Last year the iPhone X looked lonely, false starts, whether it was due to a calculated strategy or a problem with the supply of OLED panels. A year later, Apple doubled its effort and these are two iPhones, XS and XS Max, which benefit from the design of the iPhone X, which could be summed up in four words: “OLED” and “edge to edge”. The XS Max is the star of the day. A gigantic phablet smartphone which one can legitimately wonder if it is not too big, before even wondering about the promises of Apple. Those concerning power, performance gains, slab, autonomy or even its claims in photography …
Cogito ergo… nomine
Without comparison or benchmark, it is difficult to know if we are dealing with XS or its giant brother … At least to take it in hand. At first glance, when turned off, we find it just as bulky as its big brother, the iPhone 8 Plus. In fact, it is very slightly more compact, although a little thicker. Not that you realize it without taking measures, its additional 0.2 mm does not compromise at all the ergonomics of the design of this giant iPhone X. The rounded edges are always as pleasant to grasp with your fingertips or in the full hand. Just find it a little heavy in hand, especially with a hull. At 208 g, he is clearly the heavyweight of the family.
When you turn on the screen and must interact with this 6.5 inch touch surface, things get complicated. Even if nature has given you big hands, you will need to stretch your thumb to reach the top of the screen where access to notifications or the command center is hidden. Your fingers still have almost 16 cm to travel to go from the bottom to the top of the screen, and vice versa. It’s been a great race.
However, visually, the fact that the screen occupies the entire front gives the impression that the Max is smaller than the 8 Plus. In use, too, the gain in display area and the reading comfort, whether it is a film or a website, make one want to give this smartphone a chance gigantic.
It’s maybe too bad that Tim Cook’s engineers didn’t take that extra inch diagonally to add a new row of icons, for example. Same impression, but probably more temporary, faced with the many applications that do not yet take advantage of the edge to edge and seem a bit narrow. On the other hand, we appreciate that apps like Mail, Contacts or even Safari display a column of information (or tabs) on the left when you switch to landscape mode. It really makes it easier to use.
Anyway, to take advantage of this first in the universe of Apple, it is possible to find solutions. Using both hands, of course, you are very often forced to, but also activating advanced accessibility functions. This can cause the top of the screen to come down when you slide your finger on the bottom of the iPhone. In a more practical and rich way, you can also activate the AssistiveTouch, which allows you to define up to eight shortcuts accessible at any time from a light circle that you place wherever you want. The notification center is at your fingertips, without the risk of elongation.
A slab that is worth it
The giant iPhone XS is called Max because it is too big to be just Plus. But its Super Retina OLED panel is not only vast, it is of exceptional quality. Compatible with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision technologies, the iPhone XS Max will certainly impress, even if it will be difficult to find the sensations offered by a television … It is large but let’s not exaggerate … The screen is also extremely bright. Apple announces it at 625 cd / m2, we measured it at 655 cd / m2. Plenty of use for it in direct sunlight. In addition, thanks to P3 technology, the iPhone XS Max offers an extremely wide color gamut and also very good color fidelity. Point on which it is beaten only by the Galaxy S9, among recent smartphones.
We can therefore say without fear that we are facing, here, one of the best tiles of the moment. If not the best in terms of overall performance.
A12 Bionic, power and intelligence
Each year, the new iPhone is an opportunity for Apple to demonstrate its expertise in chip design. 2018 is no exception. The A12 is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, SoCs on the market.
Equipped with six cores, two for high performance and four low consumption, it gives itself very high scores in our different benchmark tools. Thus, in AnTuTu 7, it snatched a score of 328,497 ahead of the good competition from Android and above all posting a gain of 43.62% compared to the iPhone 8 Plus.
The graphics, developed entirely by Apple for the second time, is said to be 50% more powerful than that of the A11 Bionic. A promise that we find in our GPU torture benchmarks. Unsurprisingly, the gains displayed with reviews using the Metal API are greater than those obtained in OpenGL. Last June, Apple quietly announced the abandonment of OpenGL in favor of its technology. In addition, the teams responsible for the development of the graphics chip and Metal have worked closely for two years, we were told during our brief visit to Apple Park.
In fact, this power translates into perfect fluidity in the different interfaces of iOS and games that are and should be more beautiful, faster and have complex effects of light and particles. The graphics of the home consoles are not far away … not to say that they will be matched shortly.
This new chip is also a chance for augmented reality. Apple is pushing these uses with increasing force to the point of offering the finest assortment of applications on the market. They are not all vital and even unequal, nevertheless, it is undeniable that something emerges. Uses are emerging and emerging, for DIY, education or shopping. IPhones are a big contributor and it would be a shame not to rub it.
A muscular iPhone for photos
Augmented reality benefits not only from the new CPU / GPU pair but also from the new neural engine, eight times more efficient on paper and which makes it possible to better detect faces or objects. It is obviously also used for the photo part and works hand in hand with the ISP, the processor dedicated to the management of information generated by the new sensor.
Apple said it had enlarged the photosites by 32% to 1.4 microns and reviewed the way the signal generated by the sensor is taken into account. Ultimately, this allows the iPhone XS Max to better manage the dim lights, to gain reactivity on activation and triggering and also to be quicker to chain the photos taken in Portrait mode. We are still far from the gusts, but the time between each shot is well halved.
We will return in great detail to the photo part of the new iPhone XS and XS Max, but here is a first general overview. To summarize, the iPhone 2018 ranks among the very good cameras while marking time in terms of sharpness and level of detail, compared to the competition. This generation still tends to use solids, like watercolors, to mask noise. This affects reading background details in bright light and hurts some shots when the light goes down and the ISO goes up.
Anyway, it offers pretty remarkable exposure shots (and videos from elsewhere), in the sense that everything is readable – maybe a little flat, although Instagram enthusiasts will appreciate it. Thus, the skies will be nicely defined and contrasted, while the benches at the foot of a tree will be perfectly visible and lit. The faces will be well highlighted and the colors rather honest.
The portrait is also progressing with results that are still imperfect and sometimes random. Imperfect because the clipping still knows some failures and random because it happens that a portrait which should not pose problems in pose. Especially with stage and mono stage lighting. But in general, the neural engine does its job well and correctly detects facial shapes. It is more painful on the hair and sometimes struggles to distinguish a dark background located between two people whose portrait is taken.
Finally, we also appreciate the possibility of modifying the depth of field of an image a posteriori, to remove an unattractive detail in a wave of blur.
All this is made possible thanks to algorithms and therefore to the power of the new chips introduced by Apple.
Autonomy and charging time…
A riot of power that legitimately worries about autonomy, an area in which the Cupertino society has never reigned supreme. The promise made during the September 12 keynote was that the iPhone XS Max will last an hour and a half longer than the iPhone 8 Plus. We are indeed there.
In versatile autonomy, the iPhone 8 Plus lasted 9:07, while the iPhone XS Max reached 11:11, two hours and four minutes more. The promise is kept. For comparison, the iPhone X lasted 11:17. It’s a little less, but this autonomy should make it possible to hold a day without abuse and the result is honorable.
Note that the enemy brother of the iPhone, the Galaxy S9 had fallen compared to the S8 by reaching only 11:18 … The S9 + (and its 6.2 inch panel, therefore closer to the XS Max) reached him 12:34, 26 minutes behind the S8 +. Two “poor performances” judged disappointing during our reviews which are nevertheless better than what Apple offers.