On Sept. 22, my new Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 8 Plus finally arrived. Although both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have been accused of being relatively minor enhancements over their respective predecessors, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, my experience with the new device has been decidedly more positive.
Though I hope to do a full review of the device soon, for now I'd like to go over three major improvements in the iPhone 8 Plus that I'm happy about relative to the 7 Plus, which has been my primary smartphone over the last year.
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The display on the iPhone 7 Plus was already gorgeous. It was a big step up from the displays on the iPhone 6s and 6 Plus in terms of brightness and color accuracy, and it was an absolute pleasure to use over the past year.
But the display on the iPhone 8 Plus takes things to an entirely new level. Apple claims the displays themselves are new, so I wouldn't be surprised if detailed testing showed fundamental improvements in areas such as color accuracy and brightness over the display on the iPhone 7 Plus.
The killer feature for me, though, is the addition of a True Tone display, which adjusts the color temperature of the screen based on the surrounding lighting. True Tone technology was introduced with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which launched in March 2016. It was left out of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but it's included in both iPhone 8 models and the iPhone X.
When it first rolled out, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said that "once you use a display with this True Tone technology, you never want to go back to old technology," and I completely agreed after using the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This is a great feature that makes the viewing experience on my iPhone 8 Plus a dramatic improvement over that on the iPhone 7 Plus. The display on the iPhone 8 Plus is sharp and beautiful, a true visual treat.
A really fast processor
I'm a chip nerd and always want faster devices. The A11 Bionic delivers for the iPhone 8. It's a performance monster.
In the Geekbench 4 performance test, my iPhone 8 Plus yields a single-core score of 4,254 and a multi-core score of 10,238. By contrast, my old iPhone 7 Plus, powered by the A10 Fusion chip, achieves a single-score score of 3,509 and a multi-core score of 5,996. That's a 21% improvement in single-core performance and a 70% improvement in multi-core performance -- both rather excellent generational improvements atop performance that was already best-in-class.
It's not just the CPU that's gotten faster, though. The graphics processor has gotten way faster, too. Apple claims a 30% generation-over-generation improvement but depending on the performance test, that might be underselling it a bit -- something Apple has been known to do.
In the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited performance test, my iPhone 8 Plus achieves a graphics score of 110,716. My old iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, achieves a score of 62,022. In this test, the iPhone 8 Plus delivers nearly a 79% improvement in graphics performance. However, in another popular smartphone performance test, AnTuTu, the iPhone 8 Plus achieves a graphics sub-score of 73,022, up about 30% from the 56,031 my iPhone 7 Plus achieves.
I have to wonder if Apple's claim of a graphics processor in the iPhone 8 Plus that's "up to" 30% better than the one in the iPhone 7 Plus should've been marketed as "at least" -- I'll try to do more testing in the coming days.
At any rate, this kind of performance uplift would be impressive had Apple simply done yet another one of its excellent implementations of Imagination Technologies' graphics intellectual properties. But considering Apple says that the A11 Bionic chip includes Apple's very first in-house graphics processor, this effort is substantially more impressive.
Not only has Apple managed to build a competent in-house graphics processor for mobile applications, which is no easy feat, but it has managed to build a best-in-class graphics processor for mobile applications.
As an iPhone customer, I'm happy with the performance improvement. As a technology geek, I'm beyond impressed with Apple's chip teams.
The iPhone 8 Plus comes in the same shape as the iPhone 7 Plus. If my 7 Plus were one of the variants with a white face, the phones would look identical laying face-up on a table. However, Apple says the designs are all-new, and I believe the company.
The back of the phone is no longer aluminum -- it's glass, which makes the device look far better than its predecessor.
Yes, the iPhone 8 Plus is a thing of beauty, especially in the new gold color. The glass back adds a little more heft to the device, but I find it manageable. In exchange for that heft, though, the device just feels better in the hand -- or, in some use cases, given the sheer size of the iPhone 8 Plus -- the hands.
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