Pros / The X has the biggest and best display of any iPhone.
Cons / The camera notch in the screen can be distracting when you watch videos.
Verdict / The iPhone X performed slightly better than any other smartphone in our benchmark tests, but it edge-to-edge display and Face ID really set it apart as the best.
Released less than two months after the impressive iPhone 8 and 8 Plus to mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple's iPhone X was constantly dogged by the question "But is it really worth the $1,000 price tag?" The short answer is yes.
The iPhone X shares many of the features that set the 8 and 8 Plus apart from the rest of the smartphones on the market. It features the same impressive processor, which set benchmark records with the 8 and performed slightly better in most areas with the X. It also has the same glass design that allows for wireless charging, and it has the best cameras on a smartphone.
However, the X is the first iPhone to have an OLED display, which shows deeper color than the LCD screen of the 8 and 8 Plus. Most significantly, it has an edge-to-edge display that is bigger than the 8 Plus’s, but somehow fits onto a phone that is much closer in size to the 8. This gives it the comfortable feel of a standard-size model like the iPhone 8 but with the display of a plus-size smartphone.
The iPhone X's most impressive design feature is its 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display – forget that it's the first iPhone with an OLED display, it's the screen that sets this iPhone apart from others. To put it simply, its edge-to-edge design allows Apple to fit more onto less, and this makes the phone feel small and big at the same time. It feels small in your pocket and your hand, but your eyes see big.
Of course, the edge-to-edge display comes with some concern. For starters, it means getting rid of the home button, which is how you unlocked previous iPhones using Touch ID. Apple addressed these concerns with Face ID, which is a bunch of sensors near the front-facing camera that read your face. All you do is look at the screen and it unlocks. I was skeptical that this would work, especially if I set it up while wearing my glasses and flat cap, but it worked just as flawlessly as the Touch ID, even when I removed the glasses and cap. It doesn't take long to forget that it's even a feature, and the convenience is immediately evident – if you're cooking and your hands are dirty, you can still unlock the phone and access Siri.
Apple swapped out the home button with a swiping gesture, which poses a bit of a learning curve, especially if you've been a dedicated Apple user. When you want to close an app, you swipe up rather than pressing the home button. If you want to bounce between apps, you swipe up and pause your finger until the apps scroll across the screen. It feels weird at first. I often found myself feeling around for the home button, but it doesn't take long to get used to. Give it about two minutes and it'll feel like you’ve been doing it all along.
A minor critique that some have had with the edge-to-edge display is the notch at the top. The notch is necessary, as it's where the front-facing TrueDepth camera is located with its sensors, but it means that a section of the screen can be blocked out when watching a video in full screen. Most of the time, you won't notice it is even there. It certainly didn’t bother me, but I can see how it might irritate some people. Still, with all the advantages of the edge-to-edge display and the TrueDepth camera, it's a small compromise.
Like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the X’s body is all glass. This allows it to wirelessly charge, which is a welcome addition. Our sister site, Tom's Guide, tested the glass’s durability and found it to be less fragile than you might think. When dropped onto wood at heights exceeding 6 feet, the glass was unscathed. The only damage it sustained, a minor crack, came from dropping it onto concrete from about 4 feet. Still, it's a good idea to have a case for it, though this could be said for most smartphones.
Similar to the iPhone 8 Plus, the X has two 12MP cameras with a 1.8 aperture on the wide-angle and a 2.4 aperture on the telephoto, as well as a 10X zoom. While the camera received an A+ for image quality, it's not much different from previous iterations. The portrait mode is an excellent carryover from the iPhone Plus versions, and you can use it with the front-facing camera for better selfies.
The front-facing camera’s biggest improvement is TrueDepth, which I've already mentioned. These special sensors read your face so Face ID can unlock your phone, but they can also track your facial muscles to read your facial expressions. For now, this is used for the new, and somewhat kitschy, animoji feature. With the animojis, the phone records both your voice and your facial expressions and animates the recording as an emoji. The result is an emoji cartoon of you talking, complete with your facial expressions. You raise an eyebrow, the emoji raises an eyebrow. You purse your lips, it purses its lips. Your frown, it frowns. And so on.
The announcement of the animoji feature in the summer was met with many rolled eyes, which is understandable considering it allows you to send a talking poop emoji to your friends. However, I will tell you this – animoji is fun and a little addicting. While the technology is used right now for animating silly 10-second messages, it's not difficult to see how it is likely breaking ground for additional features like those for virtual reality. App developers are probably overflowing with new ideas about how to make your favorite games more interactive. That said, it is the most taxing feature on the X's impressively fast processor. The phone heats up when you use animojis for more than a few minutes at a time. I played with the animoji feature for hours. The X never got dangerously hot, or even uncomfortably so, but it got noticeably warmer.
The A11 Bionic processor was introduced with the 8 and 8 Plus but continues to shine in the iPhone X. When we tested the iPhone 8, the A11 broke all the previous benchmark records by a huge margin. For example, in the 3DMark Ice Storm test, which measures tablet and smartphone graphics performance, the Samsung Galaxy S8 scored a 36,415 and the iPhone 7 Plus scored a 36,711 – both scores were the fastest on the market at the time. However, the iPhone 8 scored a 61,443, and the X performed even better, scoring a 63,913. That said, the difference between the 8 and the X isn't significant. Both phones are faster than any other phone right now.
Simply put, combining a six-core processor with 3GB of memory makes the iPhone X the best performing smartphone on the market. It comes with 64GB or 256GB of storage, and you can sync to an iCloud account for even more storage, though you have to pay for a monthly subscription to do so.
Our partners at Tom's Guide performed battery benchmark tests, and the iPhone X ran for 10 hours and 49 minutes. In the test, the X surfed the web at 4G with a display brightness of 150 nits. The iPhone 8 Plus had a slightly longer battery life, but not by much. Overall, it has one of the best batteries we've seen.
Wireless charging and rapid charging are welcome additions, especially considering how long other smartphones have had these features. One downside to the rapid charging is you have to pay extra for it, whether you use wired rapid charging or a wireless charging mat – the charger that comes with the X doesn't support rapid charging. That said, it's an excellent option that charges your phone to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. If you often find yourself clawing out of the low-battery status, rapid charging is a must.
The biggest feature update, aside from the animoji's, is the move from Bluetooth 4.2 to 5.0. Bluetooth 5.0 has a longer range and provides a faster data transfer speed. This update means you get better audio quality and better wireless performance with all your Bluetooth devices.
The X also has a water-resistance rating of IP67, which means it's dustproof and water-resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. That said, it's important to note that Apple doesn't include liquid damage in the warranty, so Apple won't replace your phone if it stops working from water damage.
The iPhone X has the size and feel of the iPhone 8 but has more screen than the iPhone 8 Plus. When you combine this with the fastest processor on the market, the TrueDepth camera and the edge-to-edge OLED display, it clearly earns its spot at the top of our list of the best smartphones. In addition, you'll find the animoji's to be a fun new way to spice up your text messages.
Contributing Reviewer: Jeph Preece