Best phablet 2019: All the best big screen phones we’ve reviewed
There was a time when big screen phones were a rarity. But these days pretty much every company under the sun has a plus-sized version of its flagship smartphone.
Most recently this was demonstrated by Samsung which unveiled a wealth of different smartphones covering multiple prices and size points. These included the regular Galaxy S10, cheaper Galaxy S10e, plus-sized Galaxy S10 Plus and foldable phablet-come-tablet Galaxy Fold.
Related: Samsung Galaxy Fold review
While the increased choice is great for avid mobile gamers or Netflix bingers it can make knowing which phablet to get fairly tricky. Here to help we’ve created a definitive list detailing the best phablets we’ve reviewed.
How we chose the best phablets
Every one of the phablets here is put through the same series of tests. These include a combination of real-world use cases and repeatable benchmark tests for battery, camera and processor. You might also want to determine how your phone will cope with a Netflix binge or video call, so our battery-discharge tests take that into account, too.
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In fact, we take these phones out and use them as our own over an extended period, living with them to learn their quirks and discover their hidden treasures.
So now you know how we select the best smartphones, let’s take a look at our highlights.
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1. Huawei P30 Pro
Best for photography
- Great cameras
- Massive battery
- Slick design
- EMUI needs an overhaul
- Screen lacks the sharpness of the S10
Somehow, Huawei has managed to oust the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google and even its own Mate 20 Pro off the pedestal for best smartphone camera. Not only does its first 2019 flagship, the Huawei P30 Pro, pack a periscopic 5x lossless optical zoom camera, it also wields a 40-megapixel main sensor and an ultra-wide snapper to boot. Not to mention it offers unprecedented low light photography skills.
Beyond imaging, there’s also a stunning 6.47-inch HDR-compliant OLED display, stupendous battery life attached to a super fast charging battery (with fast wireless charging thrown in for good measure). There’s also a Kirin 980 chipset powering things along.
Not everyone will gel with the company’s EMUI user experience but that’s an easily-fixable malady when you consider what the P30 Pro does offer up.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Best for productivity
- Fantastic screen
- Big battery
- The S Pen
- Bixby button is an annoyance
- The S9 Plus feels better
If you need a stylus in your life, the best overall phablet you can buy right now is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
Inside the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, you’ll find a set of specs that are very similar to the Galaxy S9 Plus: an Exynos 9810 (Snapdragon 845 in the States) and 6GB RAM (that gets bumped to 8GB if you plump for the 512GB model). On the back is a dual-aperture 12-megapixel camera that can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4. This is great if you take a lot of low-light shots.
On the front, there’s a gorgeous 6.4-inch OLED display packing HDR support and a Quad HD resolution. This is a fantastic device for watching videos and playing games.
The biggest (and best) update is the battery. There’s a 4000 mAh battery inside and that leads to impressive endurance. 128GB storage is a nice addition too, but there’s a 512GB model available too. The microSD card is still here, as is an IP68 rating, wireless charging and the S Pen.
3. iPhone XS Max
Best for entertainment
- Fantastic display
- Improved camera
- Well built
- Very expensive
2018’s most interesting iPhone award undoubtedly has to go to the iPhone XR but the super-sized version of the already excellent iPhone XS comes in as a close second.
The iPhone XS Max may have an awkward name but it’s anything but in person. A vast extended 6.5-inch Super Retina Display dominates the phone’s front, making it great for enjoying media. And that’s before you learn that it supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, along with stereo sound with improved speakers over the iPhone X.
The glass and stainless steel body can be had in a new gold colour and like the iPhone 8 Plus it sports wireless charging and water resistance, although this time around it’s hardier with IP68-certification.
It’s a fast phone too, toting Apple’s best and brightest A12 Bionic hexa-core chipset and 4GB of RAM, along with 64GB, 256GB or 512GB of non-expandable storage. This is also the first iPhone to support dual SIMs so you can ride two networks side by side.
As for battery life, as you’ll read in our review, the Max surpassed our expectations and Apple’s claims, reaching up to five hours of screen-on time and granting a full day’s use without hitting low power. The only downside? The in-box charger is painfully slow. Use wireless charging or buy a compatible fast charger if you’re serious about getting the most out of the Max.
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4. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Best for versatility
- Great display
- Very fast charging
- Plenty of clever tricks such as in-display fingerprint and reverse wireless charging
- Battery life is fantastic
- Huawei’s software remains a weakness
Huawei’s phones just keep on getting better. The Mate 20 Pro is full of great features and offers up an excellent phablet experience. It packs in so many features it’s almost hard to believe.
A curved 6.39-inch, Quad HD+ HDR OLED display? Check. Glass back with fast wireless charging and reverse wireless charging? Check. A rear triple camera with an astounding night mode and n ultra-wide angle lens? You got it.
Related: Huawei P30 Pro
Huawei has thrown everything including the kitchen sink at the Mate 20 Pro, making it a performer in every field. The 7nm Kirin 980 processor is a notable plus when it comes to performance, as is the huge 4200mAh battery that can offer up two days of use per charge – unheard of in this space.
There’s so much more that this phone offers up that we don’t have room to talk about here. Read the full review to understand just how much of a digital Swiss army knife the Mate 20 Pro is.
Related: Huawei P30
5. Honor View 20
- Screen design looks great and deals with the notch issue
- Good battery life and very fast charging
- Very capable camera
- A headphone jack
- No wireless charging or IP rating
- Strange performance quirks
- Software still needs work
For a phone that glides in just under the £500 mark, the Honor View 20‘s 6.4-inch display is just one of its many impressive features. The extended 19.5:9 Full HD+ panel boasts a 91.82% screen-to-body ratio, tons of colour tuning controls and most impressively of all, no notch. Instead, Honor is amongst the first manufacturers of 2019 to push out a device utilising a punch hole camera, meaning the View 20’s 25-megapixel front-facer is entirely surrounded by pixels.
In addition, this big-screened beauty boasts an eye-catching ‘Aurora nanotexture’ back with a distinctive reflective V-shaped pattern that’s hard not to love. On the inside it’s powered by the excellent 7nm Kirin 980 processor, up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. This thing even has a headphone jack.
The big numbers don’t stop, however, with a huge 48-megapixel primary camera on the back and a capacious 4000mAh battery inside that promises exceptional longevity and rapid fast charging by way of the company’s own 22.5W SuperCharge technology.
6. OnePlus 6T
Best for ease-of-use
- Optical fingerprint sensor feels cutting-edge
- Up-to-date, versatile OS
- Fast Charge is still great
- Great battery life
- Camera’s Nightscape mode needs work
- Another headphone jack bites the dust
- Fingerprint sensor needs refinement
- Poor audio capabilities
The 6T may have brought about the end of the headphone jack on the company’s phones but in its place, you get a more robust camera experience, a larger battery that boasts far greater longevity and an in-display fingerprint sensor for a more seamless design and user experience.
The phone is powered by the same Snapdragon 845 chip and 6GB or 8GB of RAM like its predecessor but runs the latest OxygenOS user experience atop Android 9.0 Pie, meaning the phone feels fast, fluid and up-to-date. The new Smart Boost mode and enhanced Gaming Mode also help optimise the phone’s performance based on usage when knuckling down to play some games respectively.
Its footprint isn’t that much different to the 6 but OnePlus has also managed to reduce the size of the notch and chin to create a larger 6.41-inch AMOLED panel that adheres to the full DCI-P3 wide colour space and supports full-screen gestures for greater ease of use.
7. Honor Play
Best for gaming
- Great performance
- Strong battery life
- Attractive screen
- Not water-resistant
- GPU boost only works with a few games
- Slippery body
- Smart Shock feature doesn’t work
A lot of the phones in this list are flagship handsets that are priced very highly. The Honor Play, however, has a 6.3-inch screen and a very fast Kirin 970 processor all for £279. That’s a bargain.
As the name suggests, this is a phone built around gaming and performance. It’s fast, with a bright display and impressive stamina.
The camera is one of the weaker points, to be expected on any phone this affordable (but not poor by any means), and we do have some issues with the slippery metal body on a phone that large. Still, this is a great phone.
8. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Great for media
- Feels great for a big phone
- Fantastic OLED
- Plenty of camera features
- Iterative update
- AR Emoji needs work
The newly-launched Galaxy S10 Plus is now here to cause a stir, but its predecessor, the Galaxy S9 Plus, is still an excellent alternative. The only real difference between the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the 5.8-inch S9 is a larger screen, albeit with a beefier battery to keep the lights on.
There’s a beautifully vibrant AMOLED, WQHD+ Infinity Display that shines even more so when you’re playing games and streaming Netflix or YouTube.
Consider the sharp dual 12-megapixel snapper, svelte chassis and larger panel and this is still amongst the best phablets you can buy – good thing it’s on our list then. If that wasn’t enough to tempt you, the arrival of the S10 Plus suggests that it’ll receive a healthy price cut very soon.
9. Google Pixel 2 XL
Great for ease-of-use
- Stunning camera
- Great version of Android
- Feels great
- Poor screen
The Google Pixel 2 XL improves on the first in a number of ways – but mostly, it just looks a whole lot better. The narrow, rounded bezel around the 6-inch OLED display is modern, granting a huge screen in a device that’s still comfortable in the hand.
But it’s the software that really wins here. Google’s approach to Android is fantastic, and the Assistant is an AI that’s already better than Apple’s Siri. The whole OS feels fluid and quick, and it’s far more attractive than Samsung’s Experience.
The camera is stunning, too. It’s a 12-megapixel single sensor that takes brilliant photos in all conditions, and it’s packed with portrait mode tricks too. The Google Pixel 3 XL has since eclipsed the 2 XL but this phone still has plenty of clout.
10. iPhone 8 Plus
Best value for iOS
- Great screen
- Qi charging is nice to have
- Super speakers
- Very heavy
- Boring design
- No OIS on the secondary camera
With the arrival of the iPhone XS Max, 2017’s iPhone 8 Plus looks more dated now than ever before, sharing in an almost unaltered form from the previous iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 7 Plus. That said, it’s still a solid performer and a worthwhile entrant on this list.
On the rear of the device, you’ll find two 12-megapixel sensors that add depth to photos and let you zoom in without the loss of quality.
The A11 Bionic processor still offers plenty of oomph and it’s been purpose-built with AR gaming in mind. Storage starts at 64GB, up from 32GB and the glass-backed form also adhere’s to IP67-certification, meaning it’s equipped to take on a little dust and water without issue, not to mention wireless charging is part of the equation too.
The 5.5-inch 1080p display is smaller than many on this list, even though the phone itself is bigger – but it’s still one worth considering, not least because it’s now a touch cheaper thanks to its successor’s arrival. The DCI-P3 colour gamut offers up a wider array of hues and it’s perfect for videos and games. There’s Apple’s True Tone tech in there too, which adapts the colour temperature to the environment you’re in.
The battery is excellent, seeing you through two days most of the time.