Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Vs. HTC One Max Vs. Sony Xperia Z Ultra – The Supersized Wars

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Vs. HTC One Max Vs. Sony Xperia Z Ultra - The Supersized Wars

The most popular phablets of 2013―the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One Max, and Sony Xperia Z Ultra―are fighting it out for bragging rights of being the #1 phablet in the market. This Techspirited article puts these phones through the paces.

US Market Share

Samsung – 24.3%
HTC – 7.4%
Sony – 4.5%

Source: August 2013 Report

The year 2013 can very well be called the year of the phablets. This year has witnessed a sudden rise in the number of 5-inch phones that have hit the market. Almost all major manufacturers have jumped onto the phablet bandwagon, or have the launch of their phablet expected soon. This segment seems to have first opened up with Samsung’s Note, and its even more popular sibling, the Note 2. Some of the biggest names currently trying to grab your attention are the latest in the Note series―the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the final member in the One family―HTC One Max, and Sony’s first phablet ―Xperia Z Ultra.

These phones are currently battling it out to secure the top spot in this extremely lucrative segment, each trying to better the other with software tweaks and hardware implementations. Here’s a look at how this epic battle of the giants goes down.

Image Source:



samsung galaxy note 3

Operating System: Android OS, v4.3 (Jelly Bean)

Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800

CPU: Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400

GPU: Adreno 330

Memory: 3 GB RAM

Storage: 32/64 GB

Screen: 5.7″ Super AMOLED

Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels (~386 ppi)

Primary Camera: 13 MP 4128 x 3096 pixels

Secondary Camera: 2 MP 1080p @ 30fps

Battery: Li-Ion 3200 mAh

Price: 299.99 USD*/NA

HTC – One Max

htc one max

Operating System: Android OS, v4.3 (Jelly Bean)

Chipset: Qualcomm APQ8064 Snapdragon 600

CPU: Quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300

GPU: Adreno 320

Memory: 2 GB RAM

Storage: 16/32 GB

Screen: 5.9″ Super LCD3

Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels (~373 ppi)

Primary Camera: 4 MP 2688 x 1520 pixels

Secondary Camera: 2.1 MP 1080p @ 30fps

Battery: Li-Po 3300 mAh

Price: NA


xperia z

Operating System: Android OS, v4.2 (Jelly Bean)

Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8274 Snapdragon 800

CPU: Quad-core 2.2 GHz Krait 400

GPU: Adreno 330

Memory: 2 GB RAM

Storage: 16 GB

Screen: 6.4″ TFT display

Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels (~344 ppi)

Primary Camera: 8 MP 3264 x 2448 pixels

Secondary Camera: 2 MP 1080p @ 30fps

Battery: Li-Ion 3050 mAh

Price: 699 USD

Design and Construction

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

samsung galaxy note 3 dimensions


samsung galaxy note 3 back

Samsung’s latest phablet, the Galaxy Note 3, is quite a stunner. Even the biggest of critics would take a moment to look at the device in admiration. Samsung still chooses plastic over other more premium metals, but this time around, there is a touch of class to it. The phone features a faux-leather finish back, complete with molded plastic to look like stitches along the corners, good enough to fool even the most trained eyes for a moment. Apart from adding to the look of the device, it also does a great job of hiding any scratches that might appear over time. The phone is solidly built, and the back holds up nicely in the hand, and doesn’t slip out. Also, at just 168 g, the phone is just right for one-handed use and is fairly pocketable. The phone packs a larger 5.7″ screen in a body that is barely bigger than its predecessor. In fact, with dimensions of 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm, it is only about 0.1 mm taller than the Note 2, which had a smaller 5.5″ screen. A faux metal strip runs around the sides of the device, which gives it a premium look. The front of the device is mainly taken up by the massive screen with very little bezel around it. Just above the screen are the proximity, ambient light, motion sensors, the earpiece, and the secondary camera, while at the bottom, you have the hardware Home button, with capacitive Menu, and Back keys by its sides. The top of the phone is where the 3.5 mm audio jack, the IR blaster, and the secondary noise-cancellation mic sit. The bottom houses the S pen that is tucked away in its slot, the microphone, the speaker hidden behind a metal grill, and a micro-USB 3.0 port―the first of its kind on a mobile phone. To the left of the phone is the volume rocker, while to its right is the power/lock button. At the back of the device is its 13 MP camera, with an LED flash just below it. The back panel of the phone can be removed to reveal the massive 3,200 mAh battery, a hot-swappable micro-SD card slot, and the microSIM slot.

HTC One Max

htc one max back

The HTC One Max completes the One family. It features the same premium design elements of its smaller siblings. The phone comes in an all aluminum body, but unlike the other Ones, has a removable back panel. The sides of the phone are covered with a strip of white plastic. With dimensions of 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.3 mm, the phone is definitely not suited for one-handed operations. It also weighs in at 217 g, making it rather cumbersome. The massive 5.9-inch screen takes up most of the front side of the phone. The secondary camera for video calling, the sensors, and one of the stereo speakers, which also acts as the earpiece, sit pretty on top of the screen, while the other stereo speaker sits just below the screen. Both the speakers are hidden under a metal grill. Just below the screen is where the two capacitive navigation keys―Back and Home―are placed. To the left side is the power/lock key and the volume rocker. The right side is pretty bare, except for a small knob to release the back cover. The top of the phone houses the 3.5 mm audio jack, and the IR transmitter, while at the bottom, you can find the microphone, and the MHL-enabled microUSB port. The back of the phone is where the camera sits, to the side of which is an LED flash. Just below the camera is the highlight of the phone―its fingerprint scanner. The secondary mic for noise cancellation can also be found at the back. Three pogo pins that can connect to a battery pack can also be found here.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

sony xperia z ultra dimensions
sony xperia z ultra back

The Xperia Z Ultra from Sony, is one good looker. With massive dimensions of 179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm, it is by far one of the largest phablets in the market. Sony, however, has been able to keep the weight of the device at 212 g, which is pretty commendable considering the size of the device. The device has the company’s signature OmniBalance design, with the entire device covered in glass. The phone comes with an impressive IP58 certification, making it water and dustproof (water resistant up to 1 m, for up to 30 minutes). Although the device is pretty solid, and looks elegant, it is quite a fingerprint magnet. The front of the phone features the 6.4-inch screen, the earpiece, secondary camera, proximity and ambient light sensors, and an LED status indicator. The left side of the device is where the docking pins, and the MHL-enabled microUSB port can be found, with the latter hidden under a plastic lid. The right side houses the power key, volume rocker, 3.5 mm audio jack, and the microSD and microSIM card slots that are hidden under a plastic lid. The only element at the back of the Ultra is the camera, which sits at the top. The back panel itself is non removable. The phone is rather difficult to use by one hand, unless of course, you’re blessed with gigantic hands.

Hardware and Storage

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Note 3 has a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset (Exynos 5 Octa 5420 for N9000 model). The device comes with a quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 processor (1.9 GHz Cortex-A15 and quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 for N900 model). It also has 3 GB of RAM to ensure smooth handling of all its operations. The phone is available in 32/64 GB variants. The storage can further be expanded using a microSD card (up to 64 GB).

HTC One Max

The phone has a Qualcomm APQ8064 Snapdragon 600 chipset to handle all its operations. This is coupled with a quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300 CPU. The phone also packs 2 GB of RAM. It ships with two storage options 16/32 GB. The Max also has the option to increase the storage using a microSD card (up to 64 GB).

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

The Ultra has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (MSM8274/MSM8974) chipset ticking away inside it. The phone also comes with a quad-core 2.2 GHz Krait 400 CPU. Multitasking is handled by the 2 GB of RAM on the device. It has 16 GB of internal storage, which can be further expanded to up to 64 GB via microSD card.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The phone has a 5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen with a pixel density of 386 ppi. Images and videos come to life on this gorgeous screen, with unmatched deep blacks. It has good viewing angles, and good sunlight legibility. The graphics on the phone are powered by an Adreno 330 GPU (Mali-T628 MP6 for N9000 model).

HTC One Max

The Max has a 5.9-inch Full HD Super LCD3 screen with a pixel density of 373 ppi. The screen is laminated, which makes for great contrasts, with wide-viewing angles. Sunlight legibility on the device is satisfactory. The display is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Graphics are churned out by the Adreno 320 GPU on the phone.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

The Ultra features a massive 6.4-inch Full HD TRILUMINOS display, which translates to a pixel density of 344 ppi. The phone also features Sony’s X-Reality Engine, which makes for beautiful and vibrant images and videos. The phone offers good viewing angles, although its sunlight legibility is fairly average. The display is protected by a layer of shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass. The Ultra has an Adreno 320 GPU to handle all its graphic needs.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

samsung galaxy note 3 camera

The phone has a 13 MP snapper at its back. Images can be captured at a maximum resolution of 4128 x 3096 pixels. The Note 3 is the first phone (N9005, N9002) to support 4K recording, and also shoots videos at 1080p@60fps. The 2 MP front-facing camera for video calling can record at 1080p@30fps. It has plenty of features like Dual Shot, Simultaneous HD video and image recording, HDR, and image stabilization. There’s also an LED flash to help with low-light photography.

HTC One Max

htc one max camera

The Max has the same 4 MP UltraPixel camera that is found on the HTC One. The 1/3” sensor does a great job of capturing details in low-light conditions, although it is found lacking in a well-lit environment. Images are captured with a maximum resolution of 2688 x 1520 pixels, and videos can be recorded at 1080p@30fps and 720p@60fps. The secondary 2.1 MP camera records videos at 1080p@30fps. The phone has a lot of camera features like simultaneous HD video and image recording, HDR, stereo sound recording, and geotagging. An LED flash further helps the phone with taking great low-light photographs and videos.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

sony xperia z ultra camera

The camera on the Ultra has a 8 MP sensor, and captures images with a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels, and videos at 1080p@30fps. The secondary front-facing camera too can shoot videos at 1080p@30fps. There are a host of camera features like sweep panorama, image stabilization, and HDR, included in this device. An LED flash sits by the side of the camera at the back.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung’s greatest device till date, runs on the latest flavor of Android v4.3 Jelly Bean. It also runs the latest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. The Note 3 implements the Smart Gesture (Smart stay, Smart pause, Smart scroll) and Air Gesture features from the Galaxy S4. The S pen on the phone also gives you quick and easy access to various applications, using the Air Command menu.

HTC One Max

The HTC One Max runs on Android v4.3 Jelly Bean. The OS is heavily skinned with HTC’s Sense 5.5 UI. The phone also packs a host of cool features like HTC Zoe, BlinkFeed, along with other accessibility options provided by the fingerprint scanner on it.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Jelly Bean flavored (v4.2.2) Android OS powers the Ultra. The phone comes with Sony’s proprietary Xperia launcher on top of the OS. The company also brings in a lot of software customizations on the device, which adds to the eye candy factor of the phone, and also enhances usability.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

This phone has a large user-removable 3200 mAh Li-Ion battery. The company claims the phone has a talk time of up to 21 hours on 3G, and a standby time of up to 420 hours. The phone can endure moderate usage of about 2 days on a single charge.

HTC One Max

HTC packed their flagship device with a large non-removable 3300 mAh Li-Po battery, with a talk time of up to 25 hours, and a standby time of up to 585 hours on 3G. This should enable the phone to withstand heavy use for up to 2 days on a single charge.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

3050 mAh non-removable Li-Ion battery on the Ultra gives the device a talk time of 16 hours, and standby time of 820 hours on 3G. That should easily help the phone last 2 days of moderate usage on a single charge.


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

samsung galaxy note 3 s pen

The new improved S pen with the Note 3.

  • Perfect size for one-handed operations
  • Nice slip-resistant faux-leather back
  • 4K video recording at 30fps

HTC One Max

  • All aluminum body
  • Superior low-light photography with 4 MP UltraPixel camera
  • Stereo speakers with BoomSound

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

sony xperia ultra ip58 certification

The Xperia Z Ultra comes with an IP58-rated dust and waterproof body.

  • Massive 6.4-inch Full HD TRILUMINOS screen
  • Ultra-slim profile
  • X-Reality Engine


Samsung Galaxy Note 3

  • A lot of gimmicky features
  • No Optical Image Stabilization
  • Pricey

HTC One Max

  • Large and clunky
  • Below par 4 MP performance in normal light conditions
  • Lack of proper software support for fingerprint scanner

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

  • Extremely slippery
  • Surface prone to fingerprints and smudges
  • Not pocketable

Editor’s Pick

samsung galaxy note 3 vs htc one max vs sony xperia z ultra

Buzz Score

All the devices in question here are top-end phones with some rather unique and brilliant features. They each have their own shortcomings as well. For me though, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 walks away with cake for its fantastic S pen, great build quality (although it is all plastic), unmatched hardware performance, Super AMOLED screen, 3 GB of RAM, and the various software customizations on board. The phone is far from perfect though, but still manages to shoot the competition right out of the water. Also, the phone can be paired with the Galaxy Gear, which makes it even more convenient to use. You can read all about Samsung’s smartwatch here.

The Finns too, recently launched their own phablet, the Nokia Lumia 1520, to compete with the other stalwarts of the phablet world. This mobile segment seems to be buzzing with action, and things are bound to get even more exciting with tons of phablets expected to hit the market in the coming months. All-in-all though, the phablet wars have only just begun, and we are in for quite a treat! Cheers.

Disclaimer: Prices mentioned in this article are subject to change according to location and offers.

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