Ginormous display with rich, vibrant color; Good battery life; Loud audio; Fast 4G LTE speeds; Doubles as TV remote
Difficult to use with one hand; Lacks features and gestures found on GS4; Some lag at times
The Samsung Galaxy Mega combines a supersize screen and long battery life in a midrange phablet.
Samsung's next big thing just keeps getting bigger. The 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega pushes smartphone dimensions into nearly ridiculous proportions. Marketed as a midtier device, the $149 phablet for AT&T delivers solid performance, minus some of the high-end amenities of the Galaxy S4. But AT&T and Samsung are willing to bet that consumers will overlook what's missing in exchange for the Mega's massive display. Is this phone too big, or just right?
It's so big! No, that's not a "That's what she said" joke. The Galaxy Mega is absolutely enormous. Measuring a massive 6.6 x 3.46 x 0.31 inches, the Mega effectively dwarves every other smartphone, including the Samsung Note II (5.9 x 3.2 x 0.37 inches), Samsung Galaxy S4 (4.6 ounces, 5.31 x 2.69 x 0.25 inches), HTC One (5.1 ounces, 5.31 x 2.63 x 0.28 inches) and Motorola Moto X (4.8 ounces, 5.1 x 2.6 x 0.22-0.4 inches). The massive monolith weighs in at 7.1 ounces, but still manages to feel fairly light despite its size.
There's no question that the Mega is more of a two-handed device. We found ourselves struggling to reach all the way across the screen, and other times we had to reposition the phablet in our hand during use. However, we like that Samsung includes a one-hand-friendly dialpad you can place on either side of the screen. Holding the Mega up to your head may elicit laughter for onlookers, but we didn't find the device too cumbersome when making calls.
MORE: Best Smartphones 2013
Up front, the 6.3-inch display dominates the design. Backlit capacitive buttons for Back and Menu with a large physical Home button sit along the bottom of the panel.
The sides of the Mega are wrapped in a thick silver band. A headphone jack and IR blaster can be found at the top of the device while the microUSB port sits at the bottom. The power button and volume rocker are housed on the right and left of the phone, respectively.
When we viewed a 1080p trailer of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," the Mega offered wide viewing angles. The Shire was a vision of emerald green, which helped Bilbo's blue eyes stand out. Color on the GS4 was slightly oversaturated, delivering borderline fluorescent colors. The larger screen made it even easier to see finer details, such as the long silvery strands of Gandalf's beard.
Measuring 427 lux, the Galaxy Mega is plenty bright, easily topping the 390 lux smartphone average. This display is brighter than the GS4 (424 lux), but fell a little short of the HTC One (433 lux) and the Moto X (458 lux).
With all that real estate, it seems like a pen would be a no-brainer. However, Samsung is saving that bright spot for the Note 3.
Big handset, big audio. We were pleasantly surprised by the volume supplied by the Mega's pair of tiny speakers. The smartphone easily filled our test room with Drake's plaintive tenor on "Hold On, We're Going Home." But where the tenor was nice and loud, the rest of the instrumentals were lost in the background. The most we heard were some overly brassy cymbals and snares.
During the LAPTOP Audio Test, which measures max volume from a distance of 13 inches, the Mega registered 82 dB. The Galaxy S4 and HTC One were a decibel behind at 81 dB.
Keys on both the Google and Samsung versions of the keyboard were large and well-spaced. The Swype keyboard was more compact, but we preferred using Samsung's keyboard due in no small part to the inclusion of a number row.
Software and Interface
Similar to other Galaxy phones, you can customize the Mega's lock screen with widgets and shortcuts. Seven customizable home screens are available to the user.
There are 16 quick settings buttons in the notification drawer, enabling users to toggle everything from Wi-Fi connectivity to unique features such as Smart Stay. These buttons can be rearranged by clicking on a tile button in the top right corner of the notification drawer. We also appreciate the brightness slider.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
However, as a midtier product, the Mega doesn't have all the bells whistles and gestures of Samsung's flagship, the GS4. There are no Smart Screen features such as Smart Rotation, Pause and Scroll. Mega users will also miss out on Samsung's Air Gesture features, which include Quick Glance, Air Jump, Air Browse, Air Move and Air Call-Accept.
AT&T's built-in browser bar appears along the bottom row of the preinstalled browser with three pages of icons including Facebook, Share and Sports. We prefer the cleaner Chrome.
Long-pressing the back button opens a sidebar with a list of 12 Multi Window-compatible apps, including Chrome, Email, Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook and Hangouts. These apps can be placed onto half of the screen, allowing the application to run concurrently next to any other app. We found it useful to browse the Web and check our email at the same time.
Though we were able to view videos in Multi Window Mode, we preferred Samsung's pop-up play feature, which allowed us to play clips in a floating, draggable window that appeared on top of our desktop and other apps.
With Air View, users can access information previews, progress previews, speed dial previews and magnify Web page areas by simply hovering a finger over emails, Web pages and progress bar. When we hovered over our email, we saw a box displaying the first three lines of our message.
The Web page magnification ability was particularly useful, letting us enlarge certain passages of Laptopmag.com without zooming in on the whole page. Just keep in mind that Air View can be too sensitive at times; fortunately, it's easy to turn off this feature.
We spoke a Spanish phrase into the microphone and watched as it was accurately translated to English. There's also a handy list of preset phrases that might be of use to tourists, such as "here is my passport."
S Translator's engine is built directly into the email client. Users can select the Translate button whenever a foreign language email is received and S Translator will convert the note to the reader's native tongue. We sent a note in Spanish, which was translated correctly, although we had to manually select the original language because autodetect did not work.
Samsung includes a helpful collaboration and entertainment features called Group Play on the Mega, which allows users to share music, documents and photos from the phone or play games with other Galaxy S4 and Mega users over Wi-Fi Direct. There's also a music-sharing feature, which allowed us to play a single song over multiple devices by connecting to friends' phones, which seemed like more of a party trick than something we'd regularly use.
On the Samsung front, there's Kies air and AllShare Play for file and media sharing, Music Hub, Music Player and ChatON. WatchON has also been added to transform the phone into a remote control via the built-in IR blaster. There's also the S Suggest app store if you're looking for some app recommendations.
Samsung's S Health app is noticeably missing from the Mega's line up of S Apps.
Third-party apps include Amazon Kindle, Trip Advisor, Flipboard and Qello, an app to check out the latest live concerts and documentaries.
During our testing, the Mega got consistently outgunned by the S4, taking longer to launch apps and rotating the screen. When we played the first-person shooter "N.O.V.A. 3" on both devices, the Mega began to stutter when more than five characters were on screen.
On the Quadrant benchmark, the Mega scored 8,203, easily topping the 5,607 smartphone average. The Samsung Galaxy Note II and its 1.6-GHz quad-core Exynos CPU managed a score of 6,036 while the Moto X's 1.7-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU achieved 8,864. The S4GS4 notched 12,422 while the HTC One's 1.7-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU achieved an impressive 12,706.
When we tested graphics performance, the Mega notched 5,300 on 3DMark, far below the 8,502 average. The Moto X and GS4 achieved blistering scores of 11,568 and 10,973 while the HTC One posted 9,231.
Using VidTrim, the Mega transcoded a 205MB 1080p movie to 480p in 9 minutes and 15 seconds. That's slower than the 7:51 smartphone average and the GS4's time of 7:27. The Moto X took just 6:25.
The Samsung Galaxy Mega comes with 16GB of storage but can be expanded to 64GB via the microSD Card slot.
4G LTE and Web Browsing
In our real-world testing, the Mega zipped from site to site over AT&T's 4G LTE network. We loaded NYTimes.com in an average of 3.5 seconds, ESPN.com in 4 seconds and Laptopmag.com in just 4.1 seconds.
Camera and Camcorder
A shot we took of a golden retriever puppy near a bed of flowers looked quite clear and mostly in focus. Indoors, an image we captured of a painting was a little fuzzy but bright.
The Mega's rear camera can shoot 1080p videos that are sharp and colorful. We took some video of a busy street in Manhattan and yellow cabs really stood out.
The 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera also captured high-quality images. We took a picture of ourselves and could easily make out the details of our jean jacket and red shirt dress. Colors were crisp and rich.
Compared to the GS4, the Galaxy Mega has an abridged selection of camera features. Regular settings such as HDR, Sports and Panorama have made the cut, but some, such as Drama Shot, Dual Camera and Eraser Mode got left on the cutting room floor.
Still, there's Best Face Mode, which selects the most flattering faces in a photo from a list of thumbnails, creating the best-looking image. Sound and Shot is another fun mode that captures 9 seconds of audio to play along with a still.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Because of its size, some people might be embarrassed to use the Mega as a traditional phone. Thankfully, the speakerphone is nice and loud. During our test call, our test subject reported a little bit of background noise, but couldn't tell when we switched from speakerphone to regular headset mode.
However, the $149 asking price is a little steep for a midrange device that lacks the bells and whistles of the GS4. The Mega is essentially a $99 smartphone with a $50 premium for its oversized display. While its simply too large for many users, the Samsung Galaxy Mega offers a good mix of endurance, features and--of course--screen size for the money.
|Phone Display Size||6.3|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.2.2|
|Networks||EDGE / GPRS|
|CPU||1.7GHz dual core Qualcomm MSM8930 Pro|
|Processor Family||Qualcomm MSM8930 Pro|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Display (main)||6.3 inches|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0 LE|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.9MP|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Audio formats supported||MPEG4|
|Video formats supported||WMA|
|Video formats supported||VC-1|
|Video formats supported||MP4|
|Video formats supported||H.264|
|Video formats supported||H.263|
|Talk / Standby Time||Up to 18 hours/Up to 19 hours|
|Size||6.6 x3.46 x0.31 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|