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iPhone XS Max vs. Galaxy Note 9 vs. LG V40 ThinQ: Camera, storage, battery, price

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These titans duke it out, but Google’s Pixel 3 launch is still to come.
LG is playing for keeps. Its LG V40 ThinQ boldly slams the weight of five (five!) cameras against Apple’s iPhone XS Max and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9.
This supersize phone for 2018 isn’t holding back, but competition is cutthroat. The LG V40 must contend with big, premium phones from Apple, Samsung and Huawei on the high end. Meanwhile, these $1,000 phones are feeling pressure from cheaper-but-good phonemakers like OnePlus and Motorola. And on Oct. 9, the LG V40 will see even more competition when Google (likely) unveils the Pixel 3. The LG V40 has its work cut out for it.
The phone has a lot to like: those three lenses on the back (Huawei’s P20 Pro made that craveable earlier this year) and two on the front, plus oodles of camera features to put all those lenses to work. There’s a large, bright screen, a cutting-edge processor, waterproofing, wireless charging and stereo speakers. While we’ve now reviewed the LG V40, Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS Max, we have more testing to do before we pit them against each other. For now, here’s how the specs line up. Scroll to the end for a full specs comparison chart.
Does this surprise you? The iPhone XS Max has the largest screen of the three, with a 6.5-inch display. The V40 and Galaxy Note 9 come in at 6.4 inches apiece. But it’s the LG V40 that has the highest pixel density, edging the other two. We’ll scrutinize all three in a number of lighting conditions, but they’re all excellent for watching videos, reading stories and keeping up with social networks.
Our mega camera comparisons are still to come — they take gargantuan effort, but are worth waiting for. What we can tell you is that the LG V40 is muscle-bound with camera options and tools. For example, you can take a photo from each rear camera at the same time to either use individually or to stitch together.
There are AI camera settings, like on the Note 9 and Huawei P20 Pro, that change your settings when it senses one of 18 scenes (e.g. pets, blue sky). Like the iPhone XS Max, you can take dramatic photos with digital lighting effects.
Most importantly, the LG V40 takes excellent photos. While each phone has its strengths, there’s no doubt that the V40 earns its place in the upper echelons of camera photography.
However, there’s still some question if all these lenses are really necessary for producing terrific shots or mostly window dressing to impress buyers and set LG and others apart. We’re holding out to see what Google’s upcoming Pixel 3 can do with (likely) one lens on the back, compared to LG’s trio.
Even just a few years ago, a 64-gigabyte repository of storage was pretty standard. Now, times have changed. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 offers you 128GB to start with, or you can pay more for 512GB. That doesn’t even include the 512GB of external storage you can add with a microSD card.
Apple, meanwhile, gives the iPhone XS Max three storage options: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB, with no expandable storage. So although LG’s V40 ThinQ does let you expand up to 2 terabytes (in theory; 512GB cards top out the market right now), the total falls behind Samsung’s largest capacity. The V40 does have more total capacity than the iPhone XS Max, when you include microSD storage.
Read also: iPhone XS vs. Galaxy Note 9: What a $1,000 phone buys you
Comparing battery run-time on a single charge is tricky because there are so many factors at play. Battery life isn’t determined by just the size of the battery (the capacity, measured in milliamp hours, or mAh). There’s also an interplay between the processor, how efficient the phone’s base level software is in managing resources, and, of course, what you’re doing with the phone.
The LG V40’s battery has a smaller capacity than the Note 9, and so far battery life looks like it’s shorter. However, in real-world usage, LG’s flagship phone is more than capable of taking you through your normal day.
Apple won’t supply specific battery capacity, and instead provides vague, relative descriptions. For example, the iPhone XS Max is said to last 90 minutes longer on a single charge than the iPhone X. Our iPhone XS and XS Max battery tests are still ongoing, so we’ll have more data in the near future. Here’s CNET’s video drain test protocol, which we weigh in addition to real-world observation.
All three phones have wireless charging and waterproofing, so the main differences come down to camera performance and their individual claims to fame.
The Galaxy Note 9 has its S Pen stylus (which now also works as a remote), the V40 its five cameras and the iPhone XS Max its FaceID, Memoji animations and portrait lighting mode (the V40 has portrait lighting, too). The value of these extras comes down to personal preference.
For example, if you’re enchanted by photography, the iPhone’s portrait lighting or V40’s camera software might attract you more. If you’re a power user who likes the tactile use of a stylus, then the Galaxy Note 9 has no rival.
The LG V40 ThinQ is the least expensive big phone of the bunch in absolute terms, but depending on which carrier you buy it with, the savings may not amount to much. In the US, it sells from $900 to $980 (it’s yet to be announced for the UK or Australia). For a little more, you could get a phone with a stylus or longer battery life (the Galaxy Note 9), or access to Apple’s customer service at its retail stores (iPhone XS Max).
There’s also the question of storage. For the maximum capacity, the Galaxy Note 9 gives you the best deal of the three, though if you’re trying to get to 512GB, you’ll save money buying an LG V40 and making up the difference with a microSD card.
For the best deal, keep an eye on seasonal promotions. That may very well shift the balance for you one way or another when buying any phone.
Cool it, itchy fingers. Before you plonk down your money, wait to see what the Pixel 3 and 3XL will bring.
Google’s Oct.

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