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A super-sized S4: Samsung Galaxy Mega reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 10:00 am 02/10/2013

The five inch screen of the Galaxy S4 is nice, but what if you want something bigger, closer to the size of a tablet but with smartphone capabilities? For that, Samsung has a new device of mega proportions.

Features

When Samsung came up with the Galaxy Note back in 2011, it practically invented a field: phablets, or tablet-sized phones. Since then, this has become a big area for smartphones, no pun intended, with at least one device from nearly every major phone manufacturer, and many from Samsung.

Most of these devices are geared at the high end, but in Samsung’s latest device, the Galaxy Mega, you have to look at the mid-range, with a product that features a massive screen, and yet middle-rung specifications, with just enough oomph to power that huge display, and then some.

We’ll start with the screen, because it’s so big, you can’t ignore it, and at 6.3 inches, this is pretty much Samsung’s biggest smartphone to date. The screen resolution is set to high definition’s 1280×720 – similar to the first Note – and with a display this big, brings the screen clarity to 233 pixels per inch, around 100 lower than that of Apple’s Retina grade.

A weight of just under 200 grams (199g) accompanies the handset, as does a thickness of 8mm, which compares nicely with the 7.9mm Galaxy S4 we checked out earlier in the year.

That thickness is one thing that makes the Galaxy Mega close to the Galaxy S4, and there’s a whole lot more, including the design of the Samsung flagship S4, which has practically been enlarged to fit the frame of this oversized handset. Button placement is the same, too, with a physical home button and two soft buttons flanking this on either side, with menu and back, while the volume rocker is on the left edge and the power button on the right side.

Samsung has also included a very similar version of Android on the Mega to the S4, with Android 4.2.2 “Jelly Bean” and the typical Samsung TouchWiz overlay sitting atop Android.

The Galaxy S4 sitting next to the Galaxy Mega. Similar designs, but not so similar size.

The chip is very different, that said, with Samsung pulling back from the quad-core Snapdragon 600 on the S4 and using a dual-core Snapdragon 400, still including an Adreno GPU (305) for gaming and graphics, while roughly 2GB of storage is provided for you to use on the phone, with the rest handled by a microSD, of which Samsung supplies a 4GB card in the box.

Memory sits just below the 2GB RAM sweet spot on this device, also, with 1.5GB used instead.

Connection options are close to that of the S4, with 802.11a/b/g/n even supporting the new 802.11ac connection, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, Near-Field Communication, infrared, DLNA, GPS, and a microUSB port that also supports MHL connections.

The camera quality isn’t quite at the same level it is on the S4, hardly surprising given the Galaxy S is the flagship range and the Mega is more of a mid-range phablet, but it still promises to be decent, regardless, supporting an 8 megapixel rear camera with auto-focus, LED flash, and full HD video, while the front-camera sits at 1.9 megapixels.

The battery on the Mega is also bigger than the one in the S4, rated for 3200mAh instead of the 2600mAh of the S4.

The Galaxy Mega battery is almost two-thirds the size of the Galaxy S4. Sheesh.

Performance

With Samsung’s latest range of Galaxy products, it’s clear the brand is channelling one design, and that design is the S4, because that is the look and feel seen on the Mega, too.

We hope you like that softened rectangular design made from plastic and with a dotted plastic texture on the back, with the lens above the LED flash, because that’s the style Samsung has going here, borrowed from the S4 and enlarged to match the 6.3 inch “mega” screen size.

Plastic is still the name of the material game, at least as far as Samsung is concerned, and just like on the S4 and Galaxy Note range, it’s a slightly slippery affair, but at least you can take the rear cover off to remove the microSD, microSIM, and if you ever run out of battery life, a new pack of juice.

With the design taken care of, though, we need to address something immediately: holding a 6.3 inch phone to the side of your head can make you look like a total tool.

That needs to be said, and if you could imagine how self-conscious this reviewer felt carrying Huawei’s 6 inch Ascend Mate around, imagine what the bigger 6.3 inch Mega feels like.

There are going to be pants this just won’t fit in, and heads that will look downright silly when pressed up against the humongous size Samsung has produced.

As such, this isn’t a handset for everyone, and given the 6.3 inch screen size positively in phablet territory – or “oversized smartphone” space, for those of you not keen on the dictionary’s acknowledgement that phablet is a real word – it’s something you could probably identify from the box.

Once you get over this, you can get to using the Galaxy Mega.

In the hands, it is understandably big.

That said, thanks to Samsung’s continued use of the volume rocker on the left and power button on the right, it can be switched on comfortably with one hand, even if you really need two to operate the phone with.

On the Mega, Android looks the way it normally goes on practically every other Samsung phone, with the cleaned up TouchWiz overlay that you see on other Samsung devices, including the multiple homescreens, drop down notification bar, lockscreen widgets (though like on the S4, these feel poorly implemented), and several pages of app menus that can be customised to your liking.

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Price (RRP)

$599

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Two day battery life for a 4G phone is great; Excellent 4G performance; Maintains the look of an S4, except enlarged; Works as a remote control for your TV;

Product Cons

Looks ridiculous when held to the side of your head; Microphone is poorly placed; Made of plastic; Occasional slow downs can be noticed; Typical Samsung Android problems can be seen here, too;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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