Review: HP XPS 13 is a nearly perfect ultraportable
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- Largely unchanged design
iPhone 7 Plus review
Welcome to our iPhone 7 Plus review, in which we rate Apple’s newest and most expensive ever phablet for design, features, camera, screen, tech specs and value for money. If you’d prefer to read about the mid-size iPhone 7, head over to our iPhone 7 review.
The iPhone 7 Plus features improved specs over the iPhone 6s Plus, including a quicker-than-ever A10 Fusion processor chip and a twin-lens camera, along with two new colour options (both black – don’t worry, we’ll explain) and IP67 waterproofing. Our iPhone 7 Plus review will help you decide if Apple’s newest and costliest phablet is for you. Thanks to MobileFun for lending us the matte black iPhone 7 Plus we’ve been using for this review.
the iPhone 7 Plus is largely the same in overall design to the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus before it
iPhone 7 Plus: Design & build quality
Apple traditionally follows a ‘tick tock’ update cycle with its iPhones: a major, full-number update with a visible physical redesign (iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6) followed by a minor, S-branded update that looks roughly or exactly the same as its predecessor (iPhone 4s, iPhone 5c/5s, iPhone 6s). So after the relatively unexciting update last year we were expecting and hoping for a fundamentally different design.
In fact, the iPhone 7 Plus is largely the same in overall design to the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus before it: the dimensions are almost identical to the 6s Plus. And the camera still sticks out at the back, which is mildly irritating.
Try placing the iPhone 7 Plus face-up on a table and it won’t lie down flat: the back lens will prop it up very slightly. It’s particularly galling given that the iPhone SE, released back in spring 2016, has a design in which the camera is completely flush. Still, most of us will keep the iPhone cased (with one of the best iPhone 7 Plus cases), which removes the issue entirely. And even if this design has been around for a while now, it remains very smart and attractive.
There are a couple of differences from the previous generation. The iPhone 6s’s visible antenna bands have been removed, which produces a cleaner, more minimalist design. And more significantly, the headphone port is also gone, which has a similar aesthetic effect but is altogether more controversial.
The iPhone 7 Plus is available in seven colours, six at launch. Silver, gold and Rose Gold are the same as we got on the previous generation, but Space Grey has been ditched and replaced by two different black finishes, one in matte (just called black) and the other in gloss (Jet Black).
The matt-black iPhone 7 Plus (just called “black”) strikes us as pleasantly low-key, although some may find it dull. The highly glossy Jet Black version is more obviously lovely to look at, but it picks up fingerprints like nobody’s business and appears to be scratch-prone, too.
Then, in March 2017, Apple launched a limited edition red version of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in partnership with AIDS/HIV group (Product) RED, and despite (Product) RED Apple Watch bands and iPods being produced in the past, it’s the first time the company has released a limited edition red iPhone.
The matte red finish is absolutely stunning as it shimmers in the light, and is easily one of the best looking iPhones ever released. Trust us when we say that even though it looks great in pictures, it looks phenomenal in real life and could be our favourite colour option ever. As with everything Apple, it’s all about the small touches: the mirror-finish silver logo on the rear of the red smartphone matches the rim of the Lightning port and Touch ID ring on the front of the smartphone.
As is the case with Jet Black, the limited edition matte red iPhone 7 Plus is only available on the 128GB and 256GB models, and is sold separately on the Apple site. The red versions cost the same as other finishes, though a portion of the profits will go towards fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS.
iPhone 7 Plus: Waterproofing
As predicted ahead of the launch, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are officially more waterproof than any previous iPhones – although Apple is studiously using the phrase ‘water-resistant’ instead.
The iPhone 7 handsets are rated IP67 for solid and liquid intrusion protection.
iPhone 7 Plus: Screen
The iPhone 7 Plus has a very similar screen to the iPhone 6s Plus: it’s the same 5.5-inch phablet form factor that’s been a popular choice for the 6 Plus and 6s Plus, with the same resolution (1920 x 1080) and pixel density
(401 pixels per inch): the highest of any Apple product. And while rival manufacturers have gone considerably higher still – Samsung’s Galaxy S8 has an astonishing 570ppi – it’s debatable whether the human eye is capable of getting much from densities above 400ppi. At this point it’s about spec boasting more than appreciable differences in the user experience.
We find it a shade too large for our tastes (like the 6s Plus, it stretches the seams of our slim-fit trouser pockets…), but Apple has at least addressed potential problems using such a big-screen device one-handed with a feature called Reachability, which compresses the screen downwards when you double-tap the Home button. (That’s not a new feature, mind: it was announced along with the iPhone 6 Plus.) Interface touches like that are key to Apple’s appeal. (See: 7 tips for using the iPhone 6 Plus with small hands.)
There are a couple of enhancements to the screen for this generation. It’s 25 percent brighter, Apple claims (we’ve not been overwhelmed by this in practice, although it does seem a little clearer for viewing in sunlight), and has a wider colour gamut.
iPhone 7 Plus: Camera
As expected, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a dual-lens camera setup on the back (there is no such upgrade for the iPhone 7).
This broadly fits with Apple’s past behaviour, since the company generally likes to set apart its top-of-the-line phone with at least one feature that isn’t available on any other – and it’s often something in the photographic line, such as optical image stabilisation. But this is the first time a Plus-branded iPhone has had such a conspicuous physical advantage over its smaller cousin.
The dual-lens camera offers a number of potential benefits, many of which will emerge across the coming months as app developers and Apple itself come up with new software features. The most important are optical zoom up to 2x and Portrait Mode, an arty photo mode added in the iOS 10.1 update a month after the iPhone 7 Plus’s launch.
We’re also hoping for post-shot refocusing – if you get a photo slightly off, it’s possible with some dual-lens cameras to alter the focus later using the combined data from both lenses – but this looks unlikely. However, we’re certain that app developers will come up with all sorts of clever things to do with this hardware.
The iPhone 7 Plus features two different lenses, one of them a telephoto; this is what enables the 7 Plus to offer an optical zoom by switching from one lens to the other. It also has 10x digital zoom, compared to the 5x digital zoom on the iPhone 7 and on the previous generation. We explore the capabilities of the optical zoom in the next section.
iPhone 7 Plus: Processor
The iPhone 6s Plus (and the iPhone 6s, for that matter) comes with a proprietary-design A9 processor chip with an M9 motion co-processor. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that the iPhone 7 Plus would therefore include an A10 – but Apple has slightly sidestepped expectations by branding it the A10 Fusion.
The firm says to expect around 40 percent higher processing speed than with the iPhone 6s Plus’s A9, and about twice the performance of the A8. But obviously we decided to see for ourselves.
GeekBench 4 processing speed scores
Here’s how the iPhone 7 Plus compares to the iPhone 6s Plus in the GeekBench 4 speed-testing suite. Higher scores are better.
- iPhone 6s Plus: 2491 (single core), 4129 (multicore)
- iPhone 7 Plus: 3434 (single core), 5618 (multicore)
GFXBench OpenGL graphics scores
We tested out the iPhone 7 Plus’s graphics capabilities in the GFXBench OpenGL suite. Here’s how it got on – and the scores for the 6s Plus, for comparison.
iPhone 6s Plus:
Manhattan onscreen: 39.9fps
Manhattan offscreen: 36.2fps
T-Rex onscreen: 57.2fps
T-Rex offscreen: 67.8fps
iPhone 7 Plus:
Manhattan onscreen: 43.5fps
Manhattan offscreen: 41.1fps
T-Rex onscreen: 57.8fps
T-Rex offscreen: 83.4fps
iPhone 7 Plus: UK price
The iPhone 7 Plus is available to buy now, having been announced on 7 September and gone on sale on 16 September.
Here’s the pricing – note that Apple has doubled the storage allocation at each tier:
- iPhone 7 Plus (32GB): £719
- iPhone 7 Plus (128GB): £819
- iPhone 7 Plus (256GB): £919
The iPhone 7 Plus is available for direct purchase through Apple’s online store. We’ve got lots more deals here: Best cheap iPhone 7 Plus deals & contracts UK.
iPhone 7 Plus: RAM
It’s now been confirmed by iFixit’s teardown that the iPhone 7 Plus has 3GB of RAM, which ought to give it an additional speed advantage over the iPhone 6s Plus, which had 2GB.
The iPhone 7, meanwhile, has only 2GB. It’s understood that the extra RAM for the Plus model has been included to handle the demands of collating/combining the output of each rear-facing camera lens and generating a final image with the best elements of each.