It's the battle of Samsung's diminutive mid-rangers as we pit the successor to one of the most successful budget handsets of 2011 - the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, against the affordable mid-range reboot of one of the most successful handsets outright in 2012, in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini. So let's take a look.

Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 VS Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Design

First and foremost, being mid-range Samsungs, both handsets feature a predominantly plastic construction. The Galaxy Ace 2 shows a transitional design in Samsung's timeline as it moved from the hard edged aesthetic of its 2011 handsets to the more natural design language found in its 2012 device lineup. A design language demonstrated perfectly by the Galaxy S3 Mini, which simply emulates the flagship from which it takes its name.

The Galaxy Ace 2 features a dark blue plastic body, with small touches of chromed plastic around controls like the centralised home button as well as around the display and earpiece. These reflective elements are also present on the Galaxy S3 Mini, albeit with satin finish silver plastic banding the display.

Ace 2 VS S3 Mini 1Both hardware and touch controls as well as the camera and LED flash are in identical positions on both handsets, however the Ace 2’s headphone jack and loudspeaker are the reverse of what’s present on the Galaxy S3 Mini, whilst the microSD slot, designed to take up to 32GB, is located under a tab on the lower-right side of the handset, making it more accessible than the S3 Mini's, which is founder underneath the battery behind the removable back.

In the hand, the look and feel of the S3 Mini is more premium and modern, fitting with the timeline that these two handsets follow.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

Ace 2 VS S3 Mini 2

Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 VS Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Screen

Being mid-range phones, both offer up reasonable WVGA resolution, which is twinned with a 3.8-inch LCD panel on the Galaxy Ace 2 and a 4-inch AMOLED display on the S3 Mini. The smaller display size on the Ace 2 works to its advantage, making it marginally easier to distinguish small text and fine detail when performing typical tasks like web browsing and side by side its LCD tech ensures brighter whites and therefore an overall brighter image.

Ace 2 VS S3 Mini 3

Having said that, the newer AMOLED display at work on the S3 Mini deals out better black, noticeably better contrast levels as well as colour vibrancy and allows for significantly broader viewing angles, without loss of brightness or clarity.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 VS Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Performance

The Galaxy Ace 2 is one of the only devices out there with an 800MHz dual-core processor, in this instance, twinned with 768MB of RAM. In its own right, navigating the UI feels solid, smooth and simple. There’s the occasional instance of stutter, but such occurrences are few and far between. That is until you put it side by side with the Galaxy S3 Mini. The newer Samsung outperforms the Galaxy Ace 2 every aspec, and taking UI navigation as an example, makes the Galaxy Ace 2 feel slovenly by comparison.

Ace 2 VS S3 Mini 4

The 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and newer UI work towards a slicker overall experience; with those brief moments of lag occurring even less often, app launching and switching left feeling marginally faster and 3D games running more smoothly. On top of that the Galaxy S3 Mini features twice the minimum in-built storage at 8GB and the newest iteration of Bluetooth: 4.0.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 VS Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: OS

At launch the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 arrived with Android Gingerbread 2.3.6, but Samsung adorned the stock experience with TouchWiz 4, which broadened functionality and added notable tweaks like connectivity toggles in the pull down notifications drawer.

Ace 2 VS S3 Mini 5

The Galaxy S3 Mini features TouchWiz Nature UX - an evolution of the overlay employed by the Ace 2, which is both better looking and more versatile. What’s more, Despite only a few months between the release of these two handsets, the S3 Mini comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out-the-box; the most recent iteration of Google’s mobile OS and two generations newer than that of Gingerbread which features on the Galaxy Ace 2.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

Samsung Galaxy Ace VS Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Camera 

Both handsets employ 5-megapixel rear-facing cameras complete with LED flashes and VGA front-facing cameras for things like video chat. Across all of our still and video tests, it was clear to see that Samsung have recycled the same image sensor across both handsets.

camera sample 1camera sample 2

camera sample 3camera samples 4

Both phones produced wholly usable shots, albeit with no significant strengths, detail was apparent, low light was better than expected but high contrast, colourful shots lost a little punch in their creation.

Video too was wholly usable with the 720 HD footage including the sound returning when felt like an even result. Should one have the edge of the other, the S3 Mini's camera UI featured a better layout and addition scene and shooting modes, but the end result is far less significant.

Draw

Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 VS Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: Verdict

Save for the camera - where the playing field felt perfectly level, the slight differences between two mid-range Samsung’s which bookended 2012 have amounted to a clear winner. The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini puts beauty ahead of age in this race but brings with it, performance and a more refined overall experience.

Ace 2 VS S3 Mini

It's fair to assume that Samsung took what it learnt from the sale of a handset like the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 and poured that knowledge into the creation of the Galaxy S3 Mini, with a touch of S3 design magic. The gap may not be huge, but it's there, the only thing to keep you tied to the Galaxy Ace 2 will be its price, (which is £180 on PAYG) but we think the S3 Mini will drop to a more reasonable level soon enough from its current £280 (which seems overpriced) and as such, we'd rather wait.