The iPhone 12 Pro Max is arguably the best smartphone cam available in India with stellar lowlight performance.

iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Here’s how they match up
Atom Smartphones Friday, November 27, 2020 - 17:03

Picking the right iPhone for you has never been a more complex decision. Apple’s India portfolio is more diverse than ever before; it now ranges from Rs 39,900 (for the iPhone SE 2020) all the way to Rs 1,59,900. The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max sit at the top end of this spectrum. Earlier, choosing between the top two devices in the iPhone line-up (like the 11 Pro vs Pro Max last year) was relatively simple. You picked the Max (and the Plus devices before them) editions if you were willing to invest in a heavier phone for better battery life and a larger screen. This year Apple has added one more element to that decision matrix – the camera. The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max (both powered by Apple’s new A14 bionic chip) ride heavily on their ‘Pro’ grade camera but the Max edition takes it a notch higher. 

I’ve always been partial to the Pro version (versus the Max edition) but after spending a week each with this year’s 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, I have to conclude that this one’s not easy to call. Here’s why:

Design: This year, Apple turned back the clock somewhat for design inspiration. The iPhone 12 siblings opt for a flat-edge design. It doesn’t just look more elegant but also makes the heavier iPhones easier to clasp. Both the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max use surgical grade stainless steel that is heavier than the aluminium chassis on the 12 and 12 Mini. You only have to look at the rim to admire the colour finish (I checked out the Pacific Blue variant) of the stainless steel exteriors. The 12 Pro weighs 189 grams while the Pro Max is round 228 grams, about the same weight as last year’s 11 Pro Max. The new design makes this year’s Pro Max easier to hold than its 2019 predecessor. It’s one of the reasons I would consider the switch to the larger iPhone 12 Pro Max this year.

Display: Apple has stretched the 12 Pro display to 6.1-inches (from 5.8-inches for the 11 Pro last year). The notch (that we first spotted on the iPhone X in 2017) still remains but the bezels are thinner. The deep blacks and colours truly stand out on the XDR OLED displays of both these devices. There’s no 120Hz refresh rate though. The Pro Max also gets a larger display – the largest ever on an iPhone. It’s now 6.7-inches (1170 x 2778 pixels / 19.5:9 ratio / 458 PPI) and is one of the best smartphone screens to catch Netflix or type long emails. You’ll need two hands though. 

Battery: This is an obvious win for the 12 Pro Max. Apple doesn’t divulge its battery specs (in mAh) but claims a 20-hour video playback for the 12 Pro Max vs 17 hours for the 12 Pro. I’ve found it tougher to estimate battery life in 2020 with WFH routines but I found myself finishing the day with at least 20% more in the tank with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

Camera: It actually comes down to this. There are a few key differences between the 12 Pro Max and 12 Pro. A new ƒ/1.6 aperture on the wide camera – in plain-speak, a larger aperture is a larger hole that allows more light therefore impacting lowlight photography. There’s a larger  sensor (47% larger) with 1.7μm pixels – you get better light gathering and colour renditions. And then there’s the innovative sensor-shift OIS system. In simple terms, this reduces camera shake and goes one up on a traditional OIS (Optical Image stabilisation) system. The 12 Pro Max also scores over the Pro with its 65 mm focal length Telephoto camera for increased flexibility with closer shots and tighter crops. You get a 2.5X optical zoom (vs 2X on the 12 Pro). Both these phones come with the LiDAR sensor that improves depth sensing and lowlight images. There are rival devices (like the Samsung Note 20 Ultra)  that offer better optical zoom but the iPhone 12 Pro Max is arguably the best smartphone cam available in India with stellar lowlight performance and video capture capabilities.

Verdict: Is the Rs 10,000 premium worth opting for the biggest iPhone from this year’s line-up. The answer is yes if you don’t mind the extra heft. This year’s Max edition doesn’t just give you more screen real estate and battery life but a significantly better rear cam that serious photographers or Instagram fiends will appreciate. 

The iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro come in silver, graphite, gold and pacific blue. The 12 Pro starts at Rs 1,19,900 while the Pro Max starts at Rs 1,29,900. 

Views expressed are author's own

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