Side by side against the S4, it's definitely noticeable that the resolution isn't as sharp, but you do have to get quite close to the screen to tell. For just sending a few tweets and checking your email, you're unlikely to notice much difference -- the Mega's resolution is more than adequate. For reading lots of small texts in ebooks or on Web pages though, the S4's higher definition display is definitely better.
It is, however, very bright and bold. It doesn't use the same Super AMOLED display as the S4, but it still manages to produce extremely rich colours. It's well suited for watching movies on Netflix or brilliant snowboarding scenes on YouTube, and you probably won't notice the resolution drop.
Android Jelly Bean software
The Mega uses Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system currently available, although, with few changes. It's fundamentally the same interface you might have seen on other recent Samsung phones and isn't wildly different to any other Jelly Bean phone.
Samsung has given it quite a few tweaks though. Mostly notably, the interface acts in places more like a tablet. The homescreen, for example, will rotate to be displayed in landscape view -- a feature available on Android tablets, but not phones. Samsung has also lumped in its dual apps tool, which lets you see two apps on screen at once, side by side. It's very handy for quickly copying information from the browser to the notes app.
Many of Samsung's additions from the S4, such as Smart Stay, S Health and Air View aren't on the Mega. I didn't get on well with these gimmicky features on the S4 though, so I really don't think you're missing anything.
Even with less Samsung clutter, the phone can still be confusing. There are duplicate app stores, Web browsers and email clients installed as standard, making it difficult for new users to figure just how they go about setting up their new phone. Like the new raft of S4s, there are so many different options in the settings menu that it's had to be split into four distinct tabs.
Processor and performance
Inside the Mega is a 1.7GHz dual-core processor. The tech fanatics among you will notice that's a major step down from the quad-core chips inside the Galaxy S4 and S4 Zoom. It's a fairly nippy clock speed though, so I didn't expect it to be sluggish.
In fact, I found it pretty swift. Page transitions were slick and mostly stutter-free -- although I found the odd sluggish moment when returning to the homescreen from apps. High-resolution image processing in Snapseed wasn't hindered by the lengthy rendering times common with underpowered phones.
On the Geekbench test, it scored 1,802 -- a far cry from the dominating 3,230 achieved by the S4 Active. The score is more in line with the S4 Mini, or indeed last year's Google Nexus 4. Similarly, on the Quadrant benchmark test, it scored 7,165, putting it far below the S4 (11,381) and the (12,194). While the Galaxy Note 2 achieved a higher score on the Geekbench test, it performed better on Quadrant.
Most everyday tasks don't offer much trouble to the Mega, but it didn't cope quite so well with gaming. The glossy 3D game N.O.V.A 3 was very stuttery, verging on being unplayable, given the fast-paced nature of the game. Less demanding titles such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Riptide GP played more smoothly, although these too had moments when frame rates dropped.
With such a huge body, there's plenty of room to stuff in a whopping great battery. Inside the Mega is a 3,200mAh battery -- a healthy step up from the 2,600mAh cell in the S4. With a less demanding processor too, battery life was unsurprisingly good.
I found I was easily able to eke a whole day of use from the phone without needing to be too careful about what I was doing. Even with push email activated, playing some games, and streaming video, the phone had plenty of juice left when I returned home from the office in the evening.
As with all phones, actual battery life varies wildly on your own use. If you keep the screen brightness ramped to the max and spend the day streaming Netflix over 4G, you should expect to be charging it every night. If you're careful about what you're doing, you could probably squeeze two days of use from it -- something that can't be said of the vast majority of smart phones around.
On the back of the Mega is an 8-megapixel camera, a far cry from the 13 megapixels of the S4. Megapixels certainly aren't everything though -- it's important then to see how the photos stack up.
My test shots didn't reveal a great deal of difference in practice. The Mega struggled slightly more bringing the bright window under control, resulting in some distortion around the pillar in front of it. Both cameras, however, achieved a generally decent overall exposure, with accurate, rich colours and comparable levels of image noise in the shadowy areas.
When viewing at full resolution, it's easy to see the benefit of the extra pixels in the S4's camera, but the Mega's isn't at all bad. It's certainly good enough to keep your Facebook and Twitter feeds full of snaps of your pets.
The Samsung Galaxy Mega's enormous size immediately makes it a poor choice if you just want a decent all-round mobile to slide into your pocket. Its good camera, bold screen and admirable battery life all stand in its favour, but only consider it if you crave a giant screen for videos -- and don't mind looking ridiculous when you're on the phone.