Bigger is arguably always better, but small doesn’t need to be poor. It’s what many an Android top dog have comprehended of late, selling bundles of compact, reasonably priced, reasonably specced flagship clones.
It’s easy to explain the appeal of a well-thought “Mini” device, and it’s no surprise the battle for supremacy in the mid-range arena is about to reach the level of intensity and competitiveness of the high-end war.
Maybe we’re not there yet, particularly as OEMs like LG continue to deliver ill-advised mini efforts such as the much too large, much too low-end G2 diminutive sibling. But Samsung, HTC and Sony are already engaged in gripping, ruthless, high-stakes combat, and the outcome of the conflict is likely to go down to the wire.
Design and build quality comparison
Old habits die hard, especially when they’re remarkably profitable, and Samsung unsurprisingly went the plastic route again in conceiving the S5 mini. After all, it’d have been mighty awkward for the “full-sized” S5 to boast a plastic exterior, and the low-end, low-cost kin to rock metal.
As thing stand, just like higher on the totem pole, Sammy has nothing on HTC in terms of sheer elegance and robustness. On the bright side (for Galaxy fans), the S5 mini is 1.5 mm thinner and a whopping 17 grams lighter than the One mini 2, all while sporting the same usable screen footprint.
Adding the Z1 Compact in the mix only makes it harder for the S5 mini to stand out, although the latter again prevails in the dimensions tussle, with an 0.4 mm and 17 grams edge. And granted, Sony exaggerated with bezels a little, but glass beats plastic any day of the week.
Design might ultimately be a matter of personal taste, but panel efficiency is certainly not. Numbers rarely lie when it comes to a screen’s preeminence, however you’ll be hard pressed to call this particular brawl anything else than a three-way tie.
The Z1 Compact wins the pixel density challenge, but solely due to its more cramped 4.3-inch display. Meanwhile, the S5 mini and One mini 2 are tied in size, resolution and ppi: 4.5 inches, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 326. And yes, Super AMOLED technology is technically superior to LCD, yet until seeing the GS5 mini in action I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions.
Processing speed, RAM and storage
Widely believed to be packing a run-of-the-mill (for mid-range standards) Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip, the Galaxy S5 mini ultimately came equipped with a homebrewed quad-core 1.4 GHz Exynos 3470. A newbie in the SoC décor, that should outdo One mini 2’s 1.2 GHz S400 in raw speed. Z1 Compact’s 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800? No way in hell.
The RAM hierarchy is identical, with Sony at the very top (2 gigs), Sammy up next (1.5) and HTC at the bottom (just 1 GB), whereas storage is way too tight to call. In fact, it’s not tight, it’s deadlocked. All three contenders carry 16 GB internal, and support for an extra 64 GB via microSD.
Galaxy S5 mini vs One mini 2 vs Xperia Z1 Compact – software and battery life face-off
TouchWiz vs HTC Sense vs Xperia UI. Now that’s a toughie. Clearly, Sony’s specific bells and whistles set is less diverse than Samsung and HTC’s goodie packs. Sadly, that doesn’t make Z1 Compact’s software experience closer to stock, so the other two will be clashing for the gold medal here.
Both run Android 4.4.2 KitKat out the box and take a number of precious cues from their big brothers. You’ve got Ultra Power Saving, S Health, Private Mode, Kids Mode on one side and BlinkFeed and Zoe on the other. Told you it’d be tough to call it. Ah, to hell with it. I’ll go out on a limb and give it to Samsung, mostly for those wicked battery optimizations.
Speaking of battery, I fully expect S5 mini’s 2,100 mAh juicer to last longer than One mini 2’s 2,110 mAh cell despite the overall hardware configuration being a wee bit zippier on the former. But let’s not overlook Sony’s beefy big small guy, which has plenty of spunk in it, courtesy of a 2,300 mAh ticker.
Cameras, connectivity and sensors
It’s really ridiculous smartphones with 20.7, 13 and 8 MP rear-facing snappers respectively are considered members of the same class, but hey, it’s not all about taking photos, recording vids and whatnot. If it would be, we wouldn’t even have this discussion. The Z1 Compact would crush the competition, probably followed by the One mini 2.
Definitely followed by it, if we take into consideration the all-metal lad’s beautiful selfie-friendly 5 MP secondary cam. The S5 mini? I’m afraid it’s average, on the front and rear.
Good thing (for Samsung) it’s not average in the sensors department, incorporating fingerprint recognition and heart rate tracking in a pocket-friendly package. There’s also water and dust resistance, only tied by Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact, while connectivity-wise the rivals are three peas in a pod: 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, etc., etc.
Pricing, availability and wrap-up
Even knowing full well Samsung’s generally farfetched profit margins, S5 mini’s MSRP still came as a bit of a shock: €479, or $650. Of course, that’s valid for European markets, and stateside, it should translate into a much more sensible $500, maybe $450 price tag.
Beginning in a few weeks, we’re hearing, which is a pretty decent turnaround. But why wait when the SIM-free Sony Xperia Z1 Compact can be had today for a measly $420? With a beefier processor and battery, extra RAM, sensational camera and an overall more premium vibe to its exterior design.
At $490 unlocked, the One mini 2 doesn’t feel like a real title challenger, in spite of the breathtaking all-aluminum chassis. The specification set on the whole is simply too underwhelming, with an average CPU, scanty RAM and solid but not outstanding main camera. All hail Sony!