For many tech pundits, 2012 will be remembered partly for heralding the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S3 (opens in new tab) and for the introduction of the more affordable Galaxy S3 Mini (opens in new tab)back in November.The hope was that the S3 Mini would be a scaled down version of the wildly popular S3, but how do the two closely related devices match up in reality?
Over two years later, it is still safe to say that the Samsung Galaxy S3 still provides a sound investment for the user. With a recent update to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and price reductions thanks to the release of the S5, S6 and S6 Edge, there is still a lot that this device can offer.
With the relatively small price tag of £171.99, the S3 LTE really does become more appealing.
To buy the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE click here (opens in new tab) to buy
Size and weight
As you would expect given its moniker, the Galaxy S3 Mini is the more diminutive of the two phones, measuring 121.55 x 63 x 9.9mm and featuring a 4in display. The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, is one of the larger smartphones on the market, sporting an expansive 4.8in screen and sizing up at 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm. It's an interesting discrepancy: despite being the smaller device, the S3 Mini actually has more girth than its larger sibling. It is the lighter device, however, weighing 120g compared to the S3's 131g. Neither is exactly chunky, though, so it's largely a matter of screen-size preference.
Both devices feature Super AMOLED screens, but the cheaper S3 Mini is fairly lacklustre with regards to display quality, featuring an uninspiring resolution of 800 x 480 pixels at 233ppi. By way of contrast, the full-scale Galaxy S3 features one of the more impressive screens on the market, with an HD resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels at 306ppi – admittedly inferior to some of its newer rivals, but still considerably better than its pint-sized sibling.
Storage and memory
The latest UK version of the Galaxy S3 (below) packs an impressive 2GB of RAM and comes in one standard model featuring 16GB of on-board storage. For content hoarders, there's a microSD card slot on hand enabling capacity to be increased up to 64GB. The S3 Mini also features expandable storage, though its card slot can only handle up to 32GB, with the reduced form factor handset coming in 8GB and 16GB iterations, depending on region. The 8GB version dominates the British market and offers 1GB of RAM.(opens in new tab)
Performance can't be judged by specifications alone, of course, but Samsung's quad-core Exynos 4412 SoC is one of the more impressive sounding configurations out there. Clocked at 1.4GHz and featuring a Cortex A9 CPU and Mali 400-MP graphics, it's likely to be a fair bit quicker than the S3 Mini's dual-core NovaThor set-up, which is clocked at only 1GHz.
There's little to distinguish the two handset brethren with regards to software, as both devices currently come pre-loaded with, or are immediately upgradeable to, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (opens in new tab). It's worth nothing, however, that the higher-end Galaxy S3 should get an incremental update to Jelly Bean 4.2 (opens in new tab) in early-2013, while owners of the mid-range S3 Mini are likely to be further down the OS update list.
When it comes to photographic capabilities, the gap between high-end and mid-range is again pronounced. The S3 features an 8-megapixel camera, full HD (1080p) video, and a 1.9-megapixel auxiliary front-snapper, while the Mini (below) sports a decent 5-megapixel shooter, 720p video, and a VGA front-facing lens. Truly keen photographers are no doubt pondering our "Best cameras for Christmas 2012" (opens in new tab) feature rather than debating megapixels on a smartphone, but for the intrepid on-the-go amateur, the dearer Galaxy S3 may well be worth the extra moola.(opens in new tab)
Part of the lore surrounding Samsung's Galaxy S3 is down to the reputation of its powerhouse 2,100 mAh battery, which can keep you chatting for up to 11 hours if the manufacturer is to be believed. There's no way its reduced-specification relative is going to best it in terms of longevity, though the S3 Mini obviously demands less power consumption. Its 1,500 mAh motor should be enough for most day-to-day usage, with Samsung proffering a best case scenario of 7 hours talk-time on 3G.
Connectivity and wireless
The newest iteration of the Galaxy S3 comes readied for the UK's new superfast 4G LTE spectrum (opens in new tab), currently furnished exclusively by EE but due to be rolled out to other carriers in early-2013. The S3 Mini unfortunately looks confined to now old-gen 3G networks for its shelf-life, though it does - like its more exclusive sibling - feature NFC technology and Bluetooth v4.0. There's no room for built-in wireless charging on either device as of yet, but that's a feature that's still something of a luxury and a novelty rather than a necessity.
Price, availability, and opinion
With its quad-core processor set-up, 4G LTE compatibility, full HD display, 8-megapixel camera and expandable storage up to 64GB, the full Samsung Galaxy S3 (below) remains one of the most impressive handsets currently available and is widely available on contract, and SIM-free for £171.99. While it's a considerable outlay, you'll get streamlined access to the latest Android updates as well as top-notch specifications. If you're considering a high-end smartphone, you're probably comparing the Galaxy S3 vs the iPhone 5 (opens in new tab), or even having a gander at the Windows Phone 8 (opens in new tab)-running Nokia Lumia 920 (opens in new tab). The simple fact is, the full Galaxy S3 is a much better handset, and its price tag reflects its superiority.(opens in new tab)
The £99 S3 Mini, on the other hand, comes across as a bit of a disappointment in today's smartphone landscape. That's not to say it's entirely without merit: its camera is serviceable if hardly spectacular, its a sturdily built device, and the microSD card slot means that on-board storage capacity can be cheaply boosted. But compared to, say, the Google Nexus 4 (opens in new tab), it comes across as fool's gold at best - the aforementioned LG-manufactured handset offers a quad-core chipset clocked at 1.5GHz, full HD display, Android 4.2 (opens in new tab), 4G in the form of HSPA+ and an 8-megapixel camera, putting its mid-range Samsung rival to shame in the process.
If you're an Android fan in search of the best value handset, the Galaxy S3 Mini is not an optimal proposition. In fact, it's not even close - it's a scaled down version of its full form factor forebearer in name only. Specification compromises were always likely as Samsung attempt to breach a new price sector, but while the S3 still deserves to be classed a 'Top Five' high-end handset, its mid-range relative isn't so much a doppelgänger as a borderline disaster.
|Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE||Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini|
|Resolution||1,280 x 720 pixels||800 x 480 pixels|
|Type||Super AMOLED||Super AMOLED|
|Processor and battery|
|Family||Samsung Exynos 4412||NovaThor U8420|
|CPU||Cortex A9||Cortex A9|
|Battery||2,100 mAh||1,500 mAh|
|Claimed 3G talk time||Up to 11h||Up to 7h|
|Storage and memory|
|Internal storage||16GB||8 / 16GB (market dependant)|
|microSD||Yes (up to 64GB)||Yes (up to 32GB)|
|Resolution||3,264 x 2,448 pixels||2,592 x 1,944 pixels|
|UK Network||4G (LTE)||3G|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 a / b / g / n||802.11 a / b / g / n|
|Bluetooth||v4.0 +HS (A2DP/AVRCP)||v4.0 (A2DP, LE, EDR)|
|Size||136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm||121.55 x 63 x 9.9mm|
|Operating System||Android 4.1 Jelly Bean||Android 4.1 Jelly Bean|
|Price (SIM-free)||£171.99 RRP (opens in new tab)||£99.99 RRP|