This promises to be one hell of a slobberknocker, with both contenders throwing a heap of next-gen technology – and, of course, screens that’ll barely fit itnto your slacks – behind each punch
Seconds out, round one. Ding Ding.
The Galaxy Note 3’s build quality is miles better than the slippery plastic shell of its smaller sibling the Galaxy S4, and its faux leather back offers outstanding grip. The fake stitching is a little on the tacky side, though, so the HTC One’s anodised aluminium cladding could be a deal-maker for anyone craving a premium-feeling handset.
Still, the One Max isn’t quite the beauty we were hoping it would be. Unlike the HTC One’s glorious unibody design, its metallic construction is bisected by a white plastic polycarbonate band, which slightly lowers its prestige. It doesn’t look ugly by any means, and its removable back cover almost makes amends for by revealing a slot for a microSD card (the HTC One doesn’t have one of those).
The Galaxy Note 3’s rear cover is also removable, and the Note 3 has the advantage of a swappable battery while the One Max’s battery remains unreachable.
But there’s more to life than materials and slots. Stuff reviewer Sophie Charara whipped her calculator out for the HTC One Max review and worked out that it’s 31.5% heavier, 24% chunkier and 9% taller than the Galaxy Note 3, before posing this question – is all that extra heft worth it for just 0.2 extra inches of diagonal screen space? Not to our collective mind: we think the Note 3 strikes a better balance between pixels and portability.
(Mind you, if screen size is your top priority then you might want to also consider the massive, 6.4in Sony Xperia Z Ultra, which really is more of a mini tablet with a phone thrown in.)
Samsung vs HTC. AMOLED vs LCD. We’ve been here before, and once again, it’s up to you whether you prefer the over-saturated colours and true blacks of an AMOLED display to the more realistic colours and truer whites of an LCD screen.
We prefer the truer colours and whiter whites of the One Max’s LCD screen ourselves, and although its pixel density isn’t quite as high – both devices have 1920×1080 displays – it means little in real life. Both screens are impressively crisp.
As mentioned above, the Note 3’s overall proportions make more sense to us: in an ideal world, we’d have a Note 3 with the 5.9in LCD of the One Max affixed to it. Make it so, Samsung.
HTC can talk about Ultrapixels all it wants, but the Galaxy Note 3 produces better photos hands down.
While neither device has true optical image stabilisation, the Note 3’s 13MP snapper produces clearer, more detailed shots than the One Max’s 4MP camera.
Still, the One Max isn’t an imaging slouch, and its light-guzzling Ultrapixel sensor produces impressive low light shots. Just don’t zoom into them too much.
On paper the Note 3’s newer quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor beats the One Max’s quad-core Snapdragon 600 equivalent, which is carried over from the original HTC One.
Our AnTuTu benchmark results show that the Note 3 scores nearly 16,000 points higher than the One Max – a substantial difference.
In actual use, though, the One Max barely trips up at all and can handle the same 3D games that the Note 3 can with ease.
If you want to future-proof your next upgrade though then the Note 3 is the more sensible option, especially with its 3GB of RAM in comparison to the One Max’s 2GB.
The Note 3’s extra grunt also means it can record 4K video, though the extra space recorded material takes up won’t be worth it unless you’ve got a 4K TV.
TouchWiz vs Sense 5.5
We much prefer the muted design of HTC Sense 5.5 to the cartoon-like appearance of Samsung’s TouchWiz, and BlinkFeed – a screen on the One Max which shows off all of your social and news media streams – is a genuinely useful and pretty addition to the vanilla Android experience.
But Samsung, despite it’s inelegant kitchen-sink approach, has some genuinely useful features littered within the Note 3, if you can look past the colourful gimmicks to find them.
The ability to open two apps side-by-side is perhaps the most useful element of TouchWiz on the Note 3.
The HTC One Max retains the excellent dual front-facing BoomSound speakers of its smaller brother. No, they won’t be enough to through an impromptu party on your train carriage, but they’re impressive for phone speakers nonetheless. One Max owners will also be able to claim 50GB of Google Drive storage for two years.
But that’s not all the One Max has in its arsenal. It’s also got a fingerprint reader on its rear which can be used to lock the device. You can also assign three apps to three separate fingertips for quick launching. It sounds good in theory, but in practice we found the reader to be slow and clunky, and swiping across it soon becomes tedious. It’s miles away from the slick TouchID Home button found on the iPhone 5s, which works with a simple click.
The Note 3 on the other hand has a killer move up its sleeve. Or rather, hidden in its lower right corner. The S Pen.
It’s quite possibly the best stylus we’ve ever used, and the extra note-taking and doodling smarts it offers is unlike any other smartphone or phablet on the market.
The Note 3’s handwriting recognition is also very accurate, and while it might not be as fast as bashing out a text on SwiftKey, it’s a lot of fun.
Both the One Max and Galaxy Note 3 have substantial batteries, with the former packing in a 3,300mAh power pack and the latter featuring a 3,200mAh battery.
Despite its bigger screen, we found that the One Max dropped 2-4% less per hour than the Note 3. Both phones should last you till you’ve slumped down on the couch after a long day at work, which is all we can ask for considering how hard we hammer our devices.
The Note 3 will probably appeal to more people given its slightly more manageable size, better camera, S Pen tricks and faster innards, all of which make it the better device overall, in our opinion.
But if you’re a media monster who will appreciate a big beautiful screen and decent speakers, both of which are wrapped up in a premium metal body, then the HTC One is the handset for you.