The year 2018 saw flagship smartphones differentiate themselves from those which offered the same top of the line processor at a much lower price. This was achieved by incorporating high-resolution HDR enabled displays, the incorporation of IP ratings and the overall use of design language that sets them apart from the rest.
However, Zero1 Awards are where we award the one best performing smartphone and that will emerge from a perfect marriage of cutting-edge hardware and beautifully optimised software. While everyone continued to use the 10nm process-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, Apple and Huawei pushed beyond with new 7nm based processors. We tested every flagship smartphone that was released this year to settle the debate of who the best performer was.
2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max
Apple’s product line-up saw an unexpected change this year in pricing strategy, with a starting price of nearly a lac. Apple may have increased the price, but they did the same to performance as well. The new A12 Bionic process manufactured on the breakthrough 7nm process impressed greatly. In our benchmark tests, the iPhone XS Max with its 4GB RAM blazed past every android phone by a considerable margin. In some tests, the iPhone came out as 5 percent faster than the second fastest (non-iPhone) smartphone, and in some cases, twice as fast.
On average, the iPhone XS Max is mostly 20-30 percent faster across the board, thanks to the harmonious optimisation of the hardware to Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 12. For the year 2018, the Apple iPhone XS Max is hands down the top performer of the year. The only downside to the Apple iPhone XS Max is its `1,44,990 price tag for the 512GB storage variant, which is a very steep price to pay just for enhanced and peak performance.
Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has the best display in the market today. It sports a 2.5K resolution and HDR Premium certification which allows playback of HDR content with great accuracy. The numbers from benchmarks for the performance of the CPU/GPU/RAM are exceptional as well. The dual camera setup on the back paired with the front facing AF capable camera delivers very impressive results. The 4000mAh battery means you can use the camera for as long as you want since we found the phone to last a day and a half without any problem. Combining all this and factoring in the price, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 emerges as the runner-up flagship smartphone in 2018.
Best Buy: LG G7+ ThinQ
Until last year, LG’s smartphones seemed to be the embodiment of bad decisions. However, with the LG G7+ ThinQ, the company created a true flagship level smartphone. Top of the line SoC paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage meant it quickly found its way to the top tier of our benchmarked devices. The HDR enabled LCD-IPS display was a truly wonderful panel to watch content on. The QUAD-DAC performed splendidly as well. The only two points of criticism for the LG G7+ ThinQ are its relatively small battery and less than stellar performance of the rear cameras. But given the phone’s performance and the price, the G7+ThinQ is our choice for best buy in this category.