Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max – Big, but not Pro

In previous years, the Max version was a larger variant of the iPhone Pro smartphone, with a larger screen and larger battery making the only difference. This is different with the iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 12 Pro Max not only differs in (screen) format, but the cameras are also slightly different.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

price from € 1,259.00
Colors Gray, White, Gold, Blue
OS iOS 14.1
Screen 6.7 inch amoled (2778×1284)
Processor hexacore (Apple A14 Bionic)
Storage 128, 256 or 512 GB
Battery 3,687 mAh
Camera 12 megapixel triple cam (rear), 12 megapixel (front)
Connectivity 5G, Bluetooth 5.1, WiFi, GPS, NFC
Format 16.1 x 7.8 x 0.7 cm
Weight 228 grams
Other Lightning, esim
7 Score 70 Score: 70

  • Pros
  • Screen
  • Cameras
  • Performance
  • User friendly
  • Future-proof
  • Negatives
  • Minimal differences iPhone 12
  • 60hz screen
  • No usb-c
  • No audio port

The iPhone 12 series does not only consist of this iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is therefore a larger version of the iPhone 12 Pro. For example, Apple also launched the regular iPhone 12 and a smaller version of it: the iPhone 12 Mini. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro were discussed earlier, whereby the conclusion could be drawn that the Pro version is the better of the two smartphones, but the iPhone 12 is a much smarter choice. The iPhone 12 is hardly inferior to the iPhone 12 Pro, which remained equivalent in size and battery. The difference was mainly in the camera, thanks to the addition of a third zoom lens, functionally more is possible.

The differences between the Pro and Pro Max are not only in the format, the cameras are also different.

Maximum size

As I already explained in the intro, there are also differences between the rear cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. As we are used to from the Pro series, the most striking difference is in the format. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a lot bigger because of the 6.7-inch screen panel, while the regular iPhone 12 Pro has a 6.1-inch screen. The aspect ratios and striking screen notch have remained the same, just like all iPhones. The Pro editions of the iPhone 12 have a beautiful matte glass finish. It is a pity that it is better to put on a cover, because glass is and will remain vulnerable to scratches and cracks.

The format is not compatible with every hand or pocket, so check in advance. I personally think it’s a workable smartphone format and enjoy the big screen. But because the sides are not rounded, the device only just fits in your pocket.

A larger screen also uses more energy, so it is nice that Apple has also used the extra space for a larger battery, with a capacity of 3,687 mAh. That extra capacity is not an unnecessary luxury. The other smartphones from the iPhone 12 series have a relatively low capacity, which does not benefit the lifespan. After all, batteries wear out quickly. The Pro Max has (despite the fact that the larger screen requires more from the battery), the best battery life. I took it for a little over a day, although that of course depends on your use. The ‘Pro’ user, who probably uses his smartphone more for heavier AR and 4K video processes, will just get through a (working) day with the device.

Of course, this new best iPhone also works with the new MagSafe charger, which you click magnetically onto the back of the smartphone or the MagSafe case. Please note that you need a power strip with a USB-C port for this charger. These are still relatively rare and Apple does not include a charging block in the box, only a charging cable (which you also connect to a USB-C connector block). According to Apple, the omission was done for environmental reasons, but it is not very credible. It is just too easy to earn from USB-C plugs.

iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The larger iPhone 12 Pro Max next to the iPhone 12 Pro.

Various cameras iPhone cameras

What is confusing is that Apple has chosen to place different lenses on the back of the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro. On paper, the lenses of the Pro Max version are just a bit different. The setup remains the same: there are three 12 megapixel cameras (a wide-angle, zoom and regular camera), which are assisted by a depth sensor. This allows you to take photos in three different zoom levels, as it were. The wide-angle lens has remained the same, but different lenses have been used for the regular and zoom camera. The iPhone 12 Pro Max ‘regular lens has a slightly higher pixel size (1.7 µm, instead of 1.4 µm), which in theory should produce less noise. There is also better image stabilization, so you get less blurry videos and less motion sharpness occurs in night mode (it uses a slower shutter speed and stabilization to collect more light, without motion affecting it).

The zoom lens of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, in turn, zooms in slightly deeper on the subject. Nevertheless, the aperture of this lens is somewhat higher (f / 2.2, instead of f / 2.0), which means that the Pro Max zoom lens is slightly less capable of recording light, which is a little less pleasant in low-light photography.

The regular iPhone 12 has two lenses, how they perform compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, you can read in our iPhone 12 camera review.

iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max

At first sight, you cannot see any difference between the lenses between the iPhone 12 Pro Max (blue, left) and the iPhone 12 Pro.

iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras in practice

While testing the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I hardly noticed any difference between the lenses in practice. The only really visible difference is in the focal length of the zoom lens; you are zoomed in deeper with the Pro Max.

The regular lens still has the most to offer. It is especially able to capture the most in difficult lighting conditions, such as backlighting or poor light. The dynamic range is also excellent, everything is reproduced very faithfully. This camera of the iPhone 12 Pro measures itself with the best, and thanks to the image stabilization, there is no better choice in terms of video quality.

The wide angle and zoom lens slightly compromise on quality, and are especially a better option if the lighting conditions are good or the composition does not allow otherwise. In other cases, it is advisable to choose the regular lens for the best photo. Especially the wide angle produces less beautiful photos in low light.

iPhone 12 Pro Max
My difficult to photograph cat shows that the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a very nice dynamic range.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max

The three zoom levels of the iPhone Pro Max (top three), for comparison the three zoom levels of the iPhone 12 Pro placed below.

Not Pro enough

The screen is of course the last point where the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max differ from each other. Only in format and image resolution. The proportions are the same and the resolution is proportionally higher, so that the image looks just as sharp. The OLED screen provides beautiful image quality and is especially just a bit brighter than the iPhone 12. Ideal for viewing your photos and videos. That said, the advanced ‘pro’ audience that Apple envisions deserves quite a bit more. A higher refresh rate, for example. After all, the iPad Pro also has this.

The fact that all this is just not enough to justify the Pro stamp and high price tag is also the problem with this iPhone 12 Pro Max. For this, Apple does not even have to peek at the competition, but can take the iPad Pro as an example. I already mentioned the higher refresh rate of the screen, but the hopelessly outdated Lightning connection of this iPhone should have been replaced by USB-C, just like with the iPad Pro. It is as bad to explain as the removal of the audio connection by Apple years ago.

Ready for the future

Despite the fact that it should have been better in some areas, the iPhone 12 Pro Max scores very well in all other areas. I already mentioned the cameras and image quality. But iOS 14 also takes significant steps in the field of privacy and will feel familiar to advanced Android users due to the addition of widgets. In addition, Android smartphones can unfortunately still not match the support duration and update speed that iPhones do offer.

Not only thanks to the update policy you can be sure that you can do with your iPhone 12 Pro Max for a long time, the fastest smartphone processor is expected to ensure that everything continues to work quickly and the addition of 5G support is a nice bonus for the future. At the time of writing, however, 5G is absolutely no reason to replace your smartphone. The differences are too small and it will take years before 5G really makes a difference.

The regular iPhone 12 remains the wisest choice.

Alternatives to the iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best that Apple has to offer now, and actually the best smartphone available. The price and the accompanying Pro stamp cannot be explained, mainly because Apple itself offers a much better alternative: the iPhone 12, which more or less disqualifies the iPhone 12 Pro. However, this Pro Max also has a screen that is a bit bigger and a better battery. That is certainly nice.

Is the price too much for you, or is iOS too limited for you? Then there are of course also good Android alternatives. The Galaxy Note20 series is the most obvious here. In terms of performance and updates, you do sacrifice something. But the price is lower, the connection of this time and the battery capacity better. In terms of screen and camera, the devices do not differ much from each other.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

Conclusion: buy iPhone 12 Pro Max?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best smartphone you can get, but before you buy it, make sure it is not too big for your hands, bag or pocket. The screen, camera, performance and future-proofing are all impressively fine. Nevertheless, it is not enough to carry the Pro stamp and justify the price. The connection is too old-fashioned for that, the battery capacity could have been slightly higher and extras such as a screen with a high refresh rate are missed. Now the smaller iPhone 12 remains the wisest choice. Also for the wallet.


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