Apple slides a slab of 6.5 inches in an iPhone 8 Plus … Beyond this first, the new chip and a new photo sensor come with pretty promises … for a nice year in S?
Last year the iPhone X had lonely airs, false starts, whether they were due to a calculated strategy or a problem of supply of OLED tiles. A year later, Apple doubled its effort and two iPhone, XS and XS Max, which benefit from the design of the iPhone X, that could be summarized in four words: “OLED” and “edge to edge”. This is the XS Max who 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 the power, the gains of performances, the slab, the autonomy or its pretensions in photography …
Cogito ergo … nomie
Without comparison or benchmark, it is difficult to know if we are dealing with the XS or his giant brother … At least until take it in hand. At first glance, off, we find it just as bulky as its big brother the iPhone 8 Plus. In fact, it is slightly more compact, although a little thicker. Not that we realize without taking action, its extra 0.2 mm does not compromise the ergonomics of the design of this giant iPhone X at all. The rounded edges are always as pleasant to seize with the fingertips or with 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 slab and have to interact with this 6.5 inch touch surface, things get complicated. Even if nature has given you big hands, you will have to stretch your thumb to reach the top of the screen where access to notifications or control center is hidden. Your fingers still have about 16 cm to go from the bottom to the top of the screen, and vice versa. It’s a nice race.
Nevertheless, visually, the fact that the screen occupies the entire front gives the impression that the Max is smaller than the 8 Plus. In use, also, the gain in display surface and reading comfort, whether it is a film or a website, make us want to give a chance to this smartphone gigantic.
It may be a pity that Tim Cook’s engineers did not take advantage of this extra thumb diagonally to add a new row of icons, for example. Same impression, but more temporary no doubt, facing the many applications that do not yet take part of the edge on board and seem a little tight. On the other hand, we appreciate that apps like Mail, Contacts or Safari display an information column (or tabs) on the left when we switch to landscape mode. This really makes it easier to use.
Anyway, to enjoy this first in the world of Apple, it is possible to find solutions. Using both hands, obviously, it is often forced, but also enable advanced accessibility features. We can make sure that the top of the screen comes down when you slide your finger at 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 circle of light that you place where you want. To you the notification center at the end of your thumb, without risk of elongation.
A slab that is worth it
The giant iPhone XS is called Max because it’s too big to be only Plus. But its Super Retina OLED panel is not only vast, it is of exceptional quality. Compatible with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, the iPhone XS Max is certainly a sight, although it will be difficult to find the sensations offered by a TV … It is great but do not exaggerate anything … The screen is also extremely bright. Apple announces it at 625 cd / m2, we measured it at 655 cd / m2. Widely enough to use in full sun. In addition, thanks to P3 technology, the iPhone XS Max offers an extremely wide color gamut and also a very good color fidelity. Point on which he is beaten only by the Galaxy S9, among the recent smartphones.We can say without fear that we are facing, here, one of the best slabs of the moment. If not the best in terms of overall performance.
A12 Bionic, power and intelligence
Every year, the new iPhone is an opportunity for Apple to demonstrate its know-how in chip design. 2018 is no exception. The A12 stands out as one of the most powerful SoC on the market, if not the most powerful.
Equipped with six cores, two for high performance and four low consumption, it gives itself very high scores in our various benchmark tools. Thus, in AnTuTu 7, it snatches a score of 328497 ahead of a good head Android competition and displaying mainly a gain of 43.62% compared to the iPhone 8 Plus.
The graphic part, developed entirely by Apple for the second time, is given to be 50% more powerful than that of the A11 Bionic. A promise that we find in our benchs dedicated to the torture of the GPU. Unsurprisingly, the gains displayed with the tests soliciting the Metal API are higher than those obtained in OpenGL. Last June, Apple quietly announced the abandonment of OpenGL for the benefit of his techno. In addition, the teams in charge of the development of the graphics chip and Metal 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 various interfaces of iOS and games that are and should be more beautiful, fast and with complex effects of light and particles. The graphics of the home consoles are not far … not to say that they will be equal soon.
This new chip is also a chance for augmented reality. Apple is pushing these uses with more and more force to the point of offering the most beautiful 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 born, for DIY, education or shopping. The iPhone contribute heavily and it would be a shame not to rub it.
A muscular iPhone for the photo
Augmented reality benefits not only from the new CPU / GPU pair, but also from the new neural engine, which is eight times more efficient on paper and allows better detection of faces or objects. It also serves 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 percent to 1.4 microns and reviewed how the signal generated by the sensor is taken into account. Ultimately, this allows the iPhone XS Max to better manage low light, to increase responsiveness to activation and triggering and also to be faster to link photos taken in Portrait mode. We are still far from bursts, but the time between each shot is divided by two.
We will return in great detail on the photo part of the new iPhone XS and XS Max, but here is a first overview. In summary, the iPhone 2018 ranks among the very good cameras while marking the step in terms of sharpness and level of detail, compared to the competition. This generation still tends to use solid colors, like watercolors, to mask the noise. This hinders the reading of background details in bright light and harms some shots when the brightness drops and the ISO goes up.
Anyway, it offers clichés (and videos for that matter) to the exhibition quite remarkable, in the sense that everything is readable – maybe a little flat, even if fans of Instagram will appreciate. Thus, the skies will be beautifully defined and contrasted, while the benches at the foot of a tree will be perfectly visible and illuminated. The faces will be well highlighted and the colors rather honest.
The portrait is also progressing with still imperfect and sometimes random results. Imperfect because the clipping is still experiencing some failures and random because sometimes a portrait that should not pose any problems pose. Especially with stage lighting and mono scene. But as a rule, the neural engine does its job well and correctly detects facial shapes. It is more difficult on the hair and sometimes can distinguish a dark background between two people who draws the portrait.
Finally, we also appreciate the ability to change the depth of field of a posterior cliché, to remove an unsightly detail in a wave of blur. All this is made possible thanks to the algorithms and therefore to the power of the new chips introduced by Apple.
Autonomy and charging time …
A riot of power that legitimately worries for autonomy, domain in which the Cupertino society has never reigned supreme. The promise made during the keynote of September 12 was that the iPhone XS Max takes an hour and a half longer than the iPhone 8 Plus. There is indeed. In autonomy versatile, the iPhone 8 Plus was 9:07, while the iPhone XS Max reaches 11:11, two hours and four minutes more.
The promise is kept. For comparison, the iPhone X was 11:17. So it is a little less, but this autonomy should allow to hold a day without abuse and the result is honorable. Note that the enemy brother of the iPhone, the Galaxy S9 had dropped from the S8 by not reaching 11h18 … The S9 + (and its slab of 6.2 inches, so closer to the XS Max) reached him 12:34, 26 minutes behind the S8 +. Two “underperformances” deemed disappointing in our tests that are still better than what Apple offers.