Galaxy Mega 6.3 Review
Samsung is great at many things: pushing boundaries, providing a portfolio of mobile devices in practically every size imaginable, and applying the same design language across the entire portfolio. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 is a perfect example of that.
Many said the original Galaxy Note, with a 5.3-inch display, was entirely too large. In fact, 4.3-inch smartphones were considered large just two years ago. Then Samsung proceeded to release an even bigger smartphone, the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II. Now thanks to the Galaxy Mega 6.3, a gigantic smartphone that bears a 6.3-inch display and more closely resembles a small tablet than a smartphone, the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note II seem rather modest … maybe even normal.
Instead of existing under the same brand, it and its 5.8-inch sibling have been given appropriate brands of their own – Mega.
We’re left with a bevy of unanswered questions we now aim to answer once and for all. Is a phone that barely fits in your pocket worth the buy? Have we finally met our match, a phone that’s too big to handle? How big is too big? (Hold the “That’s what she said” jokes until the end.) We’ve spent eight full days with the Galaxy Mega 6.3 in our (stretched) hands and (tight) pockets. This is our full review.
One more thing before we get started. We’d like to give a shout out to our friends over at Negri Electronics for lending us a Galaxy Mega 6.3 for this review period. Be sure to check out the site to order your very own Galaxy Mega 6.3, another mobile device, or accessories!
Video Review · Specs · Hardware · UI · Camera · Performance
For those who believe branding doesn’t matter, that “it’s just a name”, the Galaxy Mega 6.3 is proof otherwise. Had the Mega 6.3 instead been part of the Galaxy Note or Galaxy S brands, its specifications would likely be top of the line.
The specifications certainly aren’t disappointing. They’re on par with, if not better, than most phones released last year. But it’s clear Samsung doesn’t want to market this phone as a high-end flagship, that it doesn’t want to cannibalize its existing Galaxy Note II or Galaxy S 4. Thus, the Galaxy Mega 6.3 comes with modest specifications in a chassis that is anything but.
It features a 1.7GHz dual-core Krait processor and Adreno 305 GPU to make up the Snapdragon 400 chipset, which is plenty of horsepower for most. It also has 1.5GB RAM, 8GB or 16GB of fixed storage paired with a microSD card slot for up to an additional 64GB, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and a 3,200mAh removable battery. It comes with a host of standard connections: LTE and/or HSPA+, NFC, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, and infrared.
And the display is this smartphone’s defining feature. Diagonally, it measures 6.3 inches with a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels and a pixel density of 233ppi. That’s far from impressive, considering there are smaller, much more dense displays widely available – 4.7-inch 1080p panels, for example.
Unlike most other Samsung smartphones, the Mega 6.3 does not equip a Super AMOLED display, meaning colors are not super-saturated, and contrast is lower than you might expect when turning on a typical Samsung smartphone. Instead of OLED, this display is a TFT LCD panel. It offers wide viewing angles, and it’s extremely bright. Colors are anything but dull, but they’re certainly less vibrant than your standard AMOLED display and even the S-LCD panels HTC is prone to using. And the low density is quite noticeable to a trained eye – the edges of icons look fuzzy and lettering isn’t as crisp as it could be. Even the stock wallpapers look pixellated.
In all, the Mega 6.3’s specifications certainly aren’t bleeding edge, but we live in a time where even mid-range specs can offer decent, if not great, performance. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
The hardware is everything you would expect from a Samsung device in 2013. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 utilizes the exact same design as the Galaxy S 4 and Galaxy Note 8.0. There is a defined plastic trim around the edges that resembles brushed metal, it’s painted with a dot pattern that sits beneath the glass on the face and hyperglaze finish on the rear, and the physical Home button with a capacitive Menu and Back buttons on the left and right, respectively, are present.
Naturally, it feels like a smaller Galaxy Note 8.0 or larger Galaxy S 4 in the hand. And the same issues with the hardware as with other Samsung devices are quickly noticeable. It’s a serious fingerprint magnet; it’s extremely slippery at times, making it difficult to hold on to; the plastic scratches fairly easily; and it doesn’t feel very premium, despite the price tag.
Samsung does deserve some praise on the physical size of the Mega 6.3; its dimensions are actually quite impressive. At 167.6mm tall, 88mm wide, and 8mm thick, it’s 16.5mm taller and 7.5mm wider than the Galaxy Note II, but it’s also 1.4mm thinner. And despite all that extra material, it weighs 199g, only 16g more than the Note II.
The device is hardly petite, and hitting the scales at 200g, it’s not exactly a featherweight. In fact, it weighs more than just about any other smartphone … ever. But it’s truly a feat for Samsung to have kept it as light and as trim as it is. There is very little bezel around the edges of the display, and very little wasted space … period.
Despite all that, it still manages to take up practically the entire pocket, whether it be in jeans, loose shorts, or a light jacket.
And it doesn’t make it any less unwieldy. At 6.3-inches, it almost always requires two hands to use the phone comfortably. About the only thing we’ve managed to (safely) do one-handed with the Galaxy Mega 6.3 is scroll through content in the browser, Twitter, Google+, etc. When it comes time to switch apps, type, navigate through Settings, toggle Settings in the notification shade, take pictures, or virtually anything else with the phone, a second hand is almost always needed.
One thing that immediately struck us as odd, however, is the fact that this device is not a Note. It’s a Mega, so no S Pen. We get that part. But why Samsung didn’t simply keep this line of devices under the same Note umbrella, we will never understand. Galaxy Note 6.3 sounds natural, and we can’t help but think the S Pen would have set this device over the top.
The Galaxy Mega 6.3 comes loaded with the latest version of Android, version 4.2.2, running beneath the latest iteration of TouchWiz.
The interface will look familiar to anyone and everyone who has used a Samsung TouchWiz smartphone in the last two years. The icons have not changed, nor have the widgets (although there are a few additions), the appearance of the notification shade, or the Gallery application. Everything looks practically as it did when the Galaxy S III launched, but everything has been updated to support new features.
Namely, the pull-down shade at the top has been updated with the dedicated quick settings page, which feels a tad redundant alongside Samsung’s baked-in toggles in the notification shade. That said, we understand why they both exist. Toggles in the notification shade are there for convenience when you’re also checking notifications, while the quick settings page is there for two reasons: to appease Google and to side-step notifications and see all quick toggles at once via a two-finger swipe down from the top of the display.
Because it runs the latest version of Android, it also has support for lock screen widgets, screen mirroring, and Daydream mode.
That said, this is not the full-blown version of TouchWiz that comes packaged with the Galaxy S 4. It does include some new TouchWiz features, such as the new, tabbed Settings app, S Translator, and Story Album. Likewise, Air View works in Gallery, S Planner, the browser, etc.
Like the Galaxy S 4, the Mega 6.3 includes an hypersensitive display, and you can see a tiny light follow your hovering finger around the lock screen. But many of the Galaxy S 4’s new Smart features – Smart Pause, Smart Rotation, and Smart Scroll – are missing, as well as Air Gesture, Dual Camera and Drama Shot in the camera app, and Samsung Hub. Instead, the Mega 6.3 features the older Samsung Apps app, not Samsung Hub with a full-fledged content store.
And it’s minor differences like this that don’t make a lot of sense. Why wouldn’t Samsung want all Galaxy device owners to take advantage of Samsung Hub? It only justifies our fears that buying content from Samsung – rather than, say, Google or Amazon – is risky, that the ecosystem Samsung is creating is spotty and only available on select devices. In some cases (this one, for example), the content you may have purchased on the Galaxy S 4 is not available on the Galaxy Mega 6.3, a newer smartphone which is fully capable of running everything the S 4 is.
There may be an underlying reason for that, such as the launch country of the Galaxy Mega 6.3 we’re reviewing, versus a U.S. version where music and video licensing has already been hashed out. But the point still stands. The content you purchase from Samsung Hub isn’t available on just any ol’ Samsung device you buy, and that’s the unfortunate side-effect of buying into an ecosystem tied to specific devices by one manufacturer.
Considering the size of the display, it was great to see Samsung set the DPI (dots per inch) of the 6.3-inch display at a lower stock setting. Shown in the Google Now and Pocket Casts screen captures above, more content is displayed per page, rather than simply stretching the same content over a larger area.
A serious downside to the Mega, however, is built-in storage space. It comes in either 8GB or 16GB models, and it does support microSD cards up to 64GB. But the reason we mention this in the UI section is because, of course, this device runs TouchWiz, which is known for being excessively bloated. We have the 8GB model, and the total amount of storage left to the user is an anemic 4.78GB. That’s surprising, to say the least, considering this is a feature-light version of TouchWiz.
In terms of camera software, we’re not terribly impressed by the Mega 6.3. It sports the same interface as featured on the Galaxy S 4. It’s a clean interface that is simple to use, easy to navigate and doesn’t obstruct the viewfinder. But it’s the same story in the Camera app as it is throughout the rest of the Mega’s software: it doesn’t feature the additional camera features announced alongside the Galaxy S 4. Instead, it’s virtually the same camera software found on the Galaxy S III or Note II with a new look. There is no Drama Shot, no Dual Camera mode, no way to erase unwanted elements from the background of an image. New look, same old tricks.
Following in the footsteps of the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II, both of which offered some of the best mobile cameras from 2012, we imagined the Galaxy Mega 6.3 would be in the same ballpark.
With a little patience and great lighting, you can take some impressive shots with the Galaxy Mega 6.3. The color reproduction is spot-on, and contrast seems to be great. The level of detail in some images was impressive.
But the Mega 6.3’s camera has some fatal flaws: auto-exposure and auto-focus. When trying to quickly take a shot, the Mega 6.3 had trouble locking focus on a subject quickly – some times it would take two or three attempts to get a proper focus. And, normally, too much light isn’t an issue, but auto-exposure was extremely quick to over-expose and blow-out whites, seriously affecting the overall quality of many images.
In low-light situations, the camera performed on par with most other smartphone cameras. Of course, there was a lot of noise and artifacts, and the best way to describe low-light images from the Mega is … muddy. Colors turn bland and fine details are lost in the noise.
The 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera is nothing to get excited over. Quality of video and stills are nothing mind-blowing. But it serves its purpose well – video calls and self-shots in the car.
Lastly, we have to say taking pictures with the Mega 6.3 is borderline awkward. We’re vehement about how silly it is to take pictures with tablets, and snapping stills with the Mega 6.3 felt sort of like we were riding that line.
The Galaxy Mega 6.3 may not feature the most impressive chipset to date, but it’s certainly no slouch.
Its scores in synthetic benchmarks weren’t groundbreaking or anything beyond what you would expect – mediocre, at best. It tied the Galaxy Note II in many benchmarks, but was blown away by devices Snapdragon 600 chips in practically every category.
For day to day use, however, the Mega seems to get along just fine on its dual-core Krait CPU. Switching between apps, opening applications, and returning home (after you disable the S Voice home key shortcut) all happen fairly quickly and smoothly. But certain elements of TouchWiz manage to bog the Snapdragon 400 down quite often, like scrolling through pages in the app drawer or switching to the Widgets tab.
We’re forced to believe this is poor optimization in TouchWiz more so than the capabilities of the chip, as other Snapdragon 400 devices manage to perform smoothly, and the Snapdragon 600-powered Galaxy S 4 was also laggy until an update just before launch. That said, there were some framerate drops in various games, like Asphalt 7. So there are certainly limitations to the Snapdragon 400. But day to day and even heavier-than-normal usage shouldn’t cause the app drawer to lag and stutter as it does.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the Galaxy Mega 6.3 also gets the same update treatment which will iron out all the performance kinks.
The size of the battery in the Galaxy Mega 6.3 is surprising at first. It bears a capacity of 3,200mAh – only 100mAh more that the Galaxy Note II, yet it’s physical dimensions are much larger. And we were expecting roughly the same caliber of stamina from the Mega.
In actual usage, we can’t say we’re terribly impressed with the Mega 6.3’s battery life. On most days, we managed to hold a charge until the late evening with light usage. And on days of heavier usage – emailing, watching videos, downloading applications, playing games, etc. – the phone still held up fairly well. But, as expected, keeping the display on for extended periods of time seriously impacted the battery. We also witnessed unusual drops in battery percentage after short periods of standby. Once it dropped from an 88 percent charge to roughly 50 percent after just an hour of standby. We imagine the culprit was the constant switching between 3G and HSPA+ that went on for the duration of our review, despite spending most of our time in a strong AT&T HSPA+ coverage area.
Either way, we’re not blown away by the battery life on this 6.3-inch phone. But we’re not exactly surprised or upset either – that’s a lot of display to power on a phone-sized battery. Again, had this been a Note, it likely would have featured a 4,000mAh (or larger) battery.
Call Quality/Network Performance
One area the Galaxy Mega 6.3 shines is call quality. The rear speaker for speakerphone and the earpiece speaker are both quite loud, and they provide crisp, clear audio. We had no trouble hearing callers and had no verbal complaints about the microphone quality on the Mega 6.3, even in noisy environments.
On the software side of things, there are some in-call settings you can toggle to improve or cater the audio to your needs. There are settings for left or right ear dominance, soft sound or clear sound. Between each of the settings, there was a noticeable difference in the audio, but it was difficult to pinpoint the improvement. In fact, we can’t say there was even a notable improvement, only a minor difference.
The Mega was announced with LTE capabilities, but our model is restricted to HSPA+ connectivity. Without LTE on board, the data speeds can’t quite compare with most other flagship devices, but throughout tests on AT&T and T-Mobile in the Charlotte Metro area, we can’t say we’re disappointed in the least. On AT&T, the average downlink was 6.1Mbps, and the average uplink was 1.3Mbps. Using a T-Mobile SIM, the average speeds on HSPA+ were 10.3Mbps down and 2.4Mbps up. (You can find screen shots of these speed tests in the runner gallery on the right.)
+ Giant display for great mobile entertainment and productivity
+ Average battery life
+ It’s running the latest version of Android and TouchWiz
+ Expandable storage and removable battery
+ Great call quality and moderate data speeds
– It’s a two-handed smartphone
– It yearns to have its own S Pen
– Missing many of the Galaxy S 4’s features
– The camera has issues with auto-focus and auto-exposure
– Tiny instances of lag throughout use
– Sub-par display quality
Pricing and Availability
Currently, the Galaxy Mega 6.3 isn’t exactly easy to come across. Globally, it’s not widely available yet. But pre-orders kicked-off in India over the weekend, and it’s expected to launch in the UK in July for around £383.99 (or approximately $600 USD). There are also rumors floating about that allege the Galaxy Mega 6.3 will come to the U.S. in the form of an LTE-equipped AT&T exclusive.
However, if you want to get your hands on one now, you can head on over to Negri Electronics’ website and order one today for anywhere from $567.50 to $598.50!
In all, we can’t say we’re necessarily disappointed with the Galaxy Mega 6.3, but we can’t say we’re entirely blown away either.
Samsung did not intend for it to be a flagship phone or to cannibalize existing devices, such as the Galaxy Note II or Galaxy S 4. And because of this, it ships with moderate specifications, a feature-light version of TouchWiz, and only what is absolutely necessary.
This assists in making this smartphone feels more like an experiment by Samsung than anything else. Although it’s a perfectly capable device, it has been intentionally held back. It doesn’t feature most of the Galaxy S 4’s defining software features; it doesn’t share the Galaxy Note brand or the S Pen, which would have certainly set the device off; and it doesn’t come in more viable storage capacities.
If you can put these things aside, the Galaxy Mega is actually quite a nice device. It’s exactly what the specifications allude to: a larger Galaxy S 4 with a less capable chipset, less storage, and a much larger but lower-res display. And the sole defining feature, the display, is the one feature that will turn many away. Most see the Galaxy Note II as a device that is borderline too big. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 towers over the Note II, yet it features a less vibrant display panel with the same resolution.
If you feel you can’t handle a phone that almost always requires two-handed use, look no further than the Note II. But if the idea of using a phone with two hands doesn’t turn you off immediately, the Galaxy Mega 6.3 is a viable smartphone, and only a few minutes of operation will reveal that it’s hardly more cumbersome to use and carry than the Galaxy Note II, although we will say it barely fits in our pockets.