Bigger is better. That’s a nutshell description of the recent mobile market trend favoring size over palpable “innovation”, which some tried to enforce as a rule for future “evolution”. But it didn’t really catch on as an ultimate dictum.
Instead, many nuanced it, envisioning a world of not just super-sized gadgets, but giants with a gentler, more sensible side. I’m talking of course about cost friendliness, and while the above mentioned motto isn’t a foolproof recipe for success yet, the following equation is truly infallible: bigger + cheaper = better.
Oh, yes, cutting-edge phablets continue to command extravagant prices of $500, $600, even $700 upon launch. And some keep the bar of expectations high-reaching long after they’ve made their society debut. But others target stingy sensible folks right off the bat, or lower the ask in no time to handle increasing competition.
Without further ado, here are the 10 best jumbo-sized Android smartphones you can buy nowadays for less than $400:
- 10. LG G Pro Lite – $201
- 9. Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 – $325
- 8. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo – $410
- 7. Lenovo K900 – $292
- 6. Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 – $0.00 with AT&T contracts, $0.01 on Sprint, $400 factory unlocked
- 5. Sony Xperia T2 Ultra – $340
- 4. HTC Desire 816 – $385
- 3. Huawei Ascend Mate 2 – $300
- 2. LG Optimus G Pro – $0.01 with AT&T contracts, $330 unlocked
- 1. Sony Xperia Z Ultra – $335
Okay, so the G Pro Lite is quite clearly not the world’s punchiest phablet. But it’s by far the cheapest that made our top ten, and that’s got to count for something. Available from various (trusted) third-party Amazon sellers for between $201 and $215, Optimus G Pro’s less gifted cousin packs a humble dual-core 1 GHz Mediatek chip and 1 GB RAM.
The 5.5-inch IPS LCD screen is outright cringe worthy, at 960 x 540 pixels, but the 8 MP rear cam with LED flash and 3,140 mAh battery are not bad. Not bad at all, and the amazing thing about the G Pro Lite is it runs Android 4.4 KitKat starting a month or so back.
Not another underwhelming dual-core behemoth with a qHD (no, not QHD) panel. And it’s fairly pricey too. Also, it still runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. And the extra screen real estate (5.8 inches) is a double-edged sword, offering, well, extra real estate, but lower ppi caused by the meager 960 x 540 pixel count.
So wait, why is the Mega 5.8 better than the G Pro Lite again? Basically, because it’s handsomer and much zippier, thanks to a 1.4 GHz Broadcom chip and 1.5 GB RAM. It’s also easier to procure, with US retailers, as always, more open to selling Sammy-made gear.
I know, I know, I promised I’d settle for sub-$400 options, but really, what’s 10 bucks more? Let me rephrase: what’s 10 bucks more when you can get an almost exact replica of the GNote 3 design-wise, with S Pen support, 5.5 inches of HD Super AMOLED glory, a unique hexa-core Exynos CPU, 2 GB RAM and massive 3,100 mAh battery?
Such a pity the rear snapper sports a middling 8 megapixel sensor and Android 4.3 runs the software show. And for the record, most stateside retailers charge north of $450, in which case the bang for buck factor ain’t that outstanding anymore.
I hate downgrading amazing gear on account of its manufacturer’s inability to properly advertise it, but that’s just how it goes. Strictly looking at K900’s numbers, and its price on Amazon, you’d think you’re dealing with our all-around inexpensive champion.
However, the K900 is so hard to come by, it’s almost not worth the effort. Almost. Because, at the end of the day, those 5.5 inches of Full HD beauty, the dual-core 2 GHz Intel Atom processor, the 13 MP dual-LED flash camera, 2 GB RAM and metallic exterior warrant all the sacrifices (and risks) in the world.
6. Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 – $0.00 with AT&T contracts, $0.01 on Sprint, $400 factory unlocked
This is exactly what I was talking about. Were it not for Samsung’s omnipotent distribution muscle, the Mega 6.3 would easily get lost in the crowd. But when you can find the 6.3 incher on both AT&T and Sprint, you clearly take notice.
Don’t get me wrong, the bigger Mega is no pushover. Its gargantuan screen boasts HD resolution, there’s a vigorous 1.7 GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 chip inside the hood, plus 1.5 GB RAM and a spacious 3,200 mAh battery. Oh, yeah, and KitKat is around.
As we enter the first half of our affordable heavyweight chart, expect the number of flaws to decrease exponentially and the upsides to multiply. Case in point, the T2 Ultra. Any weaknesses? Sure, but only a couple: 1 GB RAM and a humdrum quad-core 1.4 GHz S400 SoC.
Strong suits? Where to even start? Well, the Triluminos 6-inch display is pretty great, although it’s not Full HD. Then you have on-board KitKat, a skinny 7.7 mm profile, bitching 13 MP main camera and hefty 3,000 mAh battery. Now that’s the stuff!
Told you we’re going to run out of things to bitch about. I mean, sure, the Desire 816 ain’t flawless, what with its fairly steep price point, quad-core 1.6 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and skinny 2,600 mAh cell. But boy, is the 5.5 incher a looker!
Fast too, courtesy of 1.5 GB RAM and pre-loaded Android 4.4. And photo buffs start drooling in 3, 2, 1… as HTC’s inexpensive giant touts 13 and 5 megapixel (!!!) rear and front cams respectively. Did someone ask for super-crisp selfies? You got it.
I know the name Huawei doesn’t inspire a lot of trust on the Western hemisphere, but sooner or later, it will. If they keep up the outstanding work, that is, as the Ascend Mate 2 is a whopper, with a 6.1-inch 720p IPS+ screen, 13/5 MP dual cameras and, get this, a 4,050 mAh ticker.
No wonder the bad boy weighs 202 grams, which is one of the main reasons it had to settle for bronze medal. Well, that, and Jelly Bean.
It’s amazing how the one-year-old G Pro stood the test of time, costing now less than half of what it did back in the day while rocking aging but bitching specs: 5.5-inch 1,080p IPS Plus panel, quad-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 chip, 13 MP rear camera, 2 GB RAM, 3,140 mAh juicer.
LG’s timely update to KitKat sure helped the contender age gracefully, albeit for the time being, US owners need to make do with Jelly Bean.
Look, I realize a 6.4-inch “tabphone” tipping the scales at 212 grams may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’ll just give the Z Ultra a chance, you’ll never look back to sub-6 inch handhelds. Measuring an astonishing 6.5 mm thin, the titan rejects all contacts with water and dust, boasts Full HD screen resolution, a top-of-the-line quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 SoC and 2 GB RAM.
Oh, oh, oh, and it challenges the productivity of Galaxy Notes too, interacting smoothly with whatever stylus, pen or pencil. And did I mention the battery’s capacity is a whopping 3,050 mAh, despite the Z Ultra being the supermodel of phablets? Yeah, no, you can’t do better than that at $335.