The best high-end phablets you can buy right now (May 2016)


You've decided to get a large-screened smartphone, so you could enjoy video better, have a much more comfortable, large keyboard, and enjoy the benefits of a bigger battery? Truth is, it's not that weird – the fact that manufacturers produce smartphones with displays of 5.2 inches and above is a clear indicator that size matters to the consumers. And, naturally, there are a lot of handsets in the phablet (above 5.5 inches) category. So much so that you may get a bit dizzy if this is the first time you are dipping your toes in the market.

Well, fear not, as we compiled lists of the best high-end and best midrange phablets for you to consider. In this article, we will be checking out all the top dogs. If you are looking to buy a more affordable device, check out the midrangers here!

Samsung Galaxy Note 5



Pros

  • Skinnier and lighter than ever
  • Enhanced S Pen features
  • Captures amazing photos and videos with its camera
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Fast charging

Cons

  • No removable battery, microSD card slot, & IR blaster
  • Phone feels slippery & it’s a fingerprint magnet
  • Sharp sounding internal speaker


Many powerusers out there call Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 the best large-screen smartphone you can buy right now, and for good reason. On the outside, we've got a beautiful handset, covered in metal and glass, and offered in a variety of shiny colors. On the inside, we have Samsung's Exynos 7420 SoC (arguably the best processor on a 2015 Android smartphone) and 4 GB of RAM. The large, 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display has a resolution of 1440 x 2560 (QHD) for a pixel-per-inch density of 518 pixels, and is certainly among the best screens you can find on a smartphone. The camera on the Note 5 is the old 16 MP model, instead of the new 12 MP one with the larger pixels, which can be found on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge handsets. This is not a bad thing — the Note 5's snapper is still incredibly good, and some may prefer it over the new, yellow-casting, 4:3 ratio 12 MP sensor. And, of course, to top it all off, we have the proprietary S Pen – a stylus with many functions, which are yet to be mimicked by any competing smartphone.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus



Pros

  • 3D Touch adds a new dimension to interacting with a smartphone
  • Great battery life
  • Great all-around performer with its camera
  • Incredible performance
  • Quality loudspeaker

Cons

  • Heavy weight
  • Base storage option is still 16GB
  • iOS 9 doesn’t have side-by-side multi-tasking on the 6s Plus


If you love iOS and want a large screened smartphone, there's basically nowhere else to go but Apple's iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6s Plus. The latter is the newest model, complete with the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen, the upgraded 12 MP camera, the latest and greatest A9 processor, and 2 gigabytes of RAM – something that can only be found on the 6s generation of iPhones. Apple doesn't play the "Highest resolution possible!" game and keeps the Plus' screen to a 1080 x 1920 pixels. This results in a ppi density of 401, which is still incredibly crisp. Additionally, Apple has tweaked the iOS build for the Plus units to act a bit more like a tablet, making use of the larger, 5.5-inch display by moving around app layouts to look a bit more like they do on the iPads.

Huawei P9 Plus




Huawei recently released its own heavy-hitters in the form of the P9 and P9 Plus. The two smartphones' most notable feature is the dual camera on the back – two 12 MP sensors, built in partnership with Leica, work in synchronicity to deliver better performance in low-light or high contrast situations. The P9 Plus features a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution, and pressure sensitivity, which is backed up by features provided by the EMUI 4.1 skin, built on top of Android 6 Marshmallow. On the inside, the P9 Plus is powered by Huawei's very own octa-core Kirin 955 SoC, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and coupled with 4 GB of RAM.

Huawei Mate 8



Pros

  • Elegant all-metal design
  • Slim & lightweight for its size
  • Better-than-average battery life
  • Tons of features with EMUI 4.0

Cons

  • Display color balance is off
  • Disorganized user interface
  • Weak internal speaker
  • Greenish hues with indoor snapshots


Let's go even bigger! In December 2015, Huawei released its Mate 8 phablet – a 6-inch behemoth of a smartphone. It doesn't have any of the flashy features of the P9 line, such as a dual camera or a pressure-sensitive display, but the Mate 8 is still a pretty capable device in its own right. It has the slightly less powerful octa-core Kirin 950, clocked at 2.3 GHz, and still comes with 4 GB of RAM. Its software is Huawei's EMUI 4, built on top of Android 6 Marshmallow. The screen has a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution stretched across its 6-inch diagonal, which makes for a pixel-per-inch density of 367 – not a crazy number, but don't let that fool you, it's still very crisp.

Google Nexus 6P



Pros

  • Original looking design
  • Stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow experience
  • Highly adaptable camera
  • Strong volume out of its dual front-firing speakers
  • Really quick recharge time

Cons

  • Taller & wider than some other similarly sized phones
  • Uninspiring battery life
  • Weak maximum brightness makes it tough to see outdoors
  • Overblown, inaccurate colors with the display
  • Slower focus & shakiness with its video capture


We've checked out some heavily-skinned Android smartphones, but let's not forget that Google has a phablet of its own, running a snappy clean, vanilla build of the latest Android OS available. The Nexus 6P was a first in many things – the first Nexus to come with an all-metal build, the first one with a fingerprint scanner, and the fist one to actually have a good camera (the latter two are also true for the smaller Nexus 5X). It's a Huawei-made handset, with a 5.7-inch display, a 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution, Qualcomm's octa-core Snapdragon 810, clocked at 2 GHz, and 3 GB of RAM. If you want a big display and stock Android – this is the best you can do right now.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium



Pros

  • Bright display, easy to read under sunlight
  • Dust- and water-resistant (IP68)
  • Outstanding battery life

Cons

  • Camera could be better
  • Weak speakers that lack in depth
  • Bulky


OK, we've covered the vanilla Android, but truth is that Sony's own user interface acts a lot like stock Android, complete with snappy response and Material Design animations. Granted, Sony does pre-install a lot of bloat apps on its devices, those act more as visual clutter in the app drawer, not as a performance-hindering obstacle. And, of course, Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium is the world's first smartphone with a 4K display. What does this mean? It means it's capable of producing images with a resolution of 2160 x 3840 pixels. Stretched across its 5.5-inch display, this results in an insane pixel density of 801 ppi! But don't be fooled into thinking that the phone runs in 4K resolution at all times. When you are browsing the web, or doing anything outside of watching pictures and video, the handset actually renders in 1080 x 1920 pixels, and upscales the image to fit the 4K screen. Only when you open the proprietary Xperia Album and Videos apps, the display will render an image in its full 2160 x 2840 glory. Yes, that's kind of a downer, but hey – the processor and battery wouldn't be able to handle 4K at all times.

On the specs side, the Z5 Premium is just your regular Xperia Z5 – a Snapdragon 810, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of expandable storage, a 23 MP main camera with the super-fast Hybrid AF, and a 5 MP selfie cam.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL



Pros

  • Big display with reasonably accurate colors
  • Elaborate camera that handles most scenarios reliably
  • Features like iris scanner security and Continuum are quite advanced, although very niche at the moment

Cons

  • Mediocre design and build quality
  • Very low maximum brightness for the display
  • Frustrating user experience that's riddled with bottlenecks


Microsoft's flagship phablet has a notable feature of its own – connect it to a proprietary "Display Dock", hooked up to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor setup, and you can use the smartphone as a basic PC. In this mode, it can run all the Office apps for Windows 10, making you a wiz at editing all your documents on the go. As a smartphone, the Lumia 950 XL is no slouch – a 2 GHz, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 and 3 GB of RAM keep things going, it's got a 20 MP camera with a huge F1.9 aperture, and its 5.7-inch display has a resolution of 1440 x 2560 (515 ppi). Yes, Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system for smartphones is a bit divisive — some love it, some hate it — but needless to say, if you are in the first group of people, there's not a much better phablet you can get right now than the Lumia 950 XL.

LG V10



Pros

  • Stainless steel side bars are cool
  • Great still image quality
  • Very good system performance
  • 64 GB standard capacity is generous
  • Super-quick charging, replaceable battery

Cons

  • Bland body material and color options
  • Inaccurate display colors
  • The user experience needs more work
  • Unsatisfying video recording quality
  • Modest battery life


A surprise entry by LG from late last year, the V10 is notable for a few things. It has that unique ticker screen – a secondary display on its "forehead", which is reserved for notifications and is always on; a dual camera setup on its front – you can choose between a normal and a wide-angle sensor to cover all your selfie, groufie, or belfie needs (we are not making those words into a thing, we promise); and a very elaborate manual mode for video shooting, which even makes use of three directional microphones, for better audio capture control.

The V10 is a true phablet in its own right, with a 5.7-inch display with a 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution (515 ppi), a hexa-core, 1.8 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC, and 4 GB of RAM. The handset runs pretty smoothly, looks very unique, and has won its own fair share of fans, who are eagerly awaiting for a possible successor to be announced later this year (though, we've so far heard no rumors for such plans).

Meizu PRO 5



Pros

  • Nice design for the price point
  • Very good system performance
  • Convincing daytime and indoor photography
  • Satisfying battery life

Cons

  • Initial setup woes may confuse novice users
  • Inaccurate display colors
  • The fingerprint scanner is not always so smart
  • Low-light photography is problematic


Let's get exotic! Meizu hails from the Far East, but the company's handsets are pretty easy to snag through various international retailers (just make sure to check if it supports your carrier's bands). The company's signature features are slim side bezels, and no "back" or "recent apps" buttons on the front – all operation is done through the single home button / fingerprint scanner, which reads tap gestures. The PRO 5 is a pretty capable handset, powered by Samsung's octa-core Exynos 7420 SoC (the same chip that is inside the Note 5 / Galaxy S6), clocked at 2.1 GHz, and 4 GB of RAM. It runs on Meizu's Flyme — a heavy skin, built on top of Android 5 Lollipop — which, in all honesty, can be an acquired taste if one dedicates enough time to the device.


FEATURED VIDEO

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless