Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Which is better?
We’ve spent a week comparing the two phones, testing their cameras, pushing their CPUs to the limit and seeing how long they really last off a charge to see whether the Mini version is the real deal.
Is it dinky-but-powerful or merely small and weak? There’s a bit of both sides to this story. Read on to find out where the Galaxy S5 Mini succeeds and fails.
Watch our Samsung Galaxy S5 vs S5 Mini video
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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Design
Galaxy S5: Dimpled plastic back, 8.1mm thick, 145g
Galaxy S5 Mini: Dimpled plastic back, 9.1mm thick, 120g
There’s no mistaking the family resemblance between the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Mini. They could be brothers, and they are when you think about it.
The Galaxy S5 Mini looks and feels a lot like a shrunk-down Galaxy S5. They use the same dimpled plastic cover, with the same almost-rubbery finish, at least in the black version. The white one is harder, tackier and – if we’re honest – nastier-feeling.
We never thought the Galaxy S5 was a style triumph, and the Mini is no different. Both have that questionable dimpled look, both have ridged chrome plastic sides. Samsung had to stick to its guns with the look if it didn’t want to admit it wasn’t a wholesale triumph, but it means the S5 Mini isn’t quite as good-looking as the HTC One Mini 2.
There are a few differences between the big ‘un and its little sibling, though. As normally happens when you shrink a phone’s size, the Galaxy S5 Mini is a tiny bit chunkier than the Galaxy S5, and in-hand it feels significantly chubbier.
The Galaxy S5 is 8.1mm thick, the Galaxy S5 Mini 9.1mm thick. A full millimetre is a lot in the world of phone thickness, and it does make the smaller phone feel a bit stubby by comparison. But it’s tricky to avoid as both phones have to fit-in more-or-less the same core components.
It’s not all bad news, though. The Galaxy S5 Mini boasts one really great new design feature – much more convenient water resistance.
Both phones are certified to IP67, meaning they’re dustproof and you can dunk them in water without them heading to the big old Carphone Warehouse in the sky. However, while the Galaxy S5 needs a protective flap that sits over its charging port, the Galaxy S5 Mini does not.
Finally, we have a Samsung phone that offers waterproofing without any of the faff. High five, Samsung.
SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Galaxy S5
Aside from the different treatment of the microUSB port, the water resistance works in the same way. The insides of the battery cover feature a rubber seal that keeps water away from the battery and the phone’s brain.
While these phones are very similar, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini’s little water resistance tweak is worth a nod in our book.
The Galaxy S5 comes in blue, gold, white and black, while other shades are available in different territories. The Galaxy S5 Mini comes in blue and gold and well as white and black too.
Watch our Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on video review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5:Fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor
Galaxy S5: Under central button, on rear
Galaxy S5 Mini: Under central button, on rear
While there are a few cuts to the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, it has kept the fingerprint scanner that was one of the more unusual features of the original S5.
The two are more-or-less the same. They live under the central select button, and can be used to unlock the phone and authorise Paypal payments.
It’s a neat solution in theory, but in practice it’s much more of a people-polariser. You need to be quite careful about how you move your finger over the scanner. If you’re not, it won’t work. As such, it’s a lot less convenient than the iPhone 5S’s TouchID sensor.
Both phones also have a heart rate sensor on the back too, which talks to the S Health app, recording your bpm scores. Samsung seems to have calmed down the red light used to light-up your finger as part of the scanning process in the Mini, but they otherwise seem the same.
And, just as we said of the Galaxy S5, it’s nothing you can’t do with a phone with a rear camera, an LED flash and a heart rate app.
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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5:Screen
Galaxy S5: Super AMOLED 5.1-inch 1080p
Galaxy S5 Mini: Super AMOLED 4.5-inch 720p
Like all of Samsung’s top-end phones of recent years, both the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Mini use Super AMOLED screens. Samsung has always been a big supporter of this kind of display, which is an alternative to the various kinds of LCD used in just about all other phones.
The big difference between the two technologies is that OLEDs use light-emitting pixels rather than a backlight. This lets them provide much better contrast and black levels than any LCD phone. Granted, you only really notice it at night time, but if you like watching a bit of iPlayer in bed, you’ll definitely see the difference.
The issue with Samsung’s older OLED screens is that they were generally oversaturated, making colours look a bit over the top, and people’s faces look a bit too ruddy. A bit ‘I like cider too much’.
However, both the Galaxy S5 Mini and Galaxy S5 offer a good array of screen modes that let you tame OLED’s lust for super-vivid shades.
Both phones offer photo and cinema modes that bring the colours down to much more natural-looking and accurate levels. We were a bit worried that Samsung would leave this out of the Galaxy S5 Mini, as they were in the Galaxy K Zoom. But they’re here, thank god.
Colour calibration is, predictably enough, a little bit better on the flagship Galaxy S5, but both perform well in the colour stakes.
It’s resolution and size that are the biggest differences. The Galaxy S5 screen is a good 0.6 inches bigger than the Mini’s. And while that may not sound like a great deal, it’s a huge difference in person.
For movies, games and even browsing, we’d much rather use a Galaxy S5 than it’s smaller brother. In activities like these, size matters.
Resolution is also much better in the larger phone. It has a 1080p Full HD screen while the Galaxy S5 Mini uses a 720p display up from the 960 x 540 resolution screen on last year’s Galaxy S4 Mini.
The display is still fairly sharp, but it’s not hard to notice the difference in pixel density. This isn’t helped by how the Samsung OLED screens work either. They are a fair bit less sharp than a standard LCD screen of the same size and resolution as they use a PenTile screen type.
We won’t get too technical on you, but this involves pixels sharing sub-pixels. And who likes sharing, right?
In person both screens are pretty great, but the full-size Galaxy S5 is immediately more impressive, and clearly sharper when you get in for a closer look.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Software
Galaxy S5: Android 4.4 with TouchWiz
Galaxy S5 Mini: Android 4.4 with TouchWiz
The Samsung Galaxy S5 and S5 Mini have very similar software. Both use the custom Samsung Android interface built onto Android 4.4.
Samsung's interface has gotten simpler and better-looking since 2013, but as they're more-or-less the same, we thought we'd send you on a visual tour of the system rather than blathering on about it. Here's a closer look at the Samsung UI:
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Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Storage
Galaxy S5: 16/32/64GB, microSD
Galaxy S5 Mini: 16GB, microSD
Neither of these is a remotely low-cost phone, so it’s good to see you get at least 16GB internal storage in each. There’s only the one model of S5 Mini, and it has 16GB storage, but there are 16GB, 32GB and even 64GB versions of the Galaxy S5 doing the rounds.
In the UK, though, the vast majority of Galaxy S5s have 16GB internal storage, and it’s extremely difficult to get hold of the 64GB version.
There just isn’t much call for a wide UK release of of the 64GB Galaxy S5 as it – like the Galaxy S5 Mini – has a microSD memory card slot. It lives under the plastic battery cover, inside the sealed water resistance barrier.
Both phones support sdxc-grade cards, letting you fit in up to 128GB extra storage. Of course, most people will opt for a much more ordinary amount. You can get good 64GB cards for around £25 these days.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Connectivity
Galaxy S5: microUSB 3.0, all the wireless bells and whistles
Galaxy S5 Mini: microUSB 3.0, all the wireless bells and whistles
When the Samsung Galaxy S5 arrived, many marvelled at its weird-looking charge socket. It’s much bigger than the normal one, because it’s actually a little USB 3.0 port rather than the usual USB 2.0 kind.
What it gets you is much faster data transfer rates when used with a USB 3.0 port on a computer, and faster charging over USB (again with a 3.0 port). There’s a debate as to whether it was really worthwhile in the first place, given the microUSB 3.0 port is quite awkward-looking. But then Samsung is never one to value… anything over features. It is backwards compatible, though, meaning you can plug it in using any old microUSB cable.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini has traded away the microUSB 3.0 port for a much more ordinary microUSB 2.0 one. You lose super-fast transfers, but the charging issue is a moot point anyway as the Mini has a much smaller battery to charge.
SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S
Add the more convenient port to the more convenient water resistance (no flap on the Mini) and there’s a case for the Mini winning this fight, unless you really want USB 3.0 speed.
On the wireless side, both the Galaxy S5 and S5 Mini have absolutely reams of wireless connectivity features. There’s just a couple of bits the full-size phone has that the little ‘un doesn’t have – ac Wi-Fi. This offers better range and speed when used with an ac router.
The Mini also lacks MHL, which lets you plug your phone into a TV's HDMI port when used with the right adapter, using the microUSB port. This is a bit disappointing.
As well as the normal stuff, you get the following in both phones:
IR transmitter: Lets you use your Galaxy as a universal remote for your home entertainment gear
NFC: For pairing devices and using for mobile payments
Cat4 4G mobile internet: Up to 150Mbps mobile internet. You’ll never get those speeds, but we like the potential
Bluetooth 4.0: This has been in Samsung phones for ages, and lets you pair with the latest smart watches
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Power
Galaxy S5: Quad-core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801, 2GB RAM
Galaxy S5 Mini: Quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos 3 Quad 3470, 1.5GB RAM
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is much, much more powerful than the Galaxy S5 Mini, which has power a lot closer to something like the Motorola Moto G and its Snapdragon 400 processor.
Where the Galaxy S5 has a Snapdragon 801, and extremely popular CPU/GPU that’s clocked at 2.5GHz in this case. On the other hand, the Galaxy S5 Mini has a more unusual Exynos processor, the Exynos 3 Quad 3470. It’s a Samsung made processor that has four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.4GHz.
The Galaxy S5 also has more RAM than the mini, with 2GB to the other’s 1.5GB. We’ll have some more impressions on actual performance in a minute, but here’s how the benchmarks compare.
Galaxy S5: 2906
Galaxy S5 Mini: 1062
Galaxy S5: 35405
Galaxy S5 Mini: 18568
Galaxy S5: 431.7ms
Galaxy S5 Mini: 1100ms
Galaxy S5: 18245
Galaxy S5 Mini: 3581
You get the idea. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is leagues ahead of the Galaxy S5 Mini in terms of raw power.
In actual use, the performance is harder to judge as so many of the Galaxy series’s issues are down to the iffy speed of the TouchWiz UI they all use. We did notice the bit of intermittent lag in the Galaxy S5 mini, but to be honest there’s some of this in the Galaxy S5 too.
With games, you will sometimes miss out on a few visual effects that you would see in the Galaxy S5, and we did notice more dropped frames in high-end 3D games like Dead Trigger 2. There's no getting around that the Mini has a mid-range CPU, not a high-end one.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Camera
Galaxy S5: 16-megapixel ISOCELL 1/2.5-inch sensor, LED flash
Galaxy S5 Mini: 8-megapixel camera, LED flash
The Samsung Galaxy S5 has become one of our favourite cameras of the year. It has a Samsung-made ISOCELL 16-megapixel sensor that offers some great tech, and is also pretty big at 1/2.5 inches.
While we don’t know the exact in-depth tech specs of the Galaxy S5 Mini, its sensor is a bit more ordinary, with eight megapixels. Sure enough, the Galaxy S5’s photos are sharper and more detailed.
The Galaxy S5 is also a bit faster than the Mini. The Mini is no slouch, though, with very quick shot-to-shot speeds in Auto mode. It's just HDR pics that take a little longer to process.
Given the difference in power, this is no surprise, but other elements of the Mini’s camera software suggest it may have more in common with Samsung’s phones of last year.
For example, the HDR mode isn’t built into the settings part of the app but the modes section in the Mini, where it is made more a core part of the full-size Galaxy S5. Sure enough, HDR performance is a bit closer to the Galaxy S4 than the S5. It’s good, but lacks the tinge of magic that Galaxy S5 shots can have.
The approach to noise reduction is also a bit different. Where the Galaxy S5 often displays a dithering-type effect, the Mini softens – it looks a more more normal but doesn’t seem quite as good at retaining detail.
Here are a few comparisons to demonstrate:
The Galaxy S5's 16-megapixel can produce superb detail even when there's high lighting contrast.
The Mini does reasonably well, but there's less detail and it doesn't detail with the light contrast as well.
While not the most dramatic demo of HDR, it shows how much contrast the S5 HDR mode can maintain, while keeping natural-looking colours and no obvious haloing.
While the Mini reveals lots of shadow detail in this HDR demo, colour fidelity is worse and contrast has been affected. The deepest blacks have gone a bit blue.
The Mini can take some nice macro-style shots.
The thing to note here is how much blurrier the background is in the S5, making close-up photos pop that bit more.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Internal Speaker and Sound Quality
Galaxy S5: rear mono speaker, Snapdragon DAC
Galaxy S5 Mini: rear mono speaker, Wolfson DAC
From a quick look, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini speaker seems to be exactly the same as the Galaxy S5’s one. It’s a little driver on the back that pipes out of a hole in the battery cover.
We gave them a go ourselves to find out if they’re really the same and found that there are slight differences.
The basic tonality and top volume of the speakers is very similar. They’re not terribly beefy-sounding but – as you’d hope – they’re generally better than those of entry-level phones.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a smoother, easier-going mid-range that we think is a bit easier on the ear. However, it may not be as good at cutting through ambient noise as the Galaxy S5 Mini’s slightly more aggressive mids. And, as we said, there’s not a great deal in it.
Both speakers cause an annoying vibration in the backplate, which may be exacerbated by the water resistant internal design.
What about quality through the headphones? There should be minor differences as the two phones have different DACs. The UK version of the Galaxy S5 has a DAC built into the Snapdragon 801 system-on-chip while the Exynos processor the Galaxy S5 Mini has a Wolfson chip. They are also likely to use slightly different amp.
Once again, we heard a difference most notably in the mid-range, which was somewhat easier-going and airier in the Galaxy S5. It’s more forward, again a little more aggressive in the Mini. At times the Galaxy S5 can appear superior, but then the difference isn’t necessarily negative. In particularly challenging arrangements, though, we found that the Galaxy S5 Mini offered significantly better clarity and separation.
The benefits of the Wolfson DAC really come to the fore in songs like Regina Spektor’s Us, where a fairly fragile-sounding voice has to do battle with a string section mixed fairly high, inhabiting more-or-less the same channel as the vocal.
The two phones offer similar top volume. And both offer equalisation and effects through the main music player app
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini vs Galaxy S5: Battery Life
Galaxy S5: 2800mAh
Galaxy S5 Mini: 2100mAh
The Galaxy S5 Mini has a significantly smaller, lower-resolution screen compared to the full-size Galaxy S5. You get a 2100mAh unit instead of a 2800mAh one.
However, we’re still pretty pleased with the stamina you can wring out of the thing. When playing a 720p MP4 video file at mid-level brightness, the Galaxy S5 Mini lasts for just under 12 hours – 714 minutes in our particular test. That’s actually slightly more than the Galaxy S5’s 11 hours and change.
In general use we didn’t notice that the S5 Mini was any more long-lasting than the S5, but it’s close. With some effort and use of the power-saving modes, you can get both phones to last for around two days – or around a day and a half with no such effort.
Both phones have two power-saving modes, a standard one that can throttle performance and restrict background data, and a more intensive ‘Ultra’ mode. This turns the screen black and white, and limits the apps you have access to. It’s not for general use, but can make lost last few per cent of your battery last for ages.
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The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini looks and feels quite a lot like a smaller version of the Galaxy S5, but the Mini version misses out on a few crucial factors. A lower-resolution screen and a much, much lower processor make us question the value of the smaller phone. Now that the Galaxy S5 has dropped in price a bit, it seems better value than its diddy cousin.
However, if you’re not a power user and want a phone that feels like a smaller S5, this is it.