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Review: A month with the Samsung Galaxy Mega

By

September 27, 2013

The Mega sports a faux chrome plastic back

The Mega sports a faux chrome plastic back

Image Gallery (13 images)

Whatever sort of smartphone you might want, Samsung has got you covered. Unlike its chief competitor, Apple, which recently broke with tradition by unveiling (gasp!) two new models of iPhone at once, the Korean monolith makes devices of all shapes and sizes. Samsung's huge 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega sprang forth from that spirit of concocting a flavor for every taste last month, and I've spent the past few weeks putting it through its paces to try to find out if there's room in my life for such a sizable smartphone. Here are a few of the conclusions I've reached over the course of my month with the Mega.

Mega-what?

The Galaxy Mega is basically just Samsung's Galaxy S4 in a bigger package. Many of the same wacky features and software tweaks Samsung used in its marketing pitch for the S4 also surface in the Mega. The main obvious difference is that the screen has been stretched by more than an inch (certain international versions of the Mega are 5.8-inch, AT&T and Sprint in the US offer the larger version) without adding any thickness, which actually makes it look particularly skinny and sleek with its metallic sides and reflective faux chrome plastic back.

One other thing sets the Mega apart from the Galaxy S4 and other top flight Android phones – the price. In the United States, AT&T offers the Galaxy Mega for just $149 with a new two-year contract. That's half the price of the Galaxy Note 3 and still less than a new Galaxy S4, which was unveiled over six months ago. Unfortunately, for those of you living beyond the borders of North America and our weird system of carrier subsidies and contracts, the full retail price of a Galaxy Mega won't be much better than the other phones mentioned above.

So there's a few ways to describe what the Galaxy Mega actually is: its place in the massive Samsung family is either that of a big brother to the S4, or perhaps a less sophisticated, stylus-less (and cheaper) sibling of the Galaxy Note 3.

On a practical level, it's a great bridge for someone who likes an oversized phone screen and might enjoy having one really big phone rather than owning both a large smartphone and a small tablet like the Nexus 7. The price makes it particularly attractive for this type of user, who would save $200 off the cost of an LTE Nexus 7 and still lose less than an inch of screen real estate while adding the phone and SMS capabilities to the mix.

The Galaxy Mega is tough to fit in smaller hands

Build and feel

I'm a pretty big guy with hands to match, but the Galaxy Mega is a handful even for me. I am able to fit it in most of my pockets, but I'm also the sort of person that's been seen slipping a Nexus 7 into my pants as well – many of you with smaller hands and pockets will find it completely unwieldy. The majority of the time I've been toting the Mega around in a messenger bag with my laptop or tablet and keeping a smaller phone (like the Moto X or Droid Razr) in my pocket.

On the plus side, the Mega weighs about 60 grams more than a Galaxy S4, but still feels surprisingly light for its size, probably due to Samsung's penchant for plastic.

It doesn't fit perfectly in the palm of my hand like a Moto X and one-handed use is tough, but I do like the way it feels overall. A glossy finish allows it to slide in and out of tight pockets and elsewhere easily, and a settings tweak moves the keypad and other on-screen buttons to make one-handed use at least a little less awkward.

For "lean back" use, the bigger screen offers one of the better experiences available on a phone for things like web browsing and reading. But there is one problem ...

Display woes

If I had to guess where Samsung opted to cut corners on the Mega to help push the price down, the most obvious choice is the display. While the Galaxy S4 shines with a Super AMOLED 1080x1920 display, the Galaxy Mega is fitted with a lackluster 720 x 1280 pixel LCD screen, giving it just a little above half of the pixel density of its smaller sister Galaxy phone.

This was a little baffling to me, as the size and shape of the Mega are really ideal for streaming HD media on the go, but images on the bigger screen aren't nearly as crisp and full of "pop" as they could be.

Despite its deficiencies, I still found the display to be a great size for casual gaming that isn't too graphics-intensive. The Mega turns out to offer an ideal experience for watching cartoons for the kids, and I particularly loved using certain apps like Flipboard and Google Maps.

Camera

Ironically, the Galaxy Mega's camera can capture 1080p HD video despite the fact that its display wouldn't be able to play it back at its full resolution.

Its rear-facing 8-megapixel camera is essentially a pared-back version of what's found on the Galaxy S4 and performs about as well as any other middling smartphone camera. Likewise, the 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera also gets the job done without wowing anybody.

Samsung's camera app in the Galaxy Mega also lacks the full suite of bells and whistles found on the S4, but key modes like panorama, HDR and continuous shot are still there.

This shot was taken with the rear camera in a dimly-lit room and managed to deliver most of the detail without too much noise or washing out the color.

Shot with the Mega's rear camera in dim indoor lighting

This one was taken outside on a cloudy day and also comes out fairly crisp and clear, if slightly heavy on blues.

Shot outdoors on a cloudy day

In this one, I attempted to focus on the bunch of mint on the right using the native camera app. How well do you think it came out?

This shot attempted to focus on the bundle on the right

A phone before its time?

While it's not a perfect phone (I opted to omit my rant on the abundance of bloatware and superfluous features the Mega ships with), I really enjoyed my month with the Mega. I like the size for a number of uses and even delayed my planned purchase of an LTE Nexus 7 since I knew the Mega would be able to cover the role of a small tablet in my life temporarily.

But I think I might be a special case. I like a big phone with a big display and don't mind carrying a big device around, yet it's still a little hard to imagine this being my sole smartphone.

And if I'm hesitant, much of the rest of the people I know are downright disturbed by such a large phone. The majority of times I pulled out the Galaxy Mega in public, I was meet with puzzled looks, snarky comments and outright laughter.

I heard "Is that really supposed to be a phone?" more than once, and even from complete strangers.

I could almost be ready for a super-sized smartphone, but the rest of society clearly isn't.

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets.   All articles by Eric Mack
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15 Comments

Regarding the comments from people, I have been using a 6" screen size phone for the last several months, in that time I have had 2 comments re the size being to big, 99.9% of people don't seem fazed when I user it as a phone and on the flip side I have had quite a few people ask where they can buy one.

Gary Bonney
27th September, 2013 @ 04:18 pm PDT

I've had a Note 2 for 6 months and have really learned to love the form factor. I'm a big guy, too, but my 5'2", 15-year-old daughter also loves it (and wants one!). I love using the big phone, but my love wanes a little when I have to put it in my front pocket. It wants to dislocate my hip joint. In the car I usually have it out of the pocket. Oh, and there are no tech pockets in cargo pants yet big enough for the larger format phones.

dchall8
27th September, 2013 @ 04:49 pm PDT

I have chinese ulefone u650 with 1900x1000 ips for 2 weeks and with FlyGrip it is my best ever phone. Mega is not bad as well but is not dual sim and has less power. 6.5" display enables it to be phone and tablet for daily use

asida
29th September, 2013 @ 01:36 pm PDT

Had they put in a high res screen, I'd have bought one. Sticking with my note 2 for the time being.

John Driggers
29th September, 2013 @ 07:10 pm PDT

Sounds like there could be a niche market for something like a 'shoulder holster' to keep these more accessible. You would have to be upfront quickly with cops though before you got a phone call - ""He's reaching for a gun! Oh, sorry, my bad, how does a Taser feel?"

The Skud
29th September, 2013 @ 07:24 pm PDT

Big screens rock! Come on Samsung (or Sony), please give us the one pocketable device to rule them all ... a mega-size Note 3 and stylus, less than 200g if possible, Bay Trail processor running Win 8.1 (not Win Phone), and hot swappable battery.

Axel
30th September, 2013 @ 04:13 am PDT

I just received my phone in the mail a few days ago. I love the fact that the Internet is extremely fast, but this phone is way too big. I feel almost like I am back in the 70s or 80s with a giant phone o b the side b of my head. oh... THE CAMERA SUCKS ON THIS PHONE. It takes horrible pictures at night, which it advertises that it can di this....LIE! I am returning mine and may get the HTC One regular or mini. I wouldn't recommend this phone to anyone. It b is a waste of your money!

indianmal22885
30th September, 2013 @ 08:40 am PDT

I would like to see a phablet like the mega with note 3 specs & stylus and full res ..mega+note3= meganote! Good for the vision challenged, like me!!

uhane
30th September, 2013 @ 01:00 pm PDT

I like how the writer discusses how inexpensive it is, then is baffled by how such a large screen is only a "lackluster 720 x 1280 pixel LCD."

Spencer Pablo
1st October, 2013 @ 07:32 pm PDT

Regarding the Mega: I am a diabetic with poor eyesight. All other smart phones were off limits to me because the text on them was too small. I can see everything on the Mega, so this phone was a Godsend for me. Samsung should market this phone to older people and those with vision problems...............

Lonny
4th October, 2013 @ 02:51 pm PDT

I would love such a big phone! Too bad my hands are quite small.

Azeem Jamal Siddiqui
7th October, 2013 @ 07:00 pm PDT

All models of Samsung Galaxy series are good phone . But I like Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 due to attractive model, user friendly functions , simple interface and lower price . It is supported all latest apps .

Diana Smith
12th November, 2013 @ 10:39 pm PST

I got a galaxy mega.Had it for 3 days and the screen broke. Like to no if there is more people. Who has a 525 dollar galaxy mega that experience the same thing

Chester Martin
13th November, 2013 @ 06:31 pm PST

I find it funny that this article touches on NONE of the real problems with this phone. It is horrible. I have had mine for two months and know this. The browser app flat out doesn't work, the phone freezes, crashes, hangs and generally doesn't work when I need it to. It is NOT the same as the S4 it has a worse processor, worse screen, worse cameras and worse software. The S4 is a much greater phone for the money. This was a huge waste and a huge wtf to Samsung. Its called the Mega, why would you make it worse than the S4. I'm pretty sure my 3GS worked better than this piece. I'll be browsing an app for it to suddenly close, I check the memory and its full, so I try to clear apps and it does absolutely nothing. Worst phone I've ever owned. I should have got an S4, Thanks for the regret Samsung!

DannyLawless
12th May, 2014 @ 11:59 am PDT

I bought the mega but returned it after a week. Other than the display (which I really liked) it was almost identical to my Galaxy S3 in every other way.

I installed a few of my favorite apps and it immediately crashed upon exiting two of them. The graphics in Minecraft PE flickered horribly and that was the last straw. I figured if mega had problems with just three of my apps there would be a lot of other issues in the future. I'll wait until the bugs are ironed out and maybe try it again down the road.

Ron Mc
23rd June, 2014 @ 02:57 pm PDT
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