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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs Max: Comparing two new flagships from the biggest brands on the market

Daniel Ostanek
19 Sep 2018
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Apple has just unveiled its new Xs Max, but how does it measure up to Samsung’s recently released Galaxy Note 9?

Apple’s September event is over and done with, and all of a sudden we have three new phones to get excited about. The Xs Max is its new flagship entry, and the direct competitor to Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 9.

While we haven’t had the chance to test the new iPhones out yet, Wednesday’s grand unveiling gave up a lot of information about Apple’s new phone. So then, what better time to pit the two behemoths of the smartphone world against each other?

Read on for our full head-to-head comparison of the two biggest smartphone releases of the year.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs Max: Price and release date

The Note 9 was released on 24 August, so you can buy one right now if you like. Perhaps wait until the end of this article first, though. On the other hand, the Xs Max doesn’t hit the stores for an entire week – 21 September. Preorders for the phone opened on 14 September, though.

As for the price, the Note 9 has the edge there as well, by quite a chunk. The 128GB version costs £899 while the 512GB phone will set you back £1,099. You can also trade in your old phone for a discount of up to £400, a nice saving. Meanwhile, the iPhone Xs Max 128GB comes in at £1,099 and the 512GB version costs a mammoth £1,499 – the most expensive mainstream smartphone around by some margin.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs Max: Design

The Note 9 looks similar to its predecessor, but with slimmer bezels and screen edges than the Note 8. It’s a big phone, measuring in at 162 x 76 x 9mm, weighing in at 201g. The edge-to-edge AMOLED screen measures 6.4in with a 2,960 x 1,440 resolution for a pixel density of 516ppi (pixels per inch). Colour-wise, the phone is available in midnight black, lavender purple or ocean blue (the latter coming with a rather snazzy yellow S Pen).

At 158 x 77 x 8mm, the Xs Max is a bit smaller than the Note 9, but at 208g weighs a touch more. Again, this is a phone with miniscule bezels, though the divisive notch is present here (the Note 9 doesn’t have one) – it looks pretty much the same as the iPhone X. There’s the Super Retina OLED display with a 2,688 x 1,242 resolution for a pixel density of 458ppi. The Xs Max is available in three colours too, with silver, space grey and the new gold colour to choose from.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs Max: Specs

As you would expect, these two top-of-the-line phones are both powerhouses. The Xs Max features Apple’s new hexa-core A12 Bionic processor – the first-ever 7nm chip (Huawei unveiled its take last month but it won’t ship until October). Featuring two performance cores and four “efficiency” cores, the chip can supposedly handle five trillion operations per second, which is quite a lot.

The Note 9 comes equipped with the powerful octa-core Exynos 9810 processor with 6/8GB of RAM. It’s the fastest Android chipset around but lags a little behind Apple’s A11 running iOS. Therefore, there’s no doubt that the A12 will have the edge over Samsung’s offering.

Looking at the Xs Max’s camera specs, it looks as though they’re largely identical to those on the iPhone X – a pair of 12-megapixel lenses on the back (a wide-angle f/1.8 and a telephoto f/2.4). The sensor is improved though, and there’s an advanced bokeh mode available too.

Samsung’s new phone also features cameras that are pretty similar to the previous model. Again, there’s a dual-lens rear setup, this time with a wider-angle f/1.5 lens and a telephoto f/2.4 lens – like the Xs Max they’re both 12-megapixel. On the front, there’s a f/2.2 7-megapixel snapper. The Note 9 is great in low light, with the cameras providing crisp and detailed images.

In a first for Apple, the Xs Max comes with three storage options – 64, 128 and 512GB, while another first sees dual-SIM compatibility. The Note 9 comes with both 128 and 512GB versions.

Elsewhere the iPhone Lightning jack remains, but annoyingly the Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter does not. Still, if you’re not baulking at shelling out £1,449 on a phone then the extra £9 for the adapter won’t hurt your pocket too much. Finally, both phones come with facial recognition systems, though the Note 9 has a fingerprint scanner too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone Xs Max: Verdict

We have yet to get our hands on the Xs Max, so it’s tough to deliver a comprehensive verdict on this matchup. The Note 9 is a fantastic phone, though our review notes that the improvements from the Note 8 are rather minor, making the price tag a bit steep.

Apple’s new chipset sounds exciting and super-fast, but we run into the same niggle here – if you’re upgrading from the iPhone X then spending over £1000 on the Xs Max as a replacement is a bit of a stretch. We’ll know how much of a stretch once we get one in to test.

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