iPhone 8 and 8 Plus Review: Record-Breaking Speed, Samsung-Beating Cameras

Update 9/27: We've added information on an audio issue some owners are reporting, as well as more details on our camera face-off with the Note 8 and more speed test results.

They have to be just a little bit jealous. The new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus stand in the shadow of the upcoming iPhone X, which sports a futuristic edge-to-edge screen and a new depth-sensing front camera that lets you unlock the handset with your face.

But the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus aren’t mere consolation prizes to Apple’s spotlight-hogging flagship. They pack a ton of improvements, including the fastest processor ever in a phone (seriously, it puts many laptops to shame), better cameras (especially on the iPhone 8 Plus) and wireless charging (yeah, it’s overdue).

Starting at $699 and $799, respectively, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are also more affordable than the $999 iPhone X. If you’re ready to upgrade your iPhone, our top pick remains the Plus because of its larger screen, longer battery life and more versatile dual cameras.

Design: Slicker and tougher, but about those bezels

I’m torn about the look of the new iPhones. On the one hand, the new glass back looks elegant while being less slippery than my matte black iPhone 7 Plus. Apple’s new phones are also built stronger, with the company claiming that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus boast the most durable glass ever on a smartphone. This is due in part to a deeper strengthening layer. (No, we couldn’t drop-test our review unit, but we’re buying at least one iPhone 8 to torture it.)

On the other hand, seeing bezels this large on a late-2017 phone above and below the display seems dated compared not just with the iPhone X but also the Galaxy S8 and other Android phones that are going the edge-to-edge route. My complaint isn’t just about aesthetics; having smaller bezels makes it easier to use a phone with one hand and fit it in a front pocket.

I do like how the strong 7000 series aluminum band on the iPhone 8 is color matched with the pearlescent rear. On the gold iPhone 8 Plus I tested, the back looks like a true rose gold and less pink than previous model. I also tested the silver iPhone 8, whose back is a less exciting gray. The new iPhones are also available in Space Gray.

The glass back is elegant and tough, but the big bezels up front look dated.

For us minimalists, there’s no small type saying where this device was assembled or its model number beneath the word iPhone. Now, it just says iPhone.

MORE: Best Smartphones on the Market Now

Measuring 5.5 x 2.7 x 0.29 inches and weighing 5.2 ounces, the iPhone 8 is a bit heavier and a smidge thicker than the iPhone 7 (5.4 x 2.6 x 0.28 inches, 4.9 ounces), but I barely noticed the difference. I’m guessing the extra girth comes from adding the wireless-charging capability and reinforced glass back. The iPhone 8 Plus (7.1 ounces, 0.3 inches thick) sees a similar small bump up versus the iPhone 7 Plus (6.6 ounces, 0.29 inches).

While the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus still lack a headphone jack, music lovers will appreciate that they sound better sans headphones, thanks to stereo speakers that are now 25 percent louder. When I streamed “An Honest Mistake” by The Bravery, I noticed deeper bass and more natural-sounding vocals on the iPhone 8 versus the iPhone 7 Plus.

Update: Some iPhone 8 owners are reporting a "crackling" sound issue on the earpiece during calls. Apple says this issue affects a small number of users and promises a software fix.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus Specs


iPhone 8

iPhone 8 Plus

Price

$699, $849

$799, $949

CPU

A11 Bionic

A11 Bionic

Capacity

64, 256 GB

64, 256 GB

Rear Camera

12-MP

Dual 12-MP (f/1.8, f/2.8)

Front Camera

7-MP FaceTime HD

7-MP FaceTime HD

Unlocking Method

Touch ID

Touch ID

Colors

Space Gray, Silver, Gold

Space Gray, Silver, Gold

Screen Size (Resolution)

4.7-inches (1334 X 750)

5.5-inches (1920 X 1080)

Size

5.5 x 2.7 x 0.29 inches

6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches

Weight

5.22 ounces

7.13 ounces


Performance: A11 Bionic blows away everything (including laptops)

If ever there was an apt name for a processor, A11 Bionic is it. This chip absolutely smokes every Android phone on the planet. The A11 Bionic is a six-core CPU, with two performance cores that promise a 25 percent boost in performance over the A10, and four high-efficiency cores that promise up to a 70 percent improvement. Last but not least is an Apple-designed GPU that’s supposed to be 30 percent faster.

On Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance, the iPhone 8 was in another league, turning in a multicore score of 10,170. The iPhone 8 Plus was a bit faster at 10,472. The Galaxy Note 8, complete with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip and 6GB of RAM, scored 6,564. That means the iPhone 8 is a whopping 54 percent faster than the fastest Android flagship.

To put those numbers in perspective, the iPhone 8 also beats the 7th-generation Core i5 MacBook by a tad, which turned in 9,213 on Geekbench 4. The Dell XPS 13, our favorite Windows laptop, hit 7,159. For more on one these comparisons mean, see our in-depth article on the iPhone 8's performance.

The A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8 absolutely smokes every Android phone on the planet.

There was an even bigger performance gap on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, which measures graphics performance. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus notched 62,352 and 64,412, respectively, compared with 39,834 for the Note 8. So Apple’s handsets pack about 63 percent more graphics might.

What about real-world performance? We edited and exported the same 2-minute 4K video clip on the iPhone 8, Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 using the Adobe Premiere Clip app, and it wasn’t even close. The iPhone 8 finished the task in 42 seconds, compared with more than 3 minutes for the Galaxy Note 8 and more than 4 minutes for the Galaxy S8+.

The iPhone 8 also opened larger apps faster than both its predecessor and the top Android phone right now. It took the handset 11 seconds to fully load the Injustice 2 game, compared with 14.53 seconds for the iPhone 7 Plus and 19 seconds for the Note 8.

For more results, including opening a large file, check out our in-depth iPhone 8 speed tests.

Cameras: Meet and sometimes beat Samsung's best

With a bigger and faster sensor, the 12-megapixel camera on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus takes some of the best-looking photos I’ve seen from a phone. In fact, some shots I took outshone the stellar Galaxy Note 8, which was previously our favorite camera phone. Now the iPhone 8 Plus is in the top spot, and you can check out our camera face-off with the Note 8 to see the results for yourself.

Take this photo of colorful flowers near Madison Square Park. The leaves’ edges on the iPhone 8 shot have a subtle orange toward the tip and more sharpness overall, while the Note 8’s photo isn’t as well defined and misses some of the gradation in hues.

In low light, the iPhone 8 and Note 8 were dead even regarding detail, but the iPhone 8 produced more natural-looking colors with this group of toys. Furby in particular has the right pink, and the Tygra figure in the iPhone 8 shot is less blurry.

The iPhone did a better job overall with this tricky image of the Flatiron Building, as the flower in the foreground is sharper and the blue sky and clouds look realistic. On the Note 8, the sky got blown out, but the building itself pops more because it’s brighter.

But the Note 8 fought back in another shot of a fountain; while the iPhone 8 offered more detail when zoomed in, Samsung’s image made the leaves look brighter in the surrounding trees.

Just as with the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 Plus offers a true 2x optical zoom via its second telephoto lens, but now you can have a lot more fun with portraits. Portrait Mode stil artfully blurs out the background with the so-called bokeh effect — and it looks a little more natural now — while a new Portrait Lighting feature (in beta) lets you adjust the lighting of your shots before and after you shoot with several effects.

I took some portrait photos of my colleague Caitlin, and I was very impressed with the subtle but powerful changes Portrait Lighting can make to a photo. When I switched from Natural to Studio light, Caitlin’s face became brighter without blowing out the shadows. The Contour setting introduced more contrast and shadows, which is kind of like adding makeup.

The Studio Light feature is the most ambitious effect, as it strips out the existing background and makes it totally black. And, if you want something even more dramatic, you can go for black and white with Stage Light Mono.

However, the Stage Light effect could be hit or miss; you need to get in pretty close to the person’s face to get the best results, and long hair can look a bit unnatural when it gets cut off and put on black. In addition, I noticed that this effect took longer to process than the others. To be fair, Portrait Lighting is in beta and could improve via software updates.

The iPhone 8 Plus doesn’t have all the fun. There are new Live Photo effects in iOS 11 that work with both new Apple handsets. Loop replays the action, while the even cooler Bounce plays the motion backward and forward, as seen in this jump by my colleague Kenneth.

The Note 8 still has one key advantage over the iPhone 8 Plus in that both of the dual lenses on Samsung’s phone have optical image stabilization, which means better low-light performance when zooming and steadier footage when shooting video. The iPhone X will have OIS on both lenses.

Video: 4K at 60 fps and a sharper super-slo-mo

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus both step up their video game, as they now record 4K resolution video at up to 60 frames per second (up from 30 fps before), and you can now capture slo-motion footage at a super-slow 240 fps without sacrificing sharpness, as it’s in 1080p. Other phones like the Note 8 and Galaxy S8 are stuck at 720p. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium shoots at a much slower 960 fps, but that’s also at 720p.

iPhone 8 - 4K Video Sample

To evaluate the 4K capabilities, I shot some footage at Bryant Park in New York City, and I could make out nearly every crook and cranny in a water fountain, including the angry stone faces spitting out the water. The iPhone 8 also had no problem rendering multiple birds as they flew by without distortion. I could even see the fine mist from the fountain as I panned to the right toward the sun.

iPhone 8 - Slo-Mo Video Sample

I’m a sucker for slow-mo dog footage, so I turned the iPhone 8 Plus on my golden retriever to see how it could handle him retrieving a tennis ball. The grass could look a little crisper, but it was still pretty cool to see his fur swaying and jowls bouncing as he ran toward me.

Augmented reality: Promising

Thanks to iOS 11, you can enjoy augmented-reality apps using Apple’s ARKit technology on any phone running the software with an A9 or newer chip. So that means even the iPhone SE and older iPhone 6s can use a growing number of truly immersive apps that employ the camera’s live view and overlay anything on top, from games and home furnishings to educational content.

But the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (as well as the upcoming iPhone X) have been especially optimized for AR via the A11 Bionic chip, calibrated cameras and a new gyroscope and accelerometer. I tried out a few apps and came away impressed, but I was also left wanting more, as there’s not a ton of options — yet.

What is available shows off ARKit’s potential. The InsightHeart app, for example, displays the wireframe of a human in front of you along with his heart. You then you can learn about this very important organ by getting in really close and looking at it from multiple angles.

I can see a lot of people using the Ikea app to figure out how furniture looks in their abode before they buy. I replaced the desk in my home office with a white Micke desk and added a chaise from the Soderhamn collection. The iPhone 8 did a pretty good job scanning the room even without much light, though the furniture itself looked more like animations than the real thing.

The Thomas & Friends Minis app is something I wish I had when my kids were younger. You can build your own train tracks right on the table in front of you. I felt like a kid again  when the train jumped in the air off  one of the ramps and flipped right in front of me. You can even walk around the virtual track to take in different views. It’s pretty amazing.

Other ARKit apps are on the way, including an MLB app that will show you a live view of who’s on what base when you’re at the game, along with key player stats. And I’m really looking forward to Warhammer 40K Freeblade, a robot-fighting game. I spent a bit of time with The Machines, a real-time multiplayer strategy game, and I was impressed not just with the graphics but how the sound intensified as I got closer to the action.

What I’d like to see is a dedicated section in the App Store for AR experiences, which I’m guessing is on the horizon, given the overhaul of the App Store that iOS 11 has introduced.

Displays: Not OLED great, but very good

Given that the iPhone X boasts a beautiful 5.8-inch OLED display with 2436 x 1125 pixels, and the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus sport 5.8 and 6.2-inch quad OLED screens, there’s no question that the LCDs on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are a step behind. They just don’t have the sharpness, wide viewing angles and perfect blacks the OLED competition has.

Nevertheless, Apple has made some improvements to the 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen on the iPhone 8 Plus and the almost-puny-by-modern-standards 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 panel on the iPhone 8.

For starters, the True Tone feature has migrated from the iPad to the iPhone, which automatically adjusts the white balance on the display to match the ambient light. This can reduce eye strain. The two LCDs also benefit from a wide color gamut, as evidenced when I compared a photo of a lake; a gray house looked more white on the iPhone 7 Plus’ screen, and greens looked more lush on the iPhone 8 Plus.

On our lab tests, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus delivered a very good 119.6 percent and 122.5 percent of the color gamut. That’s great for an LCD, but trails OLED phones like the Note 8 (204 percent) and the Galaxy S8 (183 percent).

Apple’s phones do offer very accurate hues, though, as they turned in a Delta-E accuracy ratings of 0.89 and 0.25 (0 is perfect). Samsung’s OLED handsets do well here, too, as the Galaxy S8 scored 0.28 and the Note 8 0.5.

Battery Life: The Plus lasts longer

Despite the serious speed boost, both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus offer slightly longer endurance than their predecessors — noteworthy since Apple was only promising similar battery life to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus with its new phones.

On the Tom’s Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G LTE (in this case T-Mobile), the iPhone 8 lasted 9 hours and 54 minutes, which is slightly above the 9:40 smartphone average. The Galaxy S8, by comparison, turned in a longer runtime of 10:39. Last year’s iPhone 7 hit 9:03.

MORE: Smartphones with the Longest Battery Life

The iPhone 8 Plus lasted an even better 11 hours and 16 minutes, which will put it on our list of longest-lasting phones and also puts it on a par with the Galaxy Note 8 (11:11). The Galaxy S8+ was in the same ballpark at 11:04, while the older iPhone 7 Plus lasted 10:35.

Wireless charging and fast charging: Good news and bad news

The good news is that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 finally support wireless charging, and they should work with any charging pad that supports the Qi standard. When using Belkin’s $59 Boost Up pad, I found that the iPhone 8 Plus charged at about the same pace as when connected via Lightning cable.

In the case of this Belkin and the similarly priced Mophie Charging Base, both will support faster wireless charging at 7 watts once Apple rolls out an update later this year. They’re currently outputting 5 watts, which is the same as the standard Lightning wired charger.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are capable of reaching 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes over a wired connection, but only if you invest in additional gear. You’ll need to spring for a 29-watt USB-C power adapter ($49) and a USB-C to Lightning cable ($15 to $25). That’s pretty crappy given that phones like the Galaxy S8 come with a fast wired charging adapter and cable in the box.

iOS 11: Mostly refinements

In day-to-day use with the iPhone 8, I’d say the biggest changes you’ll notice in iOS 11 will be the new Control Center, Live Photo effects in the camera and a more immersive App Store. Siri also has a more natural-sounding voice.

Control Center is now easier to use because it crams more controls into a smaller space. For instance, the wireless controls and music controls are now on the same screen. When you long-press on one of the controls, you’ll see additional options, such as Night Shift and True Tone for brightness. However, I’m still waiting for Apple to make it easier to change Wi-Fi networks by long-pressing the Wi-Fi icon.

If you want to discover new apps, and you’re tired of scrolling through top lists, the new App Store will be a breath of fresh air. You can see spotlight stories on specific apps, and there’s a redesigned Games section that makes it easier to discover new titles in multiple genres.

Bottom line

The $699 iPhone 8 and $799 iPhone 8 Plus represent a leap forward in performance and camera quality, but I wish they came in packages that looked and felt more “new.” That’s why I’m personally waiting for the $999 iPhone X, which also adds Face ID and a more colorful OLED screen. Still, both iPhones 8 have very good LCD screens, better sound than their prededessors, wireless charging and strong battery life — and for more accessible prices, to boot.

If you’re into Android, Samsung doesn’t make you choose between getting a cutting-edge design and spending close to a grand. The $750 Galaxy S8 and $850 S8+ deliver great cameras and edge-to-edge OLED screens for just a bit more than the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. However, neither Galaxy phone can touch the performance of the iPhone 8, and I expect them to trail Apple on the augmented-reality app front. Want dual cameras? You’ll have to spend $930 and up for the Note 8, which approaches iPhone X territory.

Overall, my pick between the two new iPhones is the iPhone 8 Plus. It gives you a significantly bigger screen than the iPhone 8, longer battery life and more versatile dual cameras for just $100 more. The regular iPhone 8 is good, but 4.7 inches just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide


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  • s4f786
    in regards to the benchmarks, people fail to mention that these are run on different platforms (ios/android/windows) so a direct comparison cannot truly be made.
    0
  • mspoonauer
    Actually, that's not true. I spoke directly with the head of Geekbench, and he said that comparisons across platforms can be made. However, Geekbench measures burst speed as opposed to sustained speed over a long period of time.

    In terms of the video editing test, we purposely chose a cross-platform app in Adobe Premiere Clip and used a video shot with a third-party device.

    Anonymous said:
    in regards to the benchmarks, people fail to mention that these are run on different platforms (ios/android/windows) so a direct comparison cannot truly be made.
    0
  • carl_diaz
    Gee for $800 you can have a phone that is one onemillionth faster than it's previous model, spend $50 to $90 dollars for a charger, get some cosmetics changes in the case.
    Now I ask you, who wouldn't spend almost a grand for ALL that stuff especially with the "X" coming out on it's heels in a month or so .... I have a 7 plus, I think I'll wait to next year until all the bugs are worked out .. Thanks Apple but no thanks ...
    0
  • menno.pieter.visser
    Design as an argument?
    I think it strange a strange statement. Would a car magazine that tests the new Porsche 911 with double the power, a smaller fuel tank but with the same range and the complaining that the design hasn't change really
    0