- Expandable memory
- Poor 3D gaming performance
Now that 2013 is well and truly underway, it’s time to take a look at the more weird and wonderful handsets that flesh out the rest of Samsung’s 2013 product portfolio and save perhaps for the Galaxy S4 Zoom, no current Sammy handset is more distinctive than the new Samsung Galaxy Mega.
Samsung Galaxy Mega: Design & Screen
We were aware going in that the Galaxy Mega was a pretty big device, but seeing is believing and it’s hard not to crack a smile when you first hold this 6.3-inch display-laden smartphone in your hand, it’s almost comically big, at first at least.
With regards to the actual aesthetics of the handset, size aside, the fit and finish is nothing short of first class. Samsung has dressed the Mega with the same level of quality, detail and polish that it did the Galaxy S4 and indeed many of the same design cues are apparent across its bodywork.
The phone’s front is capped by a chromed earpiece at the top and the silver-edged hardware home button at the bottom, nestled between the hidden backlit capacitive menu and back keys either side. Just as with the S4, the Galaxy Mega features touches of faux-brushed metal and a textured, reflective removable back plate, under which sits space for the SIM, battery and microSD slot.
It does have to be said that although the rounded edges and hyperglazed finish make It a lovely device to handle, it is another plastic-fantastic Samsung which won’t feel as premium as rival devices like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra or elicit the high-quality texture of the metal bodywork used on HTC’s most recent handsets.
The 8mm thin body helps to reduce the chance of the Mega feeling too cumbersome, but it still is best handled with both hands. In fact, two-thumbed typing is extremely enjoyable with the large keyboard on screen, but one-handed use, throughout the whole UI isn’t so enjoyable.
Despite its size, the Mega isn’t part of Samsung’s Note family and as such the screen is effectively solely there for content consumption. Thankfully the 6.3-inch 720p HD SC (super clear) LCD panel is spectacular. We of course would have liked to see Full HD resolution at such a large display size, but image quality throughout the UI and whilst watching videos is excellent.
Colours are suitably vivid, but balanced, whites naturally look great and it does a good job of offering deep blacks. If you get up close and personal, the fine detail starts to drop, but not to a level that would otherwise ruin your everyday experience with the device.
Samsung Galaxy Mega: Operating system & performance
Powering the screen on you’re greeted with the same Samsung interface that debuted in the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Galaxy Mega, along with the S4 Mini, Zoom and Active are part of the first wave of handsets showcasing the latest iteration of TouchWiz Nature UX (2.0) running on top of Android 4.2.2.
On that big display, elements like the S Planner widget with its relatively small font size are far easier to read than on more conventionally sized handsets also running Nature UX 2.0. It’s undeniable that TouchWiz is a heavy overlay, but the 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor copes with it very well and navigating homescreens, app menus and settings remains consistently smooth.
It’s weight is somewhat warranted, with a ton of features on offer from the get-go including Flipboard integration (originally an exclusive to Samsung Androids) and great new features like WatchON – an app that acts as both TV guide and remote control when used in conjunction with the Mega’s top-mounted IR blaster.
General app use, app switching and everyday tasks as a whole are no trouble of the Galaxy Mega, but we did hit a stumbling block when it came to 3D gaming, with the likes of N.O.V.A. 3 proving a little too much for the 1.5GB of RAM and Adreno 305GPU; with lag abundant and often prohibitive during gameplay. As such it might be best to stick to less demanding games, visually and instead focus on watching content.
Samsung Galaxy Mega: Camera – stills and video
In essence the 8-megapixel snapper found on the back of the Galaxy Mega uses the same sensor from Samsung’s 2012 flagship; the Samsung Galaxy S3, and as such, you can expect very similar picture quality.
Just as before, bright natural lighting is your best friend. Shots look colourful and retain the most detail and contrast depth, traits that remain true in macro shots too. Low light environments kick out any fine detail and replace it with noise, but the LED flash can be used as a suitable counter in such situations, while high contrast aren’t spectacular but are handled well enough to preserve a good end result.
On the video front, image stability isn’t as fantastic as we’ve seen from other Samsungs but Full HD footage is both sharp and vibrant with good stereo sound.
Samsung Galaxy Mega: Multimedia & storage
The focus of the Samsung Galaxy Mega is undoubtedly enjoying HD video on that expansive screen and thankfully, there are a myriad of ways to push content onto the Mega, with obvious inclusions being the likes of accessing local files through the Gallery app or hopping onto YouTube. TV shows and movies are also available to purchase from the Google Play Movies store or via the video tab of the Samsung WatchON app, which lets users rent or buy movies and TV shows.
Speaking of WatchON, the app also integrates in a Samsung-laden remote interface to wok in conjunction with the Mega’s IR blaster, giving you full remote control functionality over your TV, set top box and a host of other IR-friendly tech around your house.
The biggest limitation on the multimedia experience falls to the prohibitively small amount of internal storage. With the already heavy Android experience taking up some 4GB to 5GB of the 8GB of total internal storage (there is also a 16GB model) users might find themselves hitting the limit after adding just a couple of Full HD movies and some apps. Luckily, the microSD slot in the back does allow for a further 64GB to be added, but streaming might be the best way to enjoy big videos in the form of TV and movies.
Samsung Galaxy Mega: Connections & battery
For the most part users will find that the Galaxy Mega offers almost just as much in the way of connectivity as the likes of Sammy’s Galaxy S4 flagship. As has already been mentioned, the IR blaster on the top of the phone can control almost anything else that uses IR and if you do want to stream content OTA or just browse the web at lightning speed, the Mega is a 4G LTE capable handset too.
WiFi connectivity is robust with the latest standards supported and hotspot functionality, while there’s also room for local wireless data transfer via Bluetooth 4.0 LE and thanks to Samsung’s own battery technology, NFC in the back which interfaces with both Android Beam and S Beam.
Bolstering the media experience, the microUSB port on the phone’s underside also supports Samsung’s MHL adapter, allowing for screen mirroring and HD video playback on any TV with an HDMI port in the back.
As well as providing the NFC component of the Galaxy Mega’s connectivity repertoire, the 3200mAh also proves impressively resilient, happily powering the phone for a full day for general use without trouble. Even playing a Full HD video (we used Wreck-It Ralph) only drained the battery by 24% from full charge, meaning you could fit a film in the middle of a day of use and still not worry too much.
Samsung Galaxy Mega: Conclusion
First impressions are certainly deceptive with the Samsung Galaxy Mega. It’s size seems prohibitively big at first, but it actual makes for a great experience, both navigating the interface and especially when watching content. From a practical standpoint, it’s worth checking whether you have bags or pockets big enough to accommodate this phone, but if you’re looking for a purpose-built, well connected movie-friendly phone this is one of the best.
As it’s size gives it only niche appeal, the near £400 off-contract price tag might be a little steep, but in truth there’s little else out there on the market with the same rich feature set and at the same size for a similar price. Similarly sized alternatives like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra have more powerful hardware and a few extra features, but cost that little bit more, whilst the specs of the Mega can also be found in the more pocketable Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, if that’s what you’re after.