It Doesn't Get Better Than This
HWM Singapore|January 2019

The flagship smartphone market is one of the most competitive consumer spaces out there. It’s the place where manufacturers get to showcase their greatest research and development, and most luxurious designs. These are the best phones of the year.

James Lu

APPLE IPHONE XS MAX

The iPhone XS Max is Apple’s biggest ever smartphone with a massive 6.5-inch AMOLED display. For the most part, it looks like a supersized version of last year’s iPhone X, with a shiny stainless steel frame (in a gorgeous new gold color). Apple also advertises it as having the most durable front and back glass used on any smartphone. Environment resistance is also better and is now IP68 rated.

While the XS Max’s 6.5-inch display makes it sound huge, the phone is actually about the same size and weight as an iPhone 8 Plus. The display itself has a 2,688 x 1,242 pixels resolution (~458ppi) and is practically perfect, with rich colors, deep blacks, excellent contrast, and perfect viewing angles. It is HDR10 and Dolby Vision certifed, with a 60% increased the dynamic range so HDR content looks even better now.

Audio on the XS Max is provided by a stereo speaker setup comprising of one downward firing speaker, and the earpiece doubling up as the second speaker. Sound is impressively loud, with a distinct left-right stereo separation.

Like last year’s X, the XS Max lacks a fingerprint scanner and relies entirely on FaceID for biometric security. While the components are the same, it has been upgraded to be faster than the X.

On the rear of the XS Max there’s a new, bigger 12-megapixel sensor in the wideangle camera that delivers cleaner images in low light. Both rear cameras also boast zero shutter lag thanks to a rolling four-frame buff er that continuously captures images whenever the camera app is open. Inside the XS Max is

Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip, which is one of only two mobile processors currently made on a 7nm process technology (the other is Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 980). The A12 Bionic packs a hexa-core CPU, a quad-core GPU, as well as a ‘nextgeneration’ octa-core neural engine for machine learning and AI tasks.

The XS Max has a 3,174mAh battery that supports Qi wireless charging. Technically, it also supports USB Power Delivery fast charging, but not with the bundled charger.

ASUS ROG PHONE

The ROG phone has an aggressive design full of sharp lines and angles, complete with an illuminated programmable ROG logo on the back. It has a 6-inch notched AMOLED display with a 2,160 x 1,080 pixels resolution (402ppi), 18:9 aspect ratio, with HDR support and 108.6 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 color space. For more responsive gaming, it also has a 1ms pixel response time and a 90Hz refresh rate. It isn’t quite as fast as the Razer Phone’s 120Hz Sharp IGZO panel, but it is the fastest smartphone OLED display right now.

The phone has not one, not two, but three USB-C ports designed to be used with its peripherals such as the AeroActive Cooler, as well as to charge more comfortably while gaming in landscape mode. Even with its multitude of open ports, the ROG Phone is still IP68 rated.

Another interesting feature is the presence of three ultrasonic sensors, two on the right (called AirTriggers) and one on the bottom left. They can act as programmable shoulder triggers for gaming, to launch apps or wake the phone. There’s even something called X Mode that’s activated by squeezing the sides of the phone. This kicks the ROG Phone into high gear, optimizing gaming performance by killing background processes and giving games priority for RAM allocation and data transfer.

On the rear, you get the same dual camera setup as the ASUS ZenFone 5; a 12-megapixel f/1.8 main lens with 4-axis OIS, and an 8-megapixel f/2.0 wide-angle lens.

Just like ASUS ROG PC components, the ROG Phone is overclocked out of the box, using a “speed-binned” Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 at 2.96GHz (they’re usually clocked at 2.8GHz), with a whopping 8GB RAM. To keep everything cool, the ROG Phone employs a unique 3D vapor-chamber cooling system. ASUS claims this off ers 16 times the heat dissipation area compared to regular smartphones.

The battery is no slouch either, with a large 4,000mAh unit that supports QuickCharge 4.0 and Qi wireless charging.

GOOGLE PIXEL 3 XL

Google has played it fairly safe with the Pixel 3 XL’s design and it mostly resembles last year’s model, with the addition of a new notch in the display. The back of the phone is now entirely glass, but Google has kept the two-tone design element by sanding the bottom two-thirds of the glass panel. Like many other brands, Google has bumped the Pixel 3 XL’s water and dust resistance up to IP68.

The notch is quite narrow, but really tall for no real reason we can discern as the 3 XL doesn’t have advanced front-facing sensors like the iPhone XS Max or Mate 20 Pro. The bottom bezel is also larger than many other “bezel-less” smartphones, making the 3 XL look less-premium in comparison.

While last year’s Pixels were plagued with display issues, the Pixel 3 XL fares much better. The phone’s 6.3-inch P-OLED panel specifically built for the Pixel 3 XL is bright, with natural colors and great contrast. It is certified by the UHD Alliance as a Premium HDR device, but unfortunately, without HDR10 support.

On the rear, the Pixel 3 XL has a single 12.2-megapixel dual-pixel camera. Its marquee feature is Top Shot, which captures a series of frames before and after you hit the shutter button. On-device machine learning then finds the best photos. There’s also AI-powered Super Res Zoom, which takes a burst of photos to create a higher quality image when you use digital zoom. Despite only having a single rear camera, the 3 XL does have a Portrait Mode, using photosites on the sensor to create a depth map, and an AI algorithm to further separate subject from background and apply a lens blur. The end result is quite good, but not as good as multi-lens phones.

The Pixel 3 XL runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 4GB RAM, and as with all Pixel phones, stock Android OS. The 3 XL has an exclusive Pixel Launcher, which includes a new gesture control system that is quite similar to the one used by Apple for the XS Max.

The Pixel 3 XL has a 3,430mAh battery that supports fast charging with the bundled 18W power adapter, and has Qi wireless charging support too.

HUAWEI MATE 20 PRO

Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro looks like a cross between the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and Apple iPhone XS; it has a curved display like Samsung’s Infinity Display, and a notch with iPhone XS-like set of sensors.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM HWM SINGAPOREView All

CLOSING THE GENDER GAP IN TODAY'S TECH INDUSTRY

Although gender discrimination is illegal today, the gender gap still persists, ranging from subtle to obvious in every industry. The tech industry is no exception.

5 mins read
HWM Singapore
May 2021

Artistic And Multi-Faceted Gameplay

Fantasian is an all-new fantasy role-playing game developed for the Apple Arcade and published by independent Japanese studio Mistwalker. If that doesn’t ring a bell, the studio is led by one Hironobu Sakaguchi, or as many gamers know him, the creator of Final Fantasy.

4 mins read
HWM Singapore
May 2021

Leading The Charge For 2021 Gaming Notebooks

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 (G533)

4 mins read
HWM Singapore
May 2021

A Relaxing Thrill Ride

Monster Hunter: Rise

3 mins read
HWM Singapore
May 2021

A Piece Of Charging Art

Belkin Boost Charge Pro 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with MagSafe

3 mins read
HWM Singapore
May 2021

An Ode To LG Mobile

In April 2016, the cover story for the month’s issue of HWM was Samsung vs LG. It was an in-depth look at the two Korean electronics giants. Samsung had just launched the Galaxy S7 and LG, the modular G5. In just a few months after that story was published, Samsung’s follow up Note 7 devices would suffer battery failures and meltdowns. The entire line had to be recalled. It was undoubtedly a PR disaster and Samsung’s reputation took a major hit that many thought would take years to rebuild.

5 mins read
HWM Singapore
May 2021

This Monitor Does (Almost) Everything LG UltraGear 27GN950

LG’s UltraGear 27GN950 is a 4K gaming monitor that has pulled out all the stops to deliver a premium screen for gaming, content creation, and media consumption. And it has pretty much succeeded.

4 mins read
HWM Singapore
April 2021

Truly Lightweight And Powerful

Dyson Digital Slim

4 mins read
HWM Singapore
April 2021

Breaking The Glass Ceiling

How women in tech succeed in a male-dominated industry

4 mins read
HWM Singapore
April 2021

Thinking Of Joining Clubhouse? The Membership Fee Could Be Your Privacy

With leading media and business influencers such as Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Drake and Elon Musk enthusing about Clubhouse, the invitation-only ‘drop-in audio’ app has created massive awareness and interest globally, even though it’s still in beta mode. It claims to have 10 million users, up from 2 million in January 2021, and its US$1 billion valuation makes it a tech unicorn ranking alongside the likes of Uber and AirBnb.

4 mins read
HWM Singapore
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

PANDEMIC GIVES BOOST AS MORE STATES MOVE TO DIGITAL IDS

The card that millions of people use to prove their identity to everyone from police officers to liquor store owners may soon be a thing of the past as a growing number of states develop digital driver’s licenses.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

THE NEW APPLE TV 4K: CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE WITH A12 BIONIC CHIP & NEW SIRI REMOTE

Whilst it was the overhauls to the iMac and iPad that got people talking at this year’s Spring Loaded event held in Cupertino, California, Apple also used the virtual keynote to announce a refresh to its popular Apple TV set-top box. The latest iteration drives huge leaps forward in graphics performance, introduces the A12 Bionic chip to Apple TV, as well as an all-new Siri Remote, designed to take Apple’s cinema-athome experience to even greater heights.

7 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

RANSOMWARE GANGS GET MORE AGGRESSIVE AGAINST LAW ENFORCEMENT

Police Chief Will Cunningham came to work four years ago to find that his six-officer department was the victim of a crime.

4 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

MLB TELLS ATHLETICS TO EXPLORE RELOCATION IF NO NEW BALLPARK

Major League Baseball instructed the Athletics to explore relocation options as the team tries to secure a new waterfront ballpark it hopes will keep the club in Oakland long-term.

5 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

NEBRASKA COULD LET STATE BANKS OFFER CRYPTOCURRENCY SERVICES

Nebraska banks that want to cash in on the cryptocurrency tech craze could start offering services to customers who own Bitcoin and other digital assets under a bill backed by Monday state lawmakers.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

ELON MUSK SHOWS HUMILITY AND HUBRIS AS ‘SNL' HOST

Elon Musk showed a combination of humility and hubris as he opened his highly anticipated hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live.”

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

AS CHIP SHORTAGE GOES ON, CARS ARE SCARCE AND PRICES ARE UP

For the next few months, Charlie Gilchrist figures his 11 car dealerships in the DallasFort Worth area will sell just about every new vehicle they can get from the factories — and at increased prices.

5 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

SEYFRIED LENDS GROUNDING PRESENCE TO CAMPY THRILLER

Hollywood thrillers in which sophisticated, attractive city folk move to creaky old country homes and experience scary things are a dime a dozen. Less common is when those Hollywood thrillers are based on the theology of 18thcentury Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

4 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

AMAZON BLOCKED 10 BILLION LISTINGS IN COUNTERFEIT CRACKDOWN

Amazon, which has been under pressure from shoppers, brands and lawmakers to crack down on counterfeits on its site, said Monday that it blocked more than 10 billion suspected phony listings last year before any of their offerings could be sold.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

AGS URGE FACEBOOK TO DROP ‘INSTAGRAM FOR KIDS' PROPOSAL

A bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general has written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to drop company plans for a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Monday.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498