It’s the duel for possibly the most coveted gold medal of the mobile industry nowadays. Sure, many still consider phablets niche devices, but the numbers don’t lie. Nor do The Oxford Dictionaries, where smartphones “having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer” have recently been inducted.
Talking about numbers, you’d probably reckon Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 has it easy in its quest for domination. Yet starting yesterday, Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra, for some reason rebranded as just Z Ultra, runs Android 4.4 KitKat in a Google Play edition.
Game-changer? We shall see in the following lines, where HTC’s One max will also get a chance to shine and show off its strengths against the two other contenders. Strengths that many have overlooked so far. Showtime:
Galaxy Note 3 vs. Z Ultra vs. One max –design and build quality comparison
Apples and oranges. At first glance, it looks like these three have very little in common design-wise, thus probably targeting very different audiences. Want to go big, but not too big and have no problem with plastic? Then the Note 3’s your man.
Think life in plastic is so not fantastic and have taken a liking to HTC One’s smooth all-metal body but always dreamed of extra screen real estate? Vote One max. Finally, the Z Ultra is the go-to bad boy for extreme folks whose “bigger is better” views on life have no limits.
Ironically, the biggest fellow is at the same time the slimmest, which actually helps it tip the scales at 5 grams less than the One max. Talk about architectural marvels, eh? Bottom line, I think I’m going to call this battle a three-way tie, albeit gun to my head, I’d probably choose HTC’s contestant. What can I say, I’m partial to aluminum and 6.4 inches is simply too bonkers for me.
Note 3 vs. Z Ultra vs. One Max – specs comparison, take two, display
Why does everything have to be so darn complicated? I mean, come on, how can one say this or that screen is better when all three are Full HD, rock outstanding viewing angles and are as vibrant and bright as my $800 39-inch LED TV at home?
Sure, when it comes to pixel density, the Note 3 has the upper hand, with 386 ppi, followed by the One max, with 373, and the Z Ultra finishes the race dead last, with 344. However, the ranks are overturned in usable screen real estate, so ultimately it once again comes down to personal preferences. Here, I’d go with the superior ppi and extra portability of the Note 3, but that’s just me.
Processing speed, RAM and cameras
Sorry, HTC, but I’m afraid your One max has nothing on its rivals. Don’t get me wrong, Snapdragon 600 and 2 GB of RAM make for a decent system, yet it’s not decency we’re looking for. It’s cutting-edge speed and the Note 3 is the textbook definition of just that.
The 5.7-incher packs quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 power and a whopping 3 GB RAM, whereas the Z Ultra is narrowly behind, with an S800 clocked a tad lower (2.2 vs. 2.3 GHz) and a “measly” 2 GB of memory.
As far as cameras go, the Note 3 prevails one more time, with 13 MP and 2 MP snappers, far superior to the 8 and 2 MP units on the Z Ultra and 4 “UltraPixel” and 2.1 MP shooters on the One max. That’s two points for Samsung, zero for the competition.
Software and battery life battle
Thought it was all over after the speed and camera duels? Well, think again, as the Z Ultra is back in with a shout, thanks to being the only of the three running Android 4.4 KitKat. Best of all, it’s stock 4.4, albeit you may struggle to find the Google Play Edition available soon enough.
Meanwhile, the Note 3 and One max are 4.3 Jelly Bean-powered and due for their own 4.4 makeovers before long. The million-dollar question is which one will nab the update first? My money’s on Samsung, though it’s never wise to have certainties in life.
The battery clash? In my book, it’s a Note 3-One max tie, as the former packs a 3,200 mAh cell and the latter a 3,300 mAh. Granted, Samsung knows how to optimize software better and has the smaller panel, but HTC retaliates with the less power-demanding processor. The Z Ultra? It doesn’t even play in the same league, with a meager 3,050 mAh ticker.
Pricing, availability and others
The biggest ace up Note 3’s sleeve, possibly bigger than its winning SoC/RAM combo, is availability. You can find Samsung’s baby at basically every street corner of every city in every country in the world and that matters a whole lot for an everyday tech user.
Not to mention the billboards, ads and promos you’re bound to glance over every day on your way to work, school or wherever. Also, the Note 3 can be had with and without contracts anywhere, costing $150 give or take with American pacts and $700 or so outright.
The Z Ultra and One max are much more difficult to score, albeit the former has got a major push from Google once the GPlay Edition has rolled out. The KitKat chocolaty model is up for grabs at an almost affordable $650 outright, with no carriers picking it up as of now and nothing in this department on the horizon.
Before making your final decision however, there are a number of little details you should take into account, like the fact the One max sports fingerprint recognition technology (gimmicky, but cool), the Z Ultra is water and dust protected, and the Note 3 has S Pen support. So which one is the best in the end? I’ll let you do the math and come up with your own conclusions.