The term “phablet” – part phone, part tablet – was coined to describe devices larger than what we traditionally accept as a reasonable size for phones, while not quite being full-blown tablets; and while the term is almost unanimously despised, the sad truth is that no one’s come up with anything better. Phablet… Sigh.
The last few months have seen no less than four big-name phablets announced, namely the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One Max, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Nokia Lumia 1520, so I figured I’d take a walk down Phablet Boulevard and see what’s what.
There’s no precise criterion for phablets in terms of display size, and indeed, with flagships getting bigger and bigger (the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 5in display, par exemple), the vaguely defined goalposts are always changing anyways.
But there’s no denying that these four bad boys are indeed phablets, with the smallest – the smallest – having a display size of 5.7in. Let’s dive in.
While there had been larger phones before it, the original Samsung Galaxy Note, announced in 2011, is widely credited with paving the way for phones with giant displays, and ultimately creating the burgeoning phablet genre as we know it.
At 5.3in, that first generation Samsung Galaxy Note was initially dismissed by many as too big, but went on to sell many million of units, as did its 5.5in successor – the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
As for the 5.7in Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the South Koreans claimed just this week that it’s notched up 5 million sales in its first month of release.
Standout features of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 include the stitched faux leather rear and attention to multitasking on the software side of things, and while it’s the smallest device on this particular countdown, it actually has the highest PPI (all four are 1080p). It’s also one of a tiny handful of devices to rock 3GB of RAM, the rest here weighing in with 2GB.
In terms of hardware, it’s been a heck of a turnaround for Sony since chopping off its Ericsson arm. The manufacturer once languished behind the pack when it came to advances like multi-core processors, but the Sony Xperia Z was in fact one of the first phones to rock a 1080p display, while the Sony Xperia Z1 is largely accepted as the best Android camera phone.
While we’re praising Sony, how about the Xperia Z1 mini, which crams much of the goodness of the Xperia Z1 into a smaller body? Delicious.
The fourth member of the family, the one we’re interested in here, is the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. It’s notable for having the largest display (6.4in), and while technically that means the lowest PPI, we’re still talking about an eye-melting rating of 344, and not forgetting Sony’s Triluminos display technology.
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is also notable for being water- and dust-resistant, and it’s all crammed into a thickness of just 6.5mm.
Taiwanese manufacturer HTC was once the darling of the Android world circa 2010’s HTC Desire, but more recently it’s struggled, largely thanks to the relentless domination of South Korea’s Samsung.
With its aluminium body, the current HTC One flagship was widely hailed as one of the sexiest smartphones in the world, rightfully picking up various design awards, but even that couldn’t stop HTC recently posting its first quarterly loss.
To be perfectly honest, the 5.9in HTC One Max is unlikely to change any of that, and indeed it’s hard to find much to praise beyond the design (it’s pretty much identical to the award-winning HTC One) and the 3,300mAh battery.
While the rest of the phablets on our list rock the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, the HTC One Max disappointingly opts for the less powerful Snapdragon 600.
Er, attempting to finish on a high, the HTC One Max’s rear UltraPixel camera is ideal for low-light conditions, and it has a peer-punching 2.1MP front camera.
It’s an incredibly strange time for Nokia. Once the world’s top mobile manufacturer, it’s now being bought by Microsoft, largely thanks to the performance of former and soon-to-be-again M$ employee Stephen Elop. Hmm.
Meanwhile, it’s wowing the Windows scene with camera craziness (see the 41MP Nokia Lumia 1020), a tablet (the Nokia Lumia 2520) and the first phablet from the Finns, the 6in Nokia Lumia 1520.
The headline feature on the Nokia Lumia 1520 is easily its 20MP rear PureView camera, with lossless zoom and top-notch low-light performance.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is incredibly light at 168g, while on the software side of things you can look forward to preloaded Microsoft Office and an improved Xbox gaming experience.
And of course, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is the ideal choice if you’re looking for a colourful phablet, be it yellow, red, white or black.