Is a 6.3-inch screen on a handheld smartphone a couple of inches too far? Samsung thinks not…

How big is too big? Many phones these days, including the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4, use a screen that is 4-inches or bigger. is that the right size or do we need even bigger? Samsung seems to believe that the latter option is true, so it has decided to release a behemoth of a device — the Galaxy Mega.

The Mega’s 6.3-inch screen is bigger than most phones, with only the Asus FonePad and Sony Xperia Ultra managing to eclipse it with 7 inches and 6.4 inches respectively. The device is certainly larger than your average smartphone too, measuring 167.6 x 88 x 8 mm and weighing 199g. Compare that to the Galaxy S4, which is just 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and weighs just 130g, and you’ll start to get a sense of scale.

When we first took the Mega out of its box, we were in awe. It was a lot larger than most of the phones we had seen, and it looked ridiculous for it. After spending a few hours with the device, gradually we began to fall in love. Sure, it’s a little too big to make a phone call, but if you’re going to watch videos, browse the web and use it as you would any modern day smartphone, then it’s perfect.

Display

The screen was the first thing we noticed, and it wasn’t just the size. The clarity of the screen isn’t the best we’ve seen, but it was unusually bright and vibrant. It’s not capable of a 1080p resolution, being resticted to just 720p, but this doesn’t matter as much on a phone of this size. If you look close enough at the screen you can start making out the individual pixels, but a phone of this size is designed to be looked at from further away.

Unlike a lot of Samsung devices, the Galaxy Mega uses an LCD display rather than an AMOLED. Whilst AMOLED usually produces more vibrant and brighter screens, it was always let by the poor viewing angles and viewability in the sunlight. Thankfully, there are no such issues with the Galaxy Mega thanks to its LCD display.

One thing we would have liked to have seen from the Galaxy Mega was a Wacom digitizer, like the one used in the Galaxy Note. This would have meant that we would have been able to use the S Pen to draw things on the screen, but sadly that’s not the case.

Design

Samsung loves to use plastic, and once again it’s the material of use for the Galaxy Mega. Whilst some see this as a negative, the plastic design of the Galaxy Mega feels a lot more premium than the Galaxy S4 — although removing the back cover will once again unveil a really thin and flimsy piece of plastic.

I have smaller hands than most, but I had no problem holding the Mega in one hand at all, in fact it was a breeze. That said, if you’re hoping to operate it completely with one hand, then that’s a bit trickier. It can be done, but you will lose a secure grip on your phone to do so, and I found myself on the verge of dropping the device on more than one occasion.

If there is one major drawback to the Galaxy Mega’s design, it would be its love of fingerprints. We found pretty quickly that the glossy black design picked up finger prints incredibly easily. This detracted from an otherwise beautiful design, as it meant that the phone looked constantly dirty.

Performance

The Galaxy Mega doesn’t seem like it was designed to be a powerhouse, and you’d notice that straight away from the spec sheet. The 1.7GHz dual-core processor is a noticable step down to the quad-core processor that came with the Galaxy S4.

The difference in performance wasn’t at all noticeable, with the Mega managing every day tasks such as web browsing and messaging with ease. Watching full HD quality movies and TV shows was also dealt with easily.

Unfortunately the Galaxy Mega did struggle quite a bit with gaming, and it wasn’t just processor intensive games either — like N.OV.A 3. Whilst N.O.V.A 3 was almost unplayable, thanks to the incredibly sluggish performance, simpler games such as Riptide GP and Nutty Fluffies also managed to play pretty poorly. When we tried to quit Nutty Fluffies the device even panicked a little, leaving the screen to flicker for around 5 seconds. Much less processor intensive games such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds should play a little better, but be prepared to wait a while for them to load.

Camera

The Galaxy Mega’s 8MP camera failed to impress us on automatic settings and shooting at 16:9. This was mainly due to the fact that it’s incredibly easy to take blurred photos due to the extra wobble involved with such a large device.

The 16:9 resolution is great, but it also means you get those 8MP pictures downgraded to 6MP. When we switched to the 4:3 aspect ratio, which cranked up those photos to 8MP, we started getting a lot better results.

Samsung also tries to compensate for the wobble by adding an anti-shake mode into the camera settings, something we’d highly advise using if you’re considering this phone. The results still weren’t up there with other phones we have used, such as the Nokia Lumia 925 or even the Galaxy S4, but it was something that we expected given this is a mid-range device.

A downside to the Galaxy Mega is that any photo that displays on its screen is immediately going to look worse. This is down to the larger screen which is going to show much more detail than the smaller screens on the Lumia or Galaxy S4.

Software

If you’ve used a Samsung Galaxy device before, you’ll immediately recognise the software the Galaxy Mega uses.

Samsung’s TouchWiz interface feels right at home on the Galaxy Mega, thanks to excellent use of bright and vibrant colours — something that looks wonderful on the Mega’s 6.3-inch display.

Smart Stay and Air View have both made their way to the Galaxy Mega from the Samsung Galaxy S4. Smart Stay ensures the screen stays on when you’re looking on it, whilst Air View enables you to hover over something to see additional information.

These were both rather gimmicky features on the Galaxy S4, so add little to the Galaxy Mega — but it’s nice to see Samsung bringing flagship features to a mid-range device.

The Android version we were using was Android 4.2.2, so not the very latest version of Android, but with Android 4.3 only available on a select number of devices, it’s not an issue.

One thing we found very useful from Samsung’s improvements to Android was Multi Window. Whilst it’s a feature that’s present on many of Samsung’s latest smartphones, it’s one that seems most at home on the Galaxy Mega. Multi Windows enables you to have two Android apps running at the same time simultaneously. With a 6.3-inch screen, this is something that we found ourselves doing quite often.

Samsung has tried to mix its own stuff up with Google’s stuff as well though, preinstalling two web browsers, two app stores and two email clients as standard. The name for some of Samsung’s apps may also get confusing. We found ourselves forever looking for the phone’s calendar, as we had forgotten that Samsung has renamed it “S Planner”.

That said, some of Samsung’s improvements have made Android somewhat better. On the Galaxy Mega if you rotate your phone on the homescreen, then the screen will rotate with you. Unfortunately this is something you can’t do on stock Android, with only tablets getting this functionality.

Storage

Samsung managed to get quite a lot of backlash after the Samsung Galaxy S4 was found with only 9.5GB of available storage despite advertising 16GB. It was a situation that lead to a BBC Watchdog investigation, and although still a problem on the Galaxy Mega, to a much lesser extent.

The Galaxy Mega is available in both a 8GB and 16GB variant. We had the 8GB variant and discovered that after Samsung’s software improvements, we had just 4.78GB to play with. This is a huge problem if you’re going to be consuming a lot of HD videos or download a lot of apps.

If you find internal storage being a little bit of a strain, then don’t worry too much — you can expand it to 64GB via a microSD card slot.

Battery

The Galaxy Mega features the largest battery this side of the pond, at 3,200 mAh, only bested by the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx. Compare that with the Galaxy S4, which has a 2,600 mAh battery, then you’ll start to notice how huge this battery is.

It’s also removable, so if for whatever reason you find yourself needing to replace it, you can just by removing the back cover.

There is no reason that you should have to remove the battery though, with it easily lasting at least a full day of intensive use. We did find battery draining pretty quickly when we had the device acting as a WiFi hotspot, but it still lasted longer than all other devices in this situation.

If you’re more conservative with your use, then you should be able to get even longer than a day. We left the phone idle for several days and it was a nice surprise when we found it still alive.

Round-Up

The Samsung Galaxy Mega is a device that we began falling in love with. It definitely didn’t feel too big to use, as long as you don’t use it for calling. You’d think with such a large device that it wouldn’t fit in your pocket, but the Galaxy Mega managed to slip in almost perfectly — albeit it was a little snug.

We can’t help but feel disappointed by the performance in some gaming situations, but we also admire that Samsung has brought this device to an affordable pricepoint.

It’s definitely something that was never intended to be aimed at everyone, and will probably be a very niche product. That said, having used this device intensively for the past few weeks, I imagine that it’s hard not to fall in love with it.

The Galaxy Mega is definitely something that I would recommend if you like consuming a lot of content, but if you’re looking for something with a little oomph, then you may want to look elsewhere.

Summary

The Galaxy Mega isn’t for everyone, but it is something that you could find yourself quickly falling in love with. It’s hard to not get hypnotised by the incredibly bright and vibrant screen. You will look stupid when you make a call, and it’s not an ideal Android gaming device, but it’s great for watching videos on-the-go.