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Monday, 2 July 2012


Samsung Galaxy mini 2 review: Little by little


Whenever a Galaxy S phone thinks "Boy, it feels good at the top", there's always someone down below to say "You're welcome". Samsung most certainly know who to thank. It was smartphones like the Galaxy Ace and the Galaxy mini that made Android so much more accessible and helped the Koreans get where they are.
Samsung Galaxy Mini S6500
Samsung Galaxy mini 2 S6500 official photo
This year brings the sequels to the two immensely popular smartphones and things look promising. The Samsung Galaxy mini 2 ups the resolution, adds a bit of extra oomph and improves on the looks and that's already a solid foundation for a worthy successor. Here's what else it gets right and what it doesn't:

Key Features

  • Quad-Band GSM and dual-band 3G support
  • 7.2 Mbps HSDPA
  • 3.27" 256K-color HVGA TFT touchscreen
  • ARMv6 800MHz processor, 512MB RAM
  • Android OS v2.3 (Gingerbread) with TouchWiz v3.0 UI
  • 4GB internal storage, hot-swappable MicroSD slot
  • 3.15 MP fixed-focus camera with geotagging
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • NFC connectivity (in some markets)
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Document editor
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • MicroUSB v2.0
  • Stereo Bluetooth 3.0
  • Swype text input

Main disadvantages

  • Poor display quality
  • Fixed-focus camera, no flash
  • No secondary video-call camera
  • Video recording maxes out at VGA @ 25fps
  • Sub-par ARMv6 CPU limits performance and app selection
With the smartphone market still far from becoming a zero sum game, devices like the mini 2 are supposed to convert as many feature-phone and Symbian users as possible. Once they are in the right camp, it will be much easier to sell them a Galaxy S IV or even a Note 2.
A solid plan indeed, but there's a catch. While the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 price tag will probably help, there are potential turn-offs that need to be addressed. The mini 2 doesn't have to be perfect or have an upmarket feel. A solid smartphone experience is a must though and we're interested to see if the mini 2 delivers it.
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Samsung Galaxy mini S6500 studio shots
Let's get going then. The unboxing and hardware inspection start right after the break.

Retail package spells basic

We didn't really expect Bluetooth headsets, leather pouches or anything along these lines, inside the Samsung Galaxy mini 2's box. Considering the relatively ample inbuilt storage, we can live without a microSD card too, even though it costs manufacturers cents to include. However, we could've really used a wired handsfree, which isn't all that expensive either.
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There's not a lot going on inside the box
All you will find inside the compact box is a microUSB charger and a microUSB cable. We do appreciate the charger being a single piece, instead of having to use it with the data cable, but still the feeling remains that Samsung could have done a little better.

Samsung Galaxy mini 2 S6500 360-degree spin

Standing at 109.4 x 58.6 x 11.6 mm, the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 is a really compact device by today's standards. It's also pleasingly thin for the class and, since it weighs just over 105g, we doubt it that anyone will mind carrying it around.



Design and build quality

Despite being low in the pecking order, the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 offers pretty good build quality. The styling of the back looks like a nice touch by Samsung and the grippy plastic makes sure you won't be dropping the smartphone too often.
Our main grudge is the front panel, where things are a bit boring. We've seen Samsung use the same design over and over and we really wished we were treated to something fresh here. After all, they did bother to make it look a bit like the Galaxy Nexus at the back. It shouldn't have been too to hard do something about the front.
Perhaps a different color that matches the battery cover might have helped the Galaxy mini 2 stand out in the entry-level droid crowd. Then again, maybe it's just a case of us being too picky. As we said, the mini 2 is targeted at newcomers, who are unlikely to be bored with the design.
The front panel of the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 is dominated by the 3.27" HVGA display. The bezels are a bit wider than we are used to, but there's no way around it on a compact phone like the mini 2. You see, bezels have to be at least a few millimeters wide for a touchscreen device to work properly and that makes them appear much bigger on handsets with smaller screens.
There are two ways to look at the image quality of the screen. On one hand, it's a notable improvement over the original, mostly due to the quadruple resolution. On the other hand, contrast is nothing to write home about, while in the same time viewing angles are mediocre and sunlight legibility is disastrous. And then, HVGA is not such a rarity anymore in this price range.
Samsung Galaxy Mini S6500
The screen is good enough for the class
As usual, the truth is somewhere in between, the mini 2 screen being par for course - no deal-breakers, but no pleasant surprises either.

Contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView4.698
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III3.419
  • Samsung Omnia W3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S3.155
  • Nokia N93.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note2.970
  • HTC One S2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II2.832
  • Huawei Ascend P12.655
  • Apple iPhone 4S2.269
  • HTC One X2.158
  • Nokia N82.144
  • Apple iPhone 42.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray1.955
  • Sony Xperia U1.758
  • HTC One V1.685
  • LG Optimus 3D1.542
  • Nokia Asha 3021.537
  • Nokia Lumia 6101.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G13551.361
  • LG Optimus L71.269
  • Meizu MX1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket1.180
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 21.114
Below the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 display, we find the usual three-button combo. There's the traditional Home key in the middle, with capacitive Menu and Back buttons either side. All three controls have the usual functionality on a long press.
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The three buttons below the screen
All you get above the screen is the earpiece, so those of you addicted to video-calling might need to take their business elsewhere. An ambient light sensor is also missing, so you'll have to adjust the brightness of your screen manually. There's no front-facing camera or a proximity sensor either.
Samsung Galaxy Mini S6500
No front-facing camera, ambient light sensor or proximity sensor here
The left side of the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 S6500 hosts the volume rocker and the microSD card slot. At the other end we have only the power key, but a dedicated camera key wouldn't have made much sense on a smartphone with a fixed focus camera anyway.
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The microSD card slot and the volume rocker are on the left • The power key sits on the right
The top of the Galaxy mini 2 is where the 3.5mm audio jack is located, while the microUSB port can be found at the bottom, alongside the microphone. Both the audio jack and the microUSB port are unprotected.
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The audio jack is on the top, opposite the microphone and the microUSB port
Turning the Galaxy mini 2 over we find the 3 megapixel fixed-focus camera lens and the loudspeaker grille. The specs of the camera alone suggest that it wasn't the designer's top priority, but we'll be examining it in more detail later on.
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There's no flash to assist the camera in low-light conditions • Taking a peak under the cover
Opening the battery cover reveals the 1300 mAh Li-Ion juice pack that powers the mini 2. It's said to last for up to 420h of stand-by and up to 6h 50min of talk-time, which is decent if unspectacular. Our battery test the Galaxy mini 2 above average with a rating of 38h. Find more about the testing procedures here.


The general handling of the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 S6500 is pretty good. It's a compact set that's easy to operate singlehandedly and one that has decent grip. We like the asymmetric styling reminiscent of the Galaxy Nexus but we wish they used something fresher up front.
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Handling the Galaxy mini 2

Gingerbread with TouchWiz topping

The Galaxy mini 2 runs on Gingerbread 2.3.6 and has the latest version 4.0 of Samsung's custom TouchWiz launcher. Although it cannot even dream of Ice Cream Sandwich, the phone is reasonably fast and the 800MHz processor has no trouble running Gingerbread. TouchWiz in turn is supplying a good deal of nice little features and decent visuals. Things look good on the HVGA screen (up from QVGA in the original Galaxy Mini) and the handling is not bad either.
Take a look at our video of the device in action.
The lockscreen of the mini 2 has the usual integration of missed events with shortcuts to the relevant apps. Missed calls and incoming texts are displayed but not emails. The lockscreen can be removed by swiping in any direction.
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Swipe any part of the lockscreen to unlock the phone
The homescreen accommodates tons of widgets with lots of functionality. You can have up to 7 homescreen panes. A pinch on any of them zooms out to an aggregate view of all active homescreen panes, which can then be rearranged, deleted or added.
Widgets, shortcuts or folders are pulled onto the homescreen from a side-scrollable taskbar at the bottom of the screen once you enter edit mode (press and hold on an empty spot or do Menu > Add).
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The Galaxy mini 2 homescreen • Editing the homescreen • Adding widgets
The numbered dots that identify the homescreen panes serve as a scroll bar too. A press and hold on the dots lets you scroll sideways through the resized images of the available homescreen panes in one short go rather than with several swipes. In typical TouchWiz fashion, looped scrolling is enabled.
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Scrolling between homescreens looks great
The app launcher is very similar to the homescreen - you can create folders to go with your shortcuts and you can add, remove and rearrange pages just like you would homescreens.
If you prefer, you can choose List view instead of the default Grid view.
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The app launcher • Creating a new folder • Rearranging pages in the app launcher • List view
There are four shortcuts docked at the bottom of the screen that are visible both on the homescreen and in the app launcher. You can swap the first three with different ones (by default the shortcuts are Phone, Contacts, Messaging). The rightmost is the app drawer/home shortcut used to toggle between the apps menu and the homescreen, so it makes sense to always keep it in the same place.
The task switcher on the Samsung Galaxy mini 2 is launched by a long press of the Home key. It has a shortcut to a custom task manager, which not only lets you kill apps one-by-one and in bulk, but offers plenty of stats on installations, RAM usage and storage.
The Task Manager comes with a handy widget, which shows you the number of active applications right on the homescreen.
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The Android task manager
Most of the time, Android does really well when it comes to managing apps by itself (in fact, some claim that using a task manager is detrimental to the performance of a phone), so you should only need the task manager to occasionally kill a buggy app.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Samsung Galaxy mini 2 runs on a single-core 800 MHz processor with the older Adreno 200 GPU and has 512 MB worth of RAM. The device itself feels fairly snappy when navigating the OS, but we never expected it to do wonders in the synthetic benchmark tests.
Linpack tests pure processing speed and the Galaxy mini 2 handily beats out all of budget-range competition.

Linpack

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 219.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket10.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Y Duos10.3
  • HTC Explorer15.8
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace9.9
NenaMark 2 tests the GPU of the Galaxy mini 2. While 15.4 frames per second are enough to top this chart, they hardly suggest spectacular gaming performance.

NenaMark 2

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 215.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket12.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Y Duos13.2
  • HTC Explorer15.1
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace12
In SunSpider and BrowserMark the mini 2 took the top position by an impressive margin. The results indicate pretty good web browsing performance, especially considering the specifications.

SunSpider

Lower is better
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 25911
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket12105
  • Samsung Galaxy Y Duos11966
  • HTC Explorer10784
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace9061

BrowserMark

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 233994
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket20338
  • Samsung Galaxy Y Duos19634
  • HTC Explorer22464
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace27844
HD video is a bit too much to ask from the processor, and the poor codec support is another downside of the Qualcomm chipset.
Web browsing is generally a seamless experience, with the notable exception of flash videos, where there is a significant amount of lag.

Social phonebook

The phonebook has a wide range of features and practically unlimited storage capacity.
There are options to filter contacts that have phone numbers, show/hide some of the groups you've created (including groups from social networks) and change the sorting (by first or last name).
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The Galaxy mini 2 phonebook
The phonebook has the Quick contacts feature, which lets you tap the contact photo for a popup menu with shortcuts to call, text, or email. The TouchWiz-specific swiping gesture is here too - swipe a contact right to make a call and left to compose a message.
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Quick contacts • Swiping is a neat gesture for calling and texting
There are many info fields that you can assign to each contact, but it still remains perfectly organized. You have all types listed (numbers, email addresses, etc) and there's a plus sign on the right to add another item of that type. Pressing the minus sign under it deletes the unneeded field.
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Editing a contact's details
Of course, the real flexibility of the phonebook becomes apparent when you sign into your Facebook or LinkedIn account. After syncing, the phonebook will automatically merge your contacts (you can do it manually too).
The contact info screen is tabbed. The first two tabs are pretty standard - one displays the person's contact information, while the other stores call and message history. The third and fourth tabs handle the social stuff - status updates and the contact's online galleries.
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Viewing a contact's details
Weirdly, only Facebook and LinkedIn contacts can be synced with the phonebook - we usually see Twitter contacts in here too.

Calling and dialing

The Samsung Galaxy mini 2 had no issues with reception even in areas with poor coverage. Sound in the earpiece was crisp and fairly loud.
The dialer and call log have been integrated into the phonebook, each in a separate tab. Smart Dial is enabled for both names and numbers.
Only one contact (with photo) is shown at a time in the Smart Dial suggestions. You can tap the down arrow to view the rest (a digit above the arrow indicates how many contacts have matched your query).
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Smart dial is nice
The dialer also has a shortcut for sending a message instead.
Thanks to the proximity sensor, your screen will automatically turn off during a call. The available options during a call include taking a note, using the keypad, muting or holding the call, or adding another call to the conversation.
The Call log is the tab next to the dial pad. It displays all the dialed, received and missed calls in one list, while sorting your call history by contacts.
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Call history
The Samsung Galaxy mini 2 scored Average in our traditional loudspeaker test. The vibration on the other hand is strong, which will alert you in case you don't hear the ringer in a loud environment. Here's how it stacks up against the competition.
Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOveral score
Nokia Lumia 80060.959.061.7Below Average
Apple iPhone 465.966.567.3Below Average
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S66.665.966.6Below Average
Samsung S8600 Wave 368.065.869.7Average
Samsung Galaxy W I815069.666.667.0Average
Samsung S5570 Galaxy Mini68.065.970.6Average
Samsung S6500 Galaxy mini 269.771.566.6Average
HTC Titan75.866.282.7Very Good
HTC Desire76.675.784.6Excellent

Messaging and email

The messaging interface is quite straightforward: there are no folders here, just a new message button. Under that button is a list of all your messages organized into threads.
Swiping on a message header will do exactly the same as in the phonebook - a left swipe starts a new message, while swiping to the right will start a call.
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The Galaxy mini 2 messaging mode and swipe functions
There's application-specific search that lets you quickly locate a message among all your stored SMS and MMS.
When you add multimedia content to the message, it automatically turns into an MMS. You can either quickly add a photo or an audio file to go with the text, or compose an MMS using all the available features (like multiple slides, slide timing, layout, etc.). The multiple slides are all shown inside the compose box.
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Adding any multimedia content automatically turns an SMS into an MMS
Moving on to email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allows multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. Multiple Gmail accounts are also supported.
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The Gmail interface must be familiar to everyone by now
There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can support multiple POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.
It offers a combined inbox option, which color-codes emails from different accounts for easier sorting and viewing. Conversation layout is also available - it groups related emails into single entries with a number in parenthesis showing the number of emails grouped. A tap on that entry expands it to show a list of the individual messages.
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The standard email app is easy to set up
Google Talk handles Instant Messaging. The G-Talk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat and Ovi Contacts. Video chat support is also onboard here.
As far as text entry goes, you have the standard Samsung keyboard at your disposal, as well as XT9. Both are fairly comfortable, although the keys might feel a little cramped in portrait. The landscape keyboard should be good enough. There's handwriting recognition and Swype.
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Samsung Android keyboard


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