Samsung Galaxy S4 mini review: Little droid that could
Feature-rich gallery but no air view
The gallery on the Galaxy S4 mini is quite similar to what you get on the regular S4 except for the air view option. It can be sorted into albums, all photos and videos, time, location, etc. There is no spiral view here. You can pinch to zoom in the gallery and thus manage the size of the thumbnails.
When viewing an album's contents, a right swipe will reveal a bar with the rest of the albums available. In this mode you can browse images in a split-screen mode.
Upon a press and hold on an image, the gallery gives you the option to select multiple images, which you can then mass delete, share, copy or move.
Viewing photos on the Galaxy S4 mini is a pleasant experience. The screen is ample and Super AMOLED treats you to very pleasant colors. The gallery naturally supports full-res images. You can enable the Adobe RGB screen mode for accurate color rendering.
When viewing a single photo, you'll find several sharing shortcuts and a delete button above the photo, with a line of small thumbnails below displaying all other photos in the album. You can tap those small thumbnails to move to other images or you can just swipe to the side.
You can easily edit photos right in the Gallery itself. The photo editor gives you options like crop, rotate, color and effects. You can also put down a note over the picture.
The Gallery supports highly customizable slideshows too, with several effects to choose from, customizable music and speed. You can also highlight specific images to be included in the slideshow.
TouchWiz music player
The TouchWiz music player on the Galaxy S4 mini is the same as the one on the Galaxy S4. It is jam-packed with features and supports a wide variety of file formats, including FLAC, Wave, etc.
Music is sorted by the usual Artist, Album, Playlist, etc. but there's also Folder support (which is more often found on third party players) - it's quite handy as it saves you the need to sort songs into playlists like on so many other players.
Music square is quite similar to the SensMe feature of Sony smartphones. It automatically rates a song as exciting or calm, passionate or joyful and lets you build playlists matching your mood.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini can also search for content on third party players like PCs on the same network.
Samsung has enabled equalizer presets (including a custom one with 7 bands) along with the sound-enhancing SoundAlive technology, which features 7.1 channel virtualization. Samsung uses SoundAlive in some of their MP3 and Android-powered media players.
The Now playing screen gives you the usual options: a timeline, play/pause and skip controls, repeat and shuffle, volume control but it also adds lyrics support, an AllShare shortcut and a direct sound settings shortcut.
While listening to a song you can find music controls in the notification area and the lockscreen.
The Galaxy S4 mini has a couple of features that will further improve your listening experience. One is Smart Sound, which equalizes the volume between tracks. The other is Adapt Sound - an audio calibration tool that tries to combine the most comfortable highs and lows for the best audio in calls and music. This way the phone can map the capacity of your specific headset and fine-tune its output for optimal sonic experience.
After the calibration is complete, the Galaxy S4 mini shows you the kind of gain you're receiving by keeping Adapt Sound on.
Decent video player, but no DivX and AC3 codec support
The video player on the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini has the last watched video on top for quick access. There are two tabs below it - personal (showing you the videos on your local storage) and Nearby devices, which shows the PCs and players on your local Wi-Fi network.
All thumbnails are actually playing the videos instead of being static images. They play at a reduced framerate and generating those previews takes a couple of minutes the first time around, but it's still an awesome preview.
The video player lets you choose between three crop modes for how the video fits the screen. You can adjust video brightness, color tone and enable outdoor visibility too.
Pop up play is enabled too - it moves the video in a small floating window and you can use other apps on the phone while still watching the video. You can use pinch zoom to adjust the size of the video.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini offered a list of subtitles and let us pick. It scans all subtitles, so the file doesn't even have to have the same name as the video file.
The big disappointment here is the relatively poor video codec support. It plays XviD, MP4 and MKV files of up to 1080p resolution, but DivX is not supported. AC3 and DTS sound do not work either.
FM Radio with RDS, broadcast recording
The Galaxy S4 mini is the only smartphone from the S4 lineup that is equipped with an FM radio with RDS. The interface is simple - there's a tuning dial and you can save as many as 12 stations as favorites. You can also play on the loudspeaker, but the headset is still needed as it acts as the antenna. You can record radio broadcasts as well.
Solid audio output
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini performed excellently in the first part of our traditional audio quality test, posting great scores all over the field and garnishing them with a decent (if unspectacular) volume level.
There's some degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones, but it is barely noticeable outside of dedicated audio labs. The stereo crosstalk rises notably, but that's about it - the rest of the readings remain unchanged..
And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Samsung Galaxy S4 mini||+0.06, -0.05||-93.5||92.7||0.0090||0.056||-86.2|
|Samsung Galaxy S4 mini (headphones attached)||+0.08, -0.04||-93.2||91.8||0.029||0.089||-53.3|
|Samsung I9500 Galaxy S4||+0.03, -0.04||-94.5||93.4||0.0036||0.016||-93.0|
|Samsung I9500 Galaxy S4 (headphones attached)||+0.03, -0.02||-93.0||92.9||0.0084||0.062||-77.5|
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini frequency response
You can learn more about the whole testing process here.