Your buying guide for the best big phones in 2018
Many a time we’ve been guilty of reviewing a smartphone and blasting it for not fitting comfortably in the palm of your hand, or for requiring two hands for comfortable operation. But every one of us is different, and while some of us prefer our phones sleek and compact, others prefer them big and powerful. Also see Best smartphones 2018 and Best tablets 2018.
Large-screen phones aren’t useful only for those with poor eyesight or fat fingers, they’re also a good fit for avid mobile gamers and those who watch a lot of video. Also see: Best Phone Deals
Generally speaking, a phablet (as they are known in the industry – a cross between phone and tablet) should be no less powerful than a standard smartphone. With more room inside the case they tend to have higher-capacity batteries, but you should also take into account that their larger screens may drain power faster than the smaller screens of phones with lower-capacity batteries.
What is a phablet?
We generally class smartphones with screens of at least 5.5in-plus on the diagonal as phablets. However, the line between standard smartphones and phablets is becoming increasingly blurred as we raise our expectations of standard smartphone screens.
Despite its 5.7in screen we wouldn’t consider the Galaxy S8 to be a phablet, because its tiny bezels mean it’s not a huge handset, yet we would consider the iPhone 8 Plus a phablet with its 5.5in screen with a regular 16:9 display aspect ratio and big bezels.
So we’ve applied some discretion in our ranking of the ten best phablets you can buy today.
What screen resolution should you expect on a phablet?
Take into account that the number of pixels will be stretched over a larger screen area, so a Quad-HD screen will be appreciated here more than it would on a compact phone. That said, though, even a full-HD screen will look crystal clear on a big phone – just watch out for anything lower in resolution than this.
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The Galaxy S9+ is a gorgeous and almost flawless phone, offering premium specs and features in a sleek and well-made design. There is the issue of it being very similar to its predecessor but we’re glad Samsung hasn’t dropped the headphone jack and introduced a notch – if it ‘aint broke.
It’s easily one of the best smartphones money can buy but a key question is whether you should get it over the regular S9. The answer is yes, but only if you can afford the extra cost, don’t mind the larger size and will make use of the additional features such as the second rear camera.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review.
In the P20 Pro Huawei has delivered a stunning phone which should be on your shortlist along with the Galaxy S9 and iPhone X.
Sure, there are some niggles such as the lack of stabilisation for 4K video, but if your priority is photography then the P20 Pro does not disappoint.
Add in the long battery life, dual SIM slots and great screen and you’ve got the complete package: this is one of the best phones of 2018.
Read our Huawei P20 Pro review.
The Galaxy Note 8 is expensive, but the finest things in life don’t come cheap. If you can stomach the price, we are really taken by the Note 8. Until you see it you’ll find yourself wondering why anyone would choose it over the cheaper Galaxy S8+, but the S Pen alone justifies this price difference.
Performance is bang-on, the screen is amazing, and photography is difficult to fault. Even Bixby has shown itself to be anything but the over-hyped, unnecessary feature we feared it could be.
Potential downsides are the expensive price tag, a slightly awkward fingerprint scanner and a very tall glass body that is more fragile than metal-body phones.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review.
4. OnePlus 5T
The OnePlus 5T isn’t a surprise, both in its existence and the fact it’s very similar to the OnePlus 5. It stands as a reminder that 2017 was the year every company quickly produced a phone with an 18:9 display to make sure its bezels didn’t look outdated on the store shelf.
But OnePlus isn’t on many store shelves given its online retail approach, and its many vocal core fans who bought the 5 will be annoyed by the 5T. OnePlus needed to update its design language quickly to keep up with the wider market where it is yet to make a dent, and the 5T is overall a better device than the 5.
And let’s not forget that for £449, the OnePlus 5T is an exceptionally well rounded smartphone. It is at least £100 cheaper than similar handsets, and sometimes close to £300 less.
If you buy into the design (without waterproofing and wireless charging) and price but can accept that the camera isn’t top draw and it’ll probably be superseded in six months, then it’s a great choice.
Read our OnePlus 5T review.
5. LG V30
There’s a lot to like about the V30 becuase it’s like LG has taken the G6 and upgraded it in key areas and even refined the already sleek design. Now the price is a more reasonable £599 we can highly recommend this phone which offers excellent design, screen, cameras and audio.
Read our LG V30 review.
The Mate 10 Pro is easily one of the best phone from Huawei yet and although the cameras aren’t as good as the Pixel 2 XL’s, it has a better screen, better battery life and just as much processing power.
In fact, with the AI processor there’s arguably more on board, but there’s no guarantee that apps will appear to make use of it. Even if they don’t, this is still an outstanding phone.
Read our Huawei Mate 10 Pro review.
The Pixel 2 XL is a fantastic phone. It’s well designed, well built and looks great. The screen issues could put you off, and don’t forget there’s no headphone socket or microSD slot.
This is where the Galaxy S8 Plus comes in: it’s slightly cheaper and has both of those features and matches the Pixel in just about every area.
The Pixel does win out on camera quality – just – but has the advantage of quick updates to future Android releases and unlimited photo and video storage for three years.
Read our Google Pixel 2 XL review.
The iPhone 8 Plus is a hard phone to recommend. Sure, it’s powerful, but so is every other flagship – and with a dated design and huge body, the 8 Plus is lagging behind. Throw in the fact that the wireless charging is slow, the fast wired charging costs you extra, and flagship camera feature Portrait Lighting just doesn’t work well enough yet, and the 8 Plus is a tough sell.
If you’re coming from an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus there’s not much to justify the upgrade – though moving from a 6 or 6s is more understandable. And if you’re currently an Android user, you’ll find phones that are just as fast, with modern designs, for far less money in the Android ecosystem.
Read our Apple iPhone 8 Plus review.
9. HTC U11+
The U11+ is HTC’s best effort for a long time with impressive specs for the price, including 128GB of storage as standard. We also like the upgraded screen and waterproofing, but the phone will be too big and heavy for a lot of users.
HTC fans should upgrade but in the wider market the U11+ doesn’t come out on top in any categories. There are better phones for photography, audio, display and design. Edge Sense is the selling point here but you can get the same thing on the cheaper Pixel 2.
Read our HTC U11+ review.
10. Razer Phone
The Razer Phone, if you’re a gamer, is the perfect smartphone. It may not compete with sleek, thin smartphones but it does have a stunning 120Hz display. It makes a huge difference to gaming on the phone, especially when combined with stereo front-facing Dolby ATMOS-certified speakers and an app that lets you tweak the performance of games on a per-app basis.
But while the display is perfect, we can’t really say the same about the camera setup. The rear-facing dual-camera setup isn’t bad, but the quality of images captured isn’t enough to compete with other current flagships as it’s easy to spot areas of aggressive noise cancellation, even in relatively well-lit photos.
But hey, if you’re a gamer on the market for a new smartphone that can provide the best Android gaming experience possible, the Razer Phone is the ideal candidate – and it’s much cheaper than other flagships too!
Read our Razer Phone review.