Apple iPhone XS Max review

GSMArena team, 1 Oct 2018.

Display

The Apple iPhone XS Max packs the largest screen ever available on an iPhone - a Samsung-made 6.5" OLED screen with a cutout on top and a Gorilla Glass 6 piece for protection.

It has the same flagship-grade 458ppi pixel density as seen on the iPhone X and XS, while the screen resolution has increased up to 1242 x 2688 pixels. The screen supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and offers 120-Hz touch input.

Apple iPhone XS Max review

The proprietary True Tone adjustments are available - an automatic white balance correction enabled by a six-channel ambient light sensor. The True Tone algorithm will correct the white balance according to the ambient light making the whites and grays rendition more accurate. That's completely separate from the blue-light filter called Night Shift.

Apple promises a maximum brightness of 625 nits, and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. We measured 653 nits of brightness with the slider at the farthest right and True Tone turned off, and about 645 nits with True Tone enabled. This is even higher than promised, on par with the XS display, and among the brightest OLED screens you can get today.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Apple iPhone XS 0 660
Apple iPhone XS Max 0 653
Apple iPhone X 0 679
Samsung Galaxy Note9 0 367
Samsung Galaxy Note9 (Max Auto) 0 658
Samsung Galaxy S9+ 0 376
Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Max Auto) 0 631
Google Pixel 2 XL 0 420
LG G7 ThinQ 0.225 460 2044
LG G7 ThinQ (outdoor) 0.499 920 1844
Oppo Find X 0 426
HTC U12+ 0.2 366 1830
HTC U12+ (Max Auto) 0.214 389 1818
Huawei P20 Pro 0 412
Huawei P20 Pro (Max Auto) 0 582
Sony Xperia XZ3 0 442
Sony Xperia XZ3 (Max Auto) 0 620

Quite expectedly, the iPhone XS Max display scored an excellent mark in our sunlight legibility test. It's not the chart-topping score of the XS, but the difference is indistinguishable with a bare eye. Still, it's among the best AMOLED screens out there and on par with the Infinity displays on the latest Galaxies.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Apple iPhone XS
    5.171
  • Apple iPhone X
    5.013
  • OnePlus 5T
    4.789
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    4.768
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    4.658
  • Samsung Galaxy S9
    4.63
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    4.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Note9
    4.531
  • Apple iPhone XS Max
    4.516
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    4.502
  • Motorola Moto Z2 Play
    4.459
  • Oppo R11
    4.454
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
    4.439
  • OnePlus 3
    4.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    4.376
  • OnePlus 6
    4.321
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Oppo R15 Pro
    4.251
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7
    4.247
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Nokia 8
    4.239
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (pre-update)
    4.234
  • OnePlus 3T
    4.232
  • Google Pixel XL
    4.164
  • ZTE Axon 7
    4.154
  • Samsung Galaxy Note8
    4.148
  • Meizu Pro 7 Plus
    4.147
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)
    4.124
  • vivo V11
    4.113
  • Huawei Mate 10 Pro (normal)
    4.096
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    4.087
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    4.086
  • Meizu 15
    4.082
  • Nokia 6 (2018)
    4.052
  • Google Pixel 2 (pre-update)
    4.023
  • LG V30
    4.022
  • Huawei Nexus 6P
    4.019
  • vivo NEX S
    4.012
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro
    3.998
  • Vivo Xplay5 Elite
    3.983
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • LG G7 ThinQ (outdoor)
    3.978
  • Oppo R7s
    3.964
  • Apple iPhone 7
    3.964
  • Apple iPhone 8 (True Tone)
    3.957
  • Huawei P9 Plus
    3.956
  • Oppo Find X
    3.954
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    3.935
  • Lenovo Moto Z
    3.931
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • OnePlus 5
    3.914
  • Samsung Galaxy C5
    3.911
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    3.901
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.896
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 outdoor
    3.873
  • Motorola Moto G6 Plus
    3.865
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)
    3.842
  • Microsoft Lumia 950XL
    3.837
  • Samsung Galaxy A6+ (2018)
    3.834
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    3.818
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    3.812
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    3.804
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.802
  • Xiaomi Redmi Pro
    3.798
  • LG V20 Max auto
    3.798
  • Sony Xperia XZ
    3.795
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3.789
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Microsoft Lumia 650
    3.772
  • Xiaomi Mi 6
    3.767
  • Sony Xperia XZ1
    3.765
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Nokia 8 Sirocco
    3.745
  • Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
    3.729
  • Apple iPhone 8 Plus (True Tone)
    3.725
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
    3.688
  • Huawei P20
    3.683
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Huawei Mate 9
    3.68
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
    3.675
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
    3.597
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • Sony Xperia XZ2
    3.58
  • LG G6
    3.556
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Motorola Moto Z Play
    3.526
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    3.523
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.523
  • Acer Jade Primo
    3.521
  • Microsoft Lumia 950
    3.512
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • Nokia 7 plus
    3.479
  • nubia Z11
    3.466
  • Huawei P10 Plus
    3.456
  • HTC U Ultra
    3.453
  • Motorola Moto G6
    3.448
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    3.445
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
    3.445
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Motorola Moto G6 Play
    3.419
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Samsung Galaxy A6 (2018)
    3.397
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera
    3.393
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    3.39
  • Huawei P10
    3.379
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
    3.378
  • Oppo R9s
    3.352
  • Honor Play
    3.349
  • Honor 8 Pro
    3.341
  • Oppo F7
    3.333
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Lenovo P2
    3.316
  • Archos Diamond Omega
    3.305
  • Honor 9
    3.289
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s
    3.276
  • Nokia 5
    3.261
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    3.244
  • Xiaomi Mi 5
    3.24
  • Nokia 6 (Global version)
    3.238
  • Oppo Realme 2 Pro
    3.235
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 2
    3.228
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    3.218
  • BlackBerry KEY2
    3.212
  • Huawei Mate 9 Pro
    3.206
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
    3.19
  • ZTE Nubia Z17
    3.159
  • Oppo R11s
    3.153
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • HTC U11 Life
    3.108
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • HTC U11
    3.089
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite
    3.087
  • HTC U12+
    3.085
  • Xiaomi Redmi S2 (Y2)
    3.077
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Oppo F9
    3.069
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Xiaomi Mi Max 3
    3.061
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    3.059
  • Huawei Mate 20 Lite
    3.051
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Asus Zenfone 4 ZE554KL
    3.019
  • Motorola Moto X4
    3.012
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3.012
  • Oppo Realme 2
    3.006
  • Sony Xperia L1
    2.994
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • LG Q6
    2.987
  • Huawei P10 Lite
    2.974
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei P20 Lite
    2.952
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5
    2.951
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Sony Xperia XA2
    2.938
  • Oppo Realme 1
    2.932
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4
    2.92
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    2.913
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • Huawei Honor View 10
    2.896
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime
    2.893
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    2.884
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium (sRGB)
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Nokia 3
    2.871
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium
    2.867
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Nokia 3.1
    2.837
  • Lenovo Moto M
    2.813
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • Honor 10 (Vivid)
    2.757
  • Nokia 2
    2.752
  • Meizu MX6
    2.751
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Huawei Mate 10 (normal)
    2.742
  • Motorola Moto G5S Plus
    2.737
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Huawei Honor 7X
    2.734
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    2.714
  • Meizu M5
    2.71
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    2.696
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    2.689
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    2.679
  • vivo V7+
    2.671
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix
    2.658
  • Huawei Mate 10 Lite
    2.654
  • Oppo F5
    2.653
  • Doogee Mix
    2.642
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    2.635
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Xiaomi Mi 5X (Standard)
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus
    2.582
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus (max auto)
    2.582
  • Meizu M5s
    2.58
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Huawei P Smart
    2.563
  • Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
    2.563
  • Xiaomi Mi Max 2
    2.561
  • HTC U11+
    2.556
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A (Y1)
    2.556
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Lenovo K6 Note
    2.544
  • Oppo F1
    2.528
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c
    2.506
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • BlackBerry Motion
    2.494
  • Oppo F1s
    2.481
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
    2.473
  • Huawei G8
    2.471
  • Huawei nova
    2.467
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Lenovo Vibe K5
    2.459
  • Meizu m3 max
    2.447
  • Xiaomi Mi 5X (Auto)
    2.417
  • HTC 10 evo
    2.407
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • Vivo V7
    2.404
  • Sony Xperia E5
    2.386
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • HTC 10
    2.378
  • Oppo F3
    2.376
  • vivo V5 Plus
    2.371
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • Razer Phone
    2.328
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • Sony Xperia L2
    2.266
  • Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
    2.254
  • HTC U11+ (EU)
    2.253
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Meizu M5 Note
    2.189
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • vivo V5
    2.059
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    1.996

The display on the iPhone XS Max has an excellent color accuracy - we measured an average DeltaE of 1.9 and a maximum deviation of 3.8. Few phones are as good or better than this, and most of them are in Samsung's ballpark. But the amazing thing is that the display gets to keep such a level of accuracy even while you are lowering the brightness all the way down to 1.9 nits.

Battery life

The iPhone XS Max is powered by the largest battery Apple has put in a smartphone to date - a Li-Ion cell of 3,174 mAh capacity. The iPhone XS Max ships with an outdated 5V/1A wall charger that will replenish only 18% of a dead battery in a 30-min charging session.

We also tested the iPhone XS Max on a Qi-compatible Samsung wireless fast charger - it recharged 15% in 30 mins.

The phone supports fast charging through USB-C power delivery, you just need to buy the proper cable (USB-C-to-Lightning, $25), and use a compatible charger from a MacBook, Pixel 2, or even a USB-C port on a Mac or PC. This way you will be able to charge north of 52% of an empty battery in half an hour.

We concluded our battery test on the iPhone XS Max and it posted balanced battery life scores across the board, just like the iPhone XS and X. It can do about 16 hours of 3G calls, 11 hours of web browsing on a single charge, or you can watch videos for about 14 hours. All of the three scores are up one or two hours from the iPhone XS numbers.

The Max, just like the regular XS, had an average standby performance, which is the reason for the equally average total endurance rating of 79 hours.

Apple iPhone XS Max review

Our endurance rating denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Apple iPhone XS Max for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We've established this usage pattern so our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you're interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we've tested will compare under your own typical use.

Update, Oct. 4. Numerous users have reported for charging issues with the iPhone XS and XS Max. Apparently some iPhones won't start charging when the Lightning cable is connected - in some cases a tap on the screen was needed to wake up the phone and start charging, others required an unplug-and-plug-back-in type of procedure.

We did try ourselves with the units we have at the office, but for better or worse ours charge just fine, both with the bundled charger and with the 29-watt Power Delivery fast charger.

We learnt that this happens when the phone wasn't used for at least an hour. So, we left our XS Max for an hour and then we plugged it in a knock-off charger and cable. Surprise, surprise - it didn't charge. It began to work only when we woke up the phone, removed the cable, flipped it, and then plugged it back in.

We repeated the with the original charger - after an hour and we found no such problems.

Finally, we used another knock-off charger and it still worked hassle-free.

We can't be certain if the knock-off chargers are responsible for the ChargeGate fiasco, but we know how you can fix it.

Sure, iOS 12.1 update will squash this bug, if it's a bug, but you can get rid of it today. Just go to Settings -> Face ID and enable USB Accessories option.

The reason why the phones won't charge is the additional security that fires after 60 minutes of inactivity and disables the recognition of all USB accessories except the chargers. But some units don't even recognize the chargers either because they are knock-offs or because of some software-related issues with the USB controllers in some units.

Now you know where the problem lies, and you can easily fix it. But the jury is still out on whether third-party cables and/or chargers are responsible for the issue, or Apple screwed up with the USB drivers.

Speakers

The iPhone XS Max has two speakers for stereo audio playback, just like the iPhone XS, the iPhone X, and the iPhone 8 series. There is a change for the new XS phones, though. The front-facing speaker, which is also the earpiece, has been improved. It is much louder now, almost as loud as the bottom one, and it's now able to pull its own weight when it comes to loudness, instead of merely aiding in the stereo effect.

Huawei made this setup trending, but you could always hear the difference in loudness. That's the case with the latest P and Mate series, and it's also the case with the iPhone 8 and X. Well, that's no more.

Apple uses a full-blown speaker behind that earpiece grille, and it is really loud, almost as the bottom one. The sound is richer, and the bass is deeper, and after playing multiple songs, videos, and games, we feel the iPhone XS Max has one of the best speaker setups a smartphone could offer today. And it's slightly louder than what we got from the XS, scoring an Excellent mark by our calcs. This experience should be something others should look up to.

Speakerphone testVoice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 68.3 72.2 72.9 Good
Google Pixel 2 XL 66.2 70.4 78.2 Good
OnePlus 6 70.2 74.7 70.0 Good
Apple iPhone 7 67.6 73.2 75.7 Good
Apple iPhone X 68.9 74.0 76.2 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy S9+ 68.4 74.0 80.1 Very Good
Apple iPhone XS 71.5 75.7 78.9 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy Note9 71.2 74.9 80.2 Very Good
Google Pixel 2 70.0 77.0 81.1 Excellent
Apple iPhone XS Max 70.5 74.0 84.7 Excellent
Sony Xperia XZ3 71.0 75.4 82.9 Excellent
Apple iPhone 8 Plus 76.0 74.6 79.0 Excellent
Apple iPhone 8 71.7 77.8 80.3 Excellent
Huawei P20 Pro 71.8 69.2 91.0 Excellent
HTC U12+ (Music) 76.0 73.6 88.5 Excellent

Audio quality

Starting with the 2018 lineup Apple no longer includes a Lightning to 3.5mm audio adapter in the retail package of its iPhones, which means that we were unable to perform our audio quality test. We could have used an adapter from the iPhone X, but since the adapter contains a built-in DAC, the output would be representative of the adapter rather than the new iPhone XS Max.

Active adapters such as this one do their own processing, so if you get a different adapter, you won't get the same kind of output, and our findings wouldn't be relevant to you.

Still, if you plan on purchasing the official Apple adapter, you will get the exact same output as with the iPhone X. You can find how it did over here.

Reader comments

  • Bede

I upgraded from an iPhone 8plus to the iPhone XS Max This is the worst iPhone I have ever had! I’ve never had any issues with any of the other iPhones until now this is my nightmare : No signal / there were towers everywhere when I had my 8 plu...

  • hiitskatythelady

I've had the iPhone 7+ for a year and a half. I think the newest iPhones are good from what I heard. I think what got my eye on the new iPhone is the battery lasting. my 7+ has an okay battery. My iPhone glitches a lot. The iPhone XR or any of the ne...

  • big daddy carter

the iphone is the best mobile phone out right now. it is also the best phone ever made. i have a 5s and i still have no problems with it and 3 other people have gone through the same phone until they wanted a new one and passed the phone off to the n...