Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review: For the love of big screens
Introduction, design, features, and display
Note: This review was first published on 10 Nov 2020 and it's republished now because the phone goes on sale today.
Is this the real "Pro" iPhone?
When Apple released its first “Pro” phones last year, they were identical apart from the size of their displays. This year, however, the two “Pro” phones have different display sizes and camera systems. This has caused consternation amongst many looking to upgrade to a new iPhone this year. And mainly, this is because of one problem that weighs heavily on their minds.
Is the iPhone 12 Pro Max better than the iPhone 12 Pro?
If you are reading this review, you are probably thinking the same and I can empathise. These are expensive phones and you want to extract maximum value from your hard-earned dollars. There’s a genuine fear that one might be missing out if they opted for the iPhone 12 Pro instead of the supposedly superior iPhone 12 Pro Max. Furthermore, if your budget already allows for an iPhone 12 Pro, what’s another $150 to get the iPhone 12 Pro Max?
First world problems, FOMO, whatever you want to call it, these concerns are very real. So, let’s try to answer this question today.
Design and features
All the new iPhones announced last month share the same aesthetic and design language and I already wrote about it at length in my iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro review so I urge you to read about it there.
Distilled to its essence, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is an iPhone 12 Pro with a larger display, bigger battery, and better camera system (more on the battery and camera later). What’s worth mentioning, however, is that the highly shiny gold finish on the model that I have is created using a special high-power impulse magnetron coating process. It sounds fancy and it’s supposed to create a finish that’s highly resistant to wear. It may very well be tough but the shiny reflective finish is an absolute fingerprint magnet. If you can’t stand the sight of smudges, you’ll need to put the phone in a case. The same is true for all the other Pro iPhones, it’s impossible to keep the finish looking pristine.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has all the features of the iPhone 12 Pro and here are the highlights:
- Stainless steel chassis
- Glass front and back
- Front glass is Ceramic Shield
- Water-resistant up to six metres of water for up to 30 minutes
- Lightning port
- Wireless charging
- Triple camera system (but with larger sensor + sensor-shift stabilisation)
- Dolby Vision HDR video recording
At 226g, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a hefty phone. It’s also a large phone. And when combined when its considerable weight, it feels like a slab of metal that you could purpose as a weapon if you find yourself in a sticky situation. There are some tricks like the one-handed keyboard to help make the phone easier to use with just one hand, but mostly, this is a phone that’ll operate with both your hands – even reaching the opposite side of the screen with your thumb is a challenge. Admittedly, this can be cumbersome at times – picture trying to key in your passcode to do a SafeEntry check-in while carrying groceries and trying to keep your toddler from running away at the same time – but the same can be said for any other large phone. If you want a large phone, this is something you are going to have to put up with.
Display & sound
The iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 6.7-inch display is 0.2 inches larger than last year’s iPhone 11 Pro Max. It’s only noticeable if you juxtapose the two. It’s a Super Retina XDR display, which means it’s using an OLED panel and that it has a very high resolution of 2,778 x 1,284 pixels (458 PPI). Contrast ratios and brightness ratings are identical to the iPhone 12 Pro and also the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
It’s a great display with outstanding sharpness, clarity, and colours. My only complaint is that refresh rates are limited to 60Hz. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker but most flagship Android devices have displays that have a 90 or 120Hz refresh rate and they look and feel noticeably more fluid. Still, the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s display is easily one of the best I have seen on any smartphone.
The large display doesn’t proffer any technical benefits over the smaller iPhones. The home screen still shows only six rows of icons and apps look and function the same whether in portrait or landscape orientation. However, since there’s a lot more real estate, everything is larger. Icons and text are easier to read and the keys of the virtual keyboard enjoy a higher hit rate. And if you like watching your favourite shows and YouTubers on big-screen TVs, then the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the closest mobile equivalent.
The other benefit of having a larger body is a fuller sound from the stereo speakers. With a bigger chassis acting as a sounding board, the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s speakers sound weightier, more wholesome, and less bright and hollow. It’s also noticeably louder. All in all, it’s very impressive for a smartphone’s built-in speakers to be this powerful and usable.