Not everyone wants a behemoth smartphone flagship, which is why the miniature smartphone market has spawned iterations from Samsung, Sony, HTC and LG. Donning screens 5-inches and less is one way these smartphones prove more comfortable in the pocket, but be warned: these miniature smartphones have not been created equally.
How good looking a smartphone is can be directly proportional to its size. Often shrinking the size can make smartphones look even better. It’s just a shame most of the supposedly miniature smartphones hypocritically aren’t that ‘mini’.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 was hardly a looker to begin with. The S5 Mini has dropped in height, but its waistline has grown from from 8mm to 9mm. Coupling this bulge with faux leather and chrome accents doesn’t do the smartphone any favours either.
LG’s flagship G3 is one of the best looking smartphones this year. The smartphone had an insane screen-to-bezel ratio that made it possible to fit a 5.5in screen into a 5in body. Now the G3 Beat has a smaller screen, but it’s certainly not diminutive at 5-inches. The screen, which is the same size as HTC’s flagship One (M8), is further let down by thicker bezels. The G3 Beat then has lost the appeal that makes the flagship G3 desirable.
HTC’s One Mini 2 continues to boast the quality craftsmanship of the metal-clad One (M8). The smartphone looks arguably even better on account of its smaller footprint. Unfortunately it shares a similar caveat to the G3 Beat: it’s too big.
The Mini 2 has a well-sized 4.5in screen, but the excess bezel makes the smartphone almost as tall as the 5.2in Samsung Galaxy S5. There’s little point in carrying a miniature smartphone when it is as tall as a flagship.
Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact is the only smartphone that isn’t plagued by compromise on the design front. Although the Z3 Compact has a bigger screen than its Z1 Compact predecessor, it is thinner, shorter and lighter. And it’s the same when comparing the Z3 Compact to the rivaling trio from Samsung, LG and HTC, as it remains both the shortest and thinnest.
Topping the Z3 Compact off is a premium tempered glass finish and a design language fluent in minimalism.
Winner: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
The best displays have a high resolution, a large screen, a quality panel and a pixel density above 300 pixels-per-inch (ppi). All four miniature smartphones in contention have displays with a 1280x720 resolution.
The large 5in panel of the LG G3 Beat is undermined by a low density of 247 pixels-per-inch. Sony’s Z3 Compact has a 4.6in screen, although its 319 ppi density is lower than that of HTC’s and Samsung’s.
Both the HTC and Samsung have 4.5in screens with a 326 pixel-per-inch density. Separating the two is their display technology.
The Super LCD2 panel used by the One Mini 2 is not as vibrant as the Super AMOLED panel used by the Galaxy S5 Mini. Samsung’s S5 Mini has the competition beat then when it comes to the quality, resolution and size of its display.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini
Only one of these mini smartphones has hardware of a high enough calibre to take on flagships.
HTC and LG’s introductory smartphones have a respectable 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB of RAM. HTC’s Mini 2 has double the internal storage of the LG at 16GB.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 represents a cut above the aforementioned competition with a more powerful 1.4GHz CPU and an increased 1.5GB of RAM.
No matter, the miniature smartphones from Samsung, HTC and LG can’t take on the flagship-grade Compact from Sony. The Z3 Compact has a powerful 2.5GHz CPU and a generous 2GB of RAM. Internal storage is on par at 16GB, while the Z3 Compact benefits too from expandable microSD memory.
When it comes to hardware, at least, the Z3 Compact is playing in a whole other division.
Winner: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Winner: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Each of the miniature smartphones from HTC, Sony, LG and Samsung offer a unique set of features that will appeal to a varied audience.
LG’s G3 Beat has an 8 megapixel camera equipped with the company’s laser-autofocus technology. The feature represents genuine innovation in the digital camera space by using a laser to measure multiple points of focus quickly.
HTC has ditched the Ultrapixel technology featured in its One (M8) and decided instead to fit the Mini 2 with a 13 megapixel camera. Another noteworthy addition is the company’s famed BoomSound speakers, which are front firing stereo speakers hooked up to independent amplifiers. HTC’s BoomSound leads the market when it comes to sound quality.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 Mini and Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact share a resistance to water and dust. Although both smartphones are resistant to dust, the S5 Mini can take on 1 metre of water — compared to the Z3 Compact’s 1.5 metres — for thirty minutes.
Samsung has continued its focus on security and health by fitting the S5 Mini with a finger scanner and heart monitor. Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact differs with a focus on multimedia.
The Z3 Compact’s 20.7 megapixel camera has the S5 Mini’s 8 megapixel camera beat on picture resolution, while its ISO 12800 range and 20mm lens ensure the camera can compete with dedicated digital cameras.Read more: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review: A flagship at 4.6-inches
Then there’s music: Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact can play high resolution audio (HRA) compatible files, while even upscaling the playback quality of AAC and MP3 music files.
Rounding off its stellar feature set is the Z3 Compact’s PlayStation certification. Owners of a PS4 gaming console will be able to use the Z3 Compact’s screen with a PlayStation 4 controller when playing PS4 games.
Winners: Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Samsung, HTC and LG have made budget, watered-down versions of their flagship smartphones. The Galaxy S5 Mini, One Mini 2 and G3 Beat are all good smartphones in their own right, but they pale in value compared to the Xperia Z3 Compact.
Sony’s compact smartphone offers the company’s best technologies, only in a form factor that’s easier to use everyday. Of all the miniature smartphones, Sony’s is the only one that could compete — not only with cheapened mini phones — but full fledged flagships.