Fabulous Phablets: The 5 Best Big-Screen Smartphones You Can Buy

Mihir Patkar 21-03-2014

Big-screen phones are awesome. These aren’t smartphones you can use easily with one hand, but if you’re comfortable being a two-handed user, then they give you more real estate and a fantastic large screen to get more stuff done.


Mobile phone screens are rapidly getting bigger and bigger. Just three years ago, the flagship handsets had a screen size of 4.3 inches, and it’s now increased to 5-5.2 inches. And somewhere along the line, a whole bunch of “phablets” (phone-tablet hybrids) popped up.

If you’re going to buy a big-screen phone now, and by that, we mean something that’s larger than a 5.5-inch screen and smaller than a 7-inch tablet, these are your best options.

Best All-Rounder: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – $625.99


There’s no competition, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the absolute best phone you can buy if you are looking for a phablet. It’s the only one to include a built-in stylus and custom software to make the most of that feature, letting you easily take notes, draw, and perform other tasks. Plus, it’s kitted with top-of-the-line hardware and the new faux leather back makes it feel good to hold. Samsung’s got a winner on their hands and if you can afford it, this is the phablet to buy. You can read more about it in our Galaxy Note 3 review Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9000 Review and Giveaway Samsung released the third generation of the Galaxy Note in October, updating the phablet with a larger screen and improved hardware. Read More .

  • Screen: 5.7-inch Super AMOLED (1920×1080 pixels) with Gorilla Glass 3
  • Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 / Octa-Core Exynos 5 Octa 5420
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Camera: 13 MP rear (1080p videos), 2 MP front (720p video)
  • Memory: 16/32/64 GB internal, microSD up to 64 GB
  • Connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4, NFC
  • Battery: 3200 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (Upgradable to 4.4 KitKat)

Waterproof: Sony Xperia Z Ultra – $470.55



If you want a big-screen phone that’s not going to be damaged when using it in the rain or out by the pool, the Xperia Z Ultra is your best bet. As long as the protective flaps for ports are sealed, it’s completely waterproof and you have nothing to worry about. But be warned, the camera is atrocious and the battery life is substandard. You really, really need to want that waterproofing feature to choose this over the Note 3.

  • Screen: 6.4-inch IPS (1920×1080 pixels) with scratch-resistant glass
  • Processor: 2.2GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Camera: 8 MP rear camera without LED flash (1080p videos), 2 MP front camera (1080p videos)
  • Memory: 16 GB internal, microSD up to 64GB
  • Connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4, NFC
  • Battery: 3050 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (Upgradable to 4.4 KitKat)

CyanogenMod & Selfies: Oppo N1 – $669.89


Not everyone is a fan of how companies like Samsung modify Android’s interface. You could just install Cyanogenmod on any Android, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So if you want something that’s closer to stock Android and assured of updates, then check out the Oppo N1. This is the first phone to come with CyanogenMod built-in. It features a rotating camera so you can click selfies with the same high-quality snapper as regular photos. There are a couple of other neat additions, like a rear touch panel and a keychain dongle, but these don’t work as well as advertised. You can read our full Oppo N1 review Oppo N1 CyanogenMod Limited Edition Review and Giveaway The Oppo N1 is an Android phone that runs CyanogenMod out of the box and has hardware features you won't see on any other phone, like a rotating camera and a rear touch panel. Read More for more details.

  • Screen: 5.9-inch IPS (1920×1080 pixels) with Gorilla Glass 3
  • Processor: 1.7GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Camera: 13 MP with rotating lens (1080p videos)
  • Memory: 16/32 GB internal, no microSD slot
  • Connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4, NFC
  • Battery: 3600 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (Upgradable to 4.4 KitKat)

Budget Buy: Huawei Ascend Mate – $299.98



The Huawei Ascend Mate is not a new phone, but that also means it’s one of the affordable Android phones that don’t suck 5 Affordable Android Phones That Don't Suck Until 2 years ago, it didn't make much sense to buy budget Android phones because of the sub-par experience they offered. But things have changed. Read More . At just above $300, you get good hardware (quad-core processor, 2GB RAM) and long battery life (4050mAh). There are two issues, though. First, you probably won’t be getting updates beyond Android Jelly Bean. Second, the customized Emotion UI skin doesn’t look too great and doesn’t auto-rotate.

  • Screen: 6.1-inch IPS (1280×720 pixels) with Gorilla Glass
  • Processor: 1.5 GHz Quad-core Huawei K3V2
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Camera: 8 MP rear (1080p videos), 1 MP front (720p video)
  • Memory: 8 GB internal, microSD up to 64 GB
  • Connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4
  • Battery: 4050 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean

The Non-Android Choice: Nokia 1520 – $559.89


If you don’t fancy Android but still want a large-screen mobile phone, Nokia has you covered. The new flagship, the Nokia 1520, features a 20-megapixel PureView camera to take sharp photographs and is packed with hardware that rivals any Android phone. Of course, this runs on Windows Phone 8 and has some awesome apps that will make you buy a Nokia phone.

  • Screen: 6-inch IPS (1920×1080 pixels) with Gorilla Glass 2
  • Processor: 2.2GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Camera: 20 MP rear with Carl Zeiss optics (1080p videos), 1.2 MP front (720p video)
  • Memory: 16 GB internal, microSD up to 64 GB
  • Connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4, NFC
  • Battery: 3400 mAh
  • OS: Windows Phone 8

Your Thoughts On Big Screens?

With televisions, it’s always been as simple as “the bigger the better” when it comes to screen sizes, but that’s not everyone’s opinion with mobile phones. So what’s the right size, according to you? Would you buy a big-screen mobile phone and why? Let us know in the comments!


Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. sue
    October 1, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    There is no reason a big tablet cannot be a phone as people never leave home without either! It is stupid to have 2 devices

  2. Joshua
    June 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    For value phones in android with a quad core and the largest screen nothing tops the Blu Studio 7 II. The second generation of the seven inch screen phone upped the power by going to a quad core processor. It can take a 128gb micro SD and it unlocked gsm all for $125 on amazon. Nothing comes close to this phone. The first generation 7 was a dog with a dual core processor but since the upgrade I have been very happy with it. The value of this phone (tablet) is unreal at 7" and is easily as fast and crisp to use as my galaxy 4 tab 10.1

  3. Oblen
    June 28, 2016 at 6:11 am

    Fantastic reviews I'm seeing in the comments section. Personally, I've used the Nokia 1520 and I've absolutely loved it; you can really squeeze out a lot of productivity from a phone like that. And the camera is absolutely amazing. For a more traditional Android device I'd strongly reccomend the Note 3, I've heard some really good things about it.

  4. John Williams
    January 14, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    A lot of people competely miss the point about phablets. They were initially developed for Asia where many folk don't have the spare money to own a laptop, a tablet, an e-reader, a phone, a camera and a even a TV set. Many of them have twin SIM cards which again avoids needing a work phone and personal phone, even though it was really fitted to cope with poor network coverage.
    Nearly everyone in their target audience carry's a bag if they are wlking - commuters, students, shoppers and of course girls have handbags. At home it is handsfree, in a car it's on Bluetooth.

    There is also no big issue about using two hands, only Apple obsesses about working the phone with one thumb. Maybe Americans can afford to drop their 500 dollar phone, many owners use two hands on an iPhone because their hands are smaller. The other holy grail of mega thin is really easy for big phone owners - they get a bigger battery as standard.

    True commuting student road warriors are big users of extra battery backs as well - they already have a bag full of heavy books, and they need more than 14 hours day on the battery.

    As for the big phone on ear "problems" - what problem? We all wear earphones virtually permanently with Spotify on. The phone stays in the bag. Who makes voice calls anyway? That nice big screen is made for Skype and Whatsapp. Even texting is easier.

    I used to carry a Nokia, a Kindle and a camera every day plus a laptop on workdays, now I don't, it's great.

  5. D Jones
    March 25, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Two bean cans with a string is good for me. I also get lunch with it.

  6. Ray
    March 25, 2014 at 4:20 am

    You missed a serious player by not looking at the HTC One Max, which makes me seriously question the overall value of the review. I got mine the week after it came out, and I'm enjoying every minute, using it for all but the most keyboard-intensive work. No tablet or other portable device needed, just my laptop (which rarely moves off my desk anymore). The One Max does have an SD slot, which the base HTC One does not. The battery is not removable, but I go all day on a charge, and even with heavy use, rarely have less than 40% left at the end of the day. Bought a Note 3 for my significant other, and can't stomach the Samsung mods to base Android (completely aside from the unusable TouchWiz). HTC Android with Nova launcher gives a great, crisp, controllable experience (and turns off Sense, getting that out of the way). Mine is a tool, not a toy, even with a number of purely entertainment apps on it, and I use it for almost everything, including reading this article and writing this review.

  7. Paul Emmerson
    March 24, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I have a Note2 and I just wanted to comment on making calls given the large device size. In my case I hardly ever hold it up to my ear. I answer the call, immediately put it on speakerphone, then rest it on the nearest surface. I talk normally, both hands free, at my PC or cooking lunch, and the other person can hear me just fine even if I'm several yards from the phone. I work from home so no issues re confidentially of what other person says.

  8. Carl
    March 24, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I have a Lumia 1520 and it is just fantastic, great camera great phone, great battery life. Plus Office - best phone I've ever used.

  9. Dianne A.
    March 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I have arthritic hands, and need to use two hands for effective smart phone functioning. I am still planning to go with the Galaxy Note 3. I've used a friend's and find it perfect for me. The built in stylus is a big plus.

  10. pmshah
    March 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    How does Lenovo Guru not qualify to be in the best 5 ???? It is a true 8 " tablet AND a phone. Extremely convenient and capable to use. Amazing performance. The best part is the mocro-sd card, sim and the battery are externally accessible - WITHOUT having to open the case.

    32 gb device sells for around $ 450/= .

  11. Ragnar Moller
    March 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Being really interested in high quality photography, trying to get a sensor which is as large as possible AND wanting a phablet size screen: I am hesitating betweeen the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and
    Sony Experia Z1 available since some time and the Experia Z2 which is available April 1 (joke ?)
    The Lumia 1520 and a reputed Lumia 1525 (which seems to be for much later).
    And finally sticcking with a littele smaller Lumia, the 1020 which has the best camera of all

  12. Clive R
    March 22, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    I was really enthused about the Oppo N1 until I read those dreaded words - no SD card! The idea of a (presumably rooted) smartphone with cyanagen mod on it is great and the camera looks amazing but why oh why does ANY manufacturer not include a micro sd slot on all devices. I had a Galaxy note 3 for a short while but realised that I couldnt live with all the junk Samsung put on it but rooting would void my two year warranty, and carries a risk of turning your £500 device into a brick. Also curious not to see the HTC One max in this list - it was my prime contender until I saw the Oppo - I can only hope they bring another one out with a micro sd slot - especially as they dont even offer a 64gb version. The thing with a phablet is you want it choc full of good quality movies an the unsual internal storage doesnt cut it for me

  13. jagbir
    March 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    what about lg g flex?

  14. Min Xuan X
    March 22, 2014 at 5:35 am

    The one budget phone that you have to consider is the upcoming Xiaomi Redmi Note. Xiaomi has already taken its markets (China and Singapore) by storm with the Redmi and the Mi 3, selling out thousands of units within minutes (FIVE thousand in EIGHT minutes during their THIRD round of Singapore sales), and is no doubt that Xiaomi's first phablet will do the same.

    You can head over to GSM Arena to look at its specs,but you will need to protect your head from exploding when I tell you that prices start from $130(!). Pre-order is now ongoing and will end on 3/25 12pm UTC+8, with the phone being released on 3/26.

  15. justme
    March 22, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Some more to consider is Gionee Elife E7, Pantech Vega Secret note and Pantech Vega Secret Up.
    The Vegas support 4G.

    These are sold at among a few other places.

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:31 am

      The Gionee E7 is fantastic, but unfortunately, it's not easily available in most parts of the world. I haven't checked out the Vega Secret series, but I'll look those up for future reference. Thanks for the recommendations!

  16. kewin
    March 22, 2014 at 12:56 am

    lenovo a880 is the cheap big screen smartphone that you should consider

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:30 am

      Kewin, the Lenovo A880 is super new and there haven't been many reviews of it so it's difficult to tell how it's actually going to be. But hopefully I should be able to check it out soon and if it's good, I'll update the list with that :)

  17. Sam
    March 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Love my Note 3, I just hate the fact that Samsung forced the wretched KNOX upon us. Well, I already tripped the KNOX counter anyways so IDRC anymore.

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:29 am

      Haha, I just don't use KNOX at all in a Samsung phone.

  18. ArchangelRenzoku
    March 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    According to this, none of these phones are 4G. What bands do they support?

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:28 am

      Depending on the country you buy it in, the Note 3, Xperia Z1 Ultra and the Lumia 1520 support 4G. Please check in a local store or carrier. It's difficult to list all those options in our article since we talk to a worldwide audience :) Sorry about the inconvenience.

  19. Hildy J
    March 21, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I view screens as a ecosystem. Different sizes have different uses.

    I have a 5" phone (for texting, audio, and light surfing), a 10" Windows tablet which I'm upgrading to an 8"(for surfing, video, and light Office), a 22" desktop (for heavy Office and gaming), and a 60" TV (which is too small - I want that 105" Samsung). The phone is in my pocket, the tablet's in my bag, the desktop and TV are at home and non-mobile.

    A 6" phone couldn't replace my tablet but it would be cumbersome compared to my 5" phone. Similarly, I'm laptop free because my desktop is a better computer and my tablet is half the weight of even an ultrabook.

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:25 am

      I agree, Hildy, just that where you see 5", 8" and 10" as the three screen size points, for a lot of people, a go-between 5.5/6-inch is better than a 5" and an 8".

    • Janusz Jerzy Kala
      March 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      simple and true- but what I am lacking is handwriting i my tablet ;/ bad luck - it's Galaxy Tab2 - truly support your approach in genere.

  20. CJ
    March 21, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I have an HTC One Max, and it is fabulous! The sound is particularly great. I only have one complaint, and it is minor: The on/off button is on the side of the phone, and is very easy to bump. Other than that, it's perfect!

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:23 am

      CJ, I haven't used the One Max, but most phones these days have a button on the side--and that's even more important for these big-screen phones since putting a button on top means that your fingers can't reach it easily when you're holding the phone normally :) Where would you have liked the button?

  21. chris Grebe
    March 21, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I switched a Note 3 after having an iPhone from 2008 on and it's been a game changed. Intially I didn't think I would be able to deal with such a huge phone and keep it in my pocket would be a issue but its not been an issue at all. The battery life is excellent and now when I travel for work or play I don't have to carry around both an iPad and my iPhone. I can watch movies on this comfortably, do work, the s-pen and its capaabilities are life changing. I mean it's got its issues but no phone is perfect and I don't think I could ever have a smaller phone again. When I use my iphone ( as a iPod touch) now my eyes hurt its so small.

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:22 am

      Couldn't agree more, Chris. Big-screen phone size is just a matter of getting used to it. And once you are accustomed to large screens, it's impossible to go back!

  22. Igor S
    March 21, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I have not any smartphone, but I like big screens.

    • Mad Dog
      March 24, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      I like big screens and I can not lie
      I really hate to squint my eye
      With my finger I can press
      Just one key and not the rest
      And if you really have to ask me why

      Fingers got fat

    • Mihir Patkar
      March 25, 2014 at 4:37 am

      Hahaha Mad Dog wins comment of the day!

  23. Shaila
    March 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I have the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and love it. It included a year of Evernote Premium when I got it, and that is even more valuable now that Evernote has introduced handwriting capabilities. I couldn't imagine using a different phone.

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:21 am

      Oh yeah, I really want to try it out now that Evernote has handwriting. To be frank, I love the S Air Command in the Note 3 anyway, I think it's the best implementation of stylus software in a phone.

  24. Mike Harris
    March 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    No mention of the Samsung Galaxy Mega?

    (Also, your spam check question made me smile, as I imagined Samuel L. Jackson posing the question as he did in 'Pulp Fiction.')

    • Mihir P
      March 22, 2014 at 6:20 am

      Mike, the Galaxy Mega was on my list, but the Ascend Mate's price drop makes it a better purchase than the Mega at the moment :)