Samsung’s Galaxy range of smartphones is well established in the Android marketplace, and depending on your viewpoint, it is the success of galaxy that has helped Android gain the sales and market share it currently has. With the launch of the Galaxy S4 handset earlier this year, Samsung’s latest iteration of the platform set out to continue that dominance. Part of that strategic plan was to bring Galaxy to a significant number of price points and form factors.
Which leads me nicely to the Samsung Galaxy Mega. I’m looking at the GT-i9205 version, with a 6.3 inch screen, a 1.7 GHz dual-core Krait 300 CPU, an Adreno 305 GPU, and 1.5 GB of RAM (a version with a 5.8 inch screen, and a 1.4 GHz CPU is also available). These stats are slightly lower than the flagship Galaxy S4 (1.9 GHz quad-core CPU, Adreno 320 GPU, and 2 GB of RAM), but still provides a smooth experience in the user interface from my initial usage of the device. I am surprised that with two specifications of Mega available one of them isn’t ramped up to the highest specs of the original S4 – if you want the larger screen you’ll need to sacrifice a touch of performance.
Probably the biggest surprise for me was the Mega packaging. It really doesn’t look like the Mega should be able to fit in the box – of course it does, but much of the Mega design and impact is around the dissociation between size and function. Inside the wood effect cardboard box you’ll find a plug-in charger and micro USB cable (although you can charge over USB from your computer or other convenient charger), a basic in-ear headset, and a micro SD to SD adaptor. The warranty card paperwork, and a quick start guide, complete the contents.
If you were to hold the Galaxy Mega up, but a little bit further away from you than the Galaxy S4, you’d be hard pushed to spot the difference. It really is just bigger in the main dimensions, although the power, volume, and home buttons remain the same size. That also means that the design cues in the S4 are replicated here in the Mega, from the slight bulge around the camera and the raised grille for the speaker, to the flimsy plastic rear plate and a distinct lack of features that Samsung used to promote the S4 (air gestures, smart rotation, smart pause, and smart scroll are missing). Your thoughts on the design of the Galaxy Mega will more than likely match that of the Galaxy S4. Personally I think that Samsung has leaned too far towards cheaper materials to keep the build cost down, the tactile experience of the Galaxy Mega does not match up with the cost of the handset (over $450 out of contract).
Using plastic does keep the weight down to just 200g (the Galaxy S4 is 130g), and I think most of that weight is in the large 3200 mAh battery. That’s a good trade-off, and I’m happy to see that Samsung has went for battery life instead of bringing the trend for thinner and lighter handsets into the ‘phablet’ category.
Size is the boon and the curse of the Mega. You can forget about using this handset one-handed unless you have a hyper-extended thumb. The volume and power keys might have been brought lower down the edges to have the carrying hand operate them without having to unbalance the device in your hand, but I could only cover about a third of the screen with my thumb. The other side of that argument is that all the buttons and UI elements are relatively easy to hit, and Samsung has taken the opportunity to add in a row of number keys to the on-screen keyboard when in the Qwerty view, which is a welcome touch.
Of course the key feature here is the screen, and Samsung again has appeared to aim slightly lower than you would expect. First off, the screen is not an HD resolution, clocking in at 1080×720 pixels. Neither does it have the rich colours or wide viewing angles offered by Samsung’s use of AMOLED technology in the screen – the Galaxy Mega uses a ‘super clear’ LCD screen.
I’m not convinced about the viewing angles on the screen, they’re good for a single user, but with the size of screen here this seems to be a handset that would be used for everyone to come round and watch a YouTube Video. It’s also slightly off-putting that in landscape mode the speaker is on the right hand side of the user, which makes the audio experience of watching video a bit like watching on a thirty year old mono television.
Samsung has also went for a ‘standard’ camera which performs well, but does not push the envelope in terms of quality or range. The eight megapixel camera will let you take a decent picture when the light is good, but as the light levels drop it does not take long for significant levels of noise to come in to the picture. Again, it’s not as strong as the Galaxy S4, but it’s on a par with other mid-range smartphones that I’ve tested… good enough for social media and personal pictures, but missing out on the highest quality you would get on flagship handsets.
So, out of the box and after a day or so of use, what do I think about the Galaxy Mega?
Well, it’s big, and if your sole consideration was looking for an Android device that pitched itself as a phone to the software and the use cases (as opposed to a seven-inch tablet that uses the tablet versions of apps and phone functionality is an afterthought), then this is the handset for you. But size is not everything, especially with this handset.
Looking at the specs it does seem that Samsung has decided to rein in the potential power of the device compared with other existing handsets (and possibly those in the near future). Step away from the 6.3 inch screen and you have specs that are respectable in a mid range device, but are not stunning in any way. That feels at odds with the use of ‘Mega’ in the branding. I can’t help the feeling that the marketing team did not want to have the Mega in competition with an upcoming Galaxy Note 3 range of phablets. In which case the Mega is a rather cynical product, simply filling in a small niche in the ‘size’ range before the main contender arrives from the South Korean company.
I can see quite a few use cases where the Mega would prove useful. Over the next week I’m going to try them out and use the Galaxy Mega as my regular smartphone (and try to ignore everyone thinking I am Dom Joly when I hold this oversized phone to my head). How will I get on? Is there something that the Mega is perfectly suited for? Are the specs going to make that much of a difference? Or will it simply be too awkward?
I’ll let you know next week.
This review handset was provided by UK retailer Phones 4 U, who stock theSamsung Galaxy Mega for sale on the UK mobile phone networks.