Best Phablet 2018: Which big phone should you buy?

Best phablet 2018: Which is the best big screen phone you can buy right now?

Looking to get a new big-screened phone? Then you’re in luck. Below you can see our pick of the best devices currently available, as well as an explanation of how we picked them out. All the smartphones in the list below feature a screen that’s in excess of 5.5 inches, the minimum size we’d look for in a phablet.

If you don’t need to upgrade your phone quite yet, then it might be worth waiting. Google is expected to unveil the Pixel 3 very soon. There’s also the rumoured Huawei Mate 20 and OnePlus 6T.

How we chose the best phablets

best overall android phone

Huawei P20 Pro

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.

£799

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.

Related: Best smartphones

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.

Related: Android Pie Phones

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Pros:

  • Fantastic screen
  • Big battery
  • The S Pen

Cons:

  • 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

iPhone XS Max side

Pros:

  • Fantastic display
  • Improved camera
  • Well built

Cons:

  • 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.

Related: Best Wireless Chargers

OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6

Pros:

  • Lovely design
  • Great version of Android
  • Affordable
  • Dash Charge

Cons:

  • Camera still needs work

If you’re looking for a phablet that won’t break the bank, then look no further than the OnePlus 6.

The biggest update to this device is the display, which now stretches nearly edge-to-edge and features a notch. The aluminium body of the 5T has been swapped out, meaning the 6 is yet another flagship to tote a glass-backed design, making it feel more expensive than it is – and there’s that AMOLED panel, too. The camera on the rear of the device packs dual sensors, with one dedicated to aiding the improved portrait mode.

There’s also a super-quick Snapdragon 845 processor running the show – just like the (US version of the) Samsung Galaxy S9 – and this is paired with 6GB or 8GB of RAM.

Simply put: for the money, there’s no better Android phablet you can buy today.

Honor Play

Honor Play front handheld angled

Pros:

  • Great performance
  • Strong battery life
  • Attractive screen

Cons:

  • 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

Samsung Galaxy S9

Pros:

  • Feels great for a big phone
  • Fantastic OLED
  • Plenty of camera features

Cons:

  • 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

Pros:

  • Good camera
  • Great performance
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • 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.

Related: Huawei Mate 20 rumours

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8

Pros:

  • Stunning design and build
  • Great screen
  • The S-Pen

Cons:

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Expensive

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

Pros:

  • Great screen
  • Pretty design
  • Strong camera

Cons:

  • EMUI

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

Pixel 2 XL

Pros:

  • Stunning camera
  • Great version of Android
  • Feels great

Cons:

  • 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

iPhone X vs iPhone 8 Plus

Pros:

  • Great screen
  • Qi charging is nice to have
  • Super speakers

Cons:

  • 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.

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