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iPhone X vs. iPhone 8 Plus: Which is the best iPhone?

The iPhone X may be "better" on paper, but it might not be the iPhone that best fits your needs.

James Martin/CNET

If you're in the market for a new, big-screen iPhone, deciding which to buy -- and debating between the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus -- you're probably not alone.

True, the iPhone X is the slightly "better" of the two on paper. It has a sharper, larger screen and a depth-sensing front-facing camera. But while it may be the obvious pick simply because of its extra hardware goodies, that doesn't exactly mean it's the right one for you.

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To make sense of these two iPhones' key differences and what impact they could make on your decision, I'll walk you through the questions you should ask yourself when buying either of these two phones. It's not about finding a "winner," it's about helping you find your next iPhone.

(Keep in mind the new 2018 iPhones are right around the corner, and are expected to be announced in September. But if you need to buy an iPhone now, read on.)

Price: What's your budget and what're things worth to you?

Probably the most important factor in anyone's buying decision is the price. The iPhone X is more expensive than the iPhone 8 by at least $200, £200 and AU$350. But these prices don't factor in additional costs like tax and AppleCare, which can pile up quickly. To that end, figure out your total budget for the phone first, and don't forget any cases, extra charging cables and adapters you plan on buying too.

If you can comfortably afford either phone and its accessories, consider the monetary value of each of the iPhone X's unique features (which I'll go over) and weigh its worth to you. Is that bigger screen worth the extra $100, and the depth camera worth another $100? Maybe they're worth an extra $50 to you, and anything more feels egregious.

iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus pricing


iPhone X iPhone 8 Plus
US $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB) $799 (64GB), $949 (256GB)
UK £999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB) £799 (64GB), £949 (256GB)
Australia AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB) AU$1,229 (64GB), AU$1,479 (256GB)

To help you out, here are some things you can get with that additional $200 that work with your new iPhone 8 Plus: a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones, two pairs of Bose SoundTrue Ultra or Klipsch R6i earbuds, at least five different iPhone 8 Plus cases, more AppleCare, two UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speakers, a spare Android phone for fun(!), an Amazon Echo Plus or a Google Home and much more.

iPhone design: Screen size, notch and that home button

The funny thing about the iPhone 8 Plus is that it has a smaller screen and thicker bezels than the iPhone X, but it's bigger overall. That means it's wider in the hand and heavier to hold. However, it also has a physical home button that you can easily tap to return home and double-tap to call up recent apps.

iPhone-X-analisis-review-galeria-español

The iPhone 8 Plus (left) and iPhone X (right).

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The iPhone X, meanwhile, gets rid of the Touch ID button and integrates swiping gestures for navigation instead. It has a "Super Retina HD Display," which is Apple's marketing term to denote a sharper screen with a higher pixel density than the iPhone 8 Plus. But perhaps what's most polarizing about the iPhone is the black notch at the top of its display. Unlike on Android phones you can't hide it, and it'll always be there. On some occasions, like watching video, the notch gets in the way. It's during these moments that the 8 Plus ends up having a more effective, "bigger" display.

With these considerations, think about how all these factors will affect your experience. If you carry your phone in your pocket a lot and don't mind the notch too much, you'll prefer the iPhone X's smaller size. But if you hate the notch and a home key makes your iPhone more intuitive and easier to use, the iPhone 8 Plus' setup will feel familiar.

Camera: iPhone X is better in small ways

Both iPhones have two rear cameras (one wide-angle and one telephoto) for clear optical zooming and bokeh-style portrait pictures. Apple also loaded lighting tools you can tweak to add more drama to your portraits.

However, the iPhone X has a slightly faster aperture (f/2.4 compared with the iPhone 8 Plus' f/2.8) and optical image stabilization on both lenses. These factors help the iPhone X capture a bit more detail and sharpness. Though this advantage is hard to see when comparing well-lit pictures taken by the two, it's more discernable when viewing photos at full resolution, or pictures taken in dim lighting. Also, when recording zoomed-in video, the iPhone X's dual-OIS setup is especially beneficial, as videos are noticeably more stable. (For way more information, check out our deep-dive iPhone X vs. iPhone 8 Plus camera comparison.)

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If you're a fan of selfies, the iPhone X's depth-sensing front-facing camera captures portrait photos too, though pictures don't look as smooth as portraits taken with the rear cameras. The iPhone 8 Plus does not have this feature.

Overall, there's no dramatic difference of image quality between the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, and you'll need to decide if the iPhone X's minor camera benefits are worth $200. But if you prioritize taking fantastic pictures on your phone and you want the best of the best, the iPhone X has it.

Other things to consider: Face mapping, battery life and the future

  • Face mapping: Because the iPhone X's front-facing camera can sense depth and map faces, it can do a couple of things that the iPhone 8 Plus can't. This includes something as important as unlocking your phone with FaceID instead of a fingerprint, and as fun as sending animated emojis that mirror your facial movements.  

    Creating an Animoji.

    CNET
  • Battery life: In addition, our lab tests show that the iPhone 8 Plus has slightly longer battery life. In our battery test for continuous video playback in Airplane mode, the iPhone 8 Plus lasted 13.75 hours while the iPhone X lasted 11.45 hours. This difference may not be a dealbreaker, but it's something to keep in mind. 
  • Future-proofing: Overall, I'd recommend the iPhone 8 Plus to anyone who wants a big-screen iPhone with a familiar design. But keep in mind that sticking to features like the home button and the fingerprint reader for now may just be delaying the inevitable. With other phones adopting screen notches, animated emoji and face unlock, the iPhone X may just be the first of many iPhones that iterate on all these new features. So while you can price the iPhone X's hardware goodies at $200, you may also want to consider that extra cost the same way CNET editor Scott Stein considers it -- as a "tax" on the future tech to come.

iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus specs

iPhone X iPhone 8 Plus
5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
458 ppi 401 ppi
5.7x2.79x0.30 in 6.24x3.07x0.30 in
143.6x70.9x7.7 mm 158.4x78.1x7.5 mm
6.14 oz; 174 g 7.13 oz; 202 g
iOS 11 iOS 11
Dual 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel
7-megapixel 7-megapixel
4K 4K
Apple A11 Bionic Apple A11 Bionic
64GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB
3GB 3GB
None None
2,716mAh (Apple doesn't confirm this) 2,675mAh (Apple doesn't confirm this)
None (Face ID via TrueDepth camera) Home button (Touch ID)
Lightning Lightning
No No
Water-resistant (IP67), wireless Qi charge-compatible, TrueDepth front-facing camera adds Face ID for payments and enables front-facing AR effects Water-resistant (IP67), wireless Qi charge-compatible