Review: iPhone 12 Pro Max – In our iPhone 12 Pro Max you can read all experiences with Apple’s largest 6.7-inch iPhone of this year. In this review we mainly pay attention to the camera, which is the most advanced of all models. But does everyone need it?
The iPhone 12 Pro Max presents many people with a dilemma. Do you take the device with the very best camera and do you learn to get used to the hefty format? Or are you a bit more practical and do you opt for the handier format of the iPhone 12 Pro?
People who are used to the Pro models pay more than a thousand euros and expect the very best. In previous years, you could make a mindless choice with the iPhone XS and 11 series: you just took the size that you liked best and got exactly the same specs, except for the screen size and the battery life. That has not happened since the iPhone 7 and 8 series.
In 2020 the choice will be more difficult: are the extra camera functions worth the inconvenience of a larger device? In this review I try to answer that, with the help of a professional photographer: Lyan van Furth. Lyan has already won several awards for his food photography and for this review took photos with the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max to show what has really been improved with the camera and which improvements are marginal.
Introduction iPhone 12 Pro Max review
I have already made the choice myself, after a few weeks of testing with both devices. After years of (and to full satisfaction) using Plus and Max models, I have now chosen the iPhone 12 Pro as my daily device and I like it. I don’t miss the larger screen of the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the camera offers exactly the advanced features I need, including the new ProRAW .
However, if you are someone who gets #FOMO when there is no 512GB iPhone 12 Pro Max in your back pocket, or you are always working with special camera apps to tweak the right settings, then the Pro Max really offers something extra.
Recently I have read a lot of reviews claiming that the iPhone 12 is the best choice for the regular user and that as a Pro user you are crazy if you don’t spend that € 100 extra for the Pro Max model. But I think the latter is nonsensical advice. The Pro Max is really much bigger this year and you really have to hold it in your hand to assess whether it will not be too big this year.
But of course there is much more to tell about the iPhone 12 Pro Max and in this review we will go through all the points.
iPhone 12 Pro Max vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: The two largest iPhones compared
Do you always choose the largest iPhone? Then you might be wondering which one you should have: the iPhone 12 Pro Max or the iPhone 11 Pro Max? We look at the differences between these two Max models.
Design iPhone 12 Pro Max:
- Matte housing with shiny steel edges
- Available in graphite, silver, gold and ocean blue
- Support for MagSafe
- IP68 rating for water resistance (max. 30 minutes at 6m depth)
- Dimensions: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4mm
- Weight: 228g
Although the weight of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is almost the same as that of its predecessor (228g versus 226g), this new device is clearly different in the hand. The iPhones of 2020 have been given a completely new design that is more like the iPhone 4, but with a modern look. With the smaller models this provides a relatively handy ‘package’, but with the iPhone 12 Pro Max I have the feeling that a limit is being crossed. The flat sides make you feel like you have a big slice of chocolate in your hand. It feels stockier than last year’s iPhone 11 Pro Max, while the dimensions aren’t even that much bigger. The curves around the edges gave the iPhone 11series has a somewhat slimmer profile, while the iPhone 12 series looks and feels more like a solid block. On paper, however, the device has become slightly thinner than last year.
The buttons, speakers and Lightning port are still in the same place, but the SIM card slot has been moved to the left. Apple isn’t ready to completely ditch the Lightning port and the SIM card slot, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that ever happens again. Especially with the new mini model, space is at a premium.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max, like the iPhone 12 Pro, is available in four colors: space gray has given way to graphite, ocean blue is the successor to midnight green and there are also the well-known colors silver and gold. They all have something special this year. Gold in particular is very striking gold this year, as if it had been taken care of by Caviar, the Russian brand that markets gold-plated iPhones with diamonds and portraits of Putin and Trump. Apple’s version shines at you, but luckily looks a bit more modest. Ocean blue is our favorite color for the iPhone 12 Pro series.
The version we tested is silver colored and has enough ‘bling’ due to the shiny sides, if you like that. This device is mainly very white, where the Apple logo is hardly noticeable. As we have already emphasized in our previous reviews, we would have preferred a completely matte version, which is less sensitive to finger marks.
The rear camera hump contains the three cameras and the LiDAR scanner, flash and microphone. Due to the new optical image stabilization with sensor-shift, the camera bump is slightly larger this year than before. Apple may come up with a solution for this in the future by turning the lenses a quarter turn and building in a kind of periscope system .
The support for MagSafe makes it possible to stick accessories such as the leather card holder on the back of your iPhone and charge them via Apple’s magnetic MagSafe Charger . There are not many accessories yet, but we expect that this will change – if Apple does not make it too complicated for manufacturers.
Does the iPhone 12 Pro Max still fit in your pocket? With women’s trousers I already had difficulty with the Max models: they often protruded so far out of the front pocket that I preferred to use the back pocket or a jacket pocket. With men’s pants it still works, as you can see in the photo below. Sitting with it is a bit less comfortable.
Screen and controls iPhone 12 Pro Max
- 6.7-inch OLED screen
- Largest screen ever in an iPhone
- 2778 x 1284 resolution (458ppi)
- Screen with Ceramic Shield for extra break resistance
The new design without rounding along the edges allows Apple to build in an even larger screen. The screen size went from 6.5-inch to 6.7-inch. It is a Super Retina XDR display capable of HDR Dolby Vision. True Tone ensures that the screen colors with the ambient light. In terms of specs, it is exactly the same screen as in the other iPhone 12 models (except for the maximum brightness compared to the standard iPhone 12), it is only noticeably larger. This also makes it ideal for people who have trouble reading small texts – although I would rather buy reading glasses for a few euros myself, instead of an extra large iPhone that hardly fits in your pocket.
Everything looks beautiful on the screen whether you’re watching movies or playing games. Over time, it can become a bit heavy to hold in one hand. If you like to lie in bed and watch, an iPad mini that you can hold with two hands might be a better solution. This is further reinforced by the situation in which many people have found themselves. You used to want to watch a video on your way to school or work, but now that everyone is at home there is always an iPad or TV screen at hand for watching videos . The need for an extra large smartphone could therefore be somewhat smaller this year.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a great smartphone, with the longest battery life of all. That is precisely why I had hoped that Apple would have gone a step further with this device by including a 120Hz screen. Much has been said about it and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the ideal candidate for it: this device has a somewhat smaller target group due to its size and price and Apple could have proved that they are ready for it. By waiting another year (or longer) it seems as if Apple is lagging behind the Android manufacturers that already build in 120Hz screens in their high-end models.
Hardware and performance
- Apple A14 Bionic processor
- 5G connectivity (Sub-6)
- 128GB, 256GB or 512GB storage
- Face ID facial recognition
- Water resistance of IP68: 6 meters deep for 30 minutes
While all the attention today is focused on the fantastic performance of the Mac M1 processor, Apple has made leaps and bounds again with the iPhones. The A14 Bionic processor was chosen, which we previously found in the iPad Air 2020. We have not had any complaints about the performance of these chips for years: everything works super fast, apps start up smoothly and games run smoothly. The chip is therefore primarily intended to make the device futureproof , for even more demanding applications in the field of image and video editing and machine learning.
Like the other models in the iPhone 12 series, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with 5G connectivity, in a variant that is suitable for the current Dutch networks. Most Pro Max users will switch to another model after one or two years. By then, you can start rethinking whether 5G connectivity is an issue for you. For now, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t play such an important role yet. 5G is just as fast as 4G in many places and we couldn’t even complain about that. This may be different if you live in a place with poor coverage or if you had specific applications in mind that require 5G. However, you will have to run those applications near a 5G mast and whether there is good 5G coverage in the vicinity of your home or work address, you will have to find out for yourself.
A device with 5G is above all an investment for the future, but as said: the moment it really starts to play for you, you may already be about to switch to your next device.
Camera iPhone 12 Pro Max: more light, better photos
- Three rear cameras
- Main camera: 12-megapixel wide-angle f / 1.6 aperture with OIS
- Telephoto: 12-megapixel 2.5x optical zoom f / 2.2 aperture with OIS
- Ultra-wide angle: 12-megapixel 0.5x f / 2.2 aperture, no OIS
- LiDAR Scanner for depth measurement, 3D functions and better focus
- Dolby Vision video films
- Selfie camera: 12 megapixel
The main difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the camera. We paid extra attention to this and received help from Lyan van Furth, who took the test photos in this section. You can download all test photos via this Dropbox link . These photos are copyrighted.
Apple has opted for 12-megapixels for all front and rear cameras. This is true for all iPhone 12 models, but they differ in sensor, aperture and some other features.
These are the main innovations and differences in the rear cameras.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has three improvements over the iPhone 12 Pro, namely a larger sensor, larger 1.7 micron pixels and a new sensor-shift OIS system. The f / 1.6 aperture has also been improved in the iPhone 12 Pro Max (previously f / 1.8), but you can also find this on the 12 Pro.
The Pro Max has a 47% physically larger sensor, so you get more light. More light means more detail. You cannot compensate for this later with software or with computational photography. A larger sensor simply produces better photos, even under difficult lighting conditions.
Apple could simply have added more pixels to this larger sensor, but opted for a different approach: the individual pixels were made larger. These so-called photosites can capture more light, so that you get less noise and sharper images.
This also has advantages for a photo noob. If you take a closer look at the photos you will see more detail. Lyan: “You also notice this when you start cropping. With photos that you take with the iPhone XR, for example, the crop is often unusable, but with the iPhone 12 Pro Max you can also use a smaller crop. This is due to the lens in combination with the sensor. A factor in this is what the sensor can process. How does he deal with noise and light? These are factors that cause you to see a huge difference in the quality of the photos. ”
The sensor shift system is unique in the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple has copied the technology for this from DSLR cameras. It is only in the wide angle lens of the iPhone 12 Pro Max and not the cameras of the other models, including the iPhone 12 Pro. When you take a photo, the device can make up to 5,000 micro-adjustments per second to compensate for the shaking of your hands. It also means that you can now take Night Mode photos with an exposure of more than 10 seconds by hand. Previously, this only worked with a tripod for 10 to 30 seconds.
As a result, the Pro Max is less dependent on long exposure to still take a good photo in poor lighting. You do not have to hold the camera as still.
Ultra Wide Angle
This is the same on the iPhone 12 models, but is much improved over the 11 Pro series thanks to software fixes and an improved night mode. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is better able to take photos quickly under low light conditions.
The telephoto lens is very different from that of the iPhone 12 Pro. It now has 2.5x optical zoom (65mm equivalent). This allows you to get your subject just a little closer than with the iPhone 12 Pro, which offers up to 2x optical zoom. When zooming in, hand shake is a problem, but luckily Apple is trying to solve this with optical image stabilization.
The telephoto lens can zoom in further, but it produces more noise in moderate lighting conditions. This is because there is another difference: with the iPhone 12 Pro you have an aperture of f / 2.0, while the aperture with the Pro Max is a lot less at f / 2.2. More zoom, but less light. That is not always a winning combination.
The combination of larger sensor, improved stabilization, faster lens, better depth tracking with LiDAR and an even more powerful processor makes this the best smartphone camera in an iPhone. The device delivers better photos under varying light conditions, even in situations where you got poor results with previous iPhones.
Lyan: “ An enormous improvement can be seen, especially with stationary objects in low light . The difference is due to the ISO and the aperture, which means that it gets more light from the photo and therefore less noise. ”
However, you have to be aware of the limitations: “Optical zoom is really only useful in good lighting conditions. If you use 2.5x zoom in dim light, the result is downright bad. ” Lyan’s daily device is an iPhone XR, with which he takes a lot of pictures when he doesn’t have his professional camera at hand. Compared to the XR, Lyan notices a number of clear improvements: “I notice that the sharpness has improved a lot. In low light there is a huge difference; I can’t shoot in low light with the XR . And the motion blur is also practically gone. ”
Lyan: “This is a device for people who want to take pictures with their phone just that little bit further. It is not a substitute for a system camera. That’s because I have the feeling that a lot is solved in the software instead of the hardware. This is a semi-automatic camera. The only thing you can do is determine the focus point and more or less light. You cannot determine the ISO yourself, you will only see that later on the computer, unless you install special apps. ”
“For me the biggest addition is RAW. That really offers mega added value. I can do a lot with the sharpness and how the light is calculated. But then you have to like photo editing. ”
One drawback that Lyan ran into is that you cannot directly edit the RAW files on the iPhone in the standard Photos app. To edit RAW photos, you need specialized software, such as Lightroom Mobile. That doesn’t always have to be a problem: most photographers will load their photos onto the desktop, but if you plan to do some of the photo editing on the go, it’s something to consider.
Is this device useful if you are a point-and-click photographer? In itself yes. You will not get the most out of the possibilities, but you do have some benefit because almost everything is automatic. As a result, you (especially me moderate light) will almost always get better photos than with a device from a few years ago. But as a layman you will not always see the difference.
Lyan: “What has also been greatly improved is that the cropping appears to be better for portrait photos. The camera senses the depth better. ” This is thanks to the LiDAR Sensor, which is only in the Pro models. The blur and the shadows are better chosen. In the photos with vegetables and beer bottles, the iPhone 11 Pro Max almost filters out the shadows, while they remain on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
A portrait photo with vegetables, taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max can take photos with more detail. Yet you are also well off with the iPhone 12 Pro , especially if you usually take your photos in daylight and with good lighting. If you regularly take photos in twilight and in dark rooms, then the Pro Max is the clear winner – except when you zoom in 2.5x!
Battery life iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Suitable for MagSafe charging at 15 Watt
- Suitable for fast charging via cable
- 3,687 mAh battery
- No power adapter included
Battery life on the Plus and Max models has always been very good. These are large phones and therefore contain a large battery. Last year, Apple went a step further with a longer battery life. This year everything has remained about the same. That means: 20 hours of video watching, 12 hours of video streaming or 80 hours of audio listening. Now there won’t be anyone watching video continuously, so knowing that the iPhone 12 Pro Max was still at 50% after a day of use would probably be more helpful. I will not make it for two full days, because nowadays I try to keep the battery charge between 80% and 20% to increase the lifespan and keep the battery in a better condition.
What makes the battery performance extra good is that the battery in the iPhone 12 Pro Max now has a capacity of 3687mAh, while that was 3969mAh with the iPhone 11 Pro Max last year . So a smaller battery , but with the same operating time. Apparently, Apple has again implemented optimizations, so that the iPhone needs a smaller battery than devices from the competition.
Charging with MagSafe is done in exactly the same way as with the previously reviewed iPhone 12 models. You stick the magnetic disk on the back of the iPhone and can then charge wirelessly at 15 Watts . Normally this is a maximum of 7.5 Watt. The magnets ensure that the charger is always in place and make it possible to stick even more accessories on the back of your iPhone.
Charging with MagSafe is totally optional. You don’t have to feel obliged to buy the € 45 MagSafe Charger or the even more expensive MagSafe Duo Charger . You are also not required at all to order the optional 20 Watt adapter from Apple for fast charging. If you can afford an iPhone 12 Pro Max, you probably also have the money to buy all kinds of accessories. But wireless charging on a cheap Qi charger or using the chargers of previous generations of iPhone is also still possible.
Still, just like with the other iPhone 12 models, we would have liked to see that Apple had optionally given the option to add a power adapter for, for example, € 10 extra. Not everyone already has a USB-C adapter at home and with such an expensive device you are still hunted at extra costs to be able to charge optimally.
Who is the iPhone 12 Pro Max for?
If we scroll through the responses of iCulture readers, it is striking that people purchase the iPhone 12 Pro Max for two reasons: usually because of the better camera, but in many cases also because the screen is nice and large, so that you cannot see one. need reading glasses. In addition, there is of course a group of people who always want the largest and the most expensive, because the money is splashing against the skirting boards anyway.
If you are a bit more careful with spending your money, I would advise you to think carefully whether you need the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The camera is better, but the differences from the iPhone 12 Pro only play a role if you are a skilled photographer who likes to play with camera settings. If you like to use third party camera apps and you are always busy tweaking every photo to take the best possible photo, then the iPhone 12 Pro Max is worth the purchase. If you don’t do all this, I think you’ll enjoy the practical size of the iPhone 12 Pro more. After all, the screen of the iPhone 12 Pro has also become a bit bigger than previous years. That is probably big enough for you.
- All the functions of the iPhone 12 Pro, plus something extra
- Large and easy to read screen
- Extra long battery life
- Fantastic camera
- Better photos in moderate light
- Casing feels bigger than before, due to flat sides
- No possibility to buy a power adapter at a discounted price
- Camera functions are better, but not spectacularly different from the 12 Pro
- Most expensive model in the range
Conclusion iPhone 12 Pro Max
The size of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is so large that it will not be practical for everyone. Especially now that we are on the road less often and have enough other devices at hand to watch movies at home, the need for an extra large smartphone may be less great. The iPhone 12 Pro Max can still be held with one hand, but the large size can get in the way during prolonged use.
If a smartphone is not big enough for you and you want to get the most out of the camera, this is your new iPhone . You then get the most advanced camera, an even larger screen and fantastic performance and battery life. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max has become a bit more of a niche product this year. For most people, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro will suit their needs better.
If you are afraid that you will miss something in terms of camera functions, then you should especially take the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Most other people will have to seriously wonder how much they are actually doing with their camera. If you are a photography fanatic who pays attention to every detail, you will notice the difference.