Last year could certainly be titled The Year of the Phablet, whether you like the term or not, and 2014 is off to a great start in that category, too. In 2013, Samsung's Note family representatives met some serious competition for the first time, when most every phone maker decided to introduce their take on those 5.5"+ devices that people seem to be jonesing about lately.
In 2013, Sony one-upped the competition with the 6.3" waterproof Xperia Z Ultra
, making it a member of the sub-7mm club. HTC also chipped it with the One max
and its innovative fingerprint scanner on the back, while Nokia entered the race in a heartwarming manner with its pivotal for Windows Phone Lumia 1520
, and the affordable 1320
This year we already have the LG G Pro 2
, with its optically stabilized camera, the Xperia T2 Ultra
, with the longest battery life we've ever measured on a mobile device, and the Oppo Find 7a
with a Snapdragon 801 processor. There are a lot of entrants in-between also, so let's recap what are some of the best phablets money can buy at the moment, before something even wilder has been spotted just around the corner.
Best phablets for 2014
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Best phablets for 2014
Note 3 is the current edition of the big-screen phone line of Samsung that started it all. Besides being one of the best Android phablets all around, it introduced new multitasking and S Pen tricks, as well as a refreshed design, and is likely to star a bestseller at least until the next Note generation comes around, despite the crazy competition.
Being the only phablet so far with a camera that features optical image stabilization, the LG G Pro 2 also offers a great 5.9" 1080p display, in a very compact for the screen size body. LG's funky rear keys have been upgraded for a better feel, and come perfectly placed right under your index finger, so you don't have to feel around the sides each time you want to lock the screen or adjust the volume - a pretty nice feat for a huge phablet.
The Find 7a truly has it all – an attractive and ergonomic body, massive performance muscle with the Snapdragon 801 processor, and a worthy flagship camera. And best of all? It comes carrying a sub-$500 price tag without subsidies. Its Find 7 sibling will feature a Quad HD display, but is only scheduled to appear in the summer.
Looking for an amazing battery life and an affordable price? Sony did an excellent job with the Xperia T2 Ultra. It is a 6” phablet that is very thin and light for the screen size. We could also expect a bit more from the display's pixel density, but that's a worthy tradeoff for the phone's price and performance. When we stack the longest battery life we've ever measured, with the very good pictures and videos produced by the phablet's 13 MP camera, and the dual SIM Active functionality, we can pronounce the T2 Ultra as one of the best phablets in the midrange category.
Now that the HTC Desire 816 is finally on sale for about $400 without subsidies, it deserves entering the best phablets fray. With a thin, 0.31" (7.99 mm) body, it runs Android 4.4 KitKat, and offers a 5.5-inch 720p display, quad-core 1.6GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 13 MP rear camera, 5 MP front-facing camera, 1.5 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of expandable internal memory. Not bad for the money at all, though the 2600 mAh battery might doom it to score lower on the battery tests.
The 6.3" Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the largest yet thinnest of them all, equipped with top-notch specs in a waterproof housing to make it stand out in the phablet crowd.
The first Nokia phablet is one of the best Windows Phone ever, with its 6" Full HD PureMotion HD+ panel, quad-core Snapdragon 800, 20 MP PureView camera with lossless zoom, all wrapped up in a thin, comparatively large and hefty body. It also provides the best sound recording you'll here from a phone, and the best voice quality, with record 4 HAAC microphones for stereo recording and noise cancellation.
HTC's first phablet effort keeps the aluminum design heritage and excellent displays of the One family, and adds a fingerprint scanner on the back for unlocking the phone or launching apps with different fingers.
The trusted Galaxy Note II has fallen in price since the Note 3 introduction, making it one of the best value-for-money phablet offerings, as it sports the S Pen and multitasking abilities of its successor, too, despite the midrange for 2013 specs.
That elusive Batman phone that leaked here and there, came official under the title Nokia Lumia 1320 for $339 before subsidies, in orange, yellow, black and white. It fits the niche for those who'd like a really big-screen, yet midrange Windows Phone device that won't break the bank.
The 1320 sports a 6" 720x1280 pixels supersensitive IPS-LCD panel with Gorilla Glass 3 protection, a 1.7 GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal memory plus microSD slot, and 5 MP camera with flash on the back. The kicker is that this thing not only sports 4G LTE and HSPA+ connectivity like the 1520, but it borrows its huge 3400 mAh battery as well, so you can expect some record endurance from it.
Announced in the beginning of the year, LG's 5.5" phablet try shares specs very similar to the One max, including a quad-core Snapdragon 600 and Full HD display. LG offers its own take on Android multitasking with the QSlide and QNote apps, plus the phablet is equipped with an infrared sensor for remote control, as well as a pretty good 13 MP camera on the back.
Huawei's take on the phablet craze turned out pretty great, with barely a weak spot but the somewhat largish design, and one of the best call qualities we've ever heard, and not only on phablets, due to the special mics and their placement. It also sports some neat interface tricks that the Android UI design team should definitely pay attention to.
Samsung kicked off its Mega line of phablets this year, introducing midrange specs to big screen phones for those who are into those things. The Galaxy Mega 6.3, however, is priced similarly to much better equipped phablets, so the thin design and large display seem to be its only virtues.
The Optimus G Pro Lite is a dual SIM phablet for emerging markets, combining low-end specs and price into a 5.5-incher with a stylus, similar to the Galaxy Note family, but throwing two speakers in the mix, too.
The Lenovo IdeaPhone K900 features premium metallic design, 5.5" Full HD display, 13 MP camera, and... Intel Atom chipset. That's right, it is the only Android phablet with Intel chippery inside, though you probably won't notice that in its day-to-day operations.