Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S3 Mini – what’s the difference?
We don’t often look backwards at Clove but it can be useful, especially when the latest and greatest devices might stretch the budget a little for some. This will therefore be the first of a few posts that take a look at the previous generation, which may be useful if you’re looking to upgrade but don’t particularly want or need the highest end devices.
The Galaxy S3 was the runaway success of 2012, shipping and selling far more than any other Android device helped in part by a fantastic specification and massive marketing power. As we shall see, the S3 still holds its own against many new devices, but does the S3 Mini still make a decent purchase?
Main differences at a glance
Before we get into the details, here’s a quick look at the main differentiators between the Galaxy S3 and the S3 Mini:
- Power – S3 runs a 1.4GHz quad-core processor against Mini’s 1GHz dual
- Screen size – Obviously the S3 has the larger display: 4.8″ against 4″
- Camera – S3 is far superior with an 8MP sensor over the Mini’s very standard 5
- Dimensions – the S3 Mini gets its name by being smaller and lighter
- The S3 screen resolution trumps the Mini at 1280×720
- The S3 Mini has no video output capabilities
The Galaxy S3’s 4.8 inch screen can still be considered among the best displays of all the newest devices of 2013. With a resolution of 1280 x 720, high definition content can be enjoyed on the HD Super AMOLED technology.
The S3 Mini drops the size right down to 4 inches which many may now consider to be too small but could be useful for those with smaller hands. The resolution takes a drop to 800 x 480 so you won’t get 720p content, however Samsung’s Super AMOLED display still delivers higher quality colours than other devices in this class.
As the more ‘advanced’ device, the S3 proper has the better camera, as to be expected. The 8MP shooter was pretty high end last year and remains in the upper ends of sensor size now, although there have been a number of devices setting the bar higher. In contrast the Mini’s 5MP sensor is beginning to look positively low end. It does the job for taking relatively detailed indoor images in decent light however don’t expect anything else, 5MP main cameras are par for the course on low to mid range units now.
The main Galaxy S3 also has extra software features not present on the Mini for adapting to the environment, and ensuring higher picture quality such as zero shutter lag, and auto-focus. Other minor differences appear when you delve deeper as well including the ability to use S Voice voice commands to take pictures on the S3 – missing from the S3 Mini. Video calling isn’t for everyone however if you are going to spend time using the front facing camera then the S3 is easily the better choice with a 1.9MP HD front sensor over the VGA (640×480) resolution on the Mini.
Also worth pointing out is the possibility of future updates to the Galaxy S3 software that will draw on some of the features found in Samsung’s latest devices. The Android 4.2.2 update for Galaxy S3 will likely improve the camera feature set and we may see some of the most recent introductions such as: Drama Shot – take a burst of photos and combine them into a single frame; Sound & Shot – record a sound clip with your photo; Eraser shot – erase unwanted objects from the photo and Dual camera shot – take a photo with the rear and front facing camera at the same time, which means that you can photograph yourself whilst capturing others and then stitch them both together.
The update may also mimic the interface on the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy camera where a still photo and video are captured using the same interface, so you don’t lose time or miss the moment switching between the two. Whilst not yet confirmed, it seems unlikely that any of these updates will make it to the Galaxy S3 Mini and with Samsung no news is probably bad news.
Much has been made of the battery performance of the Galaxy S3 and reviews are understandably mixed. The 2100 mAh battery is large, even in 2013 however the quad core processor has a tendency to drain it quickly if you are a power user.
Whilst no device is likely to abate the power worries of truly heavy users, the S3 gave the issue a good stab and for most seems to work through the day well enough. The S3 Mini on the other hand drops right down to 1500 mAh. Now whilst the device is aimed at a lower end market than its bigger brother and the processor is clocked slower with less cores, this is a pretty small battery considering the aesthetics of the unit were less in scrutiny (it is in fact the thicker of the 2 devices – space was saved in height and width).
MHL / Video out
This was a big bone of contention when the devices were originally launched and I have personally lost track of how many people I have had to inform that the S3 Mini has no video out option as standard. Whilst Samsung made sure connectivity was the major buzzword for the S3, they silently dropped this feature from the Mini version.
Samsung has included MHL compatibility in high end devices since the Galaxy S2 and whilst they may have tampered with the standard to their own benefit in recent generations, it did come as a shock to see it omitted from the Mini. Whilst this could have been overlooked if Samsung’s DLNA implementation “Allshare” (now rebranded as Samsung Link) had been included, this was not to be the case. This leaves the S3 Mini an absolute no-go if you want to share content from handset to second screen in any manner.
Continuing from video out, both devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 support, although as discussed above, the Mini does not include DLNA.
Another issue to consider if looking at either device is that neither of them has a 4G LTE radio installed. There are versions of the Galaxy S3 with LTE, however these are not available SIM free. At the time this was not much of a concern with the UK LTE market in its infancy however with many UK networks providers releasing their plans for LTE rollouts and expansion for the end of the year and early 2014, picking up a new device without the technology inside could be seen as a backward move unless you are planning another upgrade in about a year.
Size & Design
Many called out the S3 for being too large for a flagship device last year but Samsung silenced everyone when they released the comparatively huge Note 2. The question of size seems to have gone out the window now with the Galaxy Mega and Huawei’s Ascend Mate looming in the distance. Still, the S3 is touching on being too large for one handed use for many people and can take some getting used to have you been using a smaller device.
On the other hand the S3 Mini’s 4 inch screen is now looking a bit antiquated in terms of size. If you are looking at upgrading for a boost in productivity or media use then the Mini will disappoint.
The ‘Mini’ part of the name also seems to be a little bit of a misnomer when the two devices are held close together. Whilst the Mini is about 15mm shorter and 7mm shorter, it is actually over 1mm thicker, although that does take a good eye to notice. So whilst the Mini does significantly drop screen size, most of this is traded for by increasing the bezel on the device. The chassis remains very similar – it seems there was only so much that could be dropped from the internals when making a budget version.
Being of the same range and generation, the styling on the two devices is practically identical. The same materials have been used although the S3 is available in a wider range of colours (although availability of these can have a big affect on the price).
The Galaxy S3 is still able to hold its head up high as one of the fastest units on the market with its 1.4GHz quad core processor. Whilst its successor may have surpassed this, it is still very much a high end spec. The Mini drops to a very mid range 1GHz dual core chip. Now this by itself is by no means a bad component for the price point of the device but when you are following the flagship Galaxy brand it is a slight disappointment.
This does give cause to think of the future if looking at these devices now though. Where the S3 is still a very capable device that will have plenty of life left ahead of it for any user adopting it today, the same cannot be faithfully said of the Mini. If one were t pick up a Mini today it should probably be under the knowledge that they would likely want to upgrade early in the next generation.
As is often the case you get what you pay for and with the S3 Mini coming in at a bargain discounts towards the end of its lifespan, the power trade-off could be well worth it as a backup / secondary unit or one for a novice user or child.
The issue of storage is one which has been quite prominent in the news recently, especially for Samsung. Whilst neither of these handsets suffer from the same heavy implementation of TouchWiz that newer Samsung units do, a fair chunk of the main storage will be taken up before use.
The base storage available for the S3 and S3 Mini is 16 GB and 8 GB respectively, with larger units announced but incredibly difficult to source in many territories.
At this point in both device’s life cycles their prices are understandably volatile. I would expect the S3 Mini to see the biggest cuts soon as Samsung drop off support for the device in favour of other devices however the main S3 will likely remain supported and relatively available for some time yet.
At the time of writing Clove have the S3 Mini listed at 189 GBP ex VAT for the White model. The S3 varies from 300 – 365 depending on colour variant. Both are now excellently priced considering their own specifications and the competition in their class if one considers the S3 as a mid-to-high end unit and the Mini as low-to-mid range.
Clearly the S3 was always going to win out against the miniature version on paper but this comparison is looking at more than raw power and specification.
From a usability and value for money perspective, the Galaxy S3 remains an incredible device that is still relevant in the modern range of devices. The Mini however, whilst still providing a decent specification for the price, suffers from a lack of features that make it less capable of being seen as a quality device in the months and year to come. As a budget device however, the Mini offers plenty against other similarly priced handsets.
Either device is a good choice as long as you are well aware of your needs, although with the chance of the S3 dropping in price again as the S4 gains momentum, it could be very hard to recommend anything else to the budget conscious customer.