Phablets are becoming an ever more important part of the smartphone landscape and three Android heavyweights have brought out closely matched contenders of their own in the last month or so. They’re all high quality, but they all have different strengths and weaknesses which we’ve detailed below.
The HTC One Max (pictured below) has the same high quality build as the HTC One. In other words it’s carved from a single sheet of aluminium, while the curved back makes it look like more than just a metal rectangle and leaves it comfortable to hold too. All that metal does make it heavy though, as it weighs 217g.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a rather less premium build as it’s mostly plastic. However a faux-leather back does help it stand out a little. With a weight of just 168g it’s surprisingly light.
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a fairly premium looking handset, with a metallic frame and a glass back. At 212g it’s marginally lighter than the HTC One Max. It doesn’t look as good as the HTC One Max, but it trumps the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for build quality.
The HTC One Max has a 5.9 inch 1080 x 1920 display with a pixel density of 373 pixels per inch. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a marginally smaller 5.7 inch 1080 x 1920 display with a pixel density of 386 pixels per inch and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra has by far the biggest display at 6.4 inches. It’s 1080 x 1920 for a pixel density of 344 pixels per inch.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 pictured above.
In other words all three phones have the same resolution screen, but the Xperia Z Ultra being the biggest therefore has the lowest pixel density while the Galaxy Note 3 has the highest pixel density. Size and pixel density aside they’re all very high quality screens, so there’s little to choose here.
The HTC One Max has a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, which is identical to what the HTC One has. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM, while the Sony Xperia Z Ultra has a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM.
Overall then while all three are certainly powerful the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the most powerful while the HTC One Max is by far the least powerful.
Both the HTC One Max and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 run Android 4.3, while the Sony Xperia Z Ultra runs Android 4.2.
The HTC One Max has a 4 megapixel camera which uses the same Ultrapixel technology as the HTC One, which allows it to capture more light than conventional cameras, making it impressively good at taking low light shots. It also has a 2.1 megapixel front facing camera and can shoot 1080p video at 30fps.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 13 megapixel camera alongside a 2 megapixel front facing camera and can shoot 1080p video at 60fps. Sony's Xperia Z Ultra (pictured above) has an 8 megapixel main camera, a 2 megapixel secondary camera and can shoot 1080p video at 30fps.
All three of them are decent camera phones but in most conditions the Galaxy Note 3 is likely to take the best pictures while for poor lighting the HTC One Max will excel. The camera on the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is solid enough but fails to stand out.
Battery life, memory and connectivity
The HTC One Max has a 3300 mAh battery capable of up to 585 hours of standby time or 25 hours of talk time. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 3200 mAh battery which can manage 420 hours of standby time or 21 hours of talk time and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra has a 3050 mAh battery which Sony claims can manage 820 hours of standby time or 16 hours of talk time. So the HTC One Max has the biggest and best battery, while for talk time at any rate the Xperia Z Ultra is the worst.
The HTC One Max has a choice of 16 or 32GB of built in storage along with a micro SD card slot to further boost that. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a choice of 16, 32 or 64GB built in and also has a micro SD card slot. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the most limited as it only has 16GB of built in memory but once again there’s a micro SD card slot allowing you to build on that.
Both the HTC One Max and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 support Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC as well as having infrared ports. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra doesn’t have an infrared port but matches them for other connectivity options.
While all three of these phablets are closely matched a winner has emerged. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the most powerful, has the best camera and the most built in storage. It has the lowest build quality of the three but it’s still far from bad and that’s the only category that it loses.
The HTC One Max and Sony Xperia Z Ultra are tied for second place, as while the HTC One Max has the best build quality, better battery life, more built in storage and an arguably better camera it is substantially less powerful.
All three devices have a great screen, with the size being the main difference. If you want the biggest handset possible go for the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, while for the smallest pick the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
There’s no area in which any of these phones is less than good, so while the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is probably the best overall they’re all fantastic phablets.
By Kevin Thomas on 18th October, 2013