Best phablets 2014: The best big phones available to buy today
Phones have been getting larger, looking to bring you more of what you love: a bigger, better experience. They have become devices designed to give you the ultimate in entertainment, the ultimate in productivity, the ultimate smartphone experience in a package to easily take with you on the move. The time has come: arise the phablet.
Phablet (noun): A smartphone having a screen size that is intermediate between a typical smartphone and a tablet. (def)
Phablets have fought their way into a space of their own, a hinterland of temptation. The definition of a phablet is still something of a grey area: we would say the Xperia Z3 and the Galaxy S5 don't fall into this category despite the relative body and screen size they offer, they are smartphones; equally, the Huawei MediaPad 7 Vogue or the Asus Fonepad are too big and we class those as tablets, even though they make calls.
Should you be drawn in and go big, or stick with the pocketable? Here we run through your phablet choices, so if you've decided to go big, you've come to the right place. There will undoubtedly be more large-screen devices in 2015 - but here we round-up the best phablet devices 2014 based on what we've reviewed in full.
12. Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a strange device. It's a technological marvel in many ways, delivering a huge 6.4-inch Full HD (344dpi) screen experience, with plenty of power in a package that's skinny and waterproof. On the other hand, that screen will be far too big for many to conventionally use as a phone.
If it's size that matters, however, then the Sony delivers it with a device that measures 179 x 92 x 6.5mm and weighs 212g. It's been around for a while now though, and with an update rumoured in the form of the Xperia Z4 Ultra, it might be worth waiting to see if a new device in early 2015 will be even thinner and lighter.
Inside is a powerful, but not top-of-class Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM. The display is very good and it supports pens and pencils for input, so you can just pick one up and start scribbling. The software isn't as sophisticated as the Galaxy Note 4's S Pen stylus support, but as a multimedia device, the Xperia Z Ultra really does deliver.
You'll either love the concept of a phone bigger than your head or you won't, and that's the bottom line here. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a marvel, but a marvel that might be limited in appeal.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z Ultra review
11. Oppo N1
Of all the phones we've handled we've never been approached by so many members of the public to ask about what we're using. The Oppo N1 caught peoples' eyes and stood out as the different, alternative phone that it genuinely is.
There's no stock Android though - it's either Oppo's own ColorOS Android-based system or the open-source CyanogenMod, which is like an open-source Android re-skin. If the idea of the latter system sounds scary, then fear not as it's a lot like using Android 4.3 and it works a treat. Add to that a decent 5.9-inch 1080p IPS screen, a quirky rotational camera that's of genuine use, solid design and fair price and the N1 gives us a lot to love.
The S600 processor at the N1's core isn't the most up to date and the device itself is a little dated now too, with the Oppo N3 already confirmed for 2015.
The N1 has a lot going for it, even if it does come from a brand that many Westerners will look at and say "what?". It's like the hipster of phones; a positively different device that, while it won't suit all, doesn't offer 4G, and isn't the most powerful on the market, we grew to love over time.
FULL REVIEW: Oppo N1 (CyanogenMod) review
10. Nokia Lumia 1320
The Nokia Lumia 1320 looks to offer the best of both the size and value worlds to those that want a large display and 4G connectivity, but don't have the cash to spend the best part of £500 or more for the privilege.
It offers a high quality build, despite its low price point, and while the camera isn't Nokia's best, there is a good battery life on board, along with a great apps suite. For many, this phablet will tick a number of boxes, especially for those wanting a big Windows Phone 8.1 handset.
The Lumia 1320 packs a 6-inch 1280 x 720 LCD display (245ppi), Qualcomm S4 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 5-megapixel rear snapper - so it might not be as high-specced as others in this list, but it has limited competition at this end of the phablet market and it gives users huge amounts for their money.
As a value prospect, the Lumia 1320 is great. It offers decent build quality, amazing battery life, enough power to keep most people will be happy and 4G connectivity. It's a shame that a screen of this scale is the limited resolution that it is but for the £229 price tag, it's a phablet that is worth considering.
FULL REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 1320 review
DEALS: Nokia Lumia 1320 best deals
9. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note really kicked off the phablet craze, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 takes the format and continues to refine it. In this 2013 model, there's a cracking 5.7-inch display offering a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, giving you 386ppi. It's packed into a frame that measures 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm, making it one of the most compact phablets around.
Some might not like the faux leather back, but you can peel that off and swap it out, as well as access the internals to expand the storage or change the battery. There's ample power, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset and 3GB of RAM, meaning that everything is slick and smooth in operation. Samsung hasn't ignored the screen space on offer either, giving you innovative features via the S Pen stylus to help keep you productive.
You get a lot with the Note 3, and now that it has been replaced with a newer model in the Note 4 (see higher up this list), the originally premium price has dropped a little. The Note 3 gives you a lot of phablet goodness, but it sits in the shadow of the newer device.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review
8. Nokia Lumia 1520
When it comes to Windows Phone 8 devices there is no better big handset on the market: the 1520 is certainly the best large Lumia we've used to date.
Standout features include the brilliant 6-inch IPS screen, complete with 1920 x 1080 resolution, a great camera, and ample power from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM.
It may be huge, but if that's exactly what you're looking for then the first Windows Phone phablet is also a huge success and a fantastic phone that can sit proudly in among its phablet peers. The Lumia 1320 (see lower down this list) might offer more appeal because of the price, but if you're after the ultimate phablet experience, then the 1520 delivers.
FULL REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 1520 review
DEALS: Nokia Lumia 1520 best deals
7. OnePlus One
The OnePlus One might not be a name you have heard of before but it's worth taking note because this 5.5-inch device not only delivers a similar experience to what you would expect from a high-end smartphone, but it does so at less than half the price.
It's not the easiest phablet to buy, given an invite is needed to get your hands on one, but if you do manage to find one, you'll get a good screen, solid build, loads of power and ample battery life for the £230 asking price.
The OnePlus One isn't an Android phone in the traditional sense, running on CyanogenMod, like the Oppo N1, which may put some off. You also get a 13-megapixel rear snapper, 1920 x 1080 IPS display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, so its specs are nothing to be frowned at. However, some 4G bands in the UK aren't supported, so it comes with a caveat.
The OnePlus One is an amazing device for the price and although the difficulty of obtaining one is one of its downfalls, it also makes it more alluring. If the One retailed for £450 with a more recognisable brand name stamped onto its rear, it would be snapped up from the shelves.
FULL REVIEW: OnePlus One review
6. Huawei Ascend Mate 7
The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is no small device by any stretch of the imagination, with a 6-inch screen making it one of the largest phablets on this list. But the Chinese manufacturer has used a clever, solid design to ensure this large handset is still a useable one.
It offers a brilliant battery life, excellent fingerprint scanner, premium metal build and its huge screen means it gives you everything you would want from a phablet in terms of that bigger experience. The physical size of the Ascend Mate 7 could be an issue for some but it's big meets beautiful and we can see where the "Mate" name comes from.
Some of its key features include a 13-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front snapper, an octa-core Kirin 925 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 4100mAh battery, along with a 1920 x 1080 resolution display to deliver a pixel density of 368ppi.
The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is one giant phone but it offers a premium design flair, ample performance and a battery life that will last for many hours of use. Huawei is catching up with the current front-runners and will be marching its way into more Western pockets over coming months and years based on this kind of performance.
FULL REVIEW: Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review
5. Nexus 6
Google's Nexus devices have always brought a lot of bang for your buck and the Nexus 6 is no different, bringing the software giant into phablet territory with a huge 6-inch display and the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system for £499.
It packs in plenty of power, offers a great display and delivers an all-round good performance from its water resistant, quality build. Having pure Android means the Nexus 6 will receive updates first but despite its size, there is no stylus or any software feature that makes particular use of its six-inch glory.
It's the most accomplished Nexus smartphone ever and a great quality device, as well as being the first phablet to sport a Nexus badge, but it borders on being too big and while watching movies and playing games is fantastic, there is nothing that allows you to be extra productive.
You get a lot for your money with the Nexus 6 there is no doubt about that and it is bigger than many other phablets out there, but if you're after the best big screen experience, we don't think it quite takes the crown.
FULL REVIEW: Nexus 6 review
DEALS: Nexus 6 best deals
4. Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
We weren't sure about the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge when we first laid eyes on it but after living with it, we arrived at the conclusion that it is not only a showcase for what is possible in phone design, but the edge screen operation is also far more useful and interesting than we first anticipated.
Its battery isn't as good as the Note 4 and it comes with an extra £100 price tag but the Note Edge's display is great, it's powerful device and it offers a decent camera. You still get the great multi-tasking via the multi-window, an included stylus and the embedded software makes the curved edge more than a gimmick.
The Note Edge is certainly a device that will turn heads and it's a mighty fine modification of the Galaxy Note 4. It might not become the biggest selling smartphone in Samsung's line-up but it's a benchmark in forward thinking.
The edge screen and customisable edge panels has genuine merit and when you add that to a super-powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and software that makes use of the large display, you get a smartphone experience on the edge of excellence.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note Edge review
3. Apple iPhone 6 Plus
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus marks the Cupertino company's first step into the phablet world with a 5.5-inch screen to give iOS users after a bigger display option, rather than force them into Android or Windows Phone territory.
Measuring 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm and weighing just 172g, it is lighter and thinner than the majority of its competition but it isn't cheap, starting at £619. Although you get fantastic build quality and a bigger battery than the smaller iPhone 6, you don't get stylus support like with Samsung's Note devices.
It features Apple's latest A8 processor, a 1920 x 1080 resolution display and a beautiful aluminium build that comes complete with the Touch ID fingerprint reader. It might not fit in your back pocket but it's a great device, which is lucky as for iOS lovers who want a big screen but don't want to switch operating systems, the iPhone 6 Plus is your only option. Recent developments have seen the iPhone 6 Plus make more of a case for itself, with support for Full HD Netflix, for example.
The iPhone 6 Plus is certainly one for the power users and those looking for a big screen experience. It's a pricey handset but you get a good looking, powerful phone for your bucks and for that niche that wants to have it all Apple and all over the big screen, then the iPhone 6 Plus is there for you.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone 6 Plus review
DEALS: Apple iPhone 6 Plus deals
2. LG G3
The LG G3 kicked off a new breed of phablets when it launched in May with a Quad HD 5.5-inch display that stuck a perfect balance between smartphone and phablet, offering a smartphone's great design but the advantage of a phablet's big screen.
It offers an impressive camera, beautiful sharp and crisp display, along with a plenty of power at a competitive price. The plasticky design was a disappointment for some and its battery life is questionable at times, but the LG G3 is a brilliant compromise for those looking for a big screen without a massive footprint to go with it.
Aside from the 2560 x 1440 display that offers a pixel density of 538ppi, the LG G3 boasts a 9.3mm slim build, 153g weight to make it one of the lightest phablets around, and it is also one of the most powerful with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM under the hood.
The G3 represents LG at the top of its game. This is an excellent device that will make LG's mark known in the smartphone world once again and the phablet one too. The Quad HD display, great design, impressive camera and below-£500 price point make this a device that won't disappoint, especially for those sitting on the phablet fence that can't decide if bigger really is better.
FULL REVIEW: LG G3 review
DEALS: LG G3 best deals
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 represents the most crucial big-screen device from the Korean company for a couple of years and perhaps even the most crucial smartphone in its line-up too.
Well and truly knocking the Note 3 off the top spot, the Note 4 is a fantastic device that is a rare example of a phone that not only does shed loads, but does it all so well. The 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display is a marvel, while the power, features and battery life all contribute to making this the best phablet we have reviewed so far.
The built-in S Pen is one of its most commendable attributes, but the Note 4 and its 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm footprint also offer a fingerprint scanner, heart rate monitor, the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip, 3GB of RAM and a 3220mAh battery to help it reach number one in the phablet arena.
The Note 4 exists in its own world thanks to S Pen stylus integration and a heap of additional features as a result. No other 5.7-inch screen looks better and even if the competition is beginning to knock at its door, the Note 4 can sit back on its throne with its feet up knowing it's done all the hard work. Put simply the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 rules.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review