Samsung Galaxy Mega review
Android 4.2.2, 6.3in 1,280x720 display
Never let it be said that Samsung leaves a niche unfilled. After the Galaxy S4 Mini, designed for those who feel the Galaxy S4 is just too big, we have the perfect phone for people who feel a five-inch phone looks like a silly little toy: the almighty 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega.
This isn’t the biggest phone we've seen, though; that honour belongs to the 7in Asus FonePad. The Mega's screen may only be 0.7 inches smaller when measured diagonally, but this translates to a handset that is more than 3cm shorter and narrower than the FonePad. While a 7in phone won’t fit in a trouser pocket, we carried the Mega around all weekend without even noticing it was there - helped by the Mega being just 8mm thick.
The Mega is big but skinny
We developed a love/dislike relationship with the phone's size during testing. The large screen made it a pleasure to use while at home, sitting on the sofa, surfing the web or watching videos; we were surprised at how much difference the screen size made compared to a five-inch phone such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or Sony Xperia Z.
However, it's less fun when you're out and about. The phone is almost impossible to use properly one-handed, as your thumb can really only reach the bottom-third of the screen. One exception is when making calls, for which there's a one-handed mode that squeezes the numberpad into the bottom right-hand corner. Once you've dialled though, it's not particularly comfortable to hold up by your ear for long periods, and we never really managed to put our self-consciousness to one side.
You'll struggle to use the Galaxy Mega one-handed
You don't buy a device designed to replace both a phone and a tablet without accepting some compromises, though. The Mega is actually significantly easier to carry around and use as a phone than we were expecting.
Samsung has included its Multi Window feature, which we've seen before on the S4 and Galaxy Note, but it really comes into its own here on the bigger screen. There’s a small tab that pokes in from the side of the display, and this opens a launcher for a selected group of apps that can then be dragged onto the top or bottom of the display (or the left and right in landscape mode). This means you can read a web page in one part of the screen while making notes in S Memo in the other.
We're fans of the Mega's multitasking capabilities
The Ultra also has a superior screen. Quite apart from its resolution advantage - the Xperia Ultra has a full HD 1,920x1,080 screen compared to the Mega's 1,280x720 - we preferred its image quality. The Xperia Ultra's display had beautiful pure whites, while we saw a slight blue tinge from the Mega's AMOLED screen.
The Mega only really suffers when compared side by side with the Ultra, however. During everyday use the Samsung phone felt perfectly snappy and the screen is bright with vibrant colours. A screen this large could also benefit from a few more pixels, but we could still read headlines and standfirsts on desktop web pages. There is currently no official pricing information for the Xperia Ultra, but the cheapest we've found it so far is for over £600 on handtec.co.uk - over £200 more than the Galaxy Mega. Samsung seems to be pitching the Mega as a mid-range hybrid, saving the premium slot for the upcoming Galaxy Note 3.
The Mega has an eight-megapixel camera on the rear and a 1.9-megapixel model on the front. We liked the photos it took in daylight, which showed accurate exposure in bright sunshine. Low-light photos were reasonable, but with some softness from noise reduction. When shooting a low-light video with a pulsating light, we found the handset continually hunted for focus.
Well-judged exposure in this sunlit smoky scene
The Galaxy Mega's name definitely refers to its size rather than specification or price, as this is a phone with a mid-range specification which is a similar price on contract to the Galaxy S4 Mini, and looks like it will be significantly cheaper than one of its main rivals, the Xperia Ultra. You shouldn't buy it if you're just looking for a 3G tablet, as the Asus FonePad fills that niche for half the price. However, if you're prepared to put up with looking a bit silly when you're making a phone call; then the flexibility of having an excellent web surfing device which will still fit in your pocket, makes the Galaxy Mega a good buy.