HTC One max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Giant phones that we now call phablets did not even exist just three years ago. Then, the advent of the original Samsung Galaxy Note brought an avalanche of larger and larger devices, blurring the lines between a tablet and a phone. With every year screen sizes increased and increased, it almost seemed like a never ending game. This game still continues. The HTC One max has arrived and it is a device so large it is hard to call it a phone yet that’s what it’s supposed to be.
The One max is so big, it effectively eclipses Samsung’s latest already large Galaxy Note 3 phablet. Size is not the only big difference between the two, though.
It’s time to compare extremes: the 5.9-inch screen on the HTC One max against the 5.7” Note 3, aluminum versus plastic, “ultrapixels” facing a 13-megapixel camera. Let’s see which one is better.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the HTC One max. It’s too big. We all like watching movies and reading on a big screen, but the One max is also a phone and for basic phone functionality the One max feels oversized for comfortable use. Okay, okay, NBA centers and cyclops excluded! For everyone else, though, the One max feels more like a small tablet - a perfect device for media consumption, but not something you can easily carry in your pocket. Its gargantuan size is also a huge problem when you have to use the device with just one hand, so take this into account. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is also a very large device, but it still feels like it belongs more to the phone category rather than to tablets.
The HTC One max is made out of aluminum that feels sturdy and solid, but hey given its nearly half-pound weight it could also double as a weapon! Jokes aside, it’s the same design language HTC has used in other One devices with the dual front speakers and it has proven to be both good looking and practical. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on the other hand is still plastic, but a much nicer one than what we've previously seen from Samsung in the Note series - it features a textured faux-leather back that feels great to touch and hold.
The One max has one unique feature that no other current Android handset offers and that’s the fingerprint scanner. A neat idea that we saw brilliantly realized on the iPhone 5s, the fingerprint reader feels like a gimmick here. Instead of just relying on touch, you have to actually swipe it to work and that’s not all that easy on such a large device, plus as it’s so close to the camera and you’d try swiping it without looking, you might easily swipe the camera instead. It works as expected - unlocking the device or launching a pre-set app - when you get it to work, but the experience is not as intuitive and easy as it should be, so at the end of the day it feels a bit gimmicky.
Both devices have the Android navigation buttons below the screen. There are two capacitive keys on the One max while the Note 3 sports a large physical home key and two capacitive keys around it. The textured metal buttons of the One are all in an easy to reach place in the center-right and they feel nice and clicky. The Galaxy Note 3 also has large and easy to find and press buttons with the volume rocker on the left and lock key on the right. Both devices feature an IR blaster on top - a large and easily noticeable one on the One max and a smaller, not that emphasized on the Note 3. In reality, you can use both to control your TV and that’s a neat feature to have.
The Note 3, of course, also features the traditional for the series S Pen, tucked inside it. It’s not something most people would use on a daily basis, but it does not get in the way and for those who like to draw or do some image editing, it will come in handy.
It’s worth mentioning that you can pop the back cover on both devices easily and get access to the microSD and microSIM card slots. The Galaxy Note 3 has a user replaceable battery whereas the One max does not allow for user access to the battery pack. We also like how the One max has a dedicated physical switch that pops its back off, it’s fun and easy.
As true phablets, both the HTC One max and Galaxy Note 3 feature humongous screens. The HTC One max comes with a 5.9-inch display and the Note 3 has a 5.7” screen. Both displays have the same 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution that looks very sharp and makes reading even smaller fonts possible without zooming in. At such a high resolution the slight difference in pixel density makes no practical difference, but in case you are wondering what it is the number is 373ppi on the One max and 368ppi on the Note 3.
The large size and high resolution however is where the similarities pretty much end. The two handsets feature very different screen technologies and that results in some big differences in the actual image quality. The HTC One max uses a Super LCD3 display, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes with a Super AMOLED panel. This translates into more true to life colors on the One max whereas the Note 3 colors are way overblown by default. We are saying by default because the Note 3 allows you to actually switch between different screen modes and those who care about more realistic color tonality can choose ‘professional photo’ or ‘movie’ mode. Digging further into the details, color accuracy is also not perfect on the One max with a slight yellow tint on it, and obviously it varies on the Note 3, but if you choose the more accurate movie tones it is slightly greenish. Contrast is good on the One and great on the Note 3, and finally viewing angles are just fine on the HTC device and superb on the AMOLED panel of the Samsung phone.
Then comes the outdoor experience. The One max is much brighter and that’s a huge advantage outdoors, but interestingly enough its display is very reflective, so much that it offsets its brightness advantage and the much less reflective Note 3 is actually more usable under the sun and generally outdoors.