Beauty is subjective but rulers are not and they'll tell you the HTC One Max is bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in every dimension. The exact numbers are 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.3mm for the One Max and 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm for the Note 3.
Size comparison: HTC One Max vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Width and thickness are more important for the in-hand feel than length One Max, and the Note 3 fares better in both of them. 3.3mm wider and 2mm slimmer may not sound like much on paper, but in reality they make up for a tangible difference. While the curved back of the Max sits nicely in the hand, it does nothing to make the device feel compact. The extra height (which comes mostly from the two BoomSound speakers) makes the device top heavy, too, which is not helping much either.
Speaking of weight, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is fairly light for its size - 168g - but doesn't feel hollow. The HTC One Max is almost 50g heavier at 217g and it's a difference you can feel.
Aluminum is the calling card of the One family - other Androids go for either glass or plastic, but that premium raw metal feel is reserved only for HTC's flagships in the three size categories (mini, regular, max) unless you want to go with an iPhone.
The One Max feels solid, but we have to say we're not enamored with the release mechanism of the back cover. We'll get back to what it actually covers later on.
HTC One Max has a nice aluminum exterior, but it's a large device
Samsung has gone all in with plastic but thanks to some impressive engineering, the end result is the best plastic finish, Nokia's polycarbonate creations included. The back has a convincing leather feel, while the chrome-imitating sides are a nice accent.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a faux-leather back and chrome-like accents on the side
You won't hear this often, but the Galaxy Note 3 looks compact, at least next to the HTC One. Thankfully, HTC has moved the power button from the top to the right so that you can actually reach it with your fingers - even on the HTC One that was a bit of a stretch.
Other than that, the layout of controls on the HTC One Max is unchanged - volume rocker on the right, capacitive Back and Home keys below the screen (and no app switcher key) and then there's the new fingerprint sensor on the back. It's positioned so that your index finger naturally lays there when you hold the device (the same argument as the volume rocker and power key on the LG G2). You have to swipe your finger over the sensor to activate it, but be careful not to smudge the camera in the process.
HTC One Max has volume rocker and power button on its right, fingerprint sensor on the back
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 follows the standard Galaxy arrangement - volume rocker on the left, power button on the right, capacitive Back and Menu keys flanking a hardware Home key. There's no fingerprint sensor, but you can get some extra security if you use the Galaxy Gear - the phablet will lock if the watch (on your wrist) is too far away.
Power button on the right, volume rocker on the left, three keys below the screen
The S Pen is a unique kind of control, but it's one of the most important ones - unlike on the pervious Notes, this one works with the capacitive Back and Menu keys so you can use it to control the device without ever laying a finger on the screen. That has a number of advantages, which we'll get back to in the software chapter.
S Pen is a uniquely capable stylus
While we're on it, we should mention that both devices have an IR blaster on top so they can control home equipment. The difference is that the One Max can also learn codes so you can teach it commands or use equipment not in its database.
IR blaster on top of the HTC One Max • on top of Samsung Galaxy Note 3
You can set up a home theater that you can control solely with the HTC One Max, but the phablet itself is a pretty good media player. The large, bright screen and the front-facing stereo speakers make for an experience that's hard to match at a sub-tablet level. The optional BoomBass speaker adds substance to the sound and serves as a nice stand for the device too.
BoomSound speakers flanking the screen of the One Max
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 may not have audio superiority, but it wins when it comes to PC connectivity. It is the first pocketable device that supports USB 3.0 and the good thing is that it's backwards compatible with USB 2.0, so you can still use your old chargers and cables. USB 3.0 gives data transfer a good speed boost, which may be important if you move a lot of data to and from the Note 3 (those 2160p videos get big very fast).
microUSB 3.0 port and loudspeaker on the bottom of the Note 3
Both phablets have removable back covers and under them you'll find a microSIM card and a microSD card slots. The difference is that the Galaxy Note 3 gives you access to its 3,200mAh battery so you can swap it for extra-long usage or when it starts giving up on you . The One Max's 3,300mAh battery is sealed.
The One Max gives you access to the card ports, but not the battery • the Galaxy Note 3 battery is removable
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It's more compact and lighter, which helps the ergonomics and portability greatly. The build quality is very competitive against HTC and the removable battery is a nice plus too.
The HTC One Max is a large and heavy device, its aluminum looks can't save it from this. Also, there's no good reason to seal the battery when the cover is already removable.
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