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Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 review: Samsung Galaxy Mini 2

The Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 is light on features and not very powerful but as a cheap first-time smart phone it's charmingly basic.

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Natasha Lomas
natasha-lomas-140-100.jpg
Natasha Lomas Mobile Phones Editor, CNET UK

Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.

7 min read

Samsung's smart phone Galaxy universe is populated by devices of all stripes -- from the pricey Galaxy S3 right down to the cheap as chips Galaxy Y.

orig-samsung-galaxy-mini-2-main.jpg
6.5

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2

The Good

Compact, sturdy design; Colourful casing; MicroSD card slot.

The Bad

Not very powerful; Screen isn't the greatest.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 is a budget blower designed for a younger owner. It's light on features and not very powerful but as a cheap and cheerful first-time smart phone it's charmingly basic. There are more powerful and capable Androids at bargain basement prices so do your homework before committing your pocket money.

The Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 is definitely more budget red dwarf than money-burning white hot giant -- hence the dinky price tag. It's basically a slightly beefed up Galaxy Y with a very compact, palm-friendly shape and a bright yellow behind.

You can grab the Galaxy Mini 2 for pocket-money prices. It's being offered free from around £10 a month on a two-year contract. Amazon has it SIM-free for circa £150.

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2?

If you've already crossed into the smart phone universe, there's little to tempt you here -- so warp on elsewhere.

The Mini 2 is a palm and wallet-friendly mobile that, much like the original Galaxy Mini, is aimed at tempting standard phone owners to swing into orbit around their first smart phone.

Since the first Mini landed, Androids have become cheaper and more capable. A £100 outlay can now bag you a phone with a 1GHz chip and a colourful 4-inch display -- in the form of the excellent Huawei G300. If you can stomach the network branded bloatware apps clogging their interfaces, there are pretty capable devices such as the T-Mobile Vivacity or Orange San Francisco 2. So the Mini 2 is a less attractive prospect than its predecessor.

Smart phone wannabies should do their homework and check out the budget competition before splurging all their pocket money. That said, the Mini 2 is not without its charms. For basic tasks it's a nippy little fellow, thanks to the combo of a fairly powerful engine (for a budget blower), and a smallish, lower-res display. So if you just want an inexpensive smart phone mostly for texting, lightweight apps and a spot of web browsing, it should be a pleasing addition to your school bag.

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 front
While the Mini 2 is appealingly simple, there's a lot of competition at the budget end of the smart phone market.

Galaxy Mini 2 versus Galaxy Y

The Galaxy Mini 2 is definitely not a phone for folk with big hands. Indeed, its slippery surfaces and bright backplate mean it'll be at its happiest in the mitts of sweaty-palmed schoolkids -- much like the almost-identical looking Galaxy Y.

If you're trying to choose between the Mini 2 or the Galaxy Y, don't agonise too much as there's not a huge difference between them. The Mini 2 is a smidge bigger and heavier. It has a better, more colourful screen, a touch more storage and RAM and its camera has a slightly higher megapixel count. There's also a version that comes with contactless near field communication (NFC) tech inside, which could come in handy for swipe payments in a sandwich shop in the future.

On the flipside, the Galaxy Y has a slightly faster chip and better battery life -- plus it's a few tenners cheaper when buying SIM-free. So if you want a budget Samsung-branded sidekick with more stamina, the Y looks like the better bet (provided your eyeballs can live with its awfully low-res screen).

Design

The Mini 2 is a compact creature -- albeit the screen is a smidge bigger than the original Mini. Whereas the earlier model measured 3.14 inches on the diagonal, this screen is a 3.27-inch affair. That's still a rather small display -- but if you have tiny childish fingers, you won't have too much trouble texting and swiping.

Along with the physical size, the Mini's display resolution has been increased as well. The first Mini was a tad blurry, thanks to its 240x320-pixel display. So I'm glad to see Samsung has boosted that to a more palatable 320x480 pixels.

While more pixels is a good thing, the screen still isn't great. Indeed, it sports a headache-inducing shimmer and it's not a patch on the classy screens you'd find on more expensive phones, or even similarly priced alternatives such as the Huawei G300. So if you want a phone for eyeballing lots of video, the Mini 2 is not your best bet.

Elsewhere, the design looks largely the same as the previous Mini. The phone is quite chunky, with a rounded, textured back. It's 11.6mm thick, though the NFC version is a shade thicker at 11.9mm.

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 side
It's charmingly chunky at 11.6mm, or 11.9mm if you opt for the NFC-enabled version of the Mini 2.

One thing it's nice to see still in place is the Mini 2's colourful behind. It's rare to find a mobile these days that offers a splash of colour, so the orangey yellowy hues of its backplate warm the cockles of my heart.

If you prefer your mobile to blend in with playground concrete, you'll be pleased to know that my colleague Luke Westaway has also spotted a grey version.

Android software

The Mini 2 is a Gingerbread-flavoured Android, which is Google's own mobile operating system. Android is brilliant, because it grants you access to the thousands of apps available through the Google Play app store, many of which are free to download.

Stick a few key apps on there (Facebook and Spotify spring to mind), and you'll likely find the Mini 2 becomes a lot more useful. Sadly, this phone isn't running the latest version of Android -- it's packing version 2.3 Gingerbread rather than 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. But this won't be an issue for smart phone newbies.

Having an out-of-date operating system is embarrassing for high-end smart phones, where you'd expect to see the latest, greatest version of Android showcased, but seeing as the Mini 2 is as cheap, it's not something to gripe about.

Gingerbread remains a very capable mobile OS. And while Samsung's TouchWiz skin isn't the most beauteous software wrapper in the smart phone sweetshop, it's pretty straightforward to use. You'll find you get seven home screens to load up with your favourite apps and widgets.

Talking of apps, the Mini 2 comes pre-loaded with some of Samsung's own -- including its Social Hub and Music Hub apps, as well as its ChatON messaging service.

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 Android
Samsung's Social Hub, Music Hub and ChatON messaging app come pre-loaded.

Often manufacturer-added apps are just annoying and deserve to be quickly deleted. But that's the joy of Android -- if you don't like an app, there are plenty of alternatives waiting to be downloaded from Google's Play store.

Performance and battery life

The Mini 2 doesn't offer particularly impressive hardware, though again the flipside is its impressively cheap price-tag. There's an 800MHz processor under the bonnet, which isn't huge in this day and age, but since the phone has a relatively small and low-res display, performance isn't terrible.

The Mini 2 is not blisteringly quick, by any means. More chip-intensive tasks like viewing mapping data will slow it down, but for lightweight apps such as Angry Birds and basic web browsing, it's perfectly serviceable. Swiping around menus is nice and nippy and downloading apps doesn't take too long either.

You get 4GB of storage, which isn't bags of space, but can be bumped up by sticking a microSD card into the handy side slot.

Next to the camera is a rear speaker. This can pump out sound quite loud, although it does crackle at the top of its range. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack up top and a micro-USB port on the bottom edge for charging the phone and shifting your photos and other files back and forth.

Call quality is average, with voices generally sounding a little muffled. But so long as you're not in a super-noisy environment, you shouldn't have trouble hearing or being heard.

The NFC version of the Mini 2 adds the ability to set up and swipe NFC tags to quickly change your phone's settings or fire up apps or websites on the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 camera
The camera on the back is only 3 megapixels and there's no auto-focus.

One advantage of buying a budget smart phone with a less-than-dazzling screen is that it's not such a drain on the battery.

The Mini 2 has a 1,300mAh battery, which Samsung claims, "guarantees extended multimedia usage and longer chat sessions". During testing, the phone happily managed a day's moderate use. So provided you're not an exceptionally heavy user, you should easily be able to get through a day before needing to charge it.

Camera

On the back is a 3-megapixel camera. While that's not loads of megapixels, it's more than the Galaxy Y. Results aren't amazing, as you'd expect for this super-budget price, but the Mini 2's lens is superior to the Y's.

One thing to note is there's no flash on the Mini 2 so don't expect to be able to snap your mates in the dark.

Samsung Galaxy Mini 2
Southwark Cathedral looks bright and cheerful in this morning snap (click image to enlarge).

There's no auto-focus either, which is a shame. It means snaps can come out with focus in the strangest of places (i.e. the tarmac rather than your mate's awesome new sneakers). So don't expect photographic masterpieces. Cheap and cheerful is the order of the day. But at least sharing the photos or videos you take is made easy by the Android OS.

Conclusion

The Mini 2 is a budget blower designed for a youthful owner. It's light on features and not very powerful, but as a cheap and cheerful first-time smart phone, it's charmingly basic. It also feels solid enough to survive the odd schoolyard scrape.

However, there's a glut of Android phone choice these days, and while the Mini 2's price tag is dinky, the Huawei G300 delivers more powerful and capable hardware for a cheaper SIM-free cost. The Mini 2's charms might be less winning if you do your homework and check out the cut-price competition.

Additional writing and reviewing by Luke Westaway.

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