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Best Phablets - Which should you buy?

By Simon Thomas on 19th December 2014

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UPDATED: Our list of the best phablets currently available to buy.

Phablets rose to prominence after Samsung launched the original Galaxy Note back in 2011. Since then their rise has been meteoric with a whole host of manufacturers launching devices to try and grab a share of the lucrative new market.

For the uninitiated phablets sit somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet - offering the portability of a smartphone with a larger display that's more suited to multimedia playback and web-browsing. A lot of phablets are designed to be used with a stylus, most famously by Samsung on the Galaxy Note range with their S-Pen interface.

We’re getting to the point now where even normal smartphones are starting to approach phablet sizes and phablets could almost be small tablets, as each year manufacturers aim to make their new handsets stand out by, in part, making them bigger.

Even Apple’s got on board recently, bringing its first phablet to market with the iPhone 6 Plus and the one and only Nexus phone released this year is a phablet too.

We've reviewed almost all the phablets on the market and picked out our favourites. We've picked out the best phablets across all operating systems and the best devices for those on a budget. So let’s get on with the list.

iPhone 6 Plus

Best Phablets - Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Not so long ago we’d have bet against Apple ever releasing a phablet but it’s happened and it’s a sublime first attempt.

Its 5.5 inch 1080 x 1920 display is small by phablet standards, but massive compared to other Apple handsets and while it’s 401 pixel per inch screen isn’t quite the sharpest around its still crystal clear.

It’s also got one of the best displays on the market, with brilliant contrast and colour accuracy. So it’s got the size and it’s got the screen quality but the iPhone 6 Plus has a whole lot more too.

Being an iPhone you won’t be surprised to hear that the build quality is sublime, with a slim 7.1mm thick aluminium shell and stylish curved edges. In fact it’s the best looking phablet on the market.

Its 8 megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation and a dual-LED flash is also one of the best around and of course it’s as slick and powerful as you’d expect from an Apple flagship.

Verdict: The iPhone 6 Plus is small by phablet standards and at £619 it’s also expensive. But it’s powerful, beautiful, has a top flight screen and an equally good camera, which is just enough for it to secure top spot among the best phablets around.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Best Phablets - Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung’s Galaxy Note range has long ruled the phablet roost and though the iPhone 6 Plus arguably edges victory over the Galaxy Note 4 Samsung’s slab comes very close and is definitely the best Android Phablet.

The screen is just 5.7 inches, but it’s rocking a QHD 1440 x 2560 resolution for a stunningly sharp 515 pixels per inch. It’s also a tremendous screen all round, with bright, vivid colours which make it hugely immersive.

The Note 4 is one of the most powerful phones on the market too, with a 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM.

It’s also Samsung’s first phablet with a high-end design, complete with a metal frame. The 16 megapixel camera impresses, the S Pen is the best it’s ever been, finally feeling like a real pen, and Samsung’s even packed in a fingerprint scanner, a heart rate monitor and a UV sensor.

Verdict: At £570 the Galaxy Note 4 is one of the most expensive phablets on the market, but it also has the highest resolution screen, blistering specs and an almost unending list of features.

Google Nexus 6

Best Phablets - Google Nexus 6

There’s only one Nexus phone released each year, so it makes sense for it to be of average size to maximise interest, while the line has also stood out for its low prices.

But the Nexus 6 breaks those trends, as at 5.96 inches it’s unmistakeably a phablet and with a starting price of £499 it’s not cheap.

Get past that though and it’s a fantastically impressive phone, with a super-sharp 1440 x 2560 display giving it a pixel density of 493 pixels per inch, a powerful 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM.

It ships with the Android 5.0 Lollipop, giving it 64-bit support to help take advantage of all that power and right now it’s one of very few handsets to run Google’s latest OS update. As a Nexus device it will also be first in line for future updates, so it’s a good investment.

Not only that but it breaks a more negative Nexus trend by including a good 13 megapixel camera and with support for rapid charging as well as wireless Qi charging it’s definitely future-proofed.

Verdict: The Nexus 6 is a strong Galaxy Note 4 competitor, particularly given its lower price, but it’s less feature packed and not quite as good as a result.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Best Phablets - Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Huawei isn’t a big player in the UK, but it’s worth paying attention to as the Ascend Mate 7 proves. Its 6.0-inch 1080 x 1920 screen is a fairly sharp 368 pixels per inch but that’s not the really impressive thing about it.

In fact there are several impressive things about it. Take the sleek 7.9mm thick build and the attractive aluminium frame, or the big 4100 mAh power pack which gives it impressive battery life even with such a big screen.

Then there’s its processor. The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 has an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 chip, with fur cores clocked at 1.8GHz and the other four at 1.3GHz, so not only is it powerful but it can conserve battery by only using the slower cores when the extra horsepower isn’t needed.

That’s all backed up by 3GB of RAM and with a 13 megapixel main camera and a 5 megapixel front-facing one its good photography, whether you want to take selfies or other photos.

It even has a fingerprint scanner, but at around £400 it’s quite expensive and the Emotion UI is one of the worse Android overlays.

Verdict: The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 deserves more attention than it will probably get. Its combination of a stylish build, good battery life and lots of power make it well worth considering if you’re in the market for a phablet, just make sure you replace the launcher, because the Emotion UI is not good.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Best Phablets - Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung kick-started the phablet revolution with the original Galaxy Note and it's a testament to the South Korean company that they still remain the kingpins when it comes to Android phablets. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has now been superseded but it’s still a stunning option in its own right.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 has high end power, a brilliant 5.7 inch full HD display and offers an S-Pen experience that’s improved over the Note 2 (though it’s even better on the Note 4). We love the improved grip the faux-leather back cover provides and the larger screen really comes into its own when using the S-Pen stylus.

The power of the Galaxy Note 3 is still among the best you’ll find on a phone, but despite that you should get a good day’s battery life out of the device. It's also super-slim, at just 8.2mm and is one of the lightest phablets in the world (168g). We think that its 5.7 inch form-factor is the ideal size for a phablet.

 Verdict: The Note 3 is no longer the best phablet on the market, but it’s still right up there. It might be expensive, but it's worth every penny of its £370 price. 

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Best Phablets - Sony Xperia Z Ultra

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the only tablet in our list that is waterproof, and dust-proofing is also thrown in for good measure. It's also the largest tablet with a 6.4 inch display which is both its strength and Achilles heel.

The huge full 1080p display offers a multimedia experience unmatched by other phablets in this list. The Triluminous Mobile Bravia engine delivers clean, crisp pictures with accurate colour reproduction. If you’re looking for a device to play movies or games on then look no further.

Sony's phablet is incredibly thin, at just 6.5mm, and very light for its size (212g). But the sheer size of the device itself limits its portability, it's not going to fit into jeans pockets and it looks a bit silly when held to your ear to make calls. However, its all-glass design is stunning and it’s the best looking Android phablet out there.

Verdict: As a multimedia device that can also make calls the Xperia Z Ultra can't be beaten and it’s affordable too now that it’s dropped to under £300. Its 6.4 inch form-factor isn't pocket friendly but it's a real looker. 

Nokia Lumia 1520

Best Phablets - Nokia Lumia 1520

Until fairly recently those looking to buy a phablet really only had Android devices to consider. However, Nokia has now entered the market with its Windows-powered Lumia 1520. Those looking for a high-end Windows phablet will love the Lumia 1520.

It's got a 6 inch 1080p IPS display and a quad-core processor - both firsts for a Windows Phone 8 device. You can even use the touch-screen with gloves on thanks to Nokia's 'Super Sensitive' technology. We also have to mention its stunning 20 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and optical-image-stabilisation.

The Windows Phone platform itself is great for business users and is widely acknowledged to be the most intuitive mobile operating system. However, you don't get access to as many applications as you do on the Android or iOS and the phablet is also a little heavier (209g) than we might have hoped. Though at around £310 SIM free it’s fairly affordable.

Verdict: A worthy adversary to high-end Android phablets and Windows Phone fans will love it. However, it's a little bulkier than we might have hoped and some of your favourite apps might be missing from the Windows Marketplace. 

HTC One Max

Best Phablets - HTC One Max

The HTC One Max is a nice size with its 5.9 inch 1080p touch-screen being small enough to fit in your pocket and large enough to offer excellent multimedia playback and web-browsing. You also get the excellent HTC Sense interface and great music playback from the BoomSound speakers on the front of the device.

HTC's first phablet is also very powerful thanks to its quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, while it also includes HTC's excellent Ultrapixel camera. As you'd expect it supports 4G and comes with either 16 or 32GB of memory (expandable using microSD cards).

The area where the HTC fails to compete is with its weight and bulk. It's the thickest of any of the phablets featured in our list (at 10.29mm) and it's also pretty heavy (217g). Its fingerprint sensor is a let-down too and it may have been better if the feature was omitted.

Verdict: A power-packed Android phablet with a great 5.9 inch 1080p display. However it's a bulky device and its fingerprint sensor isn't all it should be. It delivers great sound thanks to its BoomSound speakers, but fails to stand up to the best phablets overall. 

Nokia Lumia 1320

Best Phablets - Nokia Lumia 1320

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is a more affordable version of the Lumia 1520 and it’s currently available for around £200. That means it automatically warrants attention because there aren't many phablets on the market for those on a stricter budget.

You still get all the benefits and drawbacks of the Windows Phone platform, but the specification of the Lumia 1320 is compromised to lower the cost. Its 6 inch display runs at a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution (244ppi) and it's powered by a 1.7 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM.

Thankfully, you still get 4G connectivity and the Lumia 1320 can be upgraded to the very latest version of the Windows platform. We think it's the best cheap phablet on the market today, although it's pretty bulky (9.79mm and 220g) and it doesn't have a full HD display.

Verdict: A great budget phablet with 4G support. It doesn't have a full HD display and it's a pretty hefty device, but it's the best phablet for those with limited funds- assuming you can get on with the Windows Phone platform. 

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