Samsung’s newly-released Galaxy S10 Plus is set to do battle with Apple’s biggest ever iPhone, the XS Max. Both feature price tags around $1,000, both use 6-inch plus displays and both are positioned as the best phone that each brand has made to date.
However, we reckon that, despite their apparent similarities, the S10 Plus is set to be a better phone than the XS Max in almost every way.
Our assessment is based on a full hands-on review of the XS Max, against a preview of the S10 Plus – we’ll update with our full test verdict on the Samsung phone as soon as possible. Based on the S10 specs, plus our tests of the Samsung Note 9 and S9 that preceded it, we give our overview of how Samsung’s latest stacks up against Apple’s greatest.
Samsung S10 Plus vs iPhone XS Max – Which Phone is Best?
For our money, the Samsung S10 Plus is the better phone overall, compared to the iPhone XS Max. Of course, they’re both top-of-the-line. Neither the S10 Plus nor the XS Max are intended for the average smartphone buyer. They’re too large and, crucially, too expensive to be genuine choices for most people.
Instead, these phones are aimed squarely at power users. People who are willing to pay more to get the most capable phones on the market, ahead of other concerns. If that sounds like you (and you’re not already happily locked into using Apple) then we’d steer you towards choosing the S10 Plus.
The S10 Plus has a sharper display
The XS Max has a faster processor
The XS Max has a better selection of gaming apps
The S10 Plus has better front facing cameras
The S10 Plus has expandable storage
The S10 Plus has better battery life and a headphone jack
For power users, the S10 Plus and XS Max are more closely matched than the S10e and iPhone XR or the S10 and iPhone XS. However, the methods used by both phones to get there are quite different.
The S10 Plus is a collection of enormous numbers and features. The XS Max, on the other hand, focuses on providing as streamlined an experience as possible. This difference is best expressed through Samsung’s inclusion of the micro-SD card slot and the headphone jack, while still offering wireless earbuds and different internal storage options.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
The S10 Plus is essentially the same as the S10, but with some beefed-up specs. It uses a 6.4-inch Quad HD+ display using Samsung’s new Dynamic AMOLED tech. The Dynamic AMOLED screen makes the S10 Plus one of the first phones to support HDR10+, which means that it has fantastic contrast and significantly reduced motion blur.
Beyond that, it uses the latest Snapdragon 855 processor and comes with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM – with either, multitasking and gaming should be a breeze. It also has dual cameras on the front, unlike the XS Max’s single camera. The S10 Plus also has three rear cameras, compared to the iPhone XS Max’s dual rear cameras.
All this tech costs $999 – that’s the same price as the XS Max’s smaller brother, the iPhone XS.
While it’s a struggle to say that any phone costing nearly a grand is anything close to value, you certainly get a lot of phone for that price with the S10 Plus.
Big, bright, and sharp screen
Dual front cameras for better selfies
Headphone jack, memory card support and wireless powersharing make it very usable day-to-day
The XS Max is essentially a scaled-up version of the iPhone XS. Unlike the S10 Plus though, which features a lot of improvements over the S10, the only real changes to the XS Max from the XS are a larger screen and larger battery.
The screen is a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED panel, which is great for watching films or gaming. The battery is huge at 3,174 mAh – that’s up from the 2,658 mAh battery in the XS. But, it’s way smaller than the 4,100 mAh battery in the S10 Plus.
The cameras, processor, storage and RAM options, and everything else are unchanged. The bump in screen and battery size is reflected with a $100 bump in price from the XS, making the XS Max $1,099.
When we reviewed the XS Max, we expressed concerns that the limited improvements couldn’t justify the price hike over the XS. We also felt that the XS Max struggled to make the most of its extra screen real estate.
Big screen is impressive
Powerful A12 Bionic processor
Clean operating system and seamless integration with Apple ecosystem
While the iPhone XS Max’s Super AMOLED display is, undoubtedly, very impressive, it can’t match the S10 Plus’ new panel.
For a start, the S10 Plus’ new Dynamic AMOLED tech and HDR10+ support should make it even better for playing games and watching videos than the already impressive displays on other Samsung phones.
And, when compared to the XS Max, the S10 Plus’ display has a higher resolution and a greater screen-to-body ratio (1440×3040 and 88.9% for the S10 Plus compared to 1242×2688 and 84.4% for the XS Max).
While not everyone is keen on the new punch hole camera on the S10 Plus, we think it’s no more invasive than the XS Max’s notch, and at least gives the S10 Plus a distinctive look.
Best Cameras – Draw
We’ve not had proper hands on time with the S10 Plus yet, so we can’t call this one just yet. The cameras on the recent iPhones and high-end Samsung models have been hugely impressive.
However, Samsung has decided to give its camera hardware a significant bump compared to the old S9+. You now get three rear cameras with differing fields of view, and a depth-sensing front camera along with a 10Mp wide-angle front lens.
The iPhone, on the other hand, features two 12Mp rear cameras and a single 7Mp depth-sensing selfie camera — the same as you get on the iPhone XS.
All told, we’re probably leaning more towards the S10 Plus. Its innovative variable aperture tech and extra hardware make it sound like the better camera. However, as we’ve seen on Google’s recent phones, hardware isn’t everything. Watch this space for our full in-depth look at the cameras.
Best Battery – Samsung S10 Plus
Unlike the too-close-to-call camera battle, there’s no real contest here. The S10 Plus has a significantly larger battery than the XS Max (4,100 mAh plays 3,174 mAh, respectively) and Samsung has exceptional battery management technology.
The S10 Plus also features wireless fast charging, and has innovative (though not original) wireless power-sharing, so you can wirelessly charge any other Qi-certified devices using your S10 Plus — a friend’s XS Max might be a good one to start with.
Best Processor – iPhone XS Max
The iPhone XS Max uses the same A12 Bionic chip as the iPhone XS and XR. It’s widely considered to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, mobile processors on the market.
It might only have 4GB of RAM, half as much as the base S10 Plus. But, thanks to Apple’s control of hardware and software, the XS Max is much more efficient with its performance.
The S10 Plus, on the other hand, uses the Snapdragon 855. It’s the latest and greatest processor from Qualcomm, but it still can’t match the speed of the A12 Bionic.
Best Value – Samsung S10 Plus
As we mentioned above, it’s difficult to say that any phone costing as much as the S10 Plus or XS Max can represent great value. However, compared to the XS Max, the S10 Plus has a better feature set for a lower price.
Crucially, however, compared to the regular S10 and XS, the S10 Plus again is better value. It offers significantly more features and hardware than the S10 while the XS Max only gives you a bigger screen and battery.
Samsung S10e vs iPhone XR
After something a little cheaper? Check our head to head comparison of the iPhone XR and Samsung S10e, two great phones at $749 each
Samsung S10 Plus vs iPhone XS Max – The Verdict
On balance, the S10 Plus is not only a better phone than the XS Max, but it’s also marginally better value.
The S10 Plus has a better display than the XS Max. It’s likely to have just as good, if not better cameras than the XS Max. And, it keeps consumer-friendly features such as the headphone jack and expandable storage.
The XS Max is a large, imposing and well-made phone. But, the S10 Plus manages to match or better the XS Max in almost every aspect. If you’re eyeing-up these two phones and can’t pick one, we’d suggest you go for the S10 Plus.
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