The iPhone XS Max and Note 9 are two of the best phones you can buy for photos and video. Each has dual rear cameras, dual optical image stabilization and use a combination of software and brute-force hardware processing power to make photos and video look excellent.
Despite so many similarities, the photos and videos each makes are quite different.
For a more in-depth look at differences, check out CNET's iPhone XS Max vs. the Galaxy Note 9 story.
A photo taken of a cafe in Nob Hill. I like the way the the Note 9 captured the late-afternoon light illuminating the inside of the coffee shop. Notice how the Note 9 makes the colors here a bit warmer.
The iPhone XS Max detected daylight coming in from behind me and made kept the white balance cooler.
A picture of Flogging Molly performing in the living room of CNET's Smart Home in San Francisco. The Note 9's photo looks good, but slightly desaturated.
The iPhone XS Max photo has better saturation. Notice the colors in the instruments and skin tones.
The next two photos are of a mural by Emory Douglass. The Note 9 looks more true to life.
The iPhone XS Max made the colors more punchy, but the lettering is sharper.
There aren't huge differences with these next two. The Note 9 photo has a cooler white balance.
The photo from the iPhone XS Max has a warmer color temperature.
The Note 9 renders live focus photos softer even with beauty mode turned all the way down -- though some people might prefer that look.
Portrait photos from the iPhone XS Max have more detail and sharpness in people's faces than the Note 9.
Portrait mode handle cat photos really well.
Notice the background blur in this photo from the Note 9.
Here's the same moment taken with portrait mode on the iPhone XS Max.
The Note 9 had trouble focusing this backlit live focus photos in low light.
The iPhone XS Max nails focus and balances the highlights in the windows with the shadows on the my friend's faces. There is noise, but without using a flash, I'd post this.
Two more cat photos. This one from the Note 9 is a bit soft.
The iPhone XS Max has much more detail in her fur.
I took a picture of a cappuccino and hand pie from Four Barrel coffee. The Note 9 detected food and optimized photo settings accordingly while leaving the color temperature of the plate and wood table more neutral. The resulting photo has nice golden colors in the pie crust and in the foam of the cappuccino. The Note 9 nails the white balance here.
The iPhone XS Max brings out the highlights in the hand pie but makes it look almost orange. Notice how everything, the food, the plate and table, have a warm tone.
Here are a couple pictures I took of Senor Sisig's food truck in the Mission. The Note 9 exposed its photo brighter, showing more detail in the shadows of the shelves on the food truck but clipping the highlights in clouds and yellow building.
This one from the iPhone XS Max holds the highlights in the clouds and in the yellow building on the left side of the photo.
Notice the differences of photos taken of a couple gazing over San Francisco from Twin Peaks. The Note 9 crunches the shadows of the rocks to black.
The iPhone XS Max shows off its dynamic range holding the details in the white shirt and the details in the shadows of the the rocks.
These next two photos were taking in a barbershop. The Note 9 has a warmer color temperature and clips the highlights in the overhead lighting.
Here's the picture from the iPhone XS Max. It has a cooler temperature.
The Note 9 renders this photo with more natural looking colors.
The iPhone makes the colors more vibrant.
The Note 9 exposes the building a bit dark.
The iPhone XS Max nails the exposure here.
When it comes to low light, the Note 9 switches to its f/1.5 aperture -- the widest on any smartphone -- and exposes scenes brighter than the iPhone XS Max.
The iPhone XS Max while improved in low-light over last year's iPhone X has more noise than the Note 9 in this shot.
Note 9 low light photos definitely have less noise than the iPhone XS Max, but images are really soft and suffer from blown highlights and motion blur.
Low light photos from the iPhone have more noise but are sharper and hold highlights better.
Unless, I'm taking photos of something static, I almost always preferred low light shots from the iPhone XS Max over the Note 9.
Here's the same dog taken with the iPhone XS Max.
I was able to take a picture of the moon. I am impressed with the Note 9's photo. Not too shabby for a phone.
The moon didn't fare too well with the iPhone XS Max.
A collage of selfie photos from the iPhone XS Max.
These next four pictures below were taken late morning of this sky blue colored building in the Mission. Here is the Note 9 using its standard camera.
And here the iPhone XS Max using its standard camera.
And now we get closer with two times optical zoom on the Note 9 which has more contrast than the iPhone XS Max, but still looks pretty great.
The iPhone XS Max does a fantastic job with the colors and exposing the details in the shadows.
When you use digital zoom, photos from both phones look more sloppy. Here's a photo taken with 10 times digital zoom on the Note 9 focusing in on Salesforce Tower. Both look pretty rough.
The photo from iPhone XS Max has a smattering more color saturation, but still suffers from soft details.
The next few photos are one I really like. This one of Flogging Molly was taken with the Note 9.
An iPhone XS Max photo of Rami Malek at an early screening of the film Bohemian Rhapsody in which he plays Freddie Mercury.