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I recently dusted off my old iPhone XS Max, and you know what? It’s still a damn good phone – even by 2023 standards. Here’s why…



iPhone XS Max
5.0

If you want an iPhone and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you don’t mind not having 5G, I think the iPhone XS Max is a great deal. For less than $250, you’re getting a potent, perfectly engineered phone with stellar battery life that’ll run the latest builds of iOS without any issues.

Pros:
  • Immersive Display: The 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED display offers stunning visuals and vibrant colors.
  • Powerful Performance: The A12 Bionic chip delivers fast and efficient performance for all tasks.
  • Impressive Cameras: Dual 12MP rear cameras and a 7MP front camera capture high-quality photos and videos.
  • Long Battery Life: With its 3174mAh battery, the XS Max ensures ample power for a day’s use.
  • Premium Design: The glass body and stainless steel frame give it a luxurious look and feel.

The iPhone XS Max might be getting on for five years old now, but the phone itself still holds up today. I bought one when it came out and, for the purpose of this redux review, I used it for a couple of weeks with the express purpose of finding out if it is still worth buying in 2023.

First and foremost, the iPhone XS Max still looks great. Apple hasn’t changed its design philosophy that much since 2018 and, with most users running their iPhones in cases, the iPhone XS Max does not look all that different from my iPhone 14 when using it.

And, like the iPhone 14, it too has a pretty expansive OLED display that, while not quite as bright, nit-wise as Apple’s newer iPhone models, is still perfectly useable. It’s bright, crisp, and media – like YouTube videos and webpages – looks as good as even when displayed on it.

Performance, again, wasn’t an issue. I was worried it’d feel sluggish after using both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 but for general stuff – the kind of stuff that takes up 95% of what you do with your phone – the XS Max still felt snappy, with plenty of grunt to spare.

The fact that the iPhone XS Max is still a viable option in 2023 is testament to just how well Apple designs and manufactures its phones. Sure, the XS Max is now pretty old. But it still runs fine and, on top of that, it’ll get iOS updates for at least another few years.

Add in its now, ultra-low price tag – you can pick one up for around $250, and that’s for the 256GB model – and you’re looking at a proper value for money investment.

If cash is tight right now, as it is for most people, the iPhone XS Max serves up some pretty unbeatable value for money. And while there are some caveats (it doesn’t have 5G, for instance), I wouldn’t say they’re a deal-breaker for the right type of user.

iPhone XS Max Overview

iPhone XS Max ReviewPin

Design and Display

The design of the iPhone XS Max is undeniably premium. Following the footsteps of the iPhone X, the XS Max sports a glass body sandwiched between a surgical-grade stainless steel frame, giving it a luxuriously sleek aesthetic.

The iPhone XS Max is available in three colors: Silver, Space Grey, and Gold.

Size is where the XS Max stands out. With a 6.5-inch Super Retina HD display, it’s the largest screen ever seen on an iPhone until that time. The screen offers a resolution of 2688 x 1242 pixels with 458 pixels per inch (ppi), and it’s an OLED panel as well, so you get stunning color reproduction and deep blacks.

It’s also HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatible which makes it awesome for consuming media like movies and games while on the move.

Performance and Battery Life

Inside the iPhone XS Max, you’ll find the A12 Bionic chip. The first commercially available 7-nanometer silicon, this chip is faster and more efficient than its predecessor.

It features a 6-core CPU and a 4-core GPU, along with an 8-core Neural Engine dedicated to machine learning tasks, making the iPhone XS Max a powerhouse for everything from gaming to AI applications.

The battery life of the XS Max was a notable improvement over the iPhone X. It packs a sizeable 3,174mAh battery, which Apple claimed could deliver up to 13 hours of internet use or up to 15 hours of video playback.

And my experience, the battery performance of the iPhone XS Max is great. It’ll go all day and then some with moderate usage, and even if you push it hard with video and the like, it’ll still make it through until bed time.

iPhone XS Max Specs

General:

  • Release date: September 2018
  • Operating System: iOS 12, upgradable to iOS 16
  • Dimensions: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 in)
  • Weight: 208 g (7.34 oz)

Body:

  • Build: Glass front (Gorilla Glass), glass back (Gorilla Glass), stainless steel frame
  • SIM: Nano-SIM and eSIM or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by) – for China
  • Water/Dust Resistance: IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 2m for 30 mins)
  • Apple Pay (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX certified)

Display:

  • Display Type: Super Retina OLED, HDR10, 625 nits (typ)
  • Size: 6.5 inches, 102.9 cm2 (~84.4% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Resolution: 1242 x 2688 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio (~458 ppi density)
  • Protection: Scratch-resistant glass, oleophobic coating

Platform:

  • Chipset: Apple A12 Bionic (7 nm)
  • CPU: Hexa-core (2×2.5 GHz Vortex + 4×1.6 GHz Tempest)
  • GPU: Apple GPU (4-core graphics)

Memory:

  • Internal: 64GB 4GB RAM, 256GB 4GB RAM, 512GB 4GB RAM
  • NVMe

Camera:

  • Main Camera: Dual 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS 12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.4″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
  • Features: Quad-LED dual-tone flash, HDR (photo/panorama)
  • Video: 4K@24/30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, HDR, stereo sound rec.
  • Selfie Camera: 7 MP, f/2.2, 32mm (standard)
  • Features: HDR
  • Video: 1080p@30/60fps, gyro-EIS

Sound:

  • Loudspeaker: Yes, with stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm Jack: No

Communications:

  • WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot
  • Bluetooth: 5.0, A2DP, LE
  • GPS: Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS
  • NFC: Yes
  • USB: Lightning, USB 2.0

Features:

  • Sensors: Face ID, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
  • Siri natural language commands and dictation

Battery:

  • Type: Li-Ion 3174 mAh, non-removable (12.08 Wh)
  • Charging: Fast charging 15W, 50% in 30 min (advertised)
  • USB Power Delivery 2.0
  • Qi wireless charging
  • Stand-by: Up to 16 h (multimedia)
  • Music play: Up to 65 h

Camera Capabilities

Apple's iPhone XS MaxPin

Photography enthusiasts will appreciate the iPhone XS Max’s dual 12MP rear camera setup, which includes a wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture and a telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture.
The camera system supports 2x optical zoom and digital zoom up to 10x. It also offers Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control.

On the front, the 7MP TrueDepth camera boasts an f/2.2 aperture and a Retina Flash for stunning selfies. It also supports Portrait mode, and enables Face ID, Apple’s facial recognition technology.

Both the front and rear cameras have Smart HDR, bringing more highlight and shadow detail to your photos. The rear cameras can record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, and the front camera can capture 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second.

Is it as good as what you get on Apple’s iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro Max?

Of course not, but that’s not the point – this phone retails for around $500 less than those phones.

The camera is still good, perfectly usable for social media snaps and the like. But it is no way near as capable as Apple’s more modern camera modules found on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 series.

Connectivity and Other Features

The iPhone XS Max supports dual SIMs (a nano-SIM and an eSIM), 4G LTE Advanced, Wi-Fi 802.11ac with 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC with reader mode. It also has a built-in GPS and GLONASS for location services.

The device is rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, meaning it can survive in up to 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. It also supports wireless charging and is compatible with Qi chargers.

Should You Buy The iPhone XS Max in 2023?

iPhone XS maxPin

If you want an iPhone and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you don’t mind not having 5G, I think the iPhone XS Max is a great deal. For less than $250, you’re getting a potent, perfectly engineered phone with stellar battery life that’ll run the latest builds of iOS without any issues.

Pop it in a case and no one, unless they’re a complete tech geek, will be able to tell it is a five year old model. And the display, thanks to the fact it is OLED and future-proofed with things like HDR10 and Dolby Vision, is still up there with the best of them.

But the best part? You can get the iPhone XS Max, unlocked and with 256GB of storage, more than enough for anyone, for the measly sum of $259.99 – that’s insane value for money.

iPhone XS Max
5.0

If you want an iPhone and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you don’t mind not having 5G, I think the iPhone XS Max is a great deal. For less than $250, you’re getting a potent, perfectly engineered phone with stellar battery life that’ll run the latest builds of iOS without any issues.

Pros:
  • Immersive Display: The 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED display offers stunning visuals and vibrant colors.
  • Powerful Performance: The A12 Bionic chip delivers fast and efficient performance for all tasks.
  • Impressive Cameras: Dual 12MP rear cameras and a 7MP front camera capture high-quality photos and videos.
  • Long Battery Life: With its 3174mAh battery, the XS Max ensures ample power for a day’s use.
  • Premium Design: The glass body and stainless steel frame give it a luxurious look and feel.

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