Galaxy Mega 6.3 Review

7.8

Daniel Bader

September 9, 2013 9:36pm

One morning, while ordering a cup of coffee at a neighbourhood joint, I found myself browsing MobileSyrup as my brew was prepared. Lost in the briefings of the day, I looked up to see a woman staring at me, a Galaxy S4 in her hand, a confused look on her face. She didn’t say anything, but I smiled and told her that the phone I was holding did indeed look almost identical to hers — it was just nearly 50% larger.

That was the Galaxy Mega 6.3, and this is the new Samsung.

Specs

  • Android 4.2.2 with TouchWIZ
  • 6.3-inch 1280×720 pixel Super Clear LCD display
  • 1.7Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 (Krait 300) w/ Adreno 305 GPU
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage (10.5GB usable)
  • 8MP rear camera / 1.9MP front camera
  • 1080p video capture @ 30fps
  • WiFi (b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, NFC
  • 3200mAh removable battery
  • 167.6 x 88 x 8 mm
  • 199g
  • LTE: 700MHz (Band 17) / 2100MHz (Band 1) / AWS (Band 4) / 2600MHz (Band 7)
  • $99 (on a 2-year contract), $500-550 (outright)

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What Works

Each time I picked up the Mega, its sheer usability was surprising. This is a big device, no doubt, a true cross-pollination between a smartphone and a tablet, but it so thin, with such an even weight distribution, that I found myself drawn to it.

It’s also unfettered: at 8mm, it shares similar proportions to the Galaxy S4 — it’s just nearly 50% larger. The 6.3-inch screen is also lower resolution, but for those who are willing to trade density for size, it’s an easy compromise to make. The device is weighted properly, too, so despite often needing two hands to operate, it can easily be used as a consumption device while resting in a single paw.

In other words, this is an ideal tablet replacement for someone looking to consolidate two devices into one, or perhaps preemptively purchase a single device in lieu of a tablet.

The screen is sharp and relatively dense, and lacks the exaggerated colours of its Super AMOLED counterparts. That’s because it is actually a Super Clear LCD display, similar in origin to the HTC One X. Darks may lack the deep, satisfying contrast of AMOLED, but everything else fares quite well here. The only downside, and it’s a minor one, is the pixel density: at 233 pixels per inch, it doesn’t come close to even the last generation of high-end Android smartphones, but what is lacks in sharpness it makes up for in quality.

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As with all Samsung devices, the Mega is not exceptionally well-made, but it feels solid; the power button is located lower down on the right side than other Galaxy devices, owing to lower-down placement of the thumb when held in the right hand. It and the left-side volume rocker, along with the storied Samsung home button, are well calibrated and feel good when pushed. Another holdover from the Galaxy S4 is the subtle repeating texture permeating the plastic back and parts of the front. Despite the lower price, Samsung fashioned the Mega with identical materials to the flagship GS4, and it wants for nothing in the durability department. The backing does get a bit slippery after long sessions of Subway Surfers, and you’re certainly not dealing with brushed aluminum here, but this is Samsung status quo.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Mega is where it counts: performance. The 1.7Ghz dual-core Snapdragon processor is more than fast enough to power the 720p screen. It must be noted that who;e this is the same CPU found in the Moto X, the Adreno 305 GPU is not as fast. That, and the 1.5GB of RAM, risk the device’s longevity — Android has been known to “bloat” over time, drudging performance — but the Mega is admittedly not being marketed as a high-end product. At $99 on a 2-year term and $500-550 outright, the phone performs double duty as a tablet, and does it well.

I found battery life to be excellent, as the 3200mAh removable cell had little to encumber it. This is due to the software graciously being expunged of most superfluous TouchWIZ features — things like eye tracking and camera-based air gestures — leaving if not a lean experience then a far more dextrous one than on the Galaxy S4. You still have many of the GS4’s best feature, including Air View and Multi Window, and they’re the ones you’ll actually want to use. I managed 24 hours of usage without an issue, and video playback barely dented the meter.

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The Mega is also slightly optimized for tablet-type usage, with some features like a dialler and keyboard optimized for one-handed usage. Most apps generally interpret the Mega’s screen size as that of a smartphone, but occasionally you’ll find one, especially while in landscape, revert to a cramped tablet interface. It works most of the time, but when it doesn’t it speaks to the disparate approach to Android developers and their limited tablet support more than the Mega’s ultra screen size.

Holding the device to your ear is a different story. It looks ridiculous, to speak nothing of the long-term hand strain, so you’ll either want to minimize such activities or invest in a pair of decent mic’d headphones. As for cellular connectivity, the Mega is LTE-enabled and, on the TELUS network running on AWS, unencumbered. Since the device is available across multiple carriers, it stands to reason that speeds are roughly comparable — 15-20Mbps down and 7-15Mbps up — across all of them.

When making calls, I found quality through the headpiece to be on par with other Android devices, and the headphone jack was equally up to the task. The rear mono speaker, as with most smartphones, was modestly successful at blasting a tune, lifeless as it may be, but more than capable of administrating a conference call.

On the back, you’ll find an 8MP camera that is functionally identical, if not improved slightly via software, to the Galaxy S3 and Note II. I caught some great photos with the phone, though I admit to feeling a bit sheepish walking around snapping photos with it. The effect is not as comical as holding up an 8- or 10-inch slate, but it’s close. I came to think of the Mega as a smartphone with tablet influences, but I can see someone, especially one on a budget, eschewing both a smaller smartphone and separate tablet for this one device.

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What Needs Work

The Mega is a confusing piece of kit, owing mainly to the fact that it doesn’t need to exist. This isn’t to say it won’t find a home in a few pockets, but those pockets may be uncomfortably full. In an interview with Ken Price, Samsung Canada’s Head of Marketing for its Mobile division, I was told that the company does not expect the Mega to compete directly with the Note 3 and Galaxy S4 — “We’ll gladly sell you one of those instead,” he admits — but he wants consumers to have more choice in their screen sizes. This has been Samsung’s strategy over the past couple of years, and it appears to be working, even if it’s now teetering on the brink of absurd.

That said, the Mega does make some substantive sacrifices over its more expensive counterparts, size being one of them. The 720p Super Clear display is bright and colourful, but the screen size necessitates a demonstrably lower pixel density than most high-end Android devices today. With the Note 3 coming soon, the divide will become even more apparent, with the Mega falling precipitously into the “last generation” category. Still, at some $200 cheaper on contract, it’s hard to argue that a 1080p display is necessary, especially when this one is so pleasant to use.

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The Mega excels as a consumption device, certainly, but using the thing does require two hands. As a result, it may not be the most appropriate device for someone looking to use it while clutching a subway pole or wile away a few minutes waiting in line at the supermarket, but the practical uses do outweigh the impractical ones. At a glance, the Mega may just be too much smartphone for the average person, without enough compelling reasons to take advantage of that extra screen space. Browsing and e-reading aside, I found few advantages to the 6.3-inch screen over the more powerful and more capable Galaxy S4. This is especially relevant when you consider Samsung merely increased the size of the OS elements rather than scale for the larger display.

Another consideration is that the Mega may be priced too high, at least initially. At $99 on a 2-year contract it’s not exactly expensive by smartphone standards, but it’s only a good deal if you consider the screen size a value proposition in itself. Otherwise, it’s just a really large, slightly underpowered Galaxy S4. If that’s your lasting impression, get one of those. Ken Price won’t mind.

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What’s the Word

The Galaxy Mega is an interesting piece of technology that will almost certainly divide people into those who think it’s nectar from the Consolidated Smartphone Gods, and those who think it’s just really, really big.

The latter flock may end up liking it all the same, as I did, but not enough to entice a purchase. That said, I was told I’m not exactly the target demographic, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this hybridized product in the pockets or bags of many university students over the coming months.

7.8

Final Score

8

Design

7.8

Software

7.9

Display

7.4

Performance

7.1

Build Quality

7.8

Camera

8

Connectivity

8

Battery Life

  • Dimitri

    I went to the Bell store & Rogers store last week & asked about this device. So far Bell sold one & Rogers has NOT sold any. they claim its because its huge & customers rather not carry a device this big.

    The internals are low spec. Battery is huge but still. I tried using one & it looks like i a holding a brick on the side of my head.

    • Guest

      Where I work we haven’t sold a single one

    • JP

      That’s funny, I’ve sold 2 and we’ve moved a few others. It’s not selling amazing but it’s not our worst selling phone either. It’s sure as hell selling better than the Q5 which launched a week before it.

    • Dimitri

      It depends on the area & store you work at. Most high end stores downtown or low cost areas which have a carrier store barely move phones like this as they want something cheap or smaller display.

    • JP

      I work in a relatively busy mall but it’s in more of a suburban area so there isn’t too much business customers who would worry about the size. For what it’s worth their is way more interest from older customers than younger ones.

    • Dimitri

      That is true. Older customers want a bigger screen because of eye sight & more. younger ones want to show off in which get either a iPhone or a S4 or a Z10. I have noticed this pattern.

    • JP

      They weren’t that old(in their 40s). The Z10, now that’s a phone that’s sold awful. I’ve moved a grand total of 4 of them and 3 have been exchanged(One for a Mega actually, the daughter went with an S4 though.)

    • Guest

      z10s aren’t phones for losers who work retail.

    • TP

      1. people who work in retail are not losers.
      2. JP never mentioned that he or his co-worker bought Z10 or not.
      3. you are disgusting, people who know you should be ashamed of your comment.

    • JP

      None of my co-workers have a Z10(or any BB10 device) lol.

    • Sean-Paul

      actually i beg to differ on that point. at my store we have sold more Q5s than we have Moto X and the Samsung Mega. Ive had 1 inquiry about the Mega while the Q5s are all gone. Moto X i think we sold 2.

      its all about location and customers needs I guess.

  • Granny is ALIVE!!!!

    Nice review as always.
    I guess my main problem with this phone is that I’m still trying to figure out why Samsung decided to position this phone as a mid-range device – this is clear though looking at the build quality, screen quality and overall specs. I don’t think bargain hunters in the smartphone world are looking for a mid-tier device like this.

    If someone is actually interested in a phone this size, there’s no doubt that the Z Ultra is probably worth the (guess-timated) $100-$150 more to get a truly high-quality experience. This cheapo-S3-grande wannabe just doesn’t cut it.

    • Jake

      Maybe it’s worth the extra money to you.

    • TP

      This was intentionally developed for older customer base, who may not be all that interested in the latest and highest specs.
      TBH, I think this is a worthy contender if I want to buy a phone for my parents, who are now retired.

    • MassDeduction

      I think this device was really designed with the emerging markets in mind. Ditto with the Lumia 625. Yes these phones are also being released here, but countries like India are *why* they were created.
      It’s common in Canada for people to have at least two devices (smartphone, tablet, ultrabook, laptop, desktop). In India, that’s not the case. If you can only have one device, you’ll want it to be a smartphone these days. If you’re going to do everything on that one device, a 6″+ screen is very appealing.

    • 01011001001

      the ultra Z does feel solid, the screen is gorgeous and it’s been my daily driver since I got it two weeks ago. In terms of price, spent about 900 shipped plus 70 bucks on a 64gb micro sd card, less than an iphone 5s 64gb.

  • Diane

    i get wanting bigger screens but that size is just ridiculous for a phone.

  • Arcsvibe

    Is it bad to say that I would rather have an S4 than this? Great review by the way :)

    • sak hus

      I love the S4 size and can’t change it for any bigger form factor. Maybe when S5 hits i might swap like I did with S3. Btw i’m in my 40s and don’t have eyesight issue so 5″ is fine for me.

  • andy c

    For the off contract price you can get a Nexus 4 AND 7…

  • outburst

    Y’know that is an attractively thin bevel, especially when you consider how close in screen size it is to the Nexus 7, which has a huge bevel. I own the Note2 and I refuse to buy a small tablet because the sizes are so close. Gimme a 7 inch screen with a minuscule bevel that fits in my pocket and makes phone calls and you’ve got my money.

  • FiveOD

    This thing is just impractical. Maybe it’s cool to carry around a giant clown phone if you’re sedentary but if you like to actually do things and move around this will be nothing but a hindrance.

    • sak hus

      Agreed, can’t use it while driving or when your other hand is occupied for like carrying something. Really impractical size.. S4 is the ideal screen size / Form factor. Dont’ blast me for saying while driving as we all know we do and btw mine connects to car system but for msgs i still need to use the hand set.

    • TP

      I don’t use a phone while driving, so maybe I can blast you? It’s crazy people think using a phone while driving is OK because many people do..

    • sak hus

      Difference between alert drivers and i***t drivers. My only accident self fault was when i was about 15, about 28 years ago. We didn’t have mobile devices at that time. I drive a V8 6.0L SS edition car but still careful when using phone.

    • Skazzberry 2.0

      No wai! a V8 6.0L SS edition car?!?!?! THAT IS SUCH A COOL STORY BRO!

    • sak hus

      Do you want me to send you a picture so you can wax you board on it?

    • TP

      So, it is OK for you to laugh at the law and use the phone while driving because your only accident self fault was 30 years ago and you think you are an alert driver? Can you say that to your son, your daughter, your parents, and a police officer? I don’t think you can be so proud of using a phone while driving a V8 SS edition car.

    • sak hus

      Yes i used the phone to take my dashboard picture driving at 198 km/h also

    • TP

      Show that to a police officer as proudly, kid.

  • Rick Morayniss

    If it worked with the Galaxy gear, I would get one. Instead I have to wait fo the Note 3 (smaller screen)

  • Guillaume T Beaumont

    Very happy with mine. Got it as I broke my Nexus 7 recently, and felt that there ought to be a device that addresses my tablet and phone uses at the same time. I always ended up neglecting one or the other.

    This is, to me, the perfect size. It fits in all my pants pockets, doesn’t really bulge; I already carry a pretty big notebook in the same pocket as my phone, and the Mega barely makes a difference. Battery life is the best I’ve had since my Nokia E72: easily two days.

    It does help that I also have a Pebble, so I don’t have to pull out the Mega that often.

    Now I’m spoiled, though, and all other phones look comically small to me.

    • 01011001001

      I hear you, I have the ultra Z and people can’t believe it’s a phone. It’s not that much different in size compare to the new nexus 7.