Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
The reaction when you show the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 to someone is usually comical. It is, in anyone's book, a massive phone. All 6.3-inches of that screen. Some people don't even know it's a phone until you point out that it has an earpiece and show them what it looks like pressed against the side of your head.
But the Mega isn't for these people. The Mega is for people who don't really make phone calls, but want access to the internet and things like text messaging as much as possible. As techie geeks, we get this, because phone calls are something we avoid when possible, preferring instead to communicate using email and social media.
It's here that the big screen and monster battery of the Mega come in handy, and it's to these people, and maybe some others, that Samsung is aiming this phone. But does it work, and should anyone at all go and buy it?
Once you're over the size of the Mega, there's not much else to worry about. It fits in our jeans pocket just fine. But we like a comfortable fit; those with drainpipe jeans will struggle.
The Mega's size is also a little bit of an issue when you're using it as a phone. We're typical Note 2 users, and that too feels a little over-large for making calls (but great at everything else), but the Mega is even more extreme. While it does work as a telephone, smaller handsets are just easier to use in a single hand - something we always realise when we switch back to a smaller model.
From a build quality perspective, the Mega is rather, well, mega. It's solid. Although it's a cheaper handset than the Note 2, it's still well built. It uses the now well-known Samsung thin back cover that you tear off to access the battery, SIM card slot and microSD socket.
Elsewhere, there are the usual volume controls on the left, and a power button on the right. The home, menu and "back" button controls are in their usual Android place too. It's a very familiar feel to anyone who has used any recent Samsung phone before. Which is a good thing.
It looks good too, although as ever we're not sold on Samsung's use of plastic, especially on these larger devices as they never have a really premium feel. Samsung needs to work on this, but it's nothing new - but we were still hoping for more.
A serious use
With all the "it's SO massive" comments we've heard from people about the Mega, we've yet to hear anyone say "well that's good for people who don't have perfect eyesight". But, in fact, there are a couple of good points to be made about accessibility and this phone.
Because of a reasonably modest screen resolution of just 1280 x 720, the phone has a decent-sized font, and nothing looks too small to read. These benefits are handy for the operating system, but the extra screen size also makes web browsing a terrific experience too. Samsung's Touchwiz modifications - the company's take on the Android OS - keep things simple, although if you were really interested in a phone that's slightly more accessible then you might want to avoid Samsung handsets because they duplicate all of the app, music and video stores with the company's own app versions.
Camera and screen
The Galaxy Mega's rear-mounted 8-megapixel camera is okay, but really no more than that. We don't really like it compared to the Note 2, and it's not a patch on the Galaxy S4. But even so, the images are usable enough for most given scenarious and they don't look over-processed or too soft and "squidgy" to the eyes.
READ: Samsung Galaxy S4 review
The screen is a pleasant surprise too. It's got good colour reproduction, and the lack of resolution on the large screen doesn't make as much of a difference in use as we thought it might. It's actually nice to have LCD screens on phones - not OLED panels - as they tend to be more subtle and colour-accurate.
For video, the Mega does a decent job in smartphone terms. It maxes out at 720p, but we don't think the lack of 1080p will be a huge problem, particularly as the screen resolution matches up with the capture. Playback on the larger screen size means that using the Mega to watch pretty much anything - TV, YouTube, and so on - is a real joy.
If you're looking for a phone that supports 4G, then the Mega could well be the model for you. So long as, that is, you pick the right one, as there are two versions: the non-4G/LTE i9200 and the 4G-powered i9205. We tested the latter, which gave us access to a theoretical 4G network, if a) we were on a 4G network and b) lived in a 4G area. Still, for future-proofing, that's not a bad start.
The 4G chipset in this phone conforms to cat3, which means you get 50mbps uploads and 100mbps downloads. That is, without question, really very fast indeed. You'd be lucky to see that on most 4G networks at the moment, but even so, it's a massive theoretical boost compared to 3G's top-end.
Mega vs. Note 2
Well, if you're comparing one giant smartphone to another slightly less giant one then considering the Note 2 might be worthwhile. In fact, the Note is a different device with different aspirations. For one, it's more expensive. The reason for that is the faster processor, stylus pen input, better memory capacity and more RAM. So really, the phones aren't intended to be used by the same audience.
The Note is designed for people who use their phone at the centre of everything they do. It's big, because when you stare at a phone all day, big is a bit easier, and the Note is a real powerhouse too, meaning you can use it for loads of stuff and it never feels ponderous.
For us, the lack of stylus is a bit of an issue, but we could probably live without it. Each to their own. We're more concerned about the Mega's internal storage, which once you factor in the operating system and other minor things, is whittled down to just 4GB from a starting point of 8GB. We have talked before about why storage is more important on phones now, but the crux of the matter is: apps are getting bigger and can't be stored on the microSD card anymore. Yes the Mega has a microSD card slot - a huge positive - but it's not the solve for everything.
So really, the two phones are different enough not to trouble each other - a good thing, as we've complained in the past that Samsung does tend to tread on its own toes quite a bit.
Fair play to the Mega, and Samsung, because we are the killers of batteries and the drainers of power, yet the Mega managed two full days without falling on its bottom. This is impressive, and was even the case when we used it heavily over both days. Good job.
Interestingly, it's only 100mAh more capacious than the Note 2, which barely manages a day of light use now. This is indicative of Android though, which suffers from apps that can sometimes destroy battery life, without ever revealing that they are. A hard reset usually fixes this, temporarily at least.
If you know you want a big phone then the Mega makes sense but has few downsides. It might fit into our jeans pocket, but really only just, and it's a fair lump to carry around. But the screen makes up for it in size, and the battery life is impressive too. It's fantastic for web browsing, and games like Real Racing 3 run well, and look impressive.
Power users are going to be frustrated by the lack of internal storage space though. That 8GB on board is cut to almost 4GB from the off. A few games, and that's all gone, and with the changes to Android meaning you can't run apps from the microSD card, there are some real problems here.
The physical size is likely a problem for most "normal" users too. It does fit in a man's pocket, but we have a feeling most ladies will struggle - something we're yet to test - but who knows what crazy pocket fashion will turn up next week, we might all have giant kangaroo pouches stitched to the front of our clothes to hold things, and then the Mega will fit right in. Or something like that.
Anyway, we divulge. As good as the Mega is, it's not going to be for everyone. We can't give it a bad mark just because it's big, though, because it also succeeds in being really rather good. But it is kept short of a higher score by limited internal memory, a problem that isn't getting any less troublesome as time goes on. We also wonder if people considering this phone might be better off with the Note 2, which has more features and can be bought for not a huge amount more cash these days. It is, of course, worth noting that the Note 2 will shortly be replaced though, which should send prices spiralling down towards bargain basement levels.