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Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review: The real Pro phone

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review: The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a great buy for those with professional workflows that involve a phone. Read on to know more about it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Rs. 129900
Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi |
Updated: November 20, 2020 12:53:14 pm
iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Pro Max review, iPhone 12 Pro Max price, iPhone 12 Pro Max price in india, iPhone 12 Pro Max camera, iPhone 12 Pro Max specifications, iphoneiPhone 12 Pro Max (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

Apple has left a lot of potential buyers confused with its iPhone 12 series which has an unprecedented four devices. However, if there is one phone in the series that has a clear target audience it has to be the iPhone 12 Pro Max. After reviewing the base iPhone 12, the smaller iPhone 12 Mini and middle ground iPhone 12 Pro, we have now reached the largest phone in the series aimed clearly at the Pros — professionals, pro users and the progressives.

iPhone 12 Pro Max price in India: 1,29,900+

iPhone 12 Pro Max specs: 6.7 inch Super Retina XDR OLED (1284 x 2778p, ~458 ppi) | Apple A14 Bionic (6GB RAM with 128GB/256GB/512GB) | 12 MP, f/1.6, 26mm (wide) + 12 MP, f/2.2, 65mm (telephoto) + 12 MP, f/2.4, 120˚, 13mm (ultrawide) + TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth) + 12 MP, f/2.2, 23mm (wide) front camera | Li-Ion 3687 mAh battery | 228 g

iPhone 12 Pro Max review: What is new?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a large phone. In fact, it is larger than the iPhone 11 Pro Max by a few centimetres. This means it has a better screen-to-body ratio as well as a slightly better resolution. However, it weighs almost the same as the last version and that is despite the ceramic coating and the steel frame.

iPhone 12 Pro Max review The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

The flat edges make the design very stylish. Remember, Apple did not have a phone this large when it last used the flat edge design on the iPhone. But the flat edges could make it a bit difficult to grip the phone at times, especially when it is cold. So I recommend investing in a good cover that protects the phone and offers a good grip at all times.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has some changes in the camera department. For instance, it has a larger telephoto lens now and can do a 12x zoom instead of the 10x before. Even the iPhone 12 Pro can’t do this. Also, this camera can now shoot in Dolby Vision HDR at up to 60fps, which the iPhone 12 can’t. Then there is the Lidar sensor that gives the camera a sense of depth.

Read all our iPhone 12 reviews: Apple iPhone 12 Pro review | Apple iPhone 12 review | Apple iPhone 12 mini review |

One other thing which you should keep in mind is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a smaller battery than its predecessor by about 10 per cent, though I did not notice much change in battery life.

iPhone 12 Pro Max review: What is good?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is clearly the pinnacle of smartphone technology. The best processor in the business packaged with professional-grade camera units, stunning display and a stylish design. So if you want to tell the world you have arrived, this is the phone to buy this year.

Apple has for the past couple of years been ensuring that all its phones in a year have the same processor. And this guarantee of similar performance across price points is something very unique to Apple at the moment. However, the experience is clearly different if you go up the value chain, as a phone like the Pro Max has more tools to make use of that A14 Bionic processor.

 iPhone 12 Pro Max camera The camera module of the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a Lidar sensor and a larger telephoto lens. (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

So while the UI/UX of all the iPhone 12 series phones are the same, the Pro Max offers some premium camera experiences which the other phones cannot. For instance, the Dolby Vision HDR recording at 60fps is as good as most DSLRs can offer at the moment. This is the phone you will buy if you are shooting video at a professional level but not always using a DSLR. This is the phone you will buy if you are an avid photographer, but not one who needs to carry a large camera to prove that. This is truly a professional smartphone camera.

I tried with a range of video settings, in low and normal light and the camera is great at keeping the subtle changes in colour and even keeping track of the subject. I rue the fact that the phone has come to me at a time when I can’t really step out and shoot much, but I have managed to recreate a lot of scenarios with what I could do. And trust me this camera is up to it.

The details when you try to record in 4K HDR at 60fps is almost cinematic. The Dolby Vision HDR is on by default in this mode, but you will need some California visages to see what this phone is capable of, not smoggy Delhi skies.

Where this iPhone really steps up is with video recording. Stuck at home with another Covid-19 surge in Delhi, I did not have much options to push the camera capabilities of this phone. However, I did try it out with the colourful Diwali lights in the middle of the night and you can see the results for yourself. In this video, you can see that despite the dark settings, the phone offers smooth image stabilisation at all times. You can see the subtle changes in the lights and even the glows that have different hues.

You can see this camera prowess even while clicking regular photos, be it night or day. I clearly think the camera is now faster in processing night shots and what used to take 3 seconds earlier can now be captured in less time.

iPhone 12 Pro Max low light camera sample iPhone 12 Pro Max low light camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan) iPhone 12 Pro Max low light camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan) iPhone 12 Pro Max low light camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan) iPhone 12 Pro Max low light camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan) iPhone 12 Pro Max full zoom camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan) iPhone 12 Pro Max low light camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan) iPhone 12 Pro Max 2.5x optical zoom camera sample (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

Like the Pro, the Pro Max too has a Lidar sensor in the camera rig. While this is primarily meant to offer a better AR experience, it clearly improves some shots dramatically. For instance, compare these two shots of the Buddha taken with the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max without the portrait mode active, but at f16 settings. You can see how the iPhone 12 Pro Max is sharper with the subject almost popping out in a 3D effect. Also, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers a 2.5x optical zoom in portrait against the 2x in its predecessor.

Comparison of iPhone 11 Pro Max (left) vs iPhone 12 Pro Max. Both cameras are shooting in full optical zoom. (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

I have over the past few years abandoned my camera in favour of an iPhone, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max Apple has pushed it one level up. You can now shoot high-end video and edit it too on the phone. A 30-second 4K clip I shot could be edited and processed in under a minute, retaining all the detail. The phone does not even whimper when it does this.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: What is not good?

The battery life on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is almost the same as last year’s iPhone 11 Pro Max. It should be able to safely see you back home on a full charge with a very active day. However, it seems the battery this time (3687 mAh) is smaller than last year’s 3969 mAh cell. Since the phone has actually become larger than last time it is a bit hard for me to understand why this reduction was needed. My fear is this will start showing up as the phone and its battery ages, especially for those using the phone in 5G. Indian’s are lucky that don’t have 5G to drain their new iPhones. Again, the fast charging on the iPhone now is among the best in the industry and will come to the rescue if you are drained out in odd places.

There is no denying the fact that the iPhone, any iPhone, is a premium device. However, the price jump on the new iPhone 12 Pro Max model needs to be justified better. Even if we consider the fact the base model now has 128GB against the earlier 64GB, the price differential is significant. While I would think this is the cost of 5G, in India that becomes a bit of a future-proofing tax.

A Mujjo leather case on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. (Express Photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

Also, while it will be a small thing for a person buying a phone this expensive, you will have to spend a few extra thousand rupees to get either a regular charger or the new MagSafe charger as this phone comes in a slim box that does not have space for one of these.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: Should you buy?

Yes, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a great buy for those with professional workflows that involve a phone. These could be anything from the need for a stellar display to a top-end processing or professional-grade video recording. However, if you are using an iPhone that came out in the last two years, it is too early to upgrade to this one. For anyone using an older iPhone, it is time to move. For others, you jump ship for the best camera experience and a processor that could well be powering your next PC as well.

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As Cupertino would say, this is the best iPhone Apple has made. I can only agree.

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