Skip to main content

Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max: Which $1,000 Phone Wins?

Samsung has joined Apple in the $1,000 phone club. Samsung's 6.4-inch Galaxy S10 Plus ($999) is a direct competitor to the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max ($1,099), and both have huge screens to match their big prices.

If you're going to spend this much on a phone, you'll want to get the most for your money. So, we pitted these two beasts against each other in several rounds of competition — including design, display, performance, camera and battery life — to crown a winner.

Specs: Galaxy S10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max

Galaxy S10 PlusiPhone XS Max
Price$999 (128GB), $1,249 (512GB), $1,599 (1TB)$1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)
Display (Resolution)6.4 inches (3040 x 1440)6.5 inches (2688 x 1242)
Rear Camera(s)16-MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.4)Dual 12-MP wide-angle (f/1.8) and telephoto cameras (f/2.4)
Front Camera(s)10-MP dual-pixel (f/1.9), 8-MP depth-sensing (f/2.2)7-MP (f/2.2)
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 855A12 Bionic
RAM8GB, 12GB4GB (based on teardowns)
Storage128GB, 512GB, 1TB64GB, 256GB, 512GB
microSDYes, up to 512GBNone
Battery4,100 mAh3,174 mAh*
Biometric SecurityUltrasonic fingerprintFace ID
ColorsPrism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Ceramic White, Ceramic Black, Prism Green (except U.S.), Flamingo Pink (except U.K.)Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Size6.2 x 2.91 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 3.05 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.17 ounces7.34 ounces

  

Design

Punch holes or notch? Honestly, the cutouts on the Galaxy S10 Plus that house its dual front cameras are just about as distracting as the notch for the TrueDepth camera and other sensors on the iPhone XS Max. I do give Samsung a bit of credit for allowing you to hide the front cameras on the S10 Plus, but turning that whole area into a black bar looks worse.

The Galaxy S10 Plus benefits from a lighter and more compact frame compared to the iPhone XS Max. Samsung's phone is more than an ounce lighter than Apple's, at 6.17 ounces versus 7.34 ounces. More importantly, the narrower body on the S10 Plus (2.91 inches versus 3.05 inches) makes it a bit easier to use with one hand.

The S10 Plus also features a 3.5mm headphone jack, for those who still prefer wired headphones.

Overall, the iPhone XS Max feels a little sturdier, thanks to its stainless steel band and durable glass; it survived multiple drops in our tests. We've yet to perform drop tests on the S10 Plus.

We do like having six color options on the S10 Plus compared to just three for the iPhone. You can even opt for a ceramic finish if you're willing to splurge for at least the 512GB model.

Winner: Galaxy S10 Plus

Display

The Galaxy S10 Plus offers a sharp, 6.4-inch Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED display that's a bit smaller than the 6.5-inch OLED panel on the iPhone XS Max. Samsung's phone benefits from a higher resolution, at 3040 x 1440 pixels, compared to 2688 x 1242 pixels on the iPhone XS Max. But the iPhone's screen pulls ahead in other areas.

While the Galaxy S10 Plus can get as bright as 625 nits (when you shine a flashlight on its ambient light sensor), the iPhone XS Max can get to 606 nits in any conditions. As a result, the screen on the iPhone XS Max appears brighter, whether you're indoors or outside.

When I loaded each phone with the same 4K wallpaper of a mountainous landscape, the iPhone XS Max's display delivered a brighter picture and the color was more vivid. You can toggle between natural and vivid modes on the Galaxy S10 Plus, but in vivid mode, the hues looked too saturated.

The Galaxy S10 Plus' display turned in a slightly better color-reproduction score, at 136.5 percent of the color gamut, compared to 123 percent for the iPhone XS Max. However, the panel on the iPhone XS Max notched a better color-accuracy score (Delta-E) of 0.22 to the Galaxy S10 Plus' 0.29.

Winner: iPhone XS Max

Audio

Both the iPhone XS Max and the Galaxy S10 Plus get plenty loud, but I prefer the audio from Apple's device. The iPhone speakers delivered louder and richer sound when I streamed Bastille's "Happier" on Spotify.

MORE: Best Smartphones - Here Are the 10 Best Phones Available

The vocals were better balanced with the snaps in the background. The S10 Plus sounded more like an FM radio, while the iPhone XS Max is closer to a mini Bluetooth speaker.

Winner: iPhone XS Max

Cameras

The Galaxy S10 Plus has one major benefit over the iPhone XS Max in that it includes an ultrawide, 123-degree lens with its rear cameras. This gives you more shooting flexibility and lets you get much more of the scene in the frame.

In several head-to-head shots, the Galaxy S10 Plus and iPhone XS demonstrated different strengths and weaknesses.

In this portrait of my colleagues Sherri and Mike, the Galaxy S10 Plus struggled with the sunlight, blowing out part of their faces. The iPhone XS Max's photo overcompensates a bit with its overly warm skin tones, but at least it delivers a more even exposure.

The Galaxy S10 turned the tables on the iPhone when I shot Mike and Sherri in Bryant Park with the sun in the background. Their faces are much brighter, even if Mike's black jacket looks grayer in this pic.

I give the nod to the Galaxy S10 Plus in this photo of macaroons, as there's more detail in the shot. The iPhone's image is a bit more saturated in color. This is more of a personal preference, but the iPhone's photo had a shallower depth of field, owing to the aperture — f/1.8 versus f/2.4 for the S10's image. The S10's photo was sharper, possibly due to its faster shutter speed (1/120 versus 1/60).

In this photo of a doorway in Grand Central Terminal, the S10 Plus handled the bright light better than the iPhone XS Max. You can see more of the inside of the bronze light shade, and overall, there was better contrast and definition in the details. However, the S10's photo is yellower than the iPhone's, which captured the color of the limestone more accurately.

To gauge how well the 2x optical zoom works on both phones, I took this photo in Grand Central. The iPhone XS Max has the edge: There's more visual noise in the iPhone's photo, but the clock in the center is more accurately lit. There's also less of a halo around points of light, such as the Apple logos in the back.

In photos taken around dusk, the Galaxy S10 Plus outshone the iPhone XS Max in Times Square. The photo from Samsung's camera is much sharper and more saturated and had better contrast than the iPhone's shot. For example, the skyscraper under construction in the middle of the frame is better-defined.

This round is almost a draw, but the S10's problems with sunlight give the iPhone XS a very slight edge.

Winner: iPhone XS Max

Performance

The Snapdragon 855 processor in the Galaxy S10 Plus, paired with 8GB of RAM, gets the closest yet to beating the iPhone XS Max's A12 Bionic chip. On the multicore portion of Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance, the S10 Plus notched 10,732, compared to 11,420 on the iPhone XS Max.

The iPhone XS Max also made much quicker work of our video-editing test, taking just 39 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p using the Adobe Clips app. The Galaxy S10 Plus took 2:26 on the same test, but Samsung says its phone will be optimized for Adobe's upcoming Rush video-editing app.

The S10 Plus pulled ahead on the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme graphics test, scoring 5,648 (on the demanding OpenGL ES 3.1 test). The iPhone XS Max came in behind that mark, with 4,339.

Overall, I felt like the iPhone XS Max was a bit more responsive when I used the phones side by side for tasks like rotating the phone to landscape mode. The Galaxy S10 Plus was a step behind.

Winner: iPhone XS Max

Security and Special Features

The Galaxy S10 Plus takes a new approach to security with its ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which is embedded directly into the display.

Overall, the technology works well, so long as you don't tap the screen too quickly. And unlike with Apple's Face ID, you don't have to look directly into the S10 to unlock it. But Face ID is generally more reliable, producing fewer false negatives when you go to unlock your phone.

With Wireless PowerShare, you can use the Galaxy S10 Plus to wirelessly charge other phones or gadgets, like the Samsung Galaxy Buds, simply by placing them on the back of the phone. The iPhone XS Max doesn't offer such a feature.

The Galaxy S10 Plus has a few other features the iPhone XS lacks, including a microSD card slot for expansion and headphone jack.

Winner: Galaxy S10 Plus

Battery Life

This round is no contest. The huge, 4,100-mAH battery in the Galaxy S10 Plus lasted an excellent 12 hours and 35 minutes in the Tom's Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness. The iPhone XS Max, which reportedly has a 3,174-mAh battery, lasted 10:38.

Winner: Galaxy S10 Plus

Software

Samsung deserves some credit for streamlining its interface for the Galaxy S10 with its new OneUI, which runs on top of Android 9.0 Pie. The settings menu, for example, is much less cluttered. But there's also some needless duplication, such as having two browsers (why?) two photo apps, and two assistants with Bixby and Google Assistant.

While customizable, the shortcuts menu that drops down from the top of the screen is a mess compared to Apple's Control Center. And the optional gestures on the S10 Plus are confusing compared to the iPhone XS Max's.

iOS 12 on the iPhone is simple and straightforward, but there are some powerful features under the hood, such as Siri shortcuts for creating useful If This, Then That-style commands. Apple's Memoji are also better than the improved AR Emoji on the Galaxy S10 Plus.

Winner: iPhone XS Max

Value

The Galaxy S10 Plus offers more for the money in terms of storage, giving you 128GB to start at $999, while the iPhone XS Max costs $100 more and starts with just 64GB.

Samsung Galaxy S10 PlusView Deal

iPhone XS MaxView Deal

You also can max out storage with the S10 Plus at 1 TB ($1,599), compared to 512GB for the iPhone XS Max ($1,449). If you're happy with 512GB, you'll pay $200 less on the Galaxy S10 Plus, at $1,249.

Winner: Galaxy S10 Plus

Overall Winner: iPhone XS Max

The Galaxy S10 Plus is easily the best Android phone you can buy, but it loses to the iPhone XS Max in this face-off by a couple of points. To be clear, you will love Samsung's phone. The cameras are great, especially the ultra-wide-angle lens, and the S10 Plus soundly beat the iPhone XS Max on battery life and sheer value.


Galaxy S10 Plus iPhone XS Max
Design (10)98
Display (10)810
Audio (5)35
Camera (20)1718
Performance (15)1315
Security and Special Features (10)97
Battery Life (15)1512
Software (5)35
Value (10)87
Overall8587

However, the iPhone XS Max delivers faster performance, richer audio and more-consistent unlocking with Face ID, as well as a brighter OLED display in everyday conditions. You can also count on the iPhone getting iOS 13 on day one, while it's hard to say when the S10 Plus will get the next version of Android.

So, after tallying up all the scores, Apple's phone wins — but Samsung's device is very much a winner in its own right.

Credit: Tom's Guide