First Impressions Review Of The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mega

Article cited from Forbes.com by Smartphonebay.net
Following on from last week’s thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Mega, I’ve spent seven days with the phone/tablet hybrid. Leave your perceptions at the door, because behind the 6.3 inch screen is a decidedly mid-range Android device that will struggle to find an audience looking for the average performance and oversized screen that the Mega delivers.
The first thing that bears emphasising is that the Galaxy Mega, for all its size, bulk, and apparent use cases, is a smartphone. An Android powered, 1.7 GHz dual core Krait equipped, Adreno 305 wielding, MicroSDXC expandable, smartphone. The PR teams might be building it around the phrase ‘phablet’, but the truth of the matter is simple. It’s a phone. A big phone, but a phone.
This is important, especially in the world of Android . While Google’s mobile operating system also runs on tablets the software is subtly different in operation and expectations of input from the user. You don’t have that issue here, so while the 6.3 inch screen is ‘huge’ it’s within the bounds of the Android versions of your PIM apps.
For me that makes the Galaxy Mega a far more useful device than a 10 inch Android tablet, and it shades the software on a 7 inch tablet. There’s more focus on one handed operation and getting you the information as quickly as possible, rather than do something fancy with the extra screen real estate.
Given the choice between a modern 7 inch tablet, or the Galaxy Mega, I think I would be tempted to go for the Mega instead of an Android tablet. But if you were to offer the choice between another 4.5 or 5 inch Android smartphone over the Mega, I think the Mega would lose out. Your mileage may vary, and it will depend if you prefer a tablet or a phone environment on your portable device.
The Mega is certainly a phone that people will recognise – using the Mega around the Edinburgh Fringe I’ve heard mutterings in the crowd about ‘the size of that phone’ and ‘must be one of those Samsung things’. If you are shy about using technology in public, the Mega is not going to be for you. And if you have to take a call, you either feel like you’re back with aDynaTAC, or you’ve turned into British comic Dom Joly with his oversized mobile. You can take calls, with good call quality, but everyone will be watching you.
It is all about the physical screen, with the 6.3 inch screened model I am testing (the i9205) sporting 1280×720 pixels – a 5.8 inch screened model at 960×540 is also available. Compare that to the pixel resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S4 at 1920×1080, and the disparity is obvious. While the Mega’s screen is physically bigger, it actually carries less information than its smaller patriarch.
With the screen resolution in this strange no-mans land, many applications are using graphics for a smaller screen with more spacing (the BBC’s Weather application is a good example here) which leads to small icons and lots of margins, on a physically large screen. The idea of a huge screen is maintained, but in reality Samsung is using some optical illusions here to make the Mega feel mega.
This means that one of Samsung’s party tricks in Android, the ability to run two apps on the screen at once (in different windows) is actually less effective here than it was on the Galaxy S4. While it was a touch cramped on the latter, this was more down to a high pixel density than a lack of pixels. The opposite is true on the Galaxy Mega. It’s a nice tech demo, it feels like it should be useful, but practically there’s not enough real estate on the mega to make it work well.
The same goes for the specifications – the Mega might look big, but it’s a touch underpowered compared to the expectation. On loading one of the better infinite running games (Subway Surfers, if you’re keeping track), I noticed the animation was jerky and slow to load. My first thought was the screen needed more memory (but no, it has less pixels than the S4), but it turns out that compared to the S4 (which I was mentally using as a benchmark) the Mega has a slower processor, less RAM, and a lower spec GPU.
If you go straight to the Mega from an older Android device a year or two back, then this is not going to be a huge issue – and in any case many basic smartphone operations do not require high-end specs. But start looking at the top-class games and complicated applications and the Mega is not going to be as buttery smooth as the name implies.
Apart from the price tag, everything about the Mega screams ‘mid-range’ device. But the majority of mid-range devices are smaller devices for regular use – the Mega is aiming at a different market, one that perhaps isn’t there. This isn’t the only device to go for a ‘big screened phone’ – Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 625 also goes for a mid-range specification but with a physically large screen. The question I have to ask is about this target market. Has it been clearly identified by research and consumer demand, or are manufacturers simply covering the bases with two brand names that delight in filling every nook and cranny?
I fear the Mega is more about Samsung covering the bases.
I also realise that I’m at an advantage here. I’m able to take a quirky device like the Mega out of the retail environment and try it in the real world. I don’t have to look at it, maybe hold it under supervision by a sales assistant, and then decide if that’s the phone I would want for two years.
I’m struggling to work out exactly who would be buying the Galaxy Mega for personal use. I could see moments where it would be useful, such as portable presentations, media consumption, and perhaps if your eyesight is failing you and you need a large screened device that is geared towards telephony, but all of these would still be edge cases, not one that creates a burning day to day desire to use the device.
Consumers buying the Samsung Galaxy Mega are taking a risk on how they think they will use the device, how the size and bulk will impact on their smartphone usage, and hoping that the third party software scene will adequately cope with the screen size and pixel density. I don’t think I could recommend the Galaxy Mega as someone’s primary handset – the function is there but not the form.
As a secondary device the Mega makes more sense, but the chances are you’re primary device will be another Android device, so you would end up carrying around two very similar computers when it might make more sense to go for some mobile technology that does not duplicate functionality.
There’s nothing wrong with the Galaxy Mega, it just answers a technological need that hasn’t actually been asked for by more than a select number of people. If you’re not in that group, look towards the Samsung Galaxy S4, or the presumably soon to arrive Samsung Galaxy Note 3 if you want a genuine ‘large screen’ experience from Android.
This review handset was provided by UK retailer Phones 4 U, who stock theSamsung Galaxy Mega for sale on the UK mobile phone networks