Best phablet 2018: Which is the best big screen phone you can buy right now?
We’ve seen a lot of big phones so far in 2018 and most of them offer some of the best hardware in the business. Here you’ll find our pick of the best devices that you can buy right now, as well as our reasoning as to why they’ve made it onto this list. Every phablet in this list sports a screen larger than 5.5-inches and in some cases, specific features that you simply wouldn’t find on smaller-screened handsets.
Newcomers like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T are shaking things by changing what sorts of technologies you can expect from a modern phablet and there are still more large-screened devices set to arrive before the year’s out that might still make it onto this list.
How we chose the best phablets
best overall android phone
The Huawei P20 Pro is our current best overall Android phone pick thanks to its triple array of cameras that takes excellent shots. This is paired with a great screen and design.
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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Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Fantastic screen
- Big battery
- The S Pen
- Bixby button is an annoyance
- The S9 Plus feels better
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 Micro SD card is still here, as is an IP68 rating, wireless charging and the S Pen.
iPhone XS Max
- Fantastic display
- Improved camera
- Well built
- Very expensive
2018’s most interesting iPhone award likely goes to the forthcoming iPhone XR but a 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 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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- New 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 a new 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.
- 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, and we do have some issues with the slippery metal body on a phone that large. Still, this is great phone.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
- Feels great for a big phone
- Fantastic OLED
- Plenty of camera features
- Iterative update
- AR Emoji needs work
What makes a perfect phone even better? Enlarge the screen into phablet territory, of course. The only real difference this year between the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the 5.8-inch S9 is the 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 the best phablet you can buy right now – although the Note 9 might change the stakes once we’ve put that through its paces.
Huawei Mate 10
- Good camera
- Great performance
- Excellent battery life
- Not available in the UK
The 3.5mm headphone jack is rapidly going the way of the Dodo. Since Apple chose to cut the connector from its iPhones, pretty much every Android smartphone maker has started to do the same – which is a real pain for anyone who’s invested in a decent set of cabled headphones.
Huawei’s Mate 10 is one of the few phablets to retain the input, making it a contender for music fans unwilling to make the jump to wireless – or deal with the faff of USB-C converters.
Luckily, the connector isn’t the only good thing about the Mate 10. The phablet sports the same beautiful design as its slightly more luxurious sibling, the Mate 10 Pro.
Under the hood, you’ll find the same super-fast Kirin 970 CPU and a gigantic 4000mAh battery. The above-average dual-lens rear sensor pairs a 12-megapixel colour camera with a dedicated 20-megapixel monochrome sensor.
The only slight issue is that you’ll have to import the phone into the UK – Huawei isn’t currently selling the regular Mate 10 here. But considering its lower price (roughly £530 after import), these are small sacrifices to be made in the name of the hallowed 3.5mm.
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Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Stunning design and build
- Great screen
- The S-Pen
- Disappointing battery life
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is still a good pick even though the Note 9 is now available. It’s more affordable now and that’s very important when you realise the Note 9 costs £899.
That 6.3-inch screen is stunning thanks to AMOLED tech and HDR support, and it remains one of our favourite screens on any device. The Snapdragon 835/Exynos 8895 CPU plus 6GB of RAM also makes it snappy in use.
The dual 12-megapixel cameras are great too, the software is much-improved, and Samsung’s industrial design is fantastic.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
- Great screen
- Pretty design
- Strong camera
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is the flagship in Huawei’s current phablet lineup, sitting above the company’s regular Mate 10, which isn’t being sold in the UK.
This phone features some of the best hardware we’ve seen in a phablet. The HDR-ready FHD+ OLED screen is one of 2017’s finest, and coupled with the phone’s near-bezel-less design, makes streaming video and playing games a pleasure.
Add to this the gigantic 4000mAh battery and super-speedy Kirin processor, and the Mate 10 Pro easily earns a place among 2018’s best phablets.
The only slight downsides to the phone are its use of Huawei’s Emotion UI, which adds a lot of unwanted bloat and the impending arrival of its successor, the rumoured Mate 20 Pro, as well as Samsung’s newly-announced Galaxy Note 9.
Google Pixel 2 XL
- 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 thin bezel around the 6-inch OLED display is modern, proving a huge screen in a device that’s 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 TouchWiz.
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 is supposedly just around the corner though, so like the Note 8 and Mate 10/Mate 10 Pro, its days are very much numbered.
iPhone 8 Plus
- 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 new 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 clout 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.