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.
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
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