iPhone 12 Pro Max review: Maximum display, maximum battery, maximum camera

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is big. Just slightly taller and wider than the iPhone 11 Pro Max (which was already more than a handful), it is most certainly not for those who insist on one-handed operation.

If you’re a big phone kind of person, you’ll probably find the Max version of the iPhone 12 Pro to be worth its $1,099 starting price. While its new camera is only a tiny bit better, the expansive display and incredible battery life make it worth every penny of its price premium.

iPhone 12 Pro, only bigger

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is essentially just a larger iPhone 12 Pro. It’s exactly the same phone in the same colors with the same thickness and style, same display, same A14 chip, same LiDAR, same MagSafe support… just stretched out to a beautiful 6.7-inch display.

It’s a lot of phone. If you like really big phones, you’ll feel right at home, but if you insist on one-handed operation you will be overwhelmed by this almost tablet-like slab.

iphone 12 pro max size Jason Cross/IDG

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is quite a bit larger than the iPhone 12 Pro.

Along with the larger size comes a larger battery, and it makes a really big difference. To measure battery life we calibrate the display to 200 nits and run the battery from full to empty using the Geekbench 4 battery test. In this test, the iPhone 12 Pro Max lasted 26 percent longer than the 12 Pro—over 8.5 hours! It’s by far the longest battery life we’ve ever measured in an iPhone.

iphone 12 pro max battery IDG

The iPhone 12 Pro Max lasted considerably longer than any other iPhone we’ve ever tested.

Other performance metrics track right along with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. There are some infinitesimal benefits to the larger size of the Max reducing thermal throttling of the A14 chip, but you’d never notice it.

iphone 12 pro max gb5 IDG

Outside of battery life, the iPhone 12 Pro Max performs just like every other iPhone 12—blazing fast.

A (very slightly) better camera

There is one small hardware change between the iPhone 12 Pro and the 12 Pro Max, beyond the obvious size and battery capacity. In a change from last year’s iPhone model lineup, the Max version this year has slightly different camera hardware.

iphone 12 pro max cameras Jason Cross/IDG

The camera module may look the same as that on the iPhone 12 Pro, but two of these cameras are a little different.

The standard wide-angle lens is still 12 megapixels but the sensor is 47 percent larger. This larger sensor is stabilized with a more sophisticated sensor-shift image stabilization system rather than the lens-based stabilization of the other cameras. The result is supposed to be more detail and less noise in low-light environments.