At the top of Samsung’s smart phone tree is the Galaxy S II of course, followed by the Galaxy Ace and then this compact little budget beastie, the Galaxy Mini.
It’s Android, but with little in the way of frills, sporting a basic screen and camera, with a modest processor in an admittedly neat little case.
Design and build
The Galaxy Mini is certainly smaller than its more high-end cousins, but despite the name, it’s not really what you could call a tiny phone at 110x61x12mm and 107g.
At first glance the casing appears to follow the fashionable hybrid style of mixing plastic with metal, but that silvery band around the sides turns out to be plastic too and the rear panel is of the very thin plastic that we’ve seen before on the S II – lightweight, but a wee bit flimsy. The back has a little lip at the bottom and a dappled surface overall to help give it some grip.
It’s not obviously an Android handset in repose – the usual line-up of four control buttons is missing, replaced by what looks like a D-pad (but which actually turns out to be a large home key) flanked by back and menu buttons.
On the sides are a volume rocker, power/sleep button and a microSD card slot covered by a plastic grommet. At the top are a microUSB power/sync slot, also covered by a grommet, and a 3.5mm headphone jack which is left open to the elements. Overall, it looks a bit pricier than it actually is – a budget phone masquerading as a midranger.
The good looks apply when the phone is resting, but the shine soon starts to come off when you begin using it. The problems start with the 3.1in touch screen, which offers a disappointing 240x320-pixel resolution which doesn’t look particularly sharp.
We wouldn’t expect high-end resolution on a phone at this price, but this actually isn’t really good enough, with pictures often noticeably pixelated and text looking blurry, whether on the web or in emails.
Performance-wise it fares a little better since it’s nicely sensitive and responded accurately to any brushes and pushes we addressed it with.
Interface and OS
The Galaxy Mini runs Android 2.2 Froyo backed up with a 600MHz processor. Which doesn’t sound particularly impressive on paper, but in practise, well it’s not particularly impressive there either, proceeding at a stately pace through the apps and regularly falling over when we tried to play YouTube videos.
Froyo isn’t the very latest version of Android, but 2.3 Gingerbread doesn’t add a great deal that you’re likely to be able to use in the short term, so it’s no disaster. There’s likely to be an update at some stage though as usual Samsung hasn’t specified when.
Samsung’s TouchWiz interface isn’t much in evidence – the Android shortcuts look much the same as normal though it adds a few (not very exciting) widgets. There’s also the Social Hub, which pulls together your social networking updates into one place, though it won’t display them as a single stream.
There are non-Android keyboards available too, which add handy keys like @ and .com, but are really very cramped. You can also use the company’s Swype technology, which allows you to type without lifting your fingertip off the screen. It takes a bit of getting used to and just feels a bit wrong to begin with. Once you’ve got the hang of it though it’s pretty effective in terms of speed, and is generally very accurate too – at least as much as henpecking at the rather cramped keyboard in the usual fashion.
Samsung can certainly make some pretty good cameras, but it has to be said that this isn’t really one of them. With just 3 megapixels, no flash and no autofocus, it feels distinctly underpowered compared to many Android snappers. Sure enough, pics tend to blur easily and suffer from noise in less than perfect light conditions.
Colours tend to appear a bit washed-out and lacking in vibrancy even in good light, and look even more anaemic when transferred to your computer or TV. It starts up quickly though, in about two seconds, with two seconds between pics, which makes it handy for quick snaps.
Apps and browser
Internet browsing is fairly quick thanks to 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, though again, the processor’s lack of power can slow things down a bit especially when it’s trying to process busy pages. The browser doesn’t support Flash video either, which is a shame, though the onboard YouTube app offers opportunities for streaming video.
In truth, the screen’s small dimensions and low resolution can make browsing a bit of a chore, not helped by the lack of an accelerometer which would allow you to view in landscape mode simply by turning the phone on its side. You can adjust the settings to view in landscape, but it’s a bit of a palaver.
All the usual Android apps are available to you from the Market
Media and connectivity
Film watching is only so-so with that below par screen, but the music player is actually pretty good, with a 12-setting equaliser to help you get the sound you want – and with a decent set of earphones it can actually deliver a pretty good sound. There’s an FM radio on board too.
The Mini struggles a little with the fancier games though, as the processor has trouble getting to grips with the more complex elements, forcing gameplay to slow down.
Performance and battery life
The diminutive 1200mAh battery might seem like a decent fit for a budget phone but the Mini didn’t seem to manage its power consumption very much better than its more high-powered cousins, delivering no more than a couple of days of regular use.
- Android 2.2 Froyo
- Small and lightweight
- Screen quality not the best
- Limited battery life
- 600MHz processor feels a little underpowered
Verdict: It’s good looking and compact, and as an introduction to Android the Galaxy Ace won’t break the bank, but the performance compromises from the screen and processor will prevent many from loving it.
More info: Samsung Galaxy Mini spec
Price: From free on contract