When Samsung introduced the first Galaxy Note, (let’s conveniently forget about the Dell Streak 5) it spawn a new class of device; the Phablet. What is a phablet? Phone + Tablet. Back then, it was phone that had screen that was bigger than 5” and to a lesser degree, a phone that doesn’t fit in your back pocket. However, in the 3 years since we started talking about phablets, regular smartphones have been creeping up in size to the point now that there are many devices with 5” or bigger screens which we don’t really think of as phablets. Take for example the Blu Studio 5.0C HD or the ZTE Grand X (review coming soon). Both have 5” displays, and are quite inexpensive at around $150. people don’t usually consider those to be phablets.
So these days, what makes a phone a phablet? Since many phones are now bigger than 5” and many don’t even try to fit in a back pocket, I’d say a Phablet is anything with a screen bigger than 5.5”. 0.5” doesn’t sound like a lot but it actually makes a big difference.
Now we have some mild phablets like the Galaxy Note II which has a 5.5” screen. Then we have big phablets like the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 4G which I’m checking out today with is rocking a 6.1” display.
At 6.1” and $399 from Wind or $299 unlocked from Huawei in the US, the Mate 2 doesn’t have a lot of competitors. Aside from the 6.1” LG G Flex which priced at a much higher price point, I can’t think of any other 6”+ phones available from carriers right now. Last year we also had the high-end 6.44” Sony Xperia Z Ultra and upper, midrange 6.3” Samsung Galaxy Mega. Since then, both phones have been discontinued and are no longer available.
This pretty much leaves the Mate 2 unopposed in the ‘bigger than 6 inch’ segment of the market. Really, the closest competitors that I can think of are the Acer Liquid S1 and the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The S1 only because it comes with a 5.7” screen which makes it one of the bigger phones on the market. The Note II has a 5.5” screen which is a lot smaller but at $300, it’s priced pretty aggressively.
You could argue that cheaper phones with better specs like the Nexus 5 are a better buy (and in many ways they are) but sometimes there’s no replacement for a bigger display.
What about the Acer Liquid S1:
The S1 is sold unlocked for around $379.99. To be honest, other than being unlocked, and having a removable battery, there’s no reason to pick one up over the Mate 2. The Mate 2 beats it in almost every other measure. The Mate 2 has a bigger screen, faster processor, more RAM, better build quality, more storage, LTE, bigger battery, better camera, and a more recent version of Android.
Samsung Galaxy Note II:
The Note II is now available for $300. While the Note II has been around for 2 years now and launched with Android 4.1, it’s now rocking Android 4.4.2. Whether it will receive any more updates is anyone’s guess. I’m thinking no, but I’d love for Samsung to prove me wrong. Anyways, 4.4 is one version newer than what the Mate 2 comes with.
Digging deeper, at 5.5”, the Note II’s screen is a lot smaller than the Mate 2’s though both have the same resolution. The Note II has physical menu buttons, that means you get all 5.5” to play with whereas on the Mate 2, the on-screen buttons reduce the usable screen real estate a little bit.
The Note II has a Super AMOLED screen which has very deep blacks but other than that, the Mate 2’s is better. It’s brighter and it runs circles around the Note II outdoors in direct sunlight.
The Mate 2’s Snapdragon 400 SoC has roughly the same general performance and faster graphics performance.
Both have 2GB of RAM which is more than most people need and 16GB of storage which is expandable with MicroSD cards.
While both support LTE, the Mate 2 supports more LTE bands which makes it more versatile.
The Note II has Samsung’s S-Pen stylus which as far as stylii goes, is the best you’ll find on a phone. The Mate 2 counters with a much bigger battery and slightly better cameras.
To be honest, if I had to choose between the 2, I’d pick the Mate 2. If you’re going to buy a phone that’s too big for one hand, you might as well go all out.
6.1” 1280x720 LTPS display
Gorilla Glass 3 covered display
1.6Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with Adreno 305 GPU
13 megapixel rear camera
5 megapixel front facing camera with 88 degree field of view
6.3 x 3.3 x 0.37”