iPhone 12 Pro Max Long Term Review: Gladiator Camera Maximus!

Big display, big camera, big price, big performance

by: - Last updated on: January 29th, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • It is massive in terms of both size and price, but there is no doubting that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most powerful iPhone out there.
  • The biggest (pun intended) difference between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and its max-less Pro sibling is the camera, which sports a huge sensor.
  • In terms of camera performance, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is perhaps the closest a phone has come to a powerful point and shoot camera.
  • It does come with a massive price tag, but it is perhaps the most powerful phone out there. With great power comes great (in numerical terms) pricing!

With this year’s series of iPhones, Apple pretty much ended the tradition of the “lesser iPhone,” bringing greater equality on the spec sheet across variants. However, what it also introduced was the concept of a “greater iPhone.” And it did so with, rather appropriately, the largest phone of the range, the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

iPhone 12 pro max review

For, unlike in the past, when the Max was basically an iPhone with a larger display and battery, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, in fact, came with what Apple claimed was not just those two “maxed out” features, but also a markedly superior camera – mainly thanks to a much larger main sensor. Shades of the earlier Plus variants of the iPhone which had dual cameras as compared to the single ones on others.

The best cameras on a phone. Period.

And as we had remarked in our review of the cameras, they are not just hype. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is pretty much the closest we have seen a phone come to a high-quality point and shoot camera. No, it does not bring the sort of shooting variety as regards to zoom that something like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra brings to the table, but in terms of realistic detail and sheer consistency, it is unmatched.

We knew almost exactly what we were going to get every time we hit the shutter on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and that is something that is very rare in phone camera territory, where brands do have a tendency to mess around with software tweaks, call it computational photography or whatever you wish. It is not as if the iPhone 12 Pro Max is immune to this – it only seems to tweak images for more realistic shades and details rather than going for the “pleasant looking” images that are the flavor of the day. Even selfies are (sometimes painfully) realistic.

The results the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro deliver are frankly the closest thing we have seen to a high-class point and shoot camera. Whether it was landscapes or portraits or pictures of animals, we got results with realistic color, and tellingly, significantly more detail than on the 12 Pro. The zoom levels are 5x in all in optical, while digital zoom stops at 12x which is more than the 4x and 10x of the 12 Pro, but might seem minuscule when compared to 60x and 100x zooms on some devices.

That said, such is the image quality that it is decent enough to give you very good snaps of the moon! Portrait mode itself continues to be a little hit and miss with some edges being missed but the point worth noting here is that the larger sensor on the phone often meant that we could get realistic enough bokeh without resorting to portrait mode. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is perhaps the first phone camera that I have used to take product shots for a review and the shots came out just fine. As far as videos go, the iPhone remains in a zone of its own among phones, with incredibly high-quality videos, whether in full HD or 4K. Incidentally, all four cameras can shoot 4K videos. Apple is not touching 8K videos yet.

And with its own easy to use (Pro)RAW mode too

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But if 8K video has been left untouched, RAW mode has definitely been collared by the 12 Pro phones. Basically, this lets you capture images in what Apple calls ProRAW mode. Without getting too technical (yes, we are working on another story on it even as we write this), Apple’s ProRAW mode lets you capture pictures with way more detail than its normal HEIC mode. Mind you, it is not obvious at first glance. It is when you get into editing the images on software that supports editing ProRAW (Apple’s default Photos app lets you do so, just as you can edit a normal photograph) that you realize that you can edit much more deeply without losing image quality – grains and “noise” do not appear as often as they would with the HEIC format. You actually can completely control the look and feel of the photograph to a huge extent, provided you have the right software, the skills, and the patience.

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Of course, this does result in heavier images as the ProRAW format captures more data than even the RAW format does. ProRAW is mainly for the professional crowd, though, and if you do not have the requisite skills in handling apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Pixelmator, you will not really be able to make the most of it. But just how well it works on the iPhone 12 Pro Max shows you where Apple is heading with the Pro Max – bang into the smart camera zone. And not just because of the cameras.

That oooh display, that ooh design that oooh processor…

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What makes the iPhone 12 Pro Max perhaps one of the most formidable cameras out there is the fact that it is much more than a camera. Of course, it is a phone first and quite a phone at that. Although almost everyone loves its new design which has shades of the iPhone 4 and 5 on the flat side and the 11 Pro on the front and back (read our first impressions here), and also some very interesting shades that pour over onto those straight sides. Dust and water resistance are in place and the new Ceramic Shield protection on the display is supposed to be the toughest glass around. Yes, there have been complaints about its size and weight. Although some of these might have been a little over the top, by iPhone standards, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is certainly on the larger side. It will feel hefty while being used for phone tasks like calls and texting.

Take it into the smart zone, however, the whole equation changes.

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That 6.7-inch OLED “Super Retina XDR” display is perhaps the best on a phone out there. It is bright without being overwhelmingly brilliant a la some AMOLED displays out there. And its sheer size makes viewing content, whether a film, a show, a music video, or a game (and you can run pretty much ANY game on it with ease), and even browsing the Web and social media a pleasure. The excellent stereo speakers (again, among the best out there) just add to the multimedia experience.

And well, that big display is one of the best portable options for editing not just images, but even videos. The bigger display also makes this almost like a mini-tablet letting you multi-task and even work on mail attachments without too much discomfort. It is also where you realize just how powerful that A14 Bionic chip inside the phone is. We literally were able to switch between playing a game and editing video, even with social media and messaging services running in the background. Frankly, it was amazing. The large display also makes the iPhone 12 Pro Max best suited for the new widgets that the UI supports, as well as split-screen functionality – something that seems a little cramped on the smaller iPhone 12 Pro.

…and that oooh battery (albeit minus a charger)

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The task of keeping all this hardware and software running for a while is that of the largest battery in the current iPhone line up. We will perhaps never know its official mAh count but suffice to say that it can easily see through a day of heavy use. And take it from us, this is a phone that one should buy only for heavy use. Normal use gets you close to a day and a half and well, if you are super careful and keep brightness low and minimize camera use and do not watch too many videos (and make us wonder why you bought it in the first place), you might even see off two days of use. In simple terms, however, this is excellent battery life by iPhone standards and even on par with some Android flagships.

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It is a battery that supports fast-charging up to 20W and even relatively brisk wireless charging at 15W using Apple’s own MagSafe wireless charger. There is a catch, though – there is no charger or power adapter in the box itself. All you get is a Lighting to USB Type C cable. Good for the environment, we are told. We are not too convinced, honestly, and have made our opinion on the matter rather clear elsewhere – in sum, we would have loved to see a charger in the box. Charging speeds are decent, if not in the insane Android fast charge league – you will be able to charge the phone in about an hour and a half with Apple’s 20W charger, while the MagSafe takes well over two hours to charge it.

And that ouch price

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For all the boxes it ticks (and the only major one it misses is the charger in the box), there is no doubt that the iPhone 12 Pro Max comes at a price that will make most people wince – it starts at a massive Rs 1,29,900 for the base 128 GB version. That is well above anything else in a market that is not a foldable or a beta-masquerading-as-innovation. Even the recently launched Galaxy S21 Ultra comes at a lower starting point.

The big question: Should you consider it?

The answer really depends on how much you value that camera muscle. Because if you do, then the extra bulk and bucks are both worth it. The iPhone 12 Pro Max adds the expected bigger display and battery to the iPhone 12 Pro, but it is the camera where it really pulls away. If you do not value the camera that much, ah, then perhaps you could hang back and opt for the most compact iPhone 12 Pro, which is no slouch in the camera department but is no Max either.

Actually, no other phone really gets into this sort of zone. The Max is pretty much the one for those who want to not just do the “regular” premier smartphone stuff like high-end gaming, browsing and messaging, but also want to shoot images and videos galore, edit them extensively and share them around the world, with perhaps even a Gladiator like the snarl of:

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

We are. We very much are. That price hurts, but whether it is gaming, videos, shows, or anything on a phone, we are SO entertained by this one. The Godphone has a camera Gladiator. Of course, we would call it Maximus…

Buy iPhone 12 Pro Max

Pros
  • Perhaps the best camera on a phone
  • Terrific performance
  • Great display and sound
  • Good battery life (for an iPhone)
Cons
  • THAT price.
  • Definitely on the large side (for an iPhone)
  • No charger in the box
  • THAAAAAAT price
Review Overview
Design & looks
Software
Camera
Performance
Price
SUMMARY

It is massive in terms of both size and price, but there is no doubting that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most powerful iPhone out there. It does come with a massive price tag, but it is perhaps the most powerful phone out there. With great power comes great (in numerical terms) pricing!

4.2

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