Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 Review

on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
One Giant Smartphone for Mankind

Godzilla, Frankenstein's monster and Bigfoot are mythical creatures that don't exist (although you might dispute the latter). But now, an equally beastly smartphone -- one seemingly designed specifically for them -- is available to buy. The Samsung Galaxy Mega is a 6.3-inch woolly mammoth of a handset, and it reigns as the largest of its kind, even if only for a brief period of time; the title will soon be taken over by the Sony Xperia ZU once it hits the market. We were curious to see how a phone of its size would hold out during regular use, so our friends at Negri Electronics -- an online retailer which currently sells the Mega for $570 or $600 (8GB and 16GB, respectively) -- were kind enough to let us take one for a test drive for a few days. Is the phone's magnitude a benefit or hindrance to the user experience? Is it even worth considering if you don't need the largest possible screen? Find out as we dissect it after the break.

If this review taught us nothing else, we at least discovered that the Mega makes for an amazing icebreaker in elevators, parties and anywhere else. The odds of hearing "Wow, that thing's a phone?" were, expectedly, incredibly high. Of course, novelty isn't typically a factor we consider when reviewing a phone, nor should it be; perhaps a few folks may think of this as an opportunity to cure their shyness, but we believe it's far more important to judge a smartphone by its actual merits rather than perceived social implications.

So how huge is the Mega, exactly? For the sake of comparison, let's toss out a few numbers. This new king of the hill measures in at 167.6 x 88 x 8 mm (6.60 x 3.46 x 0.31 inches) and weighs an outlandish 7.02 ounces (199g); it's much wider and taller than the Galaxy Note 2, which in contrast is 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm and 6.35 ounces. It definitely doesn't compare to the 5-inch Galaxy S 4, which comes in at 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and weighs 4.59 ounces. Indeed, the Mega is no lightweight, nor is it for the tight-pocketed or weak-armed. I found that when holding the Mega to my ear, my phone conversations became increasingly uncomfortable as time progressed, and despite the fact that it fits snugly in your average jeans pocket, it's a buzzkill once you sit down. Conversely, the phone fares decently in loose-fitting pants pockets, but it's much more likely to fall out when you're sitting.
Even if you're not dissuaded by those dimensions, you'll be far more comfortable using the Mega with two hands. Sure, we were able to palm the device in one hand for reading, browsing or other similar activities, but our thumbs couldn't reach the back button located on the bottom-right corner of the phone. In order to make the phone work this way, we noticed that we had to hold the phone closer to the bottom, an action that was at odds with its center of gravity and significantly increased our chances of dropping it. Needless to say, it wasn't an ideal solution, which means the only times we were truly comfortable toting it around were when two hands were involved.

The Mega uncannily mimics the original Galaxy S 4's overall design to the point that it essentially looks like someone in Samsung's factory zapped it with Rick Moranis' machine inHoney, I Blew up the Kid. That is, unless you're looking really close. First, let's discuss how the two phones are the same. The overall button, port and soft-key layout is near-identical: volume on the left, micro-USB on the bottom, power on the right and 3.5mm headphone jack, IR blaster and noise-canceling mic on the top. On the back, the camera and LED flash are arranged vertically near the top and there's a speaker grille on the bottom-left corner. It's also available in the same two colors (white and black) with straightened edges, a glossy plastic chassis and the same checkerboard pattern. Among the few variations are a much larger battery with a double-decker microSD / micro-SIM slot setup. It's also missing a sensor on the front, and the power button along the edge is a bit closer to the middle of the device than on the original GS4.

As much as we'd like to see the specs rival those found on the Galaxy S 4, Samsung didn't craft the Mega with the high-end buyer or power user in mind -- our guess is that the Korean manufacturer will pull out all the stops with the Note III for that particular demographic. That said, it still makes for a solid mid-range device: it wields a 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 720p LCD panel, 8MP rear camera, 3,200mAh battery, NFC, IR, MHL 2.0, 1.5GB RAM and numerous other notable specs listed in the table below.

The unit we received from Negri is the I9200, which features quad-band HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100) and quad-band GSM / EDGE; the I9205 adds penta-band Cat 3 LTE (800 / 850 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600), to be specific. Users of the latter model won't enjoy faster data speeds in the US, but at least it will make for an enjoyable experience in other countries around the globe.


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