iPhone XS Max review: hands on with Apple's new big phone

We went hands on with Apple's new iPhone XS Max and this is what we thought…

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The new iPhone XS Max has now been officially announced and our colleague Gareth Beavis over at T3's sister site TechRadar has gone hands on with the device. These are his thoughts on the new iPhone, as well as our observations…

TechRadar's Gareth Beavis states that the iPhone XS Max is available to pre-order in most countries from September 14, with the larger iPhone XS going on sale a week later on September 21.

The iPhone XS Max comes in three storage configurations, 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB.

And that amount of storage effects how much the phone costs. The iPhone XS Max starts at £1,099 ($1,099) for the 64GB  model, which is £100 more expensive than the smaller screened iPhone XS. This price then rises to £1,249 for  the 256GB model, and then £1,449 for the 512GB version.

Beavis notes that these price points make the "iPhone XS Max the most expensive 'regular' handset  on the market."

iPhone XS Max review: design and screen

iPhone XS Max review

In terms of design, Gareth reports that the iPhone XS Max measures in at 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm, which makes it very similar in size to the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. That said, though, the Max is actually slightly heavier than the Galaxy Note 9 (208 grams compared to 202 grams), however Beavis notes that actually it feels lighter in the hand somehow.

As with the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max sports a high build quality, with two "slabs of glass with a stainless steel frame joining them" together. Beavis notes that Apple has said this is the most durable glass ever made for a smartphone, and that in the hand it feels less slippery than expected.

As ever, though, when a phone costs this much then buying a top iPhone XS Max case will be a no-brainer.

Gareth adds that the iPhone XS Max is now IP68 rated. This means that the iPhone XS Max is water-resisant for up to two meters in depth for 30 minutes.

In terms of ports and connections, Apple has brought dual-SIM functionality to the iPhone XS Max, with an eSIM (embedded SIM) joining the staple nano SIM, while in terms of colourways the new big iPhone comes in space grey, silver, and a new gold version.

TechRadar's Gareth Beavis notes that, unsurprisingly, the big highlight on the Max is its 6.5-inch screen, which is "gigantic" and "provides quite the immersive experience", even with the presence of a notch.

Specs-wise the screen is an OLED panel with a resolution of 2,688 x 1,242. PPI sits at 458, which is the same as the smaller iPhone XS, and the screen supports TrueTone technology with 60 per cent better dynamic range.

iPhone XS Max review: battery and camera

Regarding the iPhone XS Max's camera system, Gareth relates that you get a system similar to the one on last year's iPhone X, however now it has a dual lens  setup on the rear.

That's two 12MP sensors, a wide-angle camera and a telephoto camera with 2x zoom. Both cameras come with optical image stabilisation.

Software-wise, Apple has reportedly improved things by delivering a new Smart HDR mode with a total absence of shutter lag. Gareth notes that this allows the iPhone to capture multiple images and then combine the best bits from each (handled by AI neural processing unit) to produce a single perfectly exposed image.

Gareth notes that this feature has been seen before in numerous Android phones, including that Google Pixel 2 and Huawei P20 Pro, however is definitely welcome along with a neat feature that allows you to adjust the depth of field of images after you've taken them.

Finally, Gareth notes that he does not know what the actual capacity of the iPhone XS Max's battery is, but that Apple says its will last 90 minutes  more than the one installed in the iPhone X.

Wireless charging is supported, although Beavis is saddened to report that there is no fast charger in the box.

iPhone XS Max review: early verdict

iPhone XS Max review

Overall, then, TechRadar's Gareth Beavis believes that the iPhone XS Max is pitched at fans of Apple's Plus-sized iPhones, noting that it feels very similar in terms of presence in the hand to the iPhone 8 Plus.

Gareth also notes that, despite its very high price point, "with dual SIM capabilities, an updated camera module and the new, super-fast A12 Bionic processor, Apple looks to be on track to deliver its best iPhone yet."

T3 will shortly be reviewing the iPhone XS Max in full, so be sure to check back in soon for our official verdict. TechRadar's Apple iPhone XS Max hands on can be enjoyed in full, at your leisure, right now.