Apple iPhone 8 Plus review – CNET

Apple’s fanciest iPhone isn’t here yet. But the innards of that fancy iPhone X ($999.99 at Apple) already exist — mostly, anyway — inside a phone you can get right now: the iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone X will arrive on Nov. 3, complete with the overdue, wild redesign we’ve been waiting on for years. It’s almost all screen, with Apple’s first ever OLED display and largest ever 5.8-inch size, crammed into a body that’s not too much larger than the 4.7-inch iPhones. The X boasts dual rear cameras, both with optical image stabilization, plus wireless charging, and tops it off with a blazing fast six-core A11 Bionic processor. And, controversially, the iPhone X includes a cutting-edge Face ID scanner that replaces the iconic Touch ID home button.

The iPhone X will cost a thousand dollars in the US, and we expect it to be in short supply. Indeed, if Apple could actually make enough of the X, the iPhone 8 Plus might not even exist at all. But the company needs a big-screen iPhone that you can actually buy, more or less at the same price as its predecessor.

2017 iPhone pricing (64GB, 256GB)

US UK Australia
iPhone 8 $699, $849 £699, £849 AU$1,079, AU$1,329
iPhone 8 Plus $799, $949 £799, £949 AU$1,229, AU$1,479
iPhone X $999, $1,149 £999, £1,149 AU$1,579, AU$1,829
iPhone 8 Plus

Wireless charging: Qi for now, Apple’s own AirPower in 2018.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This big, capable phone includes all of the features of the smaller iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple) — including wireless charging, the True Tone screen and that same superfast A11 Bionic processor you’ll find in the X. But, like last year’s iPhone 7 Plus ($785.70 at Amazon Marketplace), you get a larger 5.5-inch screen, longer battery life and — most critically — an excellent dual rear camera with 2x optical zoom, upgraded for 2017 with an all-new image sensor. That camera, already great a year ago, has gotten even more refined and fantastic-looking. I’ve been using it for nearly a week and so has CNET Senior Photographer James Martin. We’re both impressed.

But with the X on the horizon, the Plus is no longer “the best iPhone you can buy,” as it has been since Apple started its “regular and extra large” iPhone releases in 2014. And it’s no longer the only big-screen iPhone. In fact, except for the Touch ID home button, the X literally has everything the 8 Plus offers, and more.

Still, the 8 Plus is here now, and the X is weeks away. And while the upgrades for existing 7 Plus owners are minimal (beyond wireless charging), the 8 Plus is worth the premium over the 8 to get the dual cameras, larger display and longer battery life.

iPhone 8 PlusiPhone 8 Plus

Dual cameras: Mostly the same on the outside, better processing inside.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, the iPhone 8 Plus is still an excellent phone, and if you love the size and the home button, this is the best Plus-size iPhone to date. But I’d wait to see what the X can do, and how it feels. It may be well worth spending a bit more — just a few bucks a month, if you’re on an installment plan — to get the iPhone X.

Or maybe you’ll think its taller, narrower design is awkward compared to the Plus. Maybe you’ll just prefer the familiarity of Touch ID to the unknowns of Face ID. Nobody knows yet.

But you’ve waited this long. Why not wait a little longer?

Editors’ note: In-depth battery testing is still to come, as is durability testing and additional photo comparisons to other phones. Ratings are provisional until those tests are completed.

iPhone 8 PlusiPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 8 (left), iPhone 8 Plus (right): Glossy glass this time. Slightly new colors. But the X has the new look.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design: Once again (mostly) the same

To reiterate: the iPhone 8 Plus has all of the same basic features as the new iPhone 8, except for its larger size, better battery life and better cameras. If you want a deeper dive into those main new details of the 2017 iPhones, check out our iPhone 8 review.

As far as the Plus design goes, it’s deja vu all over again. The iPhone 8 Plus looks identical to the 7 Plus, but it does feel different, thanks to a move to a glossy glass back. Apple’s construction process this time uses stronger aluminum body accents, steel reinforcement inside and metal highlights around the camera lens. There are only three colors this time: white with silver highlights, glossy black and space gray, and a blush pink-like gold that feels rose-goldish.

iPhone 8 PlusiPhone 8 Plus

Portrait Lighting is a new mode that adds simulated lighting effects. Sometimes it’s amazing. Sometimes not.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Camera: Stellar shots, even better video

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 ($930.00 at T-Mobile USA) is a great camera. Last year’s Google Pixel is a great camera. Apple used to have an untouchable lead in camera quality, but now many phones take excellent photos. And that’s why Apple has once again raised the bar on its camera. 

The 8 Plus includes a new sensor and image signal processor to go with its new A11 Bionic chip, promising richer colors, better low-light shots and faster autofocus. My photos generally turned out great. Low light gains aren’t as dramatic as I expected compared to the already excellent iPhone 7 Plus, but the photos I’ve been taking have generally looked phenomenal.

Portrait Mode, which debuted last year, now supports flash photography and HDR (on the 7 Plus, too, with iOS 11). The 8 Plus and upcoming X add a new photo technique called Portrait Lighting, a beta feature that adds simulated 3D lighting to faces and even strips out backgrounds to create a studio-shot effect. My mileage varied: Sometimes the effect was stunning, but other times it looked very fake and weirdly clipped. I wouldn’t upgrade my phone for it, but it can be fun to toy with. It will undoubtedly get better.

Stage Light Mono effect in Portrait Mode. Originally this was an office background.

Scott Stein/CNET

At sunset around my home, comparison shots between the 7 Plus and 8 Plus weren’t that easy to tell apart until it was nearly dark. The new slow-syncing flash that promises richer flash photos didn’t have a huge impact for me so far, but I need to keep trying it out. But see for yourself: the camera takes damn good photos, and colors do seem enhanced. That can also mean more details. HDR was improved when shooting sun-drenched clouds.

As I mentioned, James Martin has been using the Plus too, and as a professional photographer is maybe even more impressed than I am. Instead of new lenses or a really different hardware camera, the software and processing inside are making the photos better. He was impressed by the low noise in low light photos, the color rendering and the texture representation. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *