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Apple iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: Is the iPhone Good Enough?

author Luis Silva (May 2020 Updated: August 2021 - 6 min. reading time)

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is more expensive than the iPhone XS Max, but it's the smartphone you should pick.

It has a better display, better battery life, more internal storage (128GB vs. 64GB), and external storage.

Are there other things worth mentioning?

The Galaxy S20 Ultra also features a higher refresh rate, Always-On, larger (+0.4") display, better peak brightness, a telephoto lens (+51 mm), faster-charging speeds (45w vs. 15w), faster wireless charging (15w vs. 5w), reverse wireless charging, and more RAM (12GB vs. 4GB). But with the iPhone XS Max, you can get a cleaner user interface.

How much will the additional specs cost me?

If you're considering a new and unlocked smartphone, it'll cost you around $305 more.

Is the iPhone XS Max still worth getting in 2021?

The iPhone XS Max is still a great phone, even in 2021, and while it isn't the best device out there, at least it's more affordable now. Having said that, the OnePlus 8 Pro has better performance, better cameras, more storage, a better optical zoom, faster charging, more RAM, better display, and reverse charging.

Is the Galaxy S20 Ultra still worth buying in 2021?

Of course, I still recommend the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2021. You'll love it for its good cameras, good battery life, excellent glass protection, optical zoom, and fast charging. But don't just ignore the Oppo Find X2 Pro.

Keep reading for answers to all your questions about their differences, how they compare to similarly priced rivals, and how the industry is scoring their specs.

Check prices on Amazon Check prices on Amazon
Click here or scroll down to check prices on eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions.

Apple iPhone XS Max, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

Are you consider an upgrade and switching from apples to robots? Not really?

That's ok. Either way, you're in the right place.

In March of 2020, Samsung launched its Galaxy S20 Ultra. The iPhone XS Max, however, saw the light of day in September 2018.

Here you can look at the iPhone XS Max and the Galaxy S20 Ultra, compare each other's features, and decide which one is best for you. Let us delve into the finer details.

The weight of each section

For additional information regarding our smartphone comparisons, check this FAQ.

to check who their rivals are.

Price*
vs.
Device iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Release Date 2018, September 2020, March 2y.
OS Updates 6 years 3 years -3y.
Security Updates 6 years 4 years -2y.

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Which One Has The Best Performance?

Performance-wise, Geekbench 5 (IOS)(Android) scores the Galaxy S20 Ultra 2% ahead in the multi-core ranking. Overall, you wouldn't feel that much of a difference between them. The iPhone is a bit more responsive to tasks like rotating the phone to landscape mode because it is a more optimized OS.

We can classify the Galaxy S20 Ultra as a lower high-end.

PS: The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (with the Adreno 650 GPU) and the Exynos 990 (with the Mali-G77) are market-dependent. Click here for more info.

There's a performance increase of about 15% on the 865 for the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Performance*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
SoC Apple A12 Exynos 990
Graphics Apple GPU Mali-G77 MP11
Geekbench 5 Score 2655
2698
43
OS iOS 12 Android 10 and OneUI
Tek-Score
6.4
6.5
0.1

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

Apple iPhone XS Max front transparent png Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra front transparent png

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is the winner here, and the difference is considerable.

If you prefer a smartphone with a big display, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is your holy grail. At least it's enormous when compared to the average phone for its price range.

If you fancy edge-to-edge displays, there's one more reason to consider the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Very few rivals share this maximum brightness. Usually, they rarely stay far from 743 nits, but the iPhone XS Max can only do 29% below that.

If a device can't go over 500 nits, it isn't your best option for HDR content and outdoor readability. Relating to HDR:

Bearing in mind the iPhone XS Max, 89% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 93% have an Always-On display.

Regarding the Galaxy S20 Ultra, I should say that 96% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, 88% have an Always-On display, and 76% have Gorilla Glass 6 or better.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Size 6.5
6.9
0.4
Screen Type AMOLED AMOLED
Resolution (px) 1242x2688
1440x3200
1269504
Refresh Rate 60hz 120hz 60
Dots per Inch 455.55
508.56
53.01
Always-On-Display No Yes
Notch Wedge Hole
Peak Brightness 530 nits
894 nits
364
HDR HDR10 HDR10+
Sub Tek-Score
2.7
9.8
7.1
Protection Corning toughened glass Corning Gorilla Glass 6
Tek-Score
5.8
8.3
2.5

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

Apple iPhone XS Max back transparent png Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra back transparent png

You should note that the iPhone XS Max is in the neighborhood of 40% above other smartphones from its price range. Although the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the clear winner.

About the iPhone XS Max: DXOMARK gave this shooter a score of 118. If you add its telephoto lens, that will go up to 126**. You can check their review if you click here.

I hope this helps: you'd probably like to know that all of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more and have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and 93% feature Optical Image Stabilization. Although only 15% of them feature a macro lens.

Despite only having an optical zoom of 4x, thanks to its AI, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is also known for its impressive 100x hybrid Space Zoom. While better than a digital zoom, that's still far from a pure optical zoom.

About the Galaxy S20 Ultra: DXOMARK evaluated this camera, and here's the score: 128. And if we consider the telephoto and wide-angle lenses, that score goes up to 144. You can click here to check it out.

Furthermore, just to let you know, all of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K, have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and feature Optical Image Stabilization, and 76% feature a telephoto lens. Additionally, only 4% of them feature a macro lens.

We can classify the Galaxy S20 Ultra as a high-end.

**Consider this as an estimative, at least for phones with no zoom and up to 35 to 40MP. These guys recently updated their test protocol, and I need more reviewed devices to fine-tune older scores.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Megapixels 12
108
96
Aperture 1.8
1.8
0.0
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 4 1 -3
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 2160 4320 2160
Score 126
144
18

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Extra Camera(s) iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra vs.
Megapixels 12
48
36
Aperture 2.4
3.5
1.1
Lens 52mm (2x zoom)
103mm (4x zoom)
51
Lens Type Telephoto lens Telephoto lens
Megapixels - 12
Aperture - 2.2
Lens - 13mm
Lens Type - Ultra-wide-Angle
Megapixels - 0.3
Lens Type - Depth Sensor
Score 8 16 8
Selfie Camera iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra vs.
Megapixels 7
40
33
Aperture 2.2
2.2
0.0
Lens 32mm 26mm -6
iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra vs.
Tek-Score
7.4
8.5
1.1

Who has the best frame?

They ended up with the same score, so don't worry too much.

The iPhone XS Max weighs 208 g. (7.34 oz), while its rival is 14 g. (0.55 oz) heavier. If you're curious, the "weight to display size" score of the iPhone XS Max is 3.2, which suggests it's kind of weighty for a 6.5 inches display. The Galaxy S20 Ultra, in its turn, has 3.1, which suggests it's considerably hefty too.

The iPhone XS Max truly is water-resistant. It can be submerged 1 to 3 meters deep, on par with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. That should be for up to 30 minutes, and it's in standby mode only. So don't take photos underwater.

Looks*
vs.
Body iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Size 157 x 77 x 7 mm
(5.54 x 2.72 x 0.25 in)
166 x 76 x 8 mm
(5.86 x 2.68 x 0.28 in)
16305
Weight 208 g. (7.34 oz)
222 g. (7.83 oz)
14
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Space Gray, Gold, and Silver Cosmic Grey and Cosmic Black
Screen To Body Ratio 85.85%
91.11%
5.26
Disp.Size To Weight Score 3.2 3.1 -0.1
Looks 8.9/10
9.1/10
0.3
Waterproof IP68 IP68
Biometrics Face ID Under Display Fingerprint
Tek-Score
6.7
6.4
-0.3

*100% = 4+ colors + front and back glass + S2BR: 86+%.

Which has the best battery?

The iPhone XS Max does have a smaller battery, with 3174 mAh, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra has 5000 mAh. And by GSMArena's standards, the latter does have better battery life.

You may actually be considering it for this reason, but Samsung could've done much better, as other devices of this size have way better battery life. That's the conclusion that we take from its "battery to phone size" rate of 2.3. But the iPhone XS Max only achieved 2.1.

Fast charging is indeed fast with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Its competitors usually sit at nearly 33w.

The Snapdragon 865 also has better battery efficiency (about 10% more screen-on-time) when you compare it to the Exynos 990.

Battery*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Capacity (mAh) 3174 5000 1826
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 78% left
82% left
4
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 60% left
65% left
5
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 64% left
70% left
6
Bat. To Phone Size Score 2.1 2.3 0.2
Sub Tek-Score
6.7
7.2
0.5
Fast Charging 15w
45w
30
Wireless Charging 5w
15w
10
Reverse Charging No 9w
9
Tek-Score
6.0
7.2
1.2

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has about two times more storage.

Apple put 4GB of RAM and 64GB of built-in storage on the iPhone XS Max. Furthermore, other devices from this budget usually deliver more RAM and more storage. They average at 8GB of RAM and 135Gb of storage.

Neither storage nor RAM should be an issue on both phones. However, if you love to have or record tons of videos, 64 GB alone won't get you there.

Storage*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
RAM (GB) 4GB
12GB
8
Internal (GB) 64GB
128GB
64
Micro SD No microSDXC (shared SIM slot)
Tek-Score
2.8
7.5
4.8

*Internal Storage + 256GB Memory Card (Max: 512GB).

Which is the most connectivity-friendly?

I'd go for the Galaxy S20 Ultra if you really value 5G.

If you love good-old wired headphones, you're out of luck because none of them included a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can buy an adapter, but the wireless buds are your only option. You can have it anyway if you're not really leaning towards any of these. You'd have to pick a smartphone like the Sony Xperia 1 II.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has two network variants: LTE or (LTE and) 5G.

Connectivity
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Network LTE 5G (also available in LTE)
Bluetooth 5.0
5.0
NFC Yes Yes
3.5mm jack No No
Tek-Score
3.6
4.6
1.0

Which is more affordable?

Here are the best deals on some major online stores:

Apple iPhone XS Max

Reference: $650

Apple iPhone XS Max

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Reference: $955

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions, but it will mean a lot if you click on one of these buttons before purchasing your next phone (or whatever else you end up buying). You'll be helping to take this to the next level.

Prices on eBay are in $US but Europe-based. You can click to check the prices in your country.

Prices marked with ! are from renewed/refurbished/carrier-locked phones (except eBay prices that, as a last resort, can be from bids or used devices).

How much of a "phone" can your money buy?
That's how much "score" you can get with $100 based on the global score that you'll see in the next section (higher is better).

Have you found better prices elsewhere? The formula is simple: score/price*100.

Value for money iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra VS
Amazon 1.33 ! - -
eBay 0.83 0.91 0.08
Best Buy - - -
Walmart - ! - -

Also, don't forget to check the latest deals from these four stores, and the state of the art on mobile technology, if you don't want to overpay on your next smartphone.


Related articles:


Best smartphone deals


The Best Unbiased Smartphones For All Budgets


Smartphone Specs Statistics: The State Of The Art (Q1 2021)

Want to know about that global score? But first, let's see where its rivals are. It's 7.0 for the iPhone XS Max and 7.2 for the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Verdict: What Makes the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Stand Out?

If you're in for an upgrade, don't expect a performance bump. Instead, you'll be getting way more quality and flexibility when taking your photos.

You'll also be getting a considerable improvement in display and battery life, but to some, maybe the main reason is in the storage department. 128GB plus a MicroSD card slot seems too good to be true, and I'm not even mentioning the extra 8GB of RAM (or am I?).

Pros iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
#1 Performance Performance
#2 AMOLED AMOLED
#3 Cameras Always-On-Display
#4 Fast Charging Cameras
#5 Wireless Charging Fast Charging
#6 Glass Protection Wireless Charging
#7 MicroSD Slot
#8 Glass Protection
Cons iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
#1 Always-On-Display Weight
#2 MicroSD Slot 3.5mm Jack
#3 Weight Price
#4 3.5mm Jack
#5 Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score iPhone XS Max Galaxy S20 Ultra
Gaming Score
5.6
7.8
2.2
Tek-Score
5.62
7.38
1.76
Your Score

Scroll the sliders down below to get your own personalized score. Let's suppose you value performance and battery life, and you don't really care about anything else. Then, just set the "Performance" and the "Battery" sliders up to 5 (5+5=10), and then the other sliders down to 0. You'll know what's the best phone for you.

Performance 1.9
Display 1.7
Cameras 1.4
Frame 0.9
Battery 1.9
Storage 2.0
Connectivity 0.4
Total Should be 10 or as close as possible: 9.6

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

For suggestions and bug reports, click here. Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

If you want to know more about them, click here:

About me

Hello!

My name is Luis Silva, and I have a degree in computer management. Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved everything to do with tech. Music, pictures, video editing, I've done it all! This site is a place for me to share some of the knowledge I have, as well as keep up-to-date with current trends. This is a wonderful place for tech-geeks and everyone else that just want to learn more about tech and smartphones in general.


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Apple iPhone XS Max Related Comparisons


Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Related Comparisons

×

"Display size to phone weight" ratio explained

This indeed is a "display size to phone weight" ratio, but because every phone ended up somewhere between 0.0272 and 0.0421, I've amplified (adapted) those values so they would fit in a 0-10 scale. As of now, the best smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A40, with 140g. (4.94 oz) for a 5.9 inch display. It got a score of 9.92. While the worse device is the iPhone 8 Plus, which weighs 202 g. (7.13 oz) and has a 5.5-inch display. It ended up with a score of 0.75.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

"Battery to device size" ratio explained

This score should give you an idea about the energy footprint of the devices you're considering. It reflects not only the hardware and the energy that it requires but also the amount of energy that the battery can deliver.

The major spenders on any device should be the display and the SoC. But everything from a notification led to its modems need to be optimized, or else, the OEM should simply include a bigger battery as a compensation. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible due to size limitations. But in the end, if a particular OEM can do a good job and give you excellent battery life on a small device, so should everyone else. That's why I've added a "battery to device size" ratio. But since the real scale went from 119 (for the Galaxy S10e, Snapdragon variant) and up to 164 (for the iPhone 7 Plus), I've decided to convert them so they would fit in a 0-10 scale, being 0 the worst device, (the iPhone 7 Plus) and 10 the one every OEM should look up to.

As an example, Apple did an excellent job on the iPhone 7. It has a score of 8. Despite having a small capacity, the hardware is well optimized, and it still gives you decent battery life considering its size. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, with those bezels shrinking its display size, clearly could've been the #1 in our top 10 list of best battery devices if Apple simply filled all that empty space with a bigger battery.

As a side note: I haven't included the dept of the devices in this formula because even if a device ended up being 1mm/0.03 inches thicker, it wouldn't matter that much to those who really value battery life.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

Rivals

As of now, these are the rivals that were considered for each of them. They may change every time its prices are updated.

These are the lowest prices found on Amazon, eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.


 Apple iPhone XS Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12
    $689
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $565
  • ApplerivaliPhone X
    $579
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11
    $575
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 9
    $598
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 SD
    $535
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ SD
    $535
  • HuaweirivalP30 Pro
    $599
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Plus
    $600
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Pro
    $600
  • GooglerivalPixel 5
    $580
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Plus
    $600
  • OnePlusrival8T
    $549
  • XiaomirivalMi 10
    $529
  • OpporivalReno4 Pro
    $594
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9
    $551
  • OpporivalFind X3 Lite
    $554

 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12
    $689
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Pro
    $969
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • ApplerivaliPhone XS Max
    $650
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro Max
    $900
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.EX
    $789
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.SD
    $899
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • HuaweirivalMate 30 Pro
    $849
  • HuaweirivalP40 Pro
    $799
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • OnePlusrival8 Pro
    $799
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.
    $899
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Ultra
    $846
  • OpporivalFind X2 Pro
    $950
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Ultra
    $899
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9 Pro
    $969
  • VivorivalX60 Pro
    $900
×

Formula deviation

Since the guys at DxoMark don't review every camera out there, I've come up with a formula based on the ones that they do rate, so I could get an equivalent score for the ones they don't review. After testing it against these cameras, I got the deviation between that and their DxO score.

Device: DxOScore Deviation
Samsung Galaxy A50: 88 -1
Apple iPhone XR: 104 1
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: 108 -7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro: 87 1
Sony Xperia 1: 99 -1
Sony Xperia 5: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: 126 2
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: 96 -3
Xiaomi Pocophone F1: 92 -1
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 90 -1
Apple iPhone X: 101 3
Apple iPhone 11: 112 -1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 107 1
Apple iPhone XS Max: 110 -2
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: 124 1
Samsung Galaxy S10: 124 2
Apple iPhone XS: 110 -1
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 120 -2
OnePlus 7 Pro: 122 0
OnePlus 7T Pro: 122 0
Huawei P30 Pro: 125 -1
Google Pixel 4: 117 0
Google Pixel 3: 103 0
Google Pixel 2: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 127 -2
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: 132 2
OnePlus 6: 100 0
OnePlus 6T: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 105 -1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 120 0
Xiaomi Mi 9: 115 0
Huawei Mate 30 Pro: 132 0
Huawei P40 Pro: 140 -1
Apple iPhone SE 2: 101 0
OnePlus 8 Pro: 126 0
Xiaomi Mi 8: 105 1
Samsung Galaxy A71: 89 1
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro: 134 0

As you can see, most cameras sit between 1 and -1, while a few of them go up to 2 or -2. That means it's reasonable to assume other similar cameras that they don't review to, in the worst-case scenario, be anywhere from -2 to 2 points from the score that the formula gets.

For example: Given that the Pixel 4 got 117 points and that the Pixel 4 XL share the same year and camera specs, it's reasonable to expect a score of 117 too. But in reality, if they do review that camera, it may end up anywhere between 115 and 119.

Be aware that at DxO, they give a score based on their opinion, not based on any formula. That's why I think there's an odd difference of 6 points between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. In theory, they should have the same camera.

I'm guessing that the Mi 9T Pro got a deviation of 7 points because they tested its Chinese variant (the K20 Pro).

Update: They just changed their protocol to include preview image evaluation and trustability. I'm keeping the old table (for now) for reference purposes, and I'll be adding a new one as soon as they review at least a couple of new mclass-range cameras.

You can expect the same (or a bit bigger) deviation for high-end cameras, but anything with a score below 100-110 should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is valid for all cameras tested with the previous protocol. For those that they dclassn't test, the deviation may be up to twice as much.

×

About GeekBench 5

This is just a quick note to let you know that, if, by any chance, the smartphone you're looking for isn't on the GeekBench site yet, you can check on GsmArena.com, as they also usually test smartphones with that benchmark tool.



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