Review: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus | iLounge

Review

Review: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

A-
Highly Recommended
iPhone 8 Plus

B+
Recommended
iPhone 8

Company: Apple

Model: iPhone 8 / iPhone 8 Plus

Price: $699 – $949

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Jesse Hollington

Pros: Solid updates to both of Apple’s standard iPhone models offer the same horsepower as Apple’s upcoming iPhone X in a proven and familiar form factor. New all-glass design brings back some of the “museum-quality” elegance of the iPhone 4 era. Virtually identical dimensions mean that almost all previous cases should continue to fit. A11 processor unlocks new camera improvements and experiences such as augmented reality. True Tone display improves on-screen color reproduction. Despite the same specs, both models feature noticeable camera improvements. iPhone 8 Plus gains a new Portrait Lighting mode for even better portrait photos. Fast-charging provides a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes. Wireless Qi charging makes recharging more convenient, especially when using a case.

Cons: Modest improvements over the iPhone 7 make this year’s update feel less significant, particularly in comparison to the looming iPhone X. The iPhone 8 continues to lag behind its larger sibling for photography. Package still only includes the same 5W power adapter as before, so you’ll need to supply your own adapter for faster charging. Wireless charging also doesn’t offer any additional performance over the included 5W power adapter.

Despite Apple’s marketing, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus actually feature the same base display specs as the prior iPhone 7 models — 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCD IPS displays with the same resolution, pixel densities, and contrast ratios as before. Of course, it’s still a great screen, and a big leap over the pre-iPhone 7 models, but users upgrading from an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus aren’t going to notice any difference in screen quality, viewing angles, or wide color gamut.

That said, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus do pack in one relatively nice enhancement, finally bringing the True Tone display technology first seen on the 9.7” iPad Pro to the smaller screen. As on the iPad Pro, the True Tone display uses a four-channel ambient light sensor to analyze the color of nearby light to adjust the screen’s white balance, resulting in better color representation. This is especially helpful when looking at images, but can also help to reduce eyestrain even when reading. As a rule, the screen’s color generally leans to the warmer color temperatures when True Tone is enabled, but again will very subtly adjust depending on where you are. As with the iPad Pro, the feature can be toggled on and off in either the iOS Settings app or by a button found by pressing-and-holding on the brightness slider in the new iOS 11 Control Center. True Tone is something we really liked on the iPad Pro so we’re happy to see it finally on the iPhone as well.

As usual, the new iPhone models sport a new generation of Apple-designed processor, this time in the form of the hexa-core A11 “Bionic” chip with Apple’s new “Neural Engine” which now packs in four low-energy efficiency “Mistral” cores — doubling the two cores from last year’s A10 Fusion — alongside two “Monsoon” high-performance cores. Apple claims the new chip provides a 70 percent performance boost over the iPhone 7 when running on the lower-energy efficiency cores and a 25 percent boost on the high-performance cores. A three-core GPU also delivers a graphics performance increase of 30 percent over the A10 Fusion. The A11 also differs in its ability to use all six cores simultaneously when necessary, rather than having to switch back and forth between the high and low-performance cores. The end result is a processor that actually provides desktop-class performance in a mobile device.

While the Geekbench test results certainly bear this out, showing a single-core score of 4265 on the iPhone 8 versus 3526 on last year’s iPhone 7, the reality is that this isn’t a performance increase that most users are going to “feel” during typical iPhone use — the iPhone 8 isn’t more responsive or noticeably faster at switching or loading apps, or even starting up, and even for most of the current slate of iOS games available, the iPhone 8 doesn’t seem significantly faster.

To be fair, however, we don’t think the main point of the A11 Bionic performance improvements are just to make the iPhone 8 “faster” but rather to provide the performance necessary to handle a whole new era of applications like the augmented reality solutions that iOS 11 enables, along with under-the-hood machine learning technologies that power solutions like Memories in the Photos app, advanced Siri features, and new image processing for the Camera app. These aren’t things that the typical user will notice as performance increases, but in short the significance of the A11 Bionic chip is that it allows the iPhone 8 to do more advanced things, not merely that you can do the same things faster.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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