Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The Galaxy S5 gets shrunk, but smaller isn't always better

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Fingerprint scanner

There are a few clever tricks built into the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini that it's inherited from its big brother - and that's good to see as all too often features are left by the wayside in these 'mini' reincarnations.

The first feature pass-down is the fingerprint scanner that resides under the home key - but don't get too excited.

You'll need to head to the Finger Scanner section in Settings to set it up, and once you've registered a digit or two, you'll be able to unlock the S5 Mini and approve PayPal payments without a password by just swiping of your finger.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Trouble is the system isn't all that great. TouchID on the iPhone 5S can read your finger at pretty much any angle without the need for swiping, making it quick and easy to use.

On the Galaxy S5 Mini I had more trouble. Your finger has to be straight on over the home key, which isn't a natural position when you're trying to use the thumb of the hand you're using to hold the handset.

Secondly you can't go too quickly. And finally, it hardly ever works.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

During my time with the handset the Galaxy S5 Mini failed to recognise my swipe on numerous occasions. I easily had over a 70% failure rate and I lost count of the number of times I locked myself out for 30 seconds after five consecutive failed scans.

It's certainly satisfying when it finally does register, but it's not worth the hassle. It's not quite as bad as the offering on the HTC One Max, but it's pretty damn close.

Needless to say I turned off fingerprint recognition to unlock after a day. I did come back to it a few days later in the hope I just had some bad luck first time out - but alas the same issues persisted.

S Health and Heart Rate

Another feature that's made the jump from the Samsung Galaxy S5 to Galaxy S5 Mini is the rear mounted heart rate monitor and accompanying S Health application which has been given a bit of an overhaul since the Galaxy S4 series.

You'll need to fire up the S Health app on the Galaxy S5 Mini to use the monitor, and you measure your heart rate by holding a finger over the sensor on the rear of the device.

It does take around 30 seconds to measure your heart rate and you do need to keep pretty still, but the Galaxy S5 Mini does a good job.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

The location of the sensor is rather awkward and it's a little counter intuitive to have to get your phone out every time you want to take a reading.

It makes more sense to be on a fitness band or smartwatch, such as the Samsung Gear Fit or Gear Live.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

S Health doesn't just monitor your heart rate though, there's a whole feature set of stats and data you can pool to get an overview of your general health.

The Galaxy S5 Mini also comes with a pedometer, allowing you to keep track of the number of steps you're taking, and a handy widget on the lockscreen will keep you updated with your progress.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

S Health will also try and work out how many calories you've burnt based on your activity, and there's an exercise mode allowing you to track a stint of walking, running, cycling or hiking.

If you're really keen you can also track your food intake, weight, sleep (with the aid of a third party device) and stress levels (using the heart rate monitor).

There are plenty of fitness applications and wearables which offer similar services, but it's handy to have an option pre-installed on your phone and S Health on the Galaxy S5 Mini works very nicely.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review


On the front of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini you'll find the 4.5-inch display which has a resolution of 720 x 1280 - that's hardly amazing considering we're used to full HD displays on our smartphones, including the 1080p 5.1-inch screen on the Galaxy S5.

That's the same size and resolution as the Moto G - a handset which costs around a quarter of the price of the Galaxy S5 Mini - which just goes to show how far screens have come in recent years.

It is, at least, an improvement over the Galaxy S4 Mini which had a more disappointing 4.3-inch 540 x 960 setup offering a pixel density of just 256ppi, compared to the S5 Mini's 326ppi.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

It's also on par with the 4.5-inch, 720p HTC One Mini 2 and 4.3-inch, 720p Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, so the Galaxy S5 Mini isn't lagging behind the competition.

A trump card the Galaxy S5 Mini holds over the Moto G and co. however is Samsung's Super AMOLED technology which makes colours especially vibrant and the screen look bright and clear.

During day to day usage you're unlikely to notice the lower resolution, as text is still crisp meaning messages and web browsing aren't really affected.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Fire up a graphically intensive game, or flick over to a movie, however and the resolution is more noticeable, but it isn't a huge issue. It's only when you put the Galaxy S5 Mini alongside a full HD handset when the difference is really obvious.