iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen Phones


They are two of the biggest phones ever — with prices to match. The 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max ($1,099) is ready to battle the 6.4-inch Galaxy Note 9 ($999), and they both boast serious power, highly advanced cameras and gorgeous and ginormous AMOLED screens. But these flagships are quite different in several ways, especially their storage options, processors and special features.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesiPhone Xs Max (left) and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (right)Which supersized phablet should you buy? Here’s an early look at how the iPhone Xs Max and Note 9 compare. Once we’ve reviewed Apple’s new phone, we’ll update this face-off and declare an overall winner.

iPhone Xs Max vs Galaxy Note 9: Specs Compared

  iPhone Xs MaxGalaxy Note 9
Starting Price$1099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)$999 (128GB), $1,249 (512GB)
ProcessorA12 BionicSnapdragon 845
Screen6.5-inch OLED (2688 x 1242 pixels)6.4 inches Super AMOLED (2960 x 1440 pixels)
Storage64GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 512GB
microSDNoneUp to 512GB
Biometric securityFace IDFace scan, Iris scan, fingerprint
Rear CameraDual 12-MP (f/1.8) and telephoto (f/2.4)Dual 12-MP (f/1.5) and (f/2.4)
Front Camera7 MP (f/2.2)8 MP (f/1.7)
Battery SizeNot available4,000 mAh
Water resistanceIP68IP68
ColorsGold, Silver, Space GrayLavender Purple, Ocean Blue
Size6.2 x 3.05 x 0.3 inches6.3 x 3 x 0.34 inches
Weight7.3 ounces7.1 ounces

Design

On the surface, the iPhone Xs Max is really just a bigger version of the iPhone X. It weighs in at a hefy 7.3 ounces, compared to 7.1 ounces for the Galaxy Note 9. Still, the iPhone Xs Max is slightly thinner at 0.3 inches versus 0.34 inches for the Note.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesiPhone Xs Max (left) and iPhone Xs (right) Both phones are IP68 rated, which means they can withstand being in 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. Note that only the Note 9 has a headphone jack.

What’s new on the iPhone Xs Max is a reformulated glass front and back that Apple says is the most durable ever on a smartphone. (We’ll have to put that to the test.) There’s also a new gold color option, which looks pretty elegant with its color-matched stainless steel edge.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesIf you’re not a fan of notches, the Galaxy Note 9 will satisfy with its Infinity Edge display. The overall look is similar to the Note 8, but the back is less curved than before and it has diamond-cut aluminum around the sides. Still, having a fingerprint sensor on the back on the Note 9 is a bit of an eyesore compared to the iPhone Xs Max’s cleaner aesthetic.

MORE: iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X: What’s Changed?

The Note 9 does have more eye-catching color options, with your choice of Lavender Purple and Ocean Blue, but it somehow looks and feels less premium than Apple’s flagship.

Display

It’s not much of a difference, but the iPhone Xs Max does sport a slightly bigger OLED display at 6.5 inches, compared to 6.4 inches for the Note 9. But the panel on Samsung’s phone has a higher resolution of 2960 x 1440 pixels, compared to 2688 x 1242 pixels for the iPhone Xs Max.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesAlthough we haven’t yet tested the iPhone Xs Max’s screen, it has a lot to live up to. The Note 9 delivered an awesome 224 percent of the sRGB color gamut in our lab tests. And the color accuracy was just as impressive, as it achieved a Delta-E score of 0.34. (0 is perfect.)

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesFrom what we’ve seen, though, the iPhone Xs’ panel is no slouch. The HDR panel supports both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, and it offers True Tone technology to automatically adjust the white balance to match the color temperature of the ambient light. Apple is also promising the best color accuracy in the industry so we’ll have to see.

Performance

This one is pretty easy to call even before we run the iPhone Xs Max through our battery of benchmarks and real-life speed tests. The A11 Bionic processor in the iPhone X was already the fastest chip in a phone, and the 7-nanometer A12 Bionic should widen Apple’s lead over Snapdragon 845.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesApple says that the two performance cores in the A12 are up to 15 percent faster than the A11, and Apple’s custom GPU should be up to 50 percent faster. So you should really notice a performance difference not only when you play  demanding games but also when you use intense AR apps.

Cameras

Apple has some ground to make up here with Samsung, as the Note 9 beat the iPhone X in our recent camera phone face-off. It particularly outshined the iPhone X in low light. However, the iPhone Xs Max promises several camera improvements over its predecessor.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesFor starters, the iPhone Xs Max’s camera benefits from a new sensor with deeper and larger pixels, which should result in up to 50 percent more light gathering capability. The auto focus promises to be twice as fast, and there’s Smart HDR for delivering better highlights in the shadows. The new Depth Control feature lets you adjust the blur effect on your shots after the fact, similar to the Live Focus feature on the Note 9.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesEven with all of these upgrades, the Note 9’s camera is still very formidable. Not only do you get a wider aperture at f/1.5 (versus f/1.8 for the iPhone Xs Max), but the Note 9 offers a dual aperture feature that automatically switches to f/2.4 to deliver better results in brighter conditions.

The Note 9 has some cool camera tricks as well, such as Scene Optimizer, which uses AI to automatically identify the scene (from food and pets to flowers) and apply the right settings. Flaw detection also leverages AI to let you know if someone blinked, for example.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesThe front cameras on both the iPhone Xs Max and Note 9 can snap portraits with bokeh effect, but the Note 9’s selfie shooter has a wider aperture of f/1.7, so you may get better results in low light. Then again, Apple’s phone offers several Portrait Lighting effects that can make your shots feel more dramatic.

MORE: Here’s How the Galaxy Note 9 Helps You Take Better Photos

On the video front, the biggest difference between these two phones is that the Note 9 can record super slow-mo video at up to 960 frames per second, compared to just 240 fps for the iPhone Xs Max. The iPhone promises better low-light and HDR performance in video over the iPhone X.

Special Features

The Note 9 has several compelling features, starting with its improved S Pen. You can use the stylus to take notes and draw, but you can also use it as a remote control for the phone, because it now has built-in Bluetooth connectivity. For example, you can snap a selfie with the push of a button on the pen, or you could change music tracks.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesWhile the iPhone Xs Max offers a dual-pane view within certain apps, like Mail and Calendar, only the Note 9 lets you run two separate apps side by side.

Another key Note 9 highlight is Samsung DeX, which allows you to use the Note 9 as a mini PC when you plug it into a larger monitor. All you need is a USB-C to HDMI adapter and a cable to get started. Plus, only the Note 9 has expandable storage via a microSD cards slot.

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesThe iPhone Xs Max offers a front True Depth camera that enables Face ID, so you can unlock your phone with ease. This is supposedly faster on the Xs Max than on the original the iPhone X. The Note 9 does face unlock, too, but it’s not as secure as Face ID  — you can’t use Samsung’s feature to verify mobile payments, for example — and Samsung’s iris scanning can be hit or miss. You can always use the fingerprint scanner on the Note 9’s back, though.

MORE: Best iPhone Xs and Xs Max Pre-Order Deals

Apple’s True Depth camera also makes Animoji happen and Memoji, mapping your expressions to several animated avatars or a personal one you create, respectively. The similar AR Emoji feature on the Note 9 doesn’t look very natural.

Handy for travelers or anyone who wants to use two separate phone numbers, the iPhone Xs Max now offers dual-SIM capability.

Battery Life and Charging

The Note 9 packs a whopping 4,000 mAh battery, which is one of the biggest you’ll find in a phone. The handset lasted an impressive 11 hours and 16 minutes on the Tom’s Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over LTE at 150 nits of screen brightness. (For context, the average smartphone dies after 9 hours, 48 minutes.)

- iPhone Xs Max vs. Galaxy Note 9: Battle of the Big-Screen PhonesThe previous iPhone X lasted 10:49 on the same test, and Apple says the iPhone Xs Max should last 1.5 hours longer on a charge. So it’s possible that the Xs Max will surpass the Note 9. We’ll have to test to find out, though.

On the other hand, only the Note 9 comes with a fast USB-C charger in the box. If you want that perk on the iPhone Xs Max, you’ll have to fork over even more dough for a 30-watt charger and USB-C to Lightning cable, which seems obscene for a $1,099 phone.

Price and Value

Let’s talk numbers. The Note 9 looks like a better value than the iPhone Xs Max for two reasons. 1. The starting price for Samsung’s phone is $100 less at $999 (versus $1,099 for Apple’s). 2. You also get double the storage in the Note 9 at that starting price (128GB vs 64GB).

That price delta grows between the Note 9 and iPhone Xs Max to $200 as you go up to 512GB. Plus, only the Note 8 gives you expandable storage.

Outlook

There’s too many unknowns right now to declare even an early winner between the iPhone Xs Max and Galaxy Note 9. At this stage, though, it looks like Apple’s phone will offer a more powerful processor and better graphics, as well as longer battery life. The multitude of camera enhancements on the iPhone Xs Max seem promising, but we’ll have to do a proper shoot-out with the Note 9 to declare a winner there.

The Note 9 looks like the phablet that will give you more bang for your buck, because it gives you twice the storage for $100 less, as well a microSD card slot. Its display is also amazing, and the improved S Pen should come in handy. The Scene Optimizer feature in the camera is pretty impressive, too.

Stay tuned for our final verdict to see which big-screen phone is the champ. In the meantime, tell us which phone you prefer in the comments.

Credit: Tom’s Guide


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