Samsung Galaxy S III mini preview: First look

GSMArena team, 11 October 2012.
Pages: 1234567

Nature UX in smaller form factor

The Samsung Galaxy S III mini comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and the latest TouchWiz UI, dubbed Nature UX. It's the premium combination that we saw on the Galaxy SIII and the Galaxy Note II and it undoubtedly lifts the stock Android user experience.

The lockscreen is a standard "tap and drag in any direction to unlock" affair and there're ripples accompanied by water-drop sound as you drag your finger. Samsung has provided four customizable shortcuts at the bottom of the screen - drag one up to activate the specific app. In case of missed calls or incoming messages for example you can drag to unlock the device and directly launch the call log or the messaging app.

The dock at the bottom of the homescreen now fits five custom shortcuts or folders. The rightmost one opens the app drawer as usual, but you can change the other four to any shortcut you like or even a folder full of shortcuts.

As usual, you can pinch to zoom out and easily manage homescreen panes - add, delete or just reorder them. You can have 7 panes at most, which are enough to fit plenty of content even if you use widgets that cover an entire pane.

Samsung I8190 Galaxy S Iii mini Samsung I8190 Galaxy S Iii mini Samsung I8190 Galaxy S Iii mini
The Galaxy S III mini homescreen

The notification area offers quick toggles for Wi-Fi, GPS, Silent mode, Screen rotation, Power saving. Only five toggles fit the screen at a time, but you can scroll them sideways to reveal more functions - Notifications (toggles icons in the top row of the screen), Mobile data, Bluetooth, Driving mode and Sync.

Samsung I8190 Galaxy S Iii mini Samsung I8190 Galaxy S Iii mini
The lockscreen Notification area

The app drawer has a tab that lets you pull out widgets straight to the homescreen. Unlike stock Jelly Bean, you cannot move between tabs by swiping through the pages - you have to explicitly hit the widgets tab. Some will find this more logical (scrolling past the available apps to find yourself in the widgets takes some getting used to).

Using pinch-to-zoom reveals an overview of the pages and lets you rearrange them, but you can't create new ones. Hitting the menu key reveals some more options, including hiding apps or enabling tap-to-uninstall mode.

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The app drawer

The app drawer has three view modes - Customizable grid (where you can freely rearrange icons), Alphabetical grid (if you think you can find apps quicker when they're ordered alphabetically) and Alphabetical list (this one makes shortcuts easy to hit, but isn't very space efficient). You can also view just the downloaded apps by hitting the Downloaded apps icon.

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The widgets list

Jelly Bean comes with various widgets and Samsung have added even more. Some widgets are resizable too - a feature we've seen in some custom UIs is now available natively in Jelly Bean.

Samsung I8190 Galaxy S Iii mini
Context menu

Once you get several apps running, you can use the task switcher to go back and forth between them. It's an Jelly Bean-style vertical list with a screenshot and a name for each app. Swiping an app sideways removes it from the list.

There's a button at the bottom of the list to bring out Samsung's home-brewed task manager with a Remove all button. This is the quickest way to clear up both the list and some RAM.

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App switcher Task manager

Overall, the Nature UX dressing on top of Android 4.0.4 looks great and the Galaxy S III mini does pack a lot of the features of its flagship. It's rare to see a compact device having most of the bells and whistles.

And despite the lack of a quad-core Exynos chipset, the dual-core Galaxy S III mini handles the heavy Samsung skin equally well. It didn't even experience that much difficulties with a heavy live wallpaper on and we have no doubts it'll be even smoother come launch.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Samsung Galaxy S III mini features the NovaThor U8500 SoC, which features a dual-core Cortex-A9 processor, clocked at 1 GHz. Graphics are handled by the single-core Mali-400 GPU and there's 1GB of RAM available.

Keep in mind that the benchmark scores are likely to improve ahead of release. So without further ado, let's kick off with BenchmarkPi, which test the per-core CPU performance.

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    530
  • HTC One S
    306
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    452
  • HTC Sensation XE
    536
  • Sony Xperia S
    536
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    509
  • Sony Xperia go
    543
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    855
  • Sony Xperia sola
    551

Linpack came up next to put the dual-core CPU of the NovaThor U8500 chipset to the test. The Galaxy S III mini scored a respectable 60.3 MFLOPS, but still trailed behind some of the competition.

Linpack

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    64.74
  • HTC One S
    210
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    77.6
  • HTC One V
    34.4
  • Sony Xperia S
    86.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    60.3
  • Sony Xperia go
    69.95
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    24.83
  • Sony Xperia sola
    68.1

SunSpider is a JavaScript benchmark - here the relatively up-to-date software gives the Galaxy S III mini an edge. It came really close to the HTC One S, but lost to the two Krait cores.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    2663
  • HTC One S
    1708
  • HTC One V
    3299
  • HTC Sensation XE
    4404
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    1955
  • Sony Xperia S
    2587
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    4214
  • Sony Xperia go
    3228
  • Sony Xperia sola
    2837
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2217

Moving on to the other web performance benchmark, BrowserMark tests how up-to-date is the S III mini with the latest web standards. The Galaxy S III mini managed to beat the similarly spec'd Galaxy S Advance due to its newer Android version. The HTC One S and Galaxy S II had the upper hand, however.

BrowserMark

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    81557
  • HTC One S
    98435
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    111853
  • HTC One V
    42342
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    90971
  • Sony Xperia S
    74990
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    64321
  • Sony Xperia go
    76820
  • Sony Xperia sola
    73840
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    88725

Vellamo

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2418
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    2078
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    1377
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1890
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1568
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1468

The Samsung Galaxy S III mini packs a single-core Mali-400 GPU, which achieved 31.9 fps in NenaMark 2. That's by far not the most impressive score we've seen, considering the WVGA resolution, but it still suggests playable framerates on most occasions.

NenaMark 2

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    60.5
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    19.7
  • Sony Xperia go
    42.8
  • Sony Xperia sola
    27.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    51.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    43.6
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    31.9
  • Sony Xperia S
    37.5
  • HTC Sensation XE
    23

Unfortunately, we have AnTuTu benchmark data only for quad-core smartphones, but we decided to see how the Galaxy S III mini fares here as well.

AnTuTu

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    13562
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    11820
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    5823
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    11735
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    11633
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    10767

Quadrant

Higher is better

  • LG Optimus G
    7439
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    5952
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    5916
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2698
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    5365
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    5170
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    4814

So the Galaxy S III mini can't compete with the most powerful chipsets currently on the market, but it fares pretty well in the mid-range. The Galaxy S III mini isn't made to be a computing powerhouse, but rather a trusty companion in everyday tasks and it seems capable of delivering there.

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