iPhone 12 Pro Max Reviews: 'The Best Smartphone Camera' You Can Get, But 6.7-Inch Display Isn't for Everyone
Reviews are now out for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, providing us with a closer look at the super-sized device before it begins arriving to customers on Friday. We've rounded up a handful of reviews from media outlets below. For video reviews, see here.
With a 6.7-inch display, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the largest iPhone ever, eclipsing the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max. Given that the iPhone 12 Pro has already launched, this review roundup focuses on what sets the iPhone 12 Pro Max apart from its smaller sibling, including its larger display, more advanced camera improvements, and longer battery life.
With its super-sized 6.7-inch display, the iPhone 12 Pro Max won't be for everyone, as The Verge's Nilay Patel explains:
The combination of the size and flat sides basically demands a case to make it easier to hold, which makes the whole thing even bigger. It's still workable, but it is right on the edge of being too big. I think the size is a reflection of increased choice: this year Apple has more phone sizes available than ever before, including the diminutive iPhone 12 mini, so it had the ability to push the Max even farther.
But: it's still big. I strongly recommend finding a way to safely see the 12 Pro Max's size in person before making a call on ordering one.
The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern wished that Apple would take more advantage of the device's large display:
It is crazy to me, however, that Apple hasn't enabled us to do more on a phone that is practically iPad-size. Why can't I view my inbox on the top half of the screen and my calendar on the bottom, like Samsung allows with its Multi-Window mode? Why does the tiny iPhone Mini allow the same number of rows of home-page app icons and widgets as the iPhone Giant? Why can't I use an Apple Pencil to take notes on the notebook-size device? Apple declined to comment on future software updates.
Long Battery Life
The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern found the iPhone 12 Pro Max to have impressive all-day battery life. In a YouTube video streaming test, she found the device lasted 17.5 hours, compared to 14.5 hours for the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12, and 10.5 hours for the iPhone 12 mini. Of course, heavy 5G usage will result in lower battery life than this.
I tried—really tried—to get the Pro Max's battery to die by bedtime. I've been unsuccessful. It’s simple: Bigger phone = bigger battery = longer battery life. See the iPhone Mini review for the inverse proof.
While the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro also last until bedtime, the Pro Max wasn’t even down to 15% territory by 11:30 p.m. most days. My video-streaming YouTube test showed the same: The Pro Max lasted a crazy 17½ hours; the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro went 14½ hours, and the poor little Mini lasted 10½. Expect shorter times if you're tapping the 5G network a lot.
Engadget's Chris Velazco also achieved more than one day of battery life:
Overall, I've been able to use the Pro Max for full workdays and still have quite a bit left in the tank the following morning. Full disclosure: Rather than setting this phone up as new, I restored it from a backup the way many iPhone users do. Apple has said previously that background processes related to device restoration can continue for up to a few days after the fact, so it's possible that battery life could improve a bit in time. Anyway, I wouldn't sweat it: Even with a restore, the Pro Max will still get you through a long day with a little extra left over for the next one.
Apple's camera improvements this year go a few steps further on the iPhone 12 Pro Max compared to the iPhone 12 Pro. Unique to the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a larger ƒ/2.2 aperture for the telephoto lens, a 47 percent larger sensor for the wide-angle lens, and what Apple refers to as sensor-shift optical image stabilization.
The Verge's Nilay Patel believes the iPhone 12 Pro Max has "the best smartphone camera you can get," noting that photos shot on the device "are generally less noisy" than those shot on the iPhone 12 Pro. However, Patel said that these improvements are mostly only noticeable in lower-light environments, as he found both devices produce virtually indistinguishable photos in brighter, sunlit conditions.
Under slightly darker conditions, most of the phones automatically shifted to their respective night modes, where they take multiple long exposures and merge them together. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max's bigger sensor, with its higher maximum ISO, means it doesn't automatically go into Night mode as often. And when the iPhone 12 Pro Max does go into Night mode, it does so with shorter exposures than the 12 Pro — in situations where the 12 Pro would take a three-second exposure, the 12 Pro Max only needed a one-second shot, resulting in a sharper photo.
Patel shared a side-by-side comparison of a photo shot on the iPhone 12 Pro Max (left) and iPhone 12 Pro (right) in lower-light environment, noting that the 12 Pro took a three-second Night mode shot, while the Pro Max only needed a one-second exposure:
TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino had a similar assessment, finding the iPhone 12 Pro Max to outperform the iPhone 12 Pro in lower-light conditions:
Wide angle shots from the iPhone 12 Pro Max display slightly better sharpness, lower noise and better color rendition than the iPhone 12 Pro and much more improvement from the iPhone 11 Pro. In bright conditions you will be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two iPhone 12 models but if you're on the lookout the signs are there. Better stabilization when handheld in open shade, better noise levels in dimmer areas and slightly improved detail sharpness.