever works.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

During my time with the handset the Galaxy S5 Mini failed to recognise my swipe on numerous occasions. I easily had over a 70% failure rate and I lost count of the number of times I locked myself out for 30 seconds after five consecutive failed scans.

It's certainly satisfying when it finally does register, but it's not worth the hassle. It's not quite as bad as the offering on the HTC One Max, but it's pretty damn close.

Needless to say I turned off fingerprint recognition to unlock after a day. I did come back to it a few days later in the hope I just had some bad luck first time out - but alas the same issues persisted.

S Health and Heart Rate

Another feature that's made the jump from the Samsung Galaxy S5 to Galaxy S5 Mini is the rear mounted heart rate monitor and accompanying S Health application which has been given a bit of an overhaul since the Galaxy S4 series.

You'll need to fire up the S Health app on the Galaxy S5 Mini to use the monitor, and you measure your heart rate by holding a finger over the sensor on the rear of the device.

It does take around 30 seconds to measure your heart rate and you do need to keep pretty still, but the Galaxy S5 Mini does a good job.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The location of the sensor is rather awkward and it's a little counter intuitive to have to get your phone out every time you want to take a reading.

It makes more sense to be on a fitness band or smartwatch, such as the Samsung Gear Fit or Gear Live.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

S Health doesn't just monitor your heart rate though, there's a whole feature set of stats and data you can pool to get an overview of your general health.

The Galaxy S5 Mini also comes with a pedometer, allowing you to keep track of the number of steps you're taking, and a handy widget on the lockscreen will keep you updated with your progress.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

S Health will also try and work out how many calories you've burnt based on your activity, and there's an exercise mode allowing you to track a stint of walking, running, cycling or hiking.

If you're really keen you can also track your food intake, weight, sleep (with the aid of a third party device) and stress levels (using the heart rate monitor).

There are plenty of fitness applications and wearables which offer similar services, but it's handy to have an option pre-installed on your phone and S Health on the Galaxy S5 Mini works very nicely.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Display

On the front of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini you'll find the 4.5-inch display which has a resolution of 720 x 1280 - that's hardly amazing considering we're used to full HD displays on our smartphones, including the 1080p 5.1-inch screen on the Galaxy S5.

That's the same size and resolution as the Moto G - a handset which costs around a quarter of the price of the Galaxy S5 Mini - which just goes to show how far screens have come in recent years.

It is, at least, an improvement over the Galaxy S4 Mini which had a more disappointing 4.3-inch 540 x 960 setup offering a pixel density of just 256ppi, compared to the S5 Mini's 326ppi.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

It's also on par with the 4.5-inch, 720p HTC One Mini 2 and 4.3-inch, 720p Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, so the Galaxy S5 Mini isn't lagging behind the competition.

A trump card the Galaxy S5 Mini holds over the Moto G and co. however is Samsung's Super AMOLED technology which makes colours especially vibrant and the screen look bright and clear.

During day to day usage you're unlikely to notice the lower resolution, as text is still crisp meaning messages and web browsing aren't really affected.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Fire up a graphically intensive game, or flick over to a movie, however and the resolution is more noticeable, but it isn't a huge issue. It's only when you put the Galaxy S5 Mini alongside a full HD handset when the difference is really obvious.

Interface and performance

Going inside the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini you'll find a 1.4GHz quad-core processor backed up by 1.5GB of RAM.

That's not quite as special as the 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip and 2GB of RAM you can experience in the Galaxy S5, but it does at least put the Galaxy S5 Mini above the 1.2GHz quad-core chip in the HTC One Mini 2.

The HTC is able to boast a Snapdragon 400 processor though, while the S5 Mini makes do with Samsung's own Exynos 3 offering and a Mali 400MP4 GPU.

The power is tasked with running Android 4.4 KitKat which has been covered by Samsung's TouchWiz UI, which I found ran smoothly if not as speedily as I would have liked.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

General scrolling around is fluid enough, but there is a second or so of lag when it comes to opening up some apps or the multi-tasking menu.

The lack of flagship power becomes more apparent when you fire up more intensive apps. Family Guy's Quest for Stuff, for example, takes longer to load up than on the LG G2 and OnePlus One - and gameplay isn't quiet as fluid either.

It's certainly not unusable, and if you're not coming from a high powered flagship you're unlikely to notice any real issues.

It does slightly detract from the overall experience and reminds you that you're not using a top of the range device, rather one which is a little bit cheaper with a poorer spec offering.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung has overhauled its TouchWiz interface for the S5 generation, so it may seem a little alien at first with redesigned app icons and a reshuffled settings menu requiring some getting used to.

It's not difficult to get your head around, but it's likely to slow you down a bit for the first few days as you become accustomed with the new way of doing things.

Samsung handsets of past have tended to come loaded with all manner of applications as part of the TouchWiz overhaul, ranging from mildly useful to never-being-used.

Thankfully the Korean firm has dialled down the bloatware in 2014 and the Galaxy S5 Mini rocks up with fewer apps than I've been used to seeing on a Samsung device.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

There's more good news as any pre-installed apps that can't be uninstalled can be hidden from view completely (along with any apps you download), giving you a streamlined app list of just the ones you want to see.

The handy Samsung quick settings bar is present in the pull-down notifications area, and you can edit the options which appear here from a selection of 17 different toggles including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and Ultra Power Saving Mode.

Samsung has also included a brightness bar here - which you can toggle on and off, depending whether or not you want it cluttering up the screen. There are two further options too, S Finder and Quick Connect, and these cannot be hidden from view.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The fact you can't hide them may annoy some, as they take up valuable notification space.

S Finder lets you search for content on the Galaxy S5 Mini, be that contact information, a video clip, text message, app or pretty much anything else.

It's especially useful when you're having trouble locating a particular file stored somewhere on the handset, but I didn't find myself using it very often.

I ran the Geekbench 3 benchmark app on the Galaxy S5 Mini, and after three runs it averaged a score of 1105.

That's hardly an inspiring result, and it sees the S5 Mini beaten by the HTC One Mini 2 (1155) and falling comfortably behind the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact which racked up an average score of 2731.

Battery life

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini comes equipped with a removable 2100mAh battery, which is actually a pretty decent offering.

You'll only find a 1860mAh power pack inside the recently announced Galaxy Alpha, while the more direct rivals to the S5 Mini boast similar batteries - the HTC One Mini 2 has a 2110mAh juice pack, while the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes out on top at 2300mAh.

While the Galaxy S5 Mini sports the smallest battery (just) compared to its closest rivals, it does have the advantage of being removable - allowing you to swap out a flat battery for a fully charged one.

It's also quite a bit smaller than the 2800mAh found in the Galaxy S5 which, with the help on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 chip, could see out more than a day on a single charge.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

I did fear a little for the battery life performance on the Galaxy S5 Mini as it doesn't benefit from the power saving efficiencies that come with a Qualcomm processor - but you needn't worry too much here.

Samsung's Exynos 3 chip performs well and I was able to get a full days usage from the Galaxy S5 Mini relatively easily with moderate usage.

That included a couple of hours of Spotify playback, around an hour of gaming, some calls, texts, emails and social media action, plus my Jawbone Up24 was continuously syncing to the S5 Mini all day.

When I pushed the handset hard the power did drain noticeably quicker and you'll be dashing to a charger before the day is out, but it's what I've come to expect from smartphones in this tier.

I did find the battery performance was better than one the One Mini 2, which is one of the few areas where the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini beats its HTC rival.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Running the TechRadar battery test on the Galaxy S5 Mini, consisting of a 90 minute full HD movie at full brightness and accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background, resulted in a loss of 16% of the battery life.

That's a strong performance, as the One Mini 2 lost 29% in the same test, while the Xperia Z1 Compact lost 23%. If you fancy catching a movie on the 4.5-inch 720p display of the Galaxy S5 Mini you shouldn't have to worry too much about the battery life.

Of course if things do start to get tight you can always switch on Samsung's ultra power saving mode, which reduces the interface and features to maximise the last of your battery's life.

Ultra power saving mode switches the theme to greyscale, and provides a simplified UI with only a handful of apps available for you to use, including calls, messaging, clock, Facebook and the web browser .

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini also gives you an estimated maximum standby time in this mode, so you can get a general idea of how long the phone will last.

If you don't want to lose all that functionality there's always the less aggressive power saving mode which can restrict background data and performance and also offers you the option of a greyscale theme to reduce the power drain from the screen.

Camera

No smartphone these days would be complete without a camera or two, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini is no exception with an 8MP rear snapper and front facing 2.1MP option.

You get a single LED flash with the rear camera that sits alongside the heart rate monitor I've already mentioned in this review.

That's not quite the 16MP camera found on the Galaxy S5, and you lose the ability to record video in 4K with the S5 Mini maxing out a 1080p (full HD).

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

It's not a huge surprise that the Galaxy S5 Mini has seen its photography options cut down, but I am a little disappointed considering the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact sports the same 20.7MP snapper as its big brother.

It also pales in comparison to the 13MP sensor slapped on the back of the HTC One Mini 2, leaving the S5 mini lagging behind in the megapixel war. That said both the iPhone 5S and 5C have 8MP snappers and they can take some great shots, so all is not lost.

There's no physical camera key on the Galaxy S5 Mini, but you can jump into the camera app from the lockscreen by dragging your finger up from the camera icon.

Once inside the camera app you can set the volume rocker switch on the side of the S% Mini to either control the zoom level, record video or act as a shutter key - the latter of which I found the most useful.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

You can also turn the whole screen into one big shutter key by turning on the "Tap to take pics" options in the settings menu.

Speaking of settings, Samsung hasn't held back with the camera app on the Galaxy S5 Mini with a whole host of options for you to play with.

Photography stalwarts such as ISO, while balance and exposure are joined by slightly fancier options including voice control, location tags, face detection and picture stabilisation, ensuring you can tweak and tune to your heart's content.

You can even drag and drop three of your most used settings to the top toolbar of the camera app, providing you with quick and easy access to them.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Cast your eyes to the other side of the display and you'll find a "mode" button next to the shutter key providing you with yet more options.

From here you can chose from panorama, HDR, continuous shot, beauty face and virtual tour.

There's a download button at the end of the list that takes you into Samsung's own app store where there are a couple more modes available for you to install; sound & shot and sports shot.

So there's a huge amount for you to play with on the Galaxy S5 Mini, but what's it actually like to use to take photos?

Well shutter speed is very quick, and there's auto- and tap-to-focus onboard allowing you to get your subject in focus without hassle and snap them quickly before the moment is lost.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

I was able to take some really nice shots with the Galaxy S5 Mini and there's a host of effects you can apply to the camera before snapping to add extra interest - grey-scale and sepia and joined by the likes of vintage, posterise and negative.

The S5 Mini was able to capture a high level of detail in both landscapes and close up macro images, and colours appeared bright in a lot of the shots.

I did find the Galaxy S5 Mini performed better outside in natural light than indoors, where images sometimes ended up looking a bit muddy.

The flash can alleviate some of the issues when shooting indoors, but you always run the risk of over exposing your subject and/or losing the detail in the background.

You can view a selection of sample images I took during my review time with the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini on the next page.

Camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Click here for the full res image

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Click here for the full res image

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Click here for the full res image

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Click here for the full res image

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Click here for the full res image

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Click here for the full res image

Media

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini may only sport a 4.5-inch, 720p display - something we're now finding on entry-level handsets - but that doesn't mean it can't handle a whole host of media applications.

Its Super AMOLED screen technology gives colours a welcome boost when it comes to video playback, the inclusion of a microSD card means you can fill up on movies, apps and games and the quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM are still capable of keeping things ticking along.

Sure, the Galaxy S5 Mini isn't as much of a media mogul as its big brother, the Galaxy S5, but it suffices for a quick gaming fix or a movie on a long train journey.

Video

Unlike many smartphones today, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini actually comes with a dedicated video player app.

You won't need to sift through your gallery trying to locate videos among your photos, the video player app on the S5 Mini makes it easy to get to all your movies.

Fire up the video player app and all the video clips stored on your device appear as a series of auto-playing thumbnails, giving you a brief overview of what each one offers.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

It's an impressive feat, especially on the S5 Mini which houses considerably less power than the Galaxy S5.

Stick brightness up to full and movies look pleasing on the S5 Mini - if you haven't got a full HD smartphone to hand you won't really notice a huge difference during playback.

The rear built in speaker isn't that great, so I'd recommend plugging in a set of headphones or an external speaker dock. Its placement meant my hands usually covered it resulting in muffled audio, and turned up loud the quality noticeably deteriorates.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

As I've already mentioned in this review, the Galaxy S5 Mini doesn't offer up much in the way of grip, so you might find the handset slipping in your hand during extended periods of holding it - again another good reason to invest in a case.

Another feature which impressed me on the Galaxy S5 Mini was pop up play, allowing you to put the video you're viewing in a small window which sits on top of the interface.

You can then go about using the Galaxy S5 Mini as normal while still watching your show. I was surprised at the lack of lag experienced when performing simple tasks with pop up play running.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The slowness I experienced in the general interface remains, but the addition of a video playing over the top didn't appear to slow the S5 Mini down anymore. Which is great.

The controls you get in the video player app are pretty basic, but if you dive into the settings you can get a mini controller and enable a capture button if you fancy taking a freeze frame of your favourite movie.

Google's Play Movies & TV app comes pre-installed on the Galaxy S5 Mini, giving you access to a huge library of movies and TV shows to buy and rent direct from your smartphone. It's simple, easy and worth a look.

Music

As well as a video player app Samsung also treats you to a dedicated music player app on the Galaxy S5 Mini.

Again it's another intuitive app from Samsung which allows you to view your songs by title, artist, album or genre, making it easy for you to find the tunes you want.

The now playing screen offers all the controls you need; play/pause, skip, scrub, repeat and shuffle, while you can create playlists on the fly and tinker with the equaliser to find the perfect tone.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The same issues I had with the built in speaker and movie playback persist with music, with poor placement and a tinny sound making for uncomfortable listening at higher volumes.

Plug in a decent set of headphones though and you won't have any problems, with a selection of audio enhancements on hand via the settings menu within the Music player app.

Lockscreen and notification bar widgets means you can easily control your music at any point without having to navigate back to the music player app.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

If you fancy streaming an unlimited number of songs rather than owning and downloading tracks head over to Play Music and sign up for Google All Access which gives you just that.

You can get a 90 day free trial, after which you'll need to fork out £9.99/$9.99 per month to continue with it - it's all very similar to Spotify.

For those of you who like to own music Play Music also gives you the option to purchase and download single tracks and whole albums for you to keep forever.

Apps and games

As I've already mentioned in this review the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini comes with fewer bloatware apps compared to its predecessors - and that can only be a good thing.

There's more good news too, as while you can't uninstall a lot of the apps which come pre-loaded, you can at least hide the ones you don't want from view completely making you a lot happier every time you venture into the app list.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Google Play is obviously on hand to provide you with all your app needs, as too is Samsung's own Galaxy Apps store which has a smaller offering than its Google rival and is probably best ignoring.

One app that does come pre-installed is Studio, which in Samsung's own words allows you "get creative with pictures and videos."

In here you'll find the 'Photo studio', 'Collage studio', 'Shot & more' and 'Video trimmer' - letting you have a right old play around with your pics and vids.

The Photo and Collage studios are pretty straight forward, allowing you to edit your pictures and group them together into one image. There are plenty of options to play with and it's easy to use.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Video trimmer is another obvious function, allowing you to cut down the length of a clip you recorded using the Galaxy S5 Mini.

Shot & more relates to the camera mode of the same name, and only images taken in this mode can be edited in this area of Studio. From here you can view the various effect options the handset automatically selected for your shots, from best photo and best face to drama and panning shots.

Gaming is certainly possible on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, but your experience won't be as fluid as on the top Android handsets.

I found the S5 Mini was able to run Temple Run 2 well, although I had to wait a little while for the game to load. Once loaded however gameplay was smooth.

Firing up Family Guy: the Quest for Stuff the S5 Mini look longer to load, and here I did notice gameplay wasn't as smooth as I'd found on the OnePlus One or LG G2 - but the game was still perfectly playable.

The essentials

Contacts and calling

Samsung's strong contact management returns with the Galaxy S5 Mini, allowing you to pull in details of all your friends, family and co workers from multiple sources.

Sign into Google, Facebook, Google+, Whatsapp or any email client and the Contacts app on the S5 Mini will be able to pool people together.

It also does an acceptable job of matching a person's various profiles from different accounts into one contact card, complete with a profile picture - although you'll still need to do some manual fiddling to get your list in perfect order.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

A handy feature on Samsung smartphones is the ability to swipe over a contact in the Phone, Contacts and Messages apps to quickly call them or send a message.

Swipe from left to right over a contact's name to dial them, while a swipe in the opposite direction will jump you into a new text message with that person.

Call quality on the Galaxy S5 Mini was acceptable, although it failed to really impress, and I didn't experience any connection issues or dropped calls.

Messaging and keyboard

The stock Messages app is a straight forward texting option and apart from the TouchWiz overlay it operates it pretty much the same way as any other Android messaging app.

You will also find Google's Hangouts app pre-installed on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, providing you with an alternative SMS client if you fancy a slight departure from Samsung's world.

The added benefit of Hangouts is the ability to also send instant messages via Google's new chat system, and the app can automatically switch between SMS and Hangouts on a contact-by-contact basis, depending on whether you're both online or not.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

When it comes to email you get Google's Gmail application as well as Samsung's Email app, the latter of which can handle any email address while the former just deals in Google's own work.

Both are easy to setup and use, and you'll be firing off emails around the world in no time at all.

Samsung has tinkered with the stock Android keyboard as part of the TouchWiz overlay, providing a mediocre typing experience.

You can customise the keyboard slightly, and there's predictive text and next word suggestions in play to help you speed up your missives.

I did find the keyboard a little frustrating though, as it lacked in accuracy resulting in many miss-worded messages. After a few days I ditched Samsung's offering and downloaded Swiftkey, which performed much better on the S5 Mini.

Web browsing and connectivity

Web browsing on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini is an enjoyable experience with Google Chrome providing pleasing load times over Wi-Fi and 4G.

Mobile sites generally took less than three seconds to load up, while the desktop version of TechRadar was viewable in around five and fully loaded in less than 10 seconds.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

As well as Google Chrome, Samsung has decided to include its own browser on the S5 Mini. Both offer up very similar performance and features, and while I prefer Chrome overall you won't be missing out if you opt for Samsung's own.

The Galaxy S5 Mini is CAT 4 LTE enabled, allowing you to garner 4G data speeds of up to 150Mbps - although many carriers don't currently support such high speeds.

The good news is that when these new speeds do become available you won't have to switch smartphones, making the S5 Mini somewhat future proof.

You'll find the standard offering of connections all onboard the S5 Mini, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS joining in with a microUSB port, microSD slot, IR blaster and NFC.

Comparisons

HTC One Mini 2

The HTC One Mini 2 is probably the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini's biggest competitor with the two handsets taking cues from arguably the two biggest Android flagships of 2014.

If you like your smartphone to look and feel great the metal unibody of the One Mini 2 easily beats the all-plastic Galaxy S5 Mini which just seems cheap and toyish in comparison.

I also found the general performance on the One Mini 2 was slightly better, with more fluidity and shorter loading times compared to the S5 Mini.

HTC One Mini 2

The S5 Mini did impress in the battery department, and that's the one real area where the HTC handset falls down. It doesn't have awful battery life, but it certainly isn't as good as the Galaxy S5 Mini.

You also get Boomsound and a strong 13MP snapper on the One Mini 2, where as the S5 Mini makes do with a tinny mono speaker and 8MP lens.

While the fingerprint and heart rate sensors are a nice touch they don't quite cut the mustard.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Another close competitor to the Galaxy S5 Mini, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact may be a few months older but it still boasts significantly better specs.

Sony has managed to cram in the same 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 20.7MP rear camera you find in the full fat Xperia Z1, while the screen is squashed down to a 4.3-inch 720p offering.

Like the S5 Mini, the Z1 Compact is also dust and water resistant, although there is a fiddly flap covering the charging port on the Sony, while battery life stands up well.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Considering the powerful camera Sony has packed into the Xperia Z1 Compact the results aren't as special as you might think, and its screen is no match for Samsung's Super AMOLED offering.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is a true flagship phone in a smaller body and the performance shows.

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 laid the foundations for the S5 Mini, and the two handsets share the same design, interface, heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner.

Sadly though Samsung hasn't carried over the power of the 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM found inside the S5 to its mini reincarnation.

You also benefit from a 5.1-inch full HD display and 16MP rear facing camera on the Galaxy S5, compared to the S5 Mini's 4.5-inch 720p screen and 8MP snapper.

Samsung Galaxy S5

With the additional grunt the Galaxy S5 is a slicker, faster and all round better performing handset, although there is a price to pay and unsurprisingly it's more expensive than the S5 Mini.

If you really like the look of the Galaxy S5 but either can't afford it, or want a phone which is a little more manageable in the hand the Galaxy S5 Mini does a decent job of aping its big brother - but some of the compromises are pretty obvious.

Hands on gallery

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini is a solid smartphone with an impressive range of features borrowed from its bigger brother, and it improves on the Galaxy S4 Mini from 2013.

I was little disappointed not to see Samsung go down the Xperia Z1 Compact route by packing the S5 Mini with the same camera and power as the Galaxy S5, but I guess I can't have everything.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

We liked

I was pleased to see the heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner passed down to the Galaxy S5 Mini, as these more premium features could have easily been neglected by Samsung.

The screen may only be 720p, but Samsung's Super AMOLED technology is impressive and it ensures the display on the Galaxy S5 Mini still pops.

Another area where the Galaxy S5 Mini performs well is battery life, and while you won't be going more than a day on a single charge the fact it can last a whole day with moderately heavy usage places it above other handsets in its class.

We disliked

While I was pleased to see the fingerprint scanner make its way down to the S5 Mini, the reality is it just doesn't work well. It's frustratingly difficult to get it to recognise your print and after a few attempts you'll probably just turn it off.

It doesn't really impress performance wise and the design is another area where the Galaxy S5 Mini doesn't quite match the Xperia Z1 Compact and HTC One Mini 2.

The all plastic construction does make it feel a little cheap, and it offers almost no grip - that said the Galaxy S5 Mini is still well built, waterproof and the fact it has a microSD slot and removable battery will be music to some people's ears.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Verdict

If you're taken with the Galaxy S5's design, fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, but can't afford its lofty price tag - or want a handset that's more manageable in the hand - then the Galaxy S5 Mini is a strong replacement.

Shop around a little more though and the likes of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, HTC One Mini 2, iPhone 5C or OnePlus One make for some tough competition.

Samsung may have created this sector of the mobile market with the Galaxy S3 Mini, but it no longer rules the roost and unless you're wedded to the firm's ecosystem there are better options available at this price point.

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