What’s the difference between the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S3 mini?

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S3 Mini – what’s the difference?

We don’t often look backwards at Clove but it can be useful, especially when the latest and greatest devices might stretch the budget a little for some. This will therefore be the first of a few posts that take a look at the previous generation, which may be useful if you’re looking to upgrade but don’t particularly want or need the  highest end devices.

For this comparison we’ll take a look at last year’s Samsung flagship and its baby brother, the Galaxy S3 and S3 Mini.

The Galaxy S3 was the runaway success of 2012, shipping and selling far more than any other Android device helped in part by a fantastic specification and massive marketing power. As we shall see, the S3 still holds its own against many new devices, but does the S3 Mini still make a decent purchase?

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

Main differences at a glance

Before we get into the details, here’s a quick look at the main differentiators between the Galaxy S3 and the S3 Mini:

  • Power – S3 runs a 1.4GHz quad-core processor against Mini’s 1GHz dual
  • Screen size – Obviously the S3 has the larger display: 4.8″ against 4″
  • Camera – S3 is far superior with an 8MP sensor over the Mini’s very standard 5
  • Dimensions – the S3 Mini gets its name by being  smaller and lighter
  • The S3 screen resolution trumps the Mini at 1280×720
  • The S3 Mini has no video output capabilities

Display

The Galaxy S3’s 4.8 inch screen can still be considered among the best displays of all the newest devices  of 2013. With a resolution of 1280 x 720, high definition content can be enjoyed on the HD Super AMOLED technology.

The S3 Mini drops the size right down to 4 inches which many may now consider to be too small but could be useful for those with smaller hands. The resolution takes a drop to 800 x 480 so you won’t get 720p content, however Samsung’s Super AMOLED display still delivers higher quality colours than other devices in this class.

Camera

As the more ‘advanced’ device, the S3 proper has the better camera, as to be expected. The 8MP shooter was pretty high end last year and remains in the upper ends of sensor size now, although there have been a number of devices setting the bar higher. In contrast the Mini’s 5MP sensor is beginning to look positively low end. It does the job for taking relatively detailed indoor images in decent light however don’t expect anything else, 5MP main cameras are par for the course on low to mid range units now.

The main Galaxy S3 also has extra software features not present on the Mini for adapting to the environment, and ensuring higher picture quality such as zero shutter lag, and auto-focus. Other minor differences appear when you delve deeper as well including the ability to use S Voice voice commands to take pictures on the S3 – missing from the S3 Mini. Video calling isn’t for everyone however if you are going to spend time using the front facing camera then the S3 is easily the better choice with a 1.9MP HD front sensor over the VGA (640×480) resolution on the Mini.

Also worth pointing out is the possibility of future updates to the Galaxy S3 software that will draw on some of the features found in Samsung’s latest devices. The Android 4.2.2 update for Galaxy S3 will likely improve the camera feature set and we may see some of the most recent introductions such as: Drama Shot – take a burst of photos and combine them into a single frame; Sound & Shot – record a sound clip with your photo; Eraser shot – erase unwanted objects from the photo and Dual camera shot – take a photo with the rear and front facing camera at the same time, which means that you can photograph yourself whilst capturing others and then stitch them both together.

The update may also mimic the interface on the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy camera where a still photo and video are captured using the same interface, so you don’t lose time or miss the moment switching between the two. Whilst not yet confirmed, it seems unlikely that any of these updates will make it to the Galaxy S3 Mini and with Samsung no news is probably bad news.

Battery Life

Much has been made of the battery performance of the Galaxy S3 and reviews are understandably mixed. The 2100 mAh battery is large, even in 2013 however the quad core processor has a tendency to drain it quickly if you are a power user.

Whilst no device is likely to abate the power worries of truly heavy users, the S3 gave the issue a good stab and for most seems to work through the day well enough. The S3 Mini on the other hand drops right down to 1500 mAh. Now whilst the device is aimed at a lower end market than its bigger brother and the processor is clocked slower with less cores, this is a pretty small battery considering the aesthetics of the unit were less in scrutiny (it is in fact the thicker of the 2 devices – space was saved in height and width).

MHL / Video out

This was a big bone of contention when the devices were originally launched and I have personally lost track of how many people I have had to inform that the S3 Mini has no video out option as standard. Whilst Samsung made sure connectivity was the major buzzword for the S3, they silently dropped this feature from the Mini version.

Samsung has included MHL compatibility in high end devices since the Galaxy S2 and whilst they may have tampered with the standard to their own benefit in recent generations, it did come as a shock to see it omitted from the Mini. Whilst this could have been overlooked if Samsung’s DLNA implementation “Allshare” (now rebranded as Samsung Link) had been included, this was not to be the case. This leaves the S3 Mini an absolute no-go if you want to share content from handset to second screen in any manner.

Connectivity

Continuing from video out, both devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 support, although as discussed above, the Mini does not include DLNA.

Another issue to consider if looking at either device is that neither of them has a 4G LTE radio installed. There are versions of the Galaxy S3 with LTE, however these are not available SIM free. At the time this was not much of a concern with the UK LTE market in its infancy however with many UK networks providers releasing their plans for LTE rollouts and expansion for the end of the year and early 2014, picking up a new device without the technology inside could be seen as a backward move unless you are planning another upgrade in about a year.

Size & Design

Many called out the S3 for being too large for a flagship device last year but Samsung silenced everyone when they released the comparatively huge Note 2. The question of size seems to have gone out the window now with the Galaxy Mega and Huawei’s Ascend Mate looming in the distance. Still, the S3 is touching on being too large for one handed use for many people and can take some getting used to have you been using a smaller device.

On the other hand the S3 Mini’s 4 inch screen is now looking a bit antiquated in terms of size. If you are looking at upgrading for a boost in productivity or media use then the Mini will disappoint.

The ‘Mini’ part of the name also seems to be a little bit of a misnomer when the two devices are held close together. Whilst the Mini is about 15mm shorter and 7mm shorter, it is actually over 1mm thicker, although that does take a good eye to notice. So whilst the Mini does significantly drop screen size, most of this is traded for by increasing the bezel on the device. The chassis remains very similar – it seems there was only so much that could be dropped from the internals when making a budget version.

Being of the same range and generation, the styling on the two devices is practically identical. The same materials have been used although the S3 is available in a wider range of colours (although availability of these can have a big affect on the price).

Power

The Galaxy S3 is still able to hold its head up high as one of the fastest units on the market with its 1.4GHz quad core processor. Whilst its successor may have surpassed this, it is still very much a high end spec. The Mini drops to a very mid range 1GHz dual core chip. Now this by itself is by no means a bad component for the price point of the device but when you are following the flagship Galaxy brand it is a slight disappointment.

This does give cause to think of the future if looking at these devices now though. Where the S3 is still a very capable device that will have plenty of life left ahead of it for any user adopting it today, the same cannot be faithfully said of the Mini. If one were t pick up a Mini today it should probably be under the knowledge that they would likely want to upgrade early in the next generation.

As is often the case you get what you pay for and with the S3 Mini coming in at a bargain discounts towards the end of its lifespan, the power trade-off could be well worth it as a backup / secondary unit or one for a novice user or child.

Storage

The issue of storage is one which has been quite prominent in the news recently, especially for Samsung. Whilst neither of these handsets suffer from the same heavy implementation of TouchWiz that newer Samsung units do, a fair chunk of the main storage will be taken up before use.

The base storage available for the S3 and S3 Mini is 16 GB and 8 GB respectively, with larger units announced but incredibly difficult to source in many territories.

Pricing

At this point in both device’s life cycles their prices are understandably volatile. I would expect the S3 Mini  to see the biggest cuts soon as Samsung drop off support for the device in favour of other devices however the main S3 will likely remain supported and relatively available for some time yet.

At the time of writing Clove have the S3 Mini listed at 189 GBP ex VAT for the White model. The S3 varies from 300 – 365 depending on colour variant. Both are now excellently priced considering their own specifications and the competition in their class if one considers the S3 as a mid-to-high end unit and the Mini as low-to-mid range.

Conclusion

Clearly the S3 was always going to win out against the miniature version on paper but this comparison is looking at more than raw power and specification.

From a usability and value for money perspective, the Galaxy S3 remains an incredible device that is still relevant in the modern range of devices. The Mini however, whilst still providing a decent specification for the price, suffers from a lack of features that make it less capable of being seen as a quality device in the months and year to come. As a budget device however, the Mini offers plenty against other similarly priced handsets.

Either device is a good choice as long as you are well aware of your needs, although with the chance of the S3 dropping in price again as the S4 gains momentum, it could be very hard to recommend anything else to the budget conscious customer

Join Our Monthly Newsletter

Sign up to our monthly roundup email to find out about new and forthcoming products, as well as the best bits from the Clove Blog

About Josh Bethell

Josh joined Clove part time a few years ago whilst studying Computing at Bournemouth University. Since finishing his studies he has remained at Clove in a full time position, involved in sales, returns and social media.

Involved with both consumer electronics and software since the mid 2000s, keeping up to date with industry developments is as much a hobby as it is a job.

Easy going but never afraid to share an opinion, Josh can often be found in his spare time listening to some heavy rock or at a local gig as well as playing with the latest gadgets and video games.

Comments

  1. Asamoah enoch says:

    I am using galaxy x3mini it written that 16gig but when I download applications five or six the memory becomes full I don’t understand why please tell me.

  2. when will s3 mini get its update 4.2.2 ??? waiting alot..

  3. what are the unique features of s3 mini original that differentiate it from the fakes ones?

  4. kit jasri says:

    Im using s3mini my problem is I dont know how to move my apps in my SDcard .cant anyone help me pls

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hello Kit, sometime ago Android (and by extension new Samsung) removed the ability to completely move and run apps to and from the SD card.
      You may be able to move app data but not the app installation.
      You can still store media such as music and pictures on the SD card

  5. Peter McAllister says:

    hello Josh, hope you can answer this puzzle.
    Both my wife and I have Samsung Galaxy 3 minis and we both have the same issue with many(not all) wifi hotspots. Most of these hotspots need a password(which I can obtain, hotels for example) but I cannot connect as the wifi on the phone says the connection is open and therefore does not give an option to put a password in. Other people connect with their laptops and mobile devices by using the password so my question is: how do I configure the phone to know that a password is required and the connection is not open.

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Peter, I’m afraid this has me stumped.
      As long as the access point requires a password, you should be prompted to put it in as soon as you try to connect in the WiFi settings menu.
      If you don’t put it in (or put the wrong one in) then all you should see is an ‘authentication problem’ error message or similar.
      If you are in an area with multiple hotspots, try ‘forgetting’ the settings for all of them (tap the network in the WiFi settings list, then tap ‘forget’)
      The only thing I can think of offhand is that the device has somehow saved incorrect information, which is why you are not getting the prompt. Forgetting the info might then allow you to add it back in correctly..
      Let me know!

  6. echishimba04@gmail.com says:

    Hi Josh Bethell
    i want to get an S3, now is there a major diference with an S4 aswel as the note 3 Galaxy? Kindly advise.

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hello, first off I would only advise going for the Note range if you would enjoy the very large screen and stylus. If you are worried at all about the screen being too big then stay looking at the ‘S’ range.
      Both the Note 3 and S4 offer newer versions of Android and improved hardware over the S3 generation devices. The benefits are most apparent if you play a lot of top games, or spend a lot of browsing watching/ streaming video content.
      The S3 is still a very capable phone and if you are looking for a smartphone just for calls, messages and Internet connectivity with some good apps then it can be had for a bargain price now.
      If you want to be at the limits of what smartphones are currently capable of and have the most power possible, get one of the newer devices. Hope that helps :)

  7. Hi my husband bought me an S3 mini and I don’t like it I’m inlove wit bigger phones which one is better between galaxy S3 and S3 mini he’s paying instalment of R450 a month for S3 mini do you think S3 is cheaper or more?

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Londs, if you like bigger phones then the full S3 is definitely a good choice.
      It will probably be a bit more expensive than the S3 Mini he is paying for now but should be cheaper than some other phones that have been released recently

  8. Been debating between s3 and mini. Your breakdown of two really helped. Need ease of use w/ full view screen and storage capabilities. Camera also important. Thanks, decision made. S3 wins

  9. please can the s3 mini support tango and viber? with many or different bible

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hey there should be no issue with the S3 Mini running these apps they are quite lightweight.
      I don’t have an S3 Mini on hand to check myself but you can check on the Play Store if an app is compatible with your chosen device

  10. gem berry says:

    hi.. I wanting get daughter for xmas an s3..but hate the blue ones..n that’s only one can find at cheapest price of £259 , so thought bout the s3mini can get in white for £199..but reading your fab info I defo want the s3!!! I just want it in white even a black at push but my daughter would hate the blue. do u know anywhere I can buy it in white for same or cheaper price [£259] that’s sim free at asda?? im in nr blackburn,Lancashire uk. I cant buy of amozon or ebay, if you or someone can help thankyou. :)

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Gem, the blue version was the original colour that the S3 launched in and has generally had the largest manufacturing run. This is why it tends to be the cheapest version available, because it is the version stores tend to have outstanding stock of.
      Clove are currently at £300 for the white – we are buying brand new stock though, I reckon places selling at the cheaper prices are trying to clear through old lines. I don’t know where anywhere offhand unfortunately, good hunting though

  11. 1= Does this ”update” apply for the s3?? or just the mini ? ta :)

    2= Also… if I got a blue s3 can I easily buy white casing for it so it looks just like a white s3? [[as can only find cheap one but its in blue…yakkk lol]]..? ta

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Gem are you referring to Android software updates? If so then it is the full size S3 that has received these, not the S3 Mini.
      The S3 Mini is now not going to be updated further, the standard S3 may not receive new updates beyond Android 4.3 either.
      I’m not sure of anywhere you can buy new back covers, although the colour is mixed into the front and side panels too, so there will still be some blue left even if you do this