I’ve never encountered a handset which was better described by its name than the Samsung Galaxy Mega. This thing is huge.
Now, the Mega doesn’t have the largest ever screen for a handset – the Sony Xperia Z Ultra has a 6.4in screen and the Galaxy Mega only runs to a mere 6.3in. But the Xperia Z Ultra tries to look a bit more like a tablet than a phone, and so it avoids the rather comical appearance that the Samsung Galaxy Mega achieves.
The Galaxy Mega caused lots of raised eyebrows as I showed it around precisely because it looks so much like a Samsung handset. The tell-tale rounded edges, physical home button and Samsung branding above the screen are all very familiar to anyone who has seen a Samsung phone in recent years. And frankly, these design features do the Galaxy Mega no favours. If the company is going to go this close to the screen size of a 7in tablet, Samsung really ought to think a bit more carefully about aesthetics.
Still, once the initial stifled sniggers of friends were out of the way, the Samsung Galaxy Mega did earn some plaudits – and rightly so. If you don’t want a handset to hold to your ear for lots of voice calls it has plenty of appeal, and may end up being quite a success. Compare its £380 price tag to the near-£600 of the slightly smaller Galaxy Note 3 and you will see eyes light up.
The Mega is larger than the Note 3, with its dimensions of 88 x 8 x 167.6mm (WxDxH) compared to the Note’s 79.2 x 8.3 x 151.2mm (WxDxH), and the Mega’s specifications are bettered by the Note 3’s at every turn. One other thing to note (pun not intended) is that the Mega also lacks pen-based input – but for someone who wants a connected device and can’t really afford a phone and a tablet, it might have allure.
You’ll need large pockets to stow the Mega and large hands to use it, though Samsung has implemented a clever little trick of locking some elements to left or right side of the screen to make for easier one-handed use. The dial-pad, calculator and your finger-based unlock pattern all benefit. For me this wasn’t really enough to allow one-handed use, though – the overall size and weight of 199 grams made one-handed working just too tricky.
The screen will disappoint those who like to be at the cutting edge, as its resolution is a mere 1,280 x 720 pixels giving just 233 ppi. Still, I found it perfectly good for reading easily, and text was clear and well-defined enough for me. Video looks good too, though again some may be disappointed that the screen is not AMOLED but LCD. If you don’t appreciate the super vivid colours AMOLED delivers you’ll be happy. Moreover, the screen is just about big enough to take advantage of Samsung’s trick of allowing some apps to be viewed side by side.
The screen’s specifications set the theme for what you get throughout – namely, everything here is good but not great. The main camera shoots stills at 8 megapixels and it is perfectly serviceable but far from being at the cutting edge. You can certainly use it for photos you want to share, providing you avoid those dingy indoor scenes that the fairly meagre flash will really struggle with. That’s pretty much the case for many phones, though.
There’s a considerable plus point in the presence of 4G LTE support. Near Field Communications is built in, and there’s MHL support too, though as is often the case you’ll need an adaptor for the microUSB port that provides this facility. DLNA is supported on top of this lot.
The Mega owner can expect the usual Samsung range of extras over and above Android 4.2. Some, like Air view, I turned off immediately. I can’t see the point of hovering a finger over the screen for extra info. Others, like Smart Stay – which turns the display backlight off if you’re not looking at the handset, to save battery life – I really enjoyed. This works well for me now, after some faltering when it first appeared, and it’s a really superb extra.
There’s also a serious amount of software added to the Android staple fare. So much so, in fact, that the headline 8GB of storage is reduced to 4GB by all the bits and pieces that are pre-installed. Samsung’s extra apps won’t appeal to everyone – I am a fan of the graphically rich S Planner, and the note-taking app S Memo (which supports drawn and written notes), but not everyone is going to be, and Samsung’s app store and pre-installed Flipboard do feel a bit like bloatware.
Arguably, Samsung victimises itself by offering up an “easy mode” which reduces the complexity of its TouchWiz user interface and is meant to give those new to smartphones an easy ride. I’m not sure that this isn’t some sort of admission that Samsung makes things a bit too complex for many users.
There’s one burning question that hangs over all large display toting handsets, and that’s battery life. The story here is quite positive. The 3,200mAh battery kept my review sample going for over a day between charges. This impressive lifespan is in part due to the selection of components that aren’t battery sapping, but it’s inevitable that a handset with a large display like the Mega could find itself used for more streaming or other battery hungry activities than a smaller sized phone would be. While you might get two days out of it, budgeting for a day would be fair.
The Samsung Galaxy Mega won’t fit into many of my pockets, and I can’t use it with one hand. I felt stupid every time I raised it to my ear to take a voice call – but still, I had a soft spot for it. It is almost, but not quite, a viable alternative to a 7in tablet. And if you hankered after the Sony Xperia Z Ultra after reading my review last week, this is a slightly smaller, but considerably less expensive alternative.
Manufacturer and Model
Samsung Galaxy Mega
GSM multi band; HSPA multi band; 4G LTE multi band
1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm
6.3in, 1,280 x 720 pixels
88 x 8 x 167.6mm (WxDxH)