Samsung GALAXY mini Preview

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Entry-level phones sure aren't what they used to be. Not only have they gotten richer on features, but manufacturers are now easily loading smart operating systems onto them, thus allow users with tighter budgets to get a taste of almost all the goodies modern smartphones have to offer. But not every budget choice turns out really cheap. Some of you have probably yielded to the temptation of getting a feature-rich, yet very affordable smartphone at some point, and have been disappointed by the poor user experience it delivered. Well, that's because there always seems to be some hidden cost you have to pay when siding with an inexpensive offering. Is there such cost with the Samsung GALAXY mini – one of the latest easy-on-the-budget Android handsets by the manufacturer? Let's find out!

Design:

Being an entry-level handset, the Samsung GALAXY mini will never take you by surprise when it comes to its appearance and construction. The handset easily feels like a toy, due to its light weight and all-plastic build, but thankfully this is not to the extent of it feeling cheap. The plastic utilized by Samsung feels alright to the touch, especially when coupled with the dotted pattern on the back side of the Galaxy mini.



You can compare the Samsung GALAXY mini with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The Samsung GALAXY mini is a relatively compact smartphone, equipped with a 3.1” capacitive touchscreen. This is one element of the Galaxy mini that we're very happy about – it seems like resistive panels are finally done away with for good (except for some Nokia offerings apparently). Touch registration with this capacitive screen is perfect, however it is here that we see where the biggest compromise with the handset has been made – the resolution. The Samsung GALAXY mini's 3.1” screen has a res of 240x320 pixels, which provides for some terrible looking text, while its viewing angles are also quite poor.

Below the notorious display we discover the usual three keys for Samsung's Androids, namely menu, home and back. The left side houses the volume rocker, while on the right are situated the power/lock key and microSD card slot. On the top are the 3.5mm headphone jack and the microUSB port, protected by a plastic flap. Although this is a prototype unit we've tested, we've got to say that we find all of its keys to function very decently.

On the Galaxy mini's back side you'll only find a 3MP camera and the loudspeaker, as well as the above-mentioned dotted pattern. All in all – we're pretty much content with the Samsung GALAXY mini's build quality and design, but are somewhat taken back by its low-resolution screen, which could have otherwise been a good asset, considering its capacitive tech.



Samsung GALAXY mini 360-degree View:





Interface and Functionality:

In terms of software, it is good to see the Samsung GALAXY mini come with a contemporary operating system such as Android 2.2 Froyo. Of course, some of the key consumer features such as Flash Player 10.1 support are not supported (due to entry-level hardware), but it's still the speedy Froyo experience nonetheless. On top of it we find Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, which comes to customize the OS and make it more Samsung-like. It's interesting to note that our prototype unit has a tweaked version of TouchWiz, which we have not seen before. The biggest visual difference is found in the main menu, which is a very colorful 3x3 grid with icons that introduce us to some nice animations upon being tapped. However, since our unit is not final, we can't be certain that this would be the final version of the interface – we might instead be treated to the usual TouchWiz 3 UI.


Under the hood of the Samsung GALAXY mini is a 600MHz processor. The CPU seems powerful enough in order to guarantee a stable and snappy performance (no doubt aided by the low resolution), so thankfully your time with all the stock Android applications won't be hindered by accidental lag or slow-downs. Indeed, almost all apps that you'll see in the Galaxy mini are stock Android, which is not a bad thing of course.

The homescreen allows you to have multiple pages for widgets, shortcuts and folders, while the main menu is divided into pages to enable easier app browsing. The Samsung GALAXY mini lets you seamlessly sign into your Google account, sync your contacts, mail, get into the Android Market and enjoy all the rest of the Android functionalities without problems. It's really quite a lot of stuff for such a low-end phone.


Messaging is a strong part of the Android platform, and the QWERTY keyboard of the Galaxy mini doesn't disappoint. For a handset with a 3.1” screen, that is. Key are not really big enough, by they are nicely laid-out, so unless you have really big hands, you shouldn't experience too much issues typing away texts and emails. If you use Gmail as your main email service provider, then the Galaxy mini will give you all the options you need and more when accessing your email on the go.


It is really a good treat that the Samsung GALAXY mini has a multitouch-enabled screen that allows you to use pinch-to-zoom gestures within the web browser. This is a pretty significant feature of the Galaxy mini, because pinch-to-zoom is by far the most comfortable way to zoom in/out in Android. As for the browser's actual performance, we can say that our unit made browsing fairly easy, with decent page loading times and smooth scrolling. However, the low-resolution screen has left its mark here as well, making text reading a very uncomfortable experience, unless you zoom in quite a lot. Thankfully, the Samsung GALAXY mini supports both 3G and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n to enable fast data speeds.


Now, onto the camera experience! While this is a prototype unit and the results we got might not be very relevant to what one would get with the final version, it should still give us an idea of what we can expect. By the looks of it, the 3MP shooter does a fine job with outdoor shots, which came out with slightly washed out colors and a bit of noise on a clear, sunny day. Indoor ones are a bit muddy, although not to an unbearable extent. We hope that the final version of the phone will fare better, although we're somewhat pleased with what we got out of this affordable Android handset.


Video recording with our unit was limited to shooting in 320x240 pixels and 15 frames per second – not exactly the camcorder of your dreams. The audio stream is clear enough at least.

Samsung GALAXY mini video sample:



Equipped with the standard Android music player and FM radio, the Samsung GALAXY mini is perfectly ready to answer your media needs. It should be able to read any MP3, AAC, AAC+ or eAAC+ audio files you may throw at it.


The additional software that came pre-loaded on our Galaxy mini handset was not much and includes Samsung Apps (Samsung's own app store), a limited edition of Quickoffice and Samsung's Social Hub, which brings social integration with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. The Galaxy mini lets you follow updates from these services through the dedicated homescreen widgets. Social integration is definitely a plus for such a budget smartphone that might end up in the pockets of many youngsters.

Expectations:

After all is said and done, we still can't jump to a conclusion regarding the Samsung GALAXY mini! No, not because we're indecisive, but because we had a prototype unit at our hands. However, what we saw was enough to let us know what we can expect from this upcoming budget-centric handset by Samsung. The Galaxy mini does have some strong sides like the capacitive screen and its snappy system performance, as well as its feature-rich nature thanks to Android 2.2 Froyo. On top of that, it looks nice and although it doesn't sport a really quality constructions, it doesn't feel really cheap (and cheap is the name of the game for the Samsung GALAXY mini).

On the other hand however, the manufacturer has made some compromises that, unfortunately, take a bit too much away from the otherwise pleasant experience. The biggest compromise has to do with the screen resolution, which is QVGA, and really feels obsolete. This has a negative effect on a number of areas for the Samsung GALAXY mini, like messaging and web browsing.

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If you think you can live with the mediocre image quality however, we believe the Samsung GALAXY mini will turn out a pretty decent companion for your on-the-go experiences.



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