A trend in smartphones has been clearly recognizable for some years now: the displays are getting bigger and bigger. However, that is not entirely due to the sheer size of the new cell phones. Thanks to modern technology, display edges are disappearing more and more. If the edges are smaller, the screen offers more space compared to the smartphone. The magic word here is screen-to-body ratio. The larger this is, the more screen the phone offers in relation to its size.
Until a few years ago, only a few smartphones achieved a screen-to-body ratio of more than 75 percent. For example, the iPhone SE, which is based on the iPhone 8 (test report), only achieved a screen-to-case ratio of 65 percent. After all, Apple has also learned something new: The iPhone 12 Pro (test report) now achieves a screen-to-body ratio of around 86 percent.
One way to provide more screen space is to use smartphones with displays that are curved on the sides. One of the pioneers of these devices was the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. However, the device has a wide border above and below the display, so it only offers a screen-to-body ratio of 70 percent. Many other manufacturers have since partially imitated the curved displays on their smartphones, for example the Huawei P40 Pro (test report) or the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (test report).
Modern smartphones now have a continuous display from top to bottom – physical buttons on the front have now disappeared on almost all cell phones except for a few outdoor smartphones. Even Apple has done without the familiar button on the bottom since the iPhone X. In order to create more space for the screen, the front cameras are now enclosed in a notch in the display and the first smartphones with a front camera filming through the display will soon come onto the market.
The biggest advantage of a high screen-to-body ratio: the smartphone doesn’t have to grow a lot to offer more display surface. The Huawei P40 Pro (test report) offers a 2 percent larger screen diagonal than the predecessor Huawei P30 Pro – with the same device dimensions. In this leaderboard, we only consider smartphones that have a screen-to-body ratio of 90 percent or more and display diagonals of at least 6.5 inches.
There is simply no getting around this smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (test report) already occupies first place in our list of the best smartphones in 2021 – and it is also our personal favorite among the phones with a particularly large screen area. The screen-to-body ratio is 90 percent. Although it cannot be found in the top 5 fastest smartphones, the CPU still offers a really strong performance. The camera and the extremely bright WQHD display with a diagonal of 6.8 inches at 515 PPI (pixels per inch) are already among the best that are currently available. It is now even available for less than 1000 euros.
That was close: Second place went very thinly to the new premium model from Xiaomi. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (review) is still one of the best devices currently on the market. It’s super fast, takes really great photos and offers a great OLED display of 6.8 inches with a pixel density of over 515 PPI and 120 Hertz playback. The screen-to-body ratio reaches a terrific 91 percent. It even charges faster than the Primus from Korea – one of the few points of criticism is the no longer comprehensible USB 2.0 standard of the connection and the somewhat awkward camera bulge. However, the price is also ultra at over 1250 euros.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report) set new standards for camera, performance and display as early as 2020. That is why it does not need to hide from its successor. The screen-to-body ratio is 90 percent. The gigantic 6.9-inch display delivers a razor-sharp image with 515 PPI. But it is even bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 20. With a street price of 770 euros, it is now more affordable than its successor.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 (test report) largely corresponds to the top model Mi 11 Ultra with a screen-to-body ratio of 91 percent. Size, display and CPU are identical. The Mi 11 compromises in terms of the poorer camera, the weaker battery and the working memory. 8 GByte instead of 12 GByte RAM are used here. But the device is cheaper with a price of less than 800 euros.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (test report) has the largest screen area with a screen-to-body ratio of 92 percent. With a diagonal of 6.9 inches you can almost speak of a tablet as a smartphone. Thanks to the large screen area in relation to the size of the mobile phone, the Note 20 Ultra is still not a monster. The dimensions are 165 × 77 millimeters and it weighs not much more than 200 grams. The great display offers a resolution of 3088 × 1440 pixels with a crisp pixel density of almost 500 PPI. A stylus is included. With 256 GB it also offers a lot of storage space. At well over 1200 euros, the device is still quite expensive.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 + is slightly smaller than the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but significantly larger than the “normal” S20. We explain the differences between the individual S20 devices in the Samsung Galaxy S20, Plus and Ultra guide: Which model to buy? The 6.7-inch display still has a remarkable screen-to-body ratio of 91 percent. With the same resolution as the Ultra model, the somewhat smaller display ensures an even higher pixel density of 525 PPI. The processor remains the same, but the Karma and the battery have been slimmed down compared to the ultra model. But the Galaxy S20 + costs “only” 660 euros.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 5G offers several displays (test report). On the outside, an elongated 6.2-inch screen in 25: 9 format is used when it is folded up. If you unfold the smartphone, a gigantic and almost square display of 7.6 inches appears. In this way, the smartphone is transformed into a compact tablet. However, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is extremely thick when folded and quite expensive with a street price of 1200 euros. The pixel density of almost 400 PPI is not quite as high as with the other Samsung devices due to a lower resolution.
The OnePlus 9 Pro (test report) offers a great technical overall package as well as a screen-to-body ratio of a good 90 percent. The razor-sharp 6.7 display has a resolution of 3216 x 1440 pixels, which leads to a very high pixel density of 523 PPI. The Snapdragon 888 processor, which also does its job on the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra, ensures great speed. Another highlight is the camera, which was created in cooperation with Hasselblad and offers almost the same good image quality from the main and wide-angle lens. The OnePlus 9 Pro is currently just under 820 euros. A cheaper alternative is the equally strong predecessor OnePlus 8 Pro (test report) for 760 euros. This even comes to a screen-to-body ratio of 91 percent.
With a screen-to-body ratio of 94 percent, hardly any smartphone offers more display in relation to the surface than the Huawei Mate 40 Pro (test report). The penultimate place in this overview is more related to the fact that Huawei is no longer allowed to use Google services due to a ban by the US government. That is really a shame, because the hardware is absolutely top class. Not only is it the second fastest smartphone we have ever tested, but it also offers a great camera and a razor-sharp and clear OLED display with over 450 PPI.
Thanks to the rounded display, the Huawei P40 Pro (review) also offers an excellent screen-to-body ratio of 92 percent. The smartphone with a 6.7-inch display offers a great camera and a stylish design. However, the great hardware cannot compensate for the fact that no Google services are available on Huawei devices.
The top models of smartphones from Xiaomi, OnePlus and Samsung all offer an astonishingly high screen area of at least 90 percent in relation to the size of the device. Due to the overall package and price-performance ratio, Samsung has the edge with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But Xiaomi has meanwhile blossomed into a major rival. The Xiaomi Mi11 Ultra is inferior to the Korean in just a few points. Huawei offers a particularly high screen-to-body ratio for the P40 Pro and Mate 40 Pro – but due to the lack of Google services, these devices suffer from restrictions in terms of the app offer.