Your buying guide for the best big phones in 2017
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 2017 and Best tablets 2017.
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 class smartphones with screens of 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 Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus to be phablets both of which have 5.5in screens. So we’ve applied some discretion in our ranking of the 10 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. Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017.
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As with the regular Galaxy S8, we’re really impressed by the Galaxy S8 Plus. Samsung has done a great job of making last year’s phones even better. However, with both offering the infinity edge screen and the unwieldy size of the S8 Plus, there’s little reason to spend the extra.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a stunning smartphone, both in terms of design and performance. The mirror-like look isn’t for everyone due to the appearance of smudges, but it helps provide an elegant, high-end look.
The 4K HDR display is one-of-a-kind, bright and vibrant, and shows off snaps taken by the impressive Motion Eye camera perfectly. The camera itself can handle almost anything you can throw at it, although performance does slip in low-lit conditions and the super slow-mo video mode takes some practice.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous high-end smartphone with a huge focus on display and cameras with above average battery life, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a solid option.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ Premium review.
It might sound expensive, but the £799 Xiaomi Mi Mix actually offers very good value when you consider its meaty core hardware and generous 256GB of storage – it’s certainly less than you’d pay for an iPhone 7 Plus. This isn’t a phone you buy with budget in mind, however: the Mi Mix is the phone you buy when you want onlookers to say “Oh my gosh, what is that? It’s amazing – I want one of those!” The Mi Mix is a revolutionary phone that we hope is a sign of things to come, with that gorgeous bezel-less display, beautiful ceramic body, fantastic performance, long, long battery life and all the other fancy tech we can’t even pronounce, let alone understand. No matter – it works. Highly recommended.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Mix review.
The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent phone. It’s Apple’s best yet, but it is also Apple’s most expensive yet, with a huge starting price. In some respects, the upgrades seem to justify this, but at the same time some features are arguably only catching up with what the competition has been offering for a while now – water-resistance for one.
Taken as a whole, the performance, battery life, camera quality and stereo speakers are all compelling reasons to upgrade. But our advice remains much the same as for the iPhone 7: if you already own the previous generation, there’s not enough here to justify ditching a 6S Plus, especially if you’re halfway through a two-year contract. Those just coming out of contract on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus would do well to grab a 7 Plus.
Read our Apple iPhone 7 Plus review.
Huawei’s Mate 9 is, in our opinion, the best in the Huawei line-up, boasting an impressively large battery alongside powerful internals, an improved dual-camera setup and a sleek, gorgeous design. The benchmark results were some of the best we’ve seen, bringing excellent value for money. EMUI 5 makes a huge difference to the overall experience too, and we can’t wait to see whether Huawei’s new technology will actually improve the performance of the smartphone over time.
Read our Huawei Mate 9 review.
The Mi Note 2 was wrongly overshadowed at its launch. This is a gorgeous big-screen Android phone with very decent performance, a great camera and plenty of storage. We’d like to see a Quad-HD screen on Xiaomi’s flagship phone, but this one should prove plenty sharp and clear. Google apps are not preinstalled, but there is a workaround if you are happy to do some tweaking.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review.
While the Pixel XL is an attractive phone (if you can get used to the glass section) with decent combination of hardware and software, we can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. It’s very similar to the much cheaper Nexus 6P and OnePlus 3. You can get plenty of other Android phones for less which have extra features like waterproofing and expandable storage. Sorry Google, but things have gone a bit wrong here.
Read our Google Pixel XL review.
Running Flyme OS 5 out of the box, the well-built Meizu Pro 6 Plus is a fantastic Android phone with some seriously good performance, a vibrant and high-resolution screen and a decent camera. Unfortunately, though cheaper than UK flagships, at £399 (before import duty) it’s still too pricey to properly compete with the Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3T. Neither are we in love with Flyme OS.
Read our Meizu Pro 6 Plus review.
It might not be as fast as the original Mi Max, but performance isn’t the main reason you’ll be buying the MI Max 2. Crossing the boundary between phone and tablet, the gigantic 6.44in screen will leave those of you who like your phones big all hot under the collar. With more storage, an improved camera and longer battery life, the Mi Max 2 is a no-brainer of an upgrade.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Max 2 review.