Galaxy Note 3 vs HTC One Max head to head review

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Samsung secured a lead in the plus-sized device space when it released its first Galaxy Note smartphone in 2011. Following the Note's release the market's evolved and, 5in or 6in devices that blur the line between smartphones and tablets have become all the craze. Aware of this, numerous technology companies have begun rolling out their own super-sized smartphones to try and wrestle control of the space from Samsung, which launched its latest Galaxy Note 3 smartphone mere weeks ago. One of the most serious contenders is HTC, with its latest One Max smartphone, which aims to offer buyers all the perks of the original regular sized One but with the added incentive of a stretched out 5.9in display.

Design and build
When the original 5.3in Galaxy Note was released it felt outright huge. The was because at the time most phones stuck to the then industry standard 3.5in size bracket set by the Apple iPhone. Since then phones have gotten bigger and bigger, meaning the original Note is nowadays only half an inch larger than most average Android smartphones.

Despite the commonality of big screen devices we found our experience with the original Note was repeated when we first used the 165x83x10.3mm HTC One Max. The Max feels outright gigantic, even when compared to the still large 151x79x8.3mm Note 3. This isn't helped by the fact the Max is also significantly heavier than the Note 3, with it weighing an almost tablet-sized 217g. The Note 3 by comparison is a more reasonable 168g
.HTC One Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 stacked
Outside of its increased size, the One Max and Note 3 are also visually about as different as you can get. The Max is essentially a redesigned, blown up HTC One. The only differences between the Max's and the One's design are the addition of a new capacitive fingerprint scanner, the repositioning of its power button from its top to its right-hand side and a newly added removable backplate.

The fingerprint scanner is a key addition designed to help smaller handed individuals use the Max. It does this by letting them shortcut specific actions to three of their fingers. Actions available include things like unlocking the phone and launching a specific application, like the camera. On paper this could be a very big selling point differentiating the One Max from the Note 3, which despite being smaller than the Max is still too big for most people to comfortably use one-handed.

However, after setting the scanner up we found it was fairly fiddly to use. The scanner is located at the top of the Max's back, just below the camera. The placement makes it so the index finger is the only one that can comfortably reach and use the scanner when holding it one handed. We also found it could take the scanner several attempts to successfully read our fingerprint. This is because, unlike the Touch ID sensor seen on Apple's iPhone 5 which uses the subepidermal layers of skin to authenticate its users identity, the Max's scanner is capacitive and only reads the physical grooves in its holder's finger.

While the Max loses out in usability, it does still beat the Note 3 when it comes to build quality. The use of metal makes the Max feel a lot more solid than the Note 3. During our tests we found the One Max was far more resistant to scratches and accidental drops than the Note 3.

 Winner: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Display
The HTC One Max features a slightly larger screen than the Note 3, boasting a 5.9in full HD display. The flip side of this is that the Max's display isn't on paper quite as crisp boasting a 373ppi density. The Note 3 by comparison features a still sizable 5.7in Super AMOLED 1080x1920 386ppi resolution touchscreen.

Running the Note 3 and One Max head-to-head we found the difference was largely negligible and the two smartphones in general offer comparable quality. Both are wonderfully bright, so much so that using them at full brightness actually began to hurt after a few hours, and are suitably crisp and vibrant. With prolonged use we did notice the Note 3 features slightly better viewing angles and is slightly sharper, though these differences are fairly minor and we only noticed them after staring at the screens for prolonged periods.

Winner: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Operating System and software
Both the Note 3 and Max come with Google Android 4.3 Jelly Bean pre-installed. Despite this both phones feature radically different user interfaces and features. This is because both smartphone makers have loaded their own custom Android skins onto the phones. Specifically, the Max comes loaded with the latest version of HTC's Sense skin and the Note runs Samsung's Touchwiz.HTC One Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 operating systems
Both of the skins have their plus and minus points. The Note 3's Touchwiz skin, while fairly full of bloatware applications, widgets and needless menu changes, does have some very useful features. A good example of this is the Note 3's productivity bar. The bar is accessed by swiping a small pull tab on the left hand side of the Note 3's UI. It can be accessed at any time, even when in another application. When opened the bar offers links to a variety of applications, like YouTube, the Music player or Gmail.

The links can be clicked to directly open the app, or pulled out to open on half of the Note 3's display, letting you have two applications open simultaneously. While this sounds small we found the feature very useful for productivity purposes. For example in one situation when talking to a co-worker on Skype's instant messenger we were able to pull open the Chrome web browser and load the web page we were talking about to check facts without having to leave the conversation.

The Note 3 also has a host of useful apps preinstalled designed to help the user take advantage of its S Pen stylus. The most useful of the S Pen services is S Note. S Note is a a note-taking application that lets you jot down quick memos or reminders using the S Pen. For business users, the S Pen promises to be a real boon. We were quickly able to scribble down meeting notes without needing a full laptop and save them to Dropbox or Google Drive in a matter of seconds.

Next: Software continued; performance
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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