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Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus review: In the shadow of X

By James Lu & Alvin Soon - 22 Sep 2017
Launch SRP: S$1548

Benchmark Performance, Battery life, and Conclusion

Performance Benchmarks

Both the 8 and 8 Plus use Apple's new A11 Bionic processor, a hexa-core chip with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than the A10, and four high-efficiency cores that the company says are 70 percent faster that the old model. There’s also a new Apple-designed GPU that’s 30 percent faster, with the same performance as the A10, but only consumes half the power.

A quick note on smartphone RAM: as usual, the 8 has 2GB RAM, while the 8 Plus has 3GB RAM. While that doesn't sound like much compared to the 6GB or even 8GB RAM we've started seeing on Android phones, smartphones really don't need that much RAM.

Unlike a PC where opening a ton of browser tabs can severely slow down your computer, iOS and Android have automatic memory management that offloads inactive tabs from active RAM usage. While you can split-screen multitask on most smartphones, you're still generally limited to just two side-by-side windows, which limits the amount of RAM you require. Mobile games also tend to be optimized to only require 1 or 2GB of RAM, which is why we didn't see much performance improvement from phones with huge amounts of RAM like the 8GB OnePlus 5.

  Apple iPhone 8 (256GB) Apple iPhone 8 Plus (256GB) Apple iPhone 7 Apple iPhone 7 Plus Samsung Galaxy Note8 OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM/128GB)
  Apple iPhone 8 (256GB) Apple iPhone 8 Plus (256GB) Apple iPhone 7 Apple iPhone 7 Plus Samsung Galaxy Note8 OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM/128GB)
Launch SRP
  • From S$1548
  • From S$1048
  • From S$1248
  • From S$1398
  • From S$799
Operating system
  • iOS 11
  • iOS 11
  • iOS 10
  • iOS 10
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Dream UX
  • Android 7.0.1 (Nougat) with Oxygen OS 4.5
Processor
  • Apple A11 Bionic hexa-core processor
  • Apple A11 Bionic hexa-core
  • Apple A10 Fusion quad-core 2.33GHz processor
  • Apple A10 Fusion quad-core 2.33GHz processor
  • Samsung Exynos 8895 octa-core (4x2.3 GHz & 4x1.7 GHz), 10nm process
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Built-in Memory
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 6GB RAM
  • 8GB RAM
Display
  • 4.7-inch Retina HD / 1,334 x 750 pixels (326ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch Retina HD / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401ppi) / IPS
  • 4.7-inch Retina HD / 1,334 x 750 pixels (326ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch Retina HD / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401ppi) / IPS
  • 6.3-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (522 ppi) / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 ppi) / AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.8 iSight camera with phase detection autofocus, OIS and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm & f/2.8, 56mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/1.8 iSight camera with phase detection autofocus, OIS and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm & f/2.8, 56mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel telephoto f/2.4 and 12-megapixel wide-angle f/1.7, OIS, 2x optical zoom
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
  • Primary Rear: 16-megapixel, f/1.7, contrast detection autofocus, EIS, LED flash, 1.12 µm pixel size
  • Secondary Rear: 20-megapixel, f/2.6, phase detection autofocus, LED flash, 1.00 µm pixel size
  • Front: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, 1.0 µm pixel size
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE Cat 12 (up to 600Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE Cat 12 (up to 600Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 16 (up to 1Gbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, DLNA, USB Type-C, USB 2.0
Storage Type
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 32 / 128 / 256GB internal storage
  • 32 / 128 / 256GB internal storage
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
  • 128GB internal storage
Battery
  • 1,821mAh
  • 2,675mAh
  • 1,960mAh
  • 2,900mAh
  • 3,300mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • Wireless charging
  • 3,300mAh
  • Dash Charge
Dimensions
  • 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
  • 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm
  • 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
  • 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
  • 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm
  • 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
Weight
  • 148g
  • 202g
  • 138g
  • 188g
  • 195g
  • 153g


Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. 

Apple has always performed really well on this benchmark due to how well optimized Safari is for Apple's processors and that trend continues with the 8 and 8 Plus. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are the only phones to record sub-200 ms on this test, and now the 8 and 8 Plus have beaten them with sub-150 ms results! In terms of actual user experience, the web browsing experience on both phones was lightning fast, smooth and lag-free.

 

 

 

3DMark Sling Shot

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

The results on this test were so surprising I ran it a few extra times to confirm it. Here's proof:

The A11's new GPU is an absolute beast and completely destroyed the competition on this benchmark. The 8 Plus was about 30 percent better than Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 835 and nearly doubled the score of Samsung's top-of-the-line Exynos 8895. 



 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Due to the extra hardware required for wireless charging, both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have smaller batteries than their predecessors. The 8 is down to 1,821mAh (from 1,960mAh on the 7), while the 8 Plus is down to 2,675mAh (from 2,900 on the 7 Plus). Those numbers are significantly smaller, and the 8 Plus now has one of the smallest batteries around for a 5.5-inch phone.

Despite this, battery life was surprisingly good with both phones actually showing a slight increase in battery life compared to last year's models. This is a testament to how efficient Apple's processors are.

For the first time on an Apple device, both the 8 and 8 Plus support wireless charging. Unfortunately, you'll have to buy a separate wireless charging pad to use this feature. On the plus side, Apple is using the Qi wireless charging standard, which is also used by most Android phones with wireless charging, including LG, Samsung, Google and Motorola, so if anyone in your household has a wireless charging Android phone, there's a good chance you can just steal borrow their charging pad.

Interestingly enough, both phones also support fast charging both wirelessly and wired via the Lightning port. However, wireless fast charging does not seem to currently be enabled on either phone. The Mophie Qi charging pad I tested is capable of outputting 7.5W of power, 50 percent more than the 5W provided by the stock power adapter that comes with the iPhone 8, however both wireless and wired charging took about the same amount of time to charge. According to Mophie, "fast wireless charging is enabled with a free software update coming later this year" presumably when Apple's own AirPower charging pad is released. 

As for fast charging via the Lightning port, it should work now, but not with the 5W power adapter or USB-A to Lightning cable that's supplied in the box. Instead you'll need to use a higher rated USB-C power adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable (which you can buy from the Apple store for S$34 for 1M or S$48 for 2M).

If you own a USB-C MacBook or MacBook Pro, you’re in luck, because you already own a compatible power adapter: the Apple 29W USB-C adapter61W USB-C adapter, and 87W USB-C adapter, each of which are also sold separately for S$68S$98, and S$108 respectively. Unfortunately, I don't own a USB-C to Lightning cable so I can't test how fast the new iPhones charge, but Apple says you can expect to hit 50 percent charge in about 30 minutes, which puts it on par with other fast charging technologies.


Conclusion

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus own the dubious distinction of being the shortest reigning Apple flagship smartphones, being surpassed a mere twenty minutes later by the iPhone X. While they're both great phones, they're overshadowed by the X, and it doesn't help that the 8's biggest new feature, wireless charging, is something we've seen in Android smartphones for years now.

Looking back at past generations of the iPhone, Apple has always introduced something that fundamentally changes how you interact with or use your phone: the 7 made the iPhone water resistant and removed the headphone jack, the 6s introduced us to 3D Touch, the 6 was the first time the iPhone was available in two screen sizes, the 5s added Touch ID and 64-bit processors and so on. The 8 lets you charge your phone wirelessly (but only if you buy a charging pad that's sold separately), and everything else just feels like an incremental upgrade. The True Tone display, better stereo sound, better cameras, even the massively improved benchmark performance are all nice upgrades, but they don't change the iPhone or how you use it in any significant way.

So should you buy the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus? If you're currently on a 6s, 6, or below - and you know you're not interested in spending at least S$1,648 for the iPhone X - yes, definitely. You get a much more powerful processor, an IP67 build, wireless charging, stereo speakers, better rear cameras with optical image stabilization, and longer battery life. If you're on the 7, I would skip this year and wait for next year's model. Of course, if you must have the 8, you can always sell your 7 and upgrade - iPhones tend to hold their value much better than any other phone.

There's one final thing worth considering. While the iPhone X is advertised as having a 5.8-inch display, its Super Retina display uses a 19.5:9 aspect ratio (making it even taller than Samsung's 18.5:9 Note8). The X also has a small cutout at the top of the screen, which reduces its usable screen size. Most content is in 16:9 aspect ratio, which means you're going to get black borders on both sides of the X's screen. In fact, based on the dimensions provided by Apple, I estimate 16:9 content on the iPhone X to look roughly equivalent to what you would see on a 5-inch phone with a traditional display. What's my point behind all of this? Despite what the specs say, the iPhone X's display is arguably smaller than the one on the iPhone 8 Plus, so if you like big screens, your best bet is still the 8 Plus with its traditional 5.5-inch 16:9 display.

8.5
  • Design 8
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8
The Good
Incredible benchmark performance
Wireless charging
Improved stereo speakers
Improved cameras
Portrait Lighting (for the 8 Plus)
The Bad
Looks the same from the front
Mostly incremental upgrades
Not the iPhone X
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