Samsung finally announced the Galaxy Note 3 on Wednesday, and it’s a beast of a smartphone in every regard. Of particular note is the 5.7-inch display, which makes it one of the biggest “phablets” I’ve ever seen. But is it also one of the best?
I want a phone size that’s just right
Since we’re talking about phablets, the most logical place to start this comparison is physical size. And as you can see, I’ve only included phones with screens larger than 5 inches in this roundup. So if you’re still reading this, chances are you believe in the axiom that bigger is better. Still, you also want to be able to use these devices as a phone. With that in mind, the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega is probably too big for most users. At 6.60 by 3.46 by 0.31 inches, it feels more like you’re holding a 7-inch tablet than a smartphone. And at 7.02 ounces it’s heavy, compared to the iPad mini at 10.88 ounces or the Galaxy S 4 at 4.59 ounces. This phone will definitely weigh down your pocket, provided you can get it in there in the first place.
The LG G2 and the Galaxy Note 3 are much more reasonable. The Galaxy Note 3 gets you the most screen for your money, packing a 5.7-inch display into a design that’s actually thinner and lighter than its predecessor. It’s still a big device, but at 5.95 by 3.12 by 0.33 inches and 5.92 ounces, it feels more like a large phone than a small tablet.
But if that still sounds a little too big, the LG G2 is likely to satisfy; I have average-sized hands, and the G2 is probably the most comfortable phablet I’ve held. It measures 5.45 by 2.79 by 0.35 inches and weighs 5.04 ounces. So depending on which size you prefer, this category belongs to either the G2 or the Note 3.
Big screens and fast processors
Of course, what would a big phone be without an equally impressive display? The Galaxy Mega is notable for its sheer size, but its 720p resolution means it’s not nearly as sharp as the competition. And if it’s sharpness you’re after, the LG G2 gets you the densest display, with its 1080p resolution stretched across a 5.2-inch screen. The Galaxy Note 3 features the same resolution, but the larger screen size means its has a slightly lower pixel density. Additionally, the Galaxy Note 3 uses a PenTile pixel arrangement, which can make text and images look a little fuzzy. But it’s still plenty sharp, and it’s your best bet if you want the largest high-quality screen possible.
As far as horsepower is concerned, the Galaxy Mega is a non-competitor. It had already been around the block a few times before making its debut in the U.S., and you can see it in the hardware. The Mega’s dated dual-core processor and 1.5GB of RAM don’t stand a chance against the G2 and the Note 3, which both use Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 800 processor. These two phones are a pretty even match, as they are both powered by the same 2.3GHz quad-core chip. Samsung goes one step further, loading the Note 3 with 3GB of RAM, while the G2 has the more standard 2GB. Both phones are going to be top performers, though the Note 3 gets a slight advantage.
Multimedia storage and pictures
With such a big screen, you’re probably going to want to store a ton of pictures and video on your device. The Samsung phones have a major advantage here. The LG G2 comes with either 16 or 32GB of memory, and that’s it. The Galaxy Mega also comes with 16GB of memory, but it features a microSD card slot for expandable storage up to an additional 64GB. The Note 3 wins, though, as it features a microSD card slot along with either 32 or 64GB of internal memory, for up to 128GB of potential storage.
The camera battle is a closer call. Again, the Mega trails behind, with a dated 8-megapixel sensor. The LG G2 and the Galaxy Note 3 both feature 13-megapixel cameras, each with their own advantages. The G2 is the first 13-megapixel camera phone to feature Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) without the need for a protruding lens. The Galaxy Note 3, meanwhile, can shoot 4K video. Which feature is better is really a matter of preference. But right now I’d rather have a stabilized image as opposed to a video on a device that lacks a screen to display it properly.
Software, battery life and intangibles
While the LG G2 and the Galaxy Mega are running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), the Galaxy Note 3 is running Android 4.3, which comes with a host of improvements. The G2 and Mega are likely to see an upgrade in the future, but only the Galaxy Note 3 is running it out of the box.
Batteries are similar across the board. Just remember — the bigger the screen, the bigger the drain on your battery.
There are also a few less tangible features to consider. The LG G2, for instance, places all of its physical function keys on the back of the phone, below the camera, where LG is hoping to start a new trend. The Galaxy Note 3 comes with Samsung’s multifunction S Pen and works with Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Gear smartwatch. And the Galaxy Mega is basically a replacement for your 7-inch tablet.
As a side note, I also thought about including the 6.4-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra in this comparison, but there are no signs pointing to U.S. availability for that phone. It’s worth considering if you can get your hands on one – just think of it as a really big Xperia Z1.
Which is the right phone for you? Unless you absolutely must have the largest phone available, I’d count out the Galaxy Mega, as it’s just a little too dated at this point. But it still comes down to a matter of size. If you want the best, biggest phone out there, the Galaxy Note 3 will undoubtedly make you happy. But if you want something a little closer in size to a traditional phone, but still big enough to turn some heads, the LG G2 walks a fine line between smartphone and phablet.