Samsung Galaxy S4 against the S4 Mini – What’s the difference?
The Galaxy S3 and S3 Mini have been 2 exceptionally popular handsets that millions own. With their predecessors having been on the market for approximately 18 months, the S4 and S4 Mini are now available and in place to be the successors to the S3 double act.
With the Galaxy S3 series there were significant differences between the two. This story continues with the S4 & S4 Mini, but what are those differences?
In this hands-on we look to find out and help you make the decision as to which handset is for you as there are some advantages and disadvantages to both.
Main differences at a glance:
- Display – The S4 Mini is smaller and packs less of a punch.
- Processor – Not a lot in it but the S4 is for the ‘power’ user.
- RAM – The S4 Mini can not handle multi-tasking to quite the same extent as the S4 with .5 GB less RAM & with the dual-core processor.
- Memory – Both suffer with a lack of it but the S4 Mini doesn’t have as much to offer.
- Camera – If its all about the megapixels, then the S4 has 5 more.
- Connectivity – The S4 takes the top spot thanks to MHL 2.0
- Battery – The S4 Mini lacks the additional 700mAh of the S4.
- Size & Weight – The S4 Mini is more pocketable and lighter.
- Software – The S4 has more features, but many would see them as gimmicky.
Click one of the following to be taken to a full written comparison or continue reading for the full story: Processor, RAM, memory, camera, connectivity, battery, size, software, conclusion, spec comparison, Video
Please note – Different models/variants of the each are released globally and would impact your decision. This comparison is based on the SIM-free Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505 and the SIM-free S4 Mini GT-I9195 which are the most popular within the UK market.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has the larger display of the two phones with a size of 4.99” diagonal compared to the S4 Mini’s 4.3”.
As a result the resolution and PPI of the 2 screen differ. The S4 Mini has a 256ppi with a resolution of 960 x 540 against the 441ppi and 1920 x 1080 full HD display of the the standard S4. Both use Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays however.
With the S4 capable of full HD quality playback there is without doubt a compelling argument to be the victor here, but the S4 Mini is still a very respectable screen that out performs a lot of the competition from the likes of Sony and HTC.
Side by side the difference is noticeable, the blue on the S4 (on the left) is deeper and richer.
The question you need to ask yourself here is do you require full HD on your mobile? When replying to emails, text messages and browsing a few web pages the answer is likely no, but if you are into your movies then maybe?!
Whilst the additional screen size is beneficial, the knock-on effect is portability and power drain, both of which we shall discuss in more detail later.
What is up for debate too is at 4.3”, is the S4 Mini really so mini? The S3 Mini has a 4” display against the S3’s 4.8”, this gap has reduced by 0.1” to 0.7” between the S4 Mini and S4, but the S3 Mini screen certainly in my opinion is more deserving of the mini moniker at 4”.
Both the S4 & S4 Mini have gained more speed since the S3 series which is a positive if you are ready to upgrade to either of these devices.
Quad-core really does offer advantages when it comes to mobile gaming and serious multi-tasking. If you are a ‘power’ user who loves to play intense games on mobiles (not just Temple Run or Candy Crush) then the S4 will have serious advantages.
The S4 Mini is still very capable and for the vast majority of users who are wishing to text, email, play some video and even the occasional game then you do not require the full quad-core capabilities and many apps do not even utilise the 4 cores of the S4.
Without doubt the quad-core processor will ensure you are slightly more future-proofed but many devices still run single cores and all Nokia Lumia devices are running no more than dual-core so it is clear whilst there is an argument for quad-core power, it is more advantageous than essential.
Our testing revealed when under more demanding loads, the S4 Mini was slower to react and respond, but the differences were not great and unless you compare side by side then you will not really notice in under ‘normal’ use.
With 1.5GB the S4 Mini responded well and boasts more memory than some competing devices, but as the RAM is closely linked with the processing capabilities we did find that the S4 performed better with the additional available address space.
With this said, if you do find the S4 Mini slowing down, then a bit of careful app management (closing running apps) can seriously help.
Without doubt the biggest bone of contention for many people, and one that will never be right for everyone, is the available storage space. As you may expect, the S4 Mini has less memory built in than the S4.
With 16GB of internal storage on the S4 compared to the 8GB on the S4 Mini, the S4 takes the lead. However as has been widely documented, the OS on the S4 takes up a lot of space and users are left with 9GB (approx.) out of the box compared to the 5GB on the Mini. Therefore the Mini actually has a better usable memory ratio but does lack some of the software features.
Samsung are addressing the S4 available storage with updates to optimise apps to use less space and allowing certain apps to be moved to the microSD card slot. Both devices have external storage capabilities but if memory is particularly important then this little extra on the S4 could be a big issue for you.
Music, images, video & documents can be stored on microSD cards on both devices, whilst apps do have to go onto the internal memory. The S4 software update will allow some apps to go onto the microSD card, but this will not be possible for all.
If you use music streaming services then you can retain a lot of the memory, but if you store any of the content offline, this will eat up the internal memory as it can not be stored /saved on the memory card, so do consider this.
Whilst it is difficult to quantify what is average, if you are into gaming then the S4 will definitely be better due to the extra space, whereas if games are not important then the S4 Mini could be the answer. Some of the newer more advanced games often take up a lot of memory.
If you are unsure, take a look at the settings within your current smartphone and see how much memory you are using.
Here is a screenshot of my personal memory situation on my S4. I have around 30 apps (no big games) and some music stored offline and I have around 2GB available. (This is after the S4 software update).
However as we know, megapixels is often simply the size of the image, so that need not mean the S4 Mini suffers in terms of true image quality.
Both have advanced camera apps and capabilities over and above the previous S3 models.
Once launched into the camera application, the look and feel is almost identical with only a few small differences between the two that are possibly not that important.
All is correct at the time of writing, but software updates are always taking place so things can change. Currently when in the app, you can record video and capture still images from the on-screen buttons that are present on both devices. There is no need to flick between video and camera recording, just press the appropriate on-screen icon. Even when recording video you can capture stills.
Of the few differences between the two devices I observed was that the S4 offers more effects and scene styles for taking images (post capture image editing apps can also help with this).
The S4 Mini does not have the ability to capture video and images from the front and rear camera at the same time, which is available on the S4; this ‘Dual Shot’ feature has been omitted.
There is no slow or fast motion option on the Mini. I’m not sure how many people are aware of or use this feature on the S4 (I never have).
The S4 Mini also lacks the Eraser, Drama & Animated Photo shooting modes.
Interestingly within the settings on the S4, there is the option for ‘Burst Shot’ but not on the Mini. The S4 Mini however does have ‘Continuous Shooting’ as a mode which is effectively the same thing. Both have a limit of 20 images using this setting and take up to 3 per second. The reason for the difference is you can have Burst Shot kept switched on with the S4 whereas on the S4 Mini you have to go into the appropriate mode. This means on the S4, one moment you could be capturing a nice still and the next a moving object without needing to change your shooting mode, like you would on the S4 Mini.
Whilst the S4 Mini has an auto mode there is further control within the settings of the S4 that means the device can auto detect night or low light shots.
It is nice to see that both shoot in full 1080p HD, but the S4 Mini lacks the video stabilisation of the S4 and the smaller sensor has an effect on the final video in my opinion. The S4 is much better in this front.
Neither device has a dedicated camera key, but both can have the volume key set as the control for capturing video or images or controlling the digital zoom, which is worth noting should be used only in a needs-must scenario. The images very quickly become pixelated when zooming.
Both devices have front facing cameras at 2MP on the S4 and 1.9MP on the Mini. There is very little to speak of in differences between them.
Here are a few sample shots taken with each device (click to enlarge).
From the above 2 images, the S4 represents more natural light and colour of the scene being shot, although the S4 Mini appears to handle the sunlight on the grass in the foreground of the image better. The grass is less overexposed, but the background is much more defined in the S4 image.
Same location now with 4x Digital Zoom on the S4:
We can see from the above images how neither really handle the digital zoom very well and the S4 image looks very over exposed whilst the S4 Mini is under exposed.
With this close up of the palm tree trunk, both images are quite good and I would be happy with either. The S4 wins with the depth and colour warmth which helps to give the image more depth and better defines the texture of the trunk.
Overall the S4 does win for me in terms of the colour and depth of the images, but the S4 Mini are not bad by any means. Neither do a great job with the zoom so I would always advise avoiding this unless absolutely necessary.
Both devices have Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n with support for 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks as well has having GPS, DLNA, NFC, microUSB, 3.5mm audio, Wi-Fi direct and tethering options.
The only difference between the two in terms of connectivity is when it comes to video out.
The S4 has support for the new MHL 2.0 standard where the S4 Mini does not support wired video out, just like the S3 Mini.
The S4 Mini can share content to an HD display with Samsung’s AllShare Cast Dongle as can the S4, but this is more a expensive than the cable option (all be it with wires) that is available on the S4.
You will also be able to connect to Samsung Smart TVs and any compatible PCs/laptops on a local network using Samsung Link software (utilising DLNA) on both devices.
The S4 will work with the S3 MHL adapter and does not require power from the mains, but it is worth connecting to the mains due to the power draw of an HD display.
Battery life is always difficult to judge as it is based so much on an individual’s usage. Both should last a day, but may require a charge late in the day or overnight if used heavily, which is pretty much the norm now.
Both devices have removable batteries so a spare can always be on standby.
Overall the Mini is better on the power consumption and I can speak from personal experience with the S4 that many days I am left short of power come 6pm.
If you are struggling for power, both have power saving modes that adjust the settings and performance of the device to maximise the potential life, which can be a real benefit.
The S4 does have the added advantage of wireless charging, however expensive accessories are required to enable this. There are cheaper 3rd party solutions available too, so going being able to go wireless is a nice touch.
It is a small issue to mention that both, but more so the S4, can get quite hot after prolonged use. Not too hot to touch, but potentially a little uncomfortable. I found this most when downloading large amounts of data or being online for an extended time.
Size & Weight
The bigger screen of the S4 has many obvious advantages but there are some disadvantages in terms of the overall usability, especially in one hand. It can be a stretch, if not impossible for many to use the S4 one-handed, especially if you have small hands, whereas the S4 Mini is more practical and comfortable for this.
As a direct result, the space and comfort in the pocket is won by the S4 Mini.
The Mini is 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.94mm and 107g compared to 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm and 130g of its big brother.
If you have ever used the Sony Xperia Z or Samsung Galaxy Note range of devices then the S4 will feel OK in your hand, and for current S3 users there is little noticeable difference. If moving up from the S3 Mini to the S4 Mini then the additional size is much more obvious.
All told though, the minor increase in size and weight can be justified if you find the new S4 features desirable.
Whilst there is not a lot to say about the designs as little has really changed since the last generation, I have yet to touch on them. All than can really be said is the Mini is just a smaller S4, they do look identical bar their size.
Compared to the S3 & S3 Mini, they are both slightly less rounded at the corners and have moderately less chamfered edges. This makes for an overall squarer look, but both are still rounded enough to feel very comfortable in the hand. Both are available in Black & White colour options.
Both run Samsung customised versions of Google Android version 4.2.2.
The slight differences come in the value added features that Samsung hyped up a lot in their original launch of the S4.
Features excluded from the Mini are:
- LED Indicator – Ability to control the notification light
- All Air Gestures – Quick glance, air jump, air browse, air move, air call-accept
- Palm Motion to capture a screen shot
- Smart rotation, pause and scroll
The following screen shots identify the differences.
Samsung S4 Mini:
Many of the features that are limited on the S4 Mini are often justifiable to make the Mini more cost-effective without too much compromise on power and functionality.
It is without doubt the case that the S4 is the better device technically, at the sacrifice of its size. For many, whether buying SIM free from Clove or as part of a contract, the S4 is the more ‘desirable’ handset.
Having been the owner of an S4 for several months I can say I am very happy with it. Although I rarely require all of its power and I probably could manage with the S4 Mini; I certainly prefer the size no questions about that.
One doubt that always remains and always will do due to the way Samsung market their phones is that many will be missold the S4 Mini having heard or read about the features and benefits of the S4, not realising some features are missing until it is too late. The added advantages of the larger phone do come at a price.
If you are due a contract upgrade from the S3 or the S3 Mini then there is definitely value in doing so. If you are not due an upgrade, then there is probably not enough reason or advantage in my opinion to do so at this time. Unless money allows for it and you your desire for the newest device available is greater than the need, I wouldn’t consider the upgrade justified by the price right now.
If you are ready for an upgrade, or considering the S4 or S4 Mini as a new phone, the decision will ultimately be down to you and what is of most importance to you.
Hopefully the above will have clearly identified the differences. For more clarity check out our video and spec comparison below.
Hands on comparison video