• Our Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max Review


    Itís been about a year since the XS Max came out. The Max kind of filled a hole in the iPhone lineup. When Apple released the X, it had similarly sized screen (in terms of area) as the 7 Plus but its body was a bit smaller. While I have a special piece of my heart for smaller phones, I generally find larger phones more practical so the X left me wanting a bit in that department.

    Feature-wise the, the Max was just an incremental upgrade, it didnít introduce any new features. While the phone industry moves a little more slowly these days, one feature missing from the Max was an ultra-wide angle camera.

    Other key features include:
    Ultra-wide angle camera
    Wider angle front-facing camera
    Large 4000mAh battery

    Body:



    While the Pro Maxís body is very similar to the XS Maxís there are some minor differences.

    On the left side the silence switch is a little higher on the Pro.



    The back is where the changes are. While it's still glass, it now has a frosted finish plus. The camera hump and and back are both covered by the same continuous piece of glass. The camera hump itself is now a rounded square rather than a rounded vertical rectangle.



    The hump is a bit odd - it doesnít look as harmonious as vertical ones like on the XS, Huawei P30 Pro etc. Iím guessing Apple chose this shape for the camera hump because it resembles the controls on the iOS control center. Perhaps this configuration also allows all 3 cameras lenses to be equidistant to each other though I doubt thereís a significant benefit to this.

    While itís certainly polarizing to look at, itís on the back of the phone and you forget about it pretty quickly.



    As for the frosted finish, it kind of makes the back look like itís made of metal like on older iPhones that donít have wireless charging. If you donít use a case itís also a bit less slippery than other glass backed phones.

    The rest of the phone is pretty familiar. Along the bottom are the microphone cut out, lightning connector and bottom speaker.



    The SIM card slot is on the right side along with the power button.



    On the left are volume buttons and the silent mode switch.

    Like the XS and X, the Pro Max has no fingerprint reader and use Appleís face recognition, Face ID instead. It works really well for me to the point I donít care that they removed the fingerprint reader.

    Display:



    At a glance, the Pro Max has the same 6.5Ē display with the notched top and rounded corners. When I hold the XS Max and Pro Max side-by-side they look exactly the same.

    I measured the XS Max screenís maximum brightness to be around 625cd/m2 which is best in class - the Pro Max actually extends the lead with a measured 775cd/m2. Let me be clear, 625cd/m2 is way more than you need when youíre indoors. Typically, inside you donít need anything more than around 250cd/m2 which most phones are capable of. The reason youíd need more is if youíre somewhere really bright like outdoors when itís sunny and your screen is greasy. When thatís the case, the difference between 625 and 775cd/m2 will be more noticeable as the Pro Max screen will be easier to see.

    Still, during the summer, I found the problem isnít just maximum screen brightness but also that phones will lower the max brightness when the phone starts to overheat. Itís not summer here anymore so I canít say if the Pro Maxís screen will stay brighter when this is the case.

    Iím very curious to see if the Pro Maxís brighter screen is more resistant to burn-in/image retention than the XS Max and Xís OLED display. My X had some minor burn-in after owning it for a year while the XS Max looks fine.

    As I mentioned earlier, the Pro Maxís display has a notch at the top. Housed in the notch are a speaker, camera and FaceID hardware. A lot of people complain about notches but I was never too bothered by them. As long as the notch doesnít go all the way to the middle of the screen youíll probably get used to it.

    One feature missing is Appleís 3D touch AKA force touch, pressure sensitive display.Youíd press the screen a bit harder and it would sort of function like right clicking on a computer mouse. Itís been replaced by long pressing the screen. I was skeptical about this change at first but in practice I donít really miss 3D touch. Long pressing happens quickly enough that it still feels intuitive.

    Camera:



    There are 3 cameras on the back; wide angle, zoomed and a new ultra-wide angle.

    However, the new UWA camera isnít the only new feature here - for the first time Apple has also added a night mode which frankly, is a couple years and years overdue. If youíve ever used an iPhone youíll know they generally take really great photos but only if thereís enough light. When there isnít - like in a dark restaurant, or when youíre trying to snap a picture of a sleeping baby, or itís night time, on a dark street, etc, itís outpaced by many of itís Android competitors.

    I donít think itís because the iPhone camera sensors werenít capable of night mode - rather it was due to artificial hardware limitations put in place by Apple such as a maximum shutter speed of 0.5 seconds on the X and 1 second on the XS.

    Anyways theyíve raised the max shutter speed to 5 seconds on the Pro Max and added the requisite algorithms that enable much more usable low light photos.

    The ultra-wide angle camera has a similar field of view as the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and is a bit wider than the Huawei P30 Pro.

    UWA image quality is similar to the S10+ and noticeably better than the P30 Pro.

    The front facing camera gains a couple of megapixels and a wider lens. By default the selfie cam crops the image a bit so that it has the same field of view as previous iPhones. Thereís a button you can press to zoom the image out. This really makes it easier to fit in a few more friends when youíre taking selfies.

    Software:

    The Pro Max debuted with iOS 13 which is also available for many older iPhones.

    One of the big stories about it is the bifurcation of iOS into iOS for iPhones and iPadOS for iPads. While iPhones and iPads have always had slightly different feature sets. This change now makes it easier for Apple to release iPhone and or iPad exclusive features.

    There are a bunch of changes but here are the ones I noticed:

    Besides that thereís now a dark mode which coupled with an AMOLED display should result in slightly longer battery life depending on whether the apps you spend most of the time with support it.

    Youíll now be notified if any apps have been getting your location when youíre not actively using them. Useful if you have some apps which are being naughty and spying on you/using up your battery.

    The share menu has been reworked with more shortcuts. Really, itís more about catching up to Android in this regard.

    Another area where iOS is catching up is that you can now type on the built-in keyboard without raising your finger. Android phones have had this for around 10 years now so I guess iOS figured it was time to add it. 3rd party iOS keyboards have had this feature for a while but 3rd party keyboards are always kind of iffy because of spotty support on Appleís part.

    FaceID has been sped up and is now noticeably faster.

    However, the best feature in my opinion is that the on-screen volume display is now moved off to the side instead of right center on top of whatever youíre watching.

    Multimedia:

    I suspect the Pro Max has the same speakers as the XS Max. Whatís changed is how they are tuned.

    The Pro Max speakers have a much more exaggerated stereo effect. Initially I found it very annoying but got used to it pretty quickly. That said I prefer the XS Maxís speakers.

    Performance:

    Under the hood is Appleís A13 SoC which is slightly faster than the A12. It does make the 11 Pro Max feel slightly snappier than the XS Max.

    Battery life:



    One shocker about the Pro Maxís battery is how itís charged; Apple actually included an 18 watt charger in the box. Apple has been including 5 watt chargers with their phones since the original iPhone came out many years ago so this is a mild surprise. Apple is still using their lightning connector. You'll need a USB Type-C to lightning connector and an 18 watt or better Type-C charger that supports Power Delivery.

    Thereís a 4000mAh battery inside the Pro Max which is a massive 800mAh greater than the XS Maxís.

    Battery life is stellar. To measure this, I made up my own battery test. I put Prime Video on each phone, downloaded a season of the Grand Tour to each phone in good quality and then set it to play for a few hours. I didnít run the test from full to empty because most phones will activate a low power mode when the battery is low plus. I also ran the test when the battery was no higher than 99% full.

    I wrote down the starting and ending percentage and time and then worked out how many minutes on average it took for the meter to drop one percentage. I used a colorimeter to set each phoneís screen brightness as close to 100 nits when displaying a 100% bright background in Chrome as I could (usually within 10%).

    Each percentage lasted around 7 mins on the XS Max while the Pro Max managed 11.5 mins.

    Conclusion:

    In the end, the biggest reason to get the Pro Max is if you want an ultra-wide angle camera along with night mode and longer battery life. If youíve been using an older iPhone, these 2 features are more useful than youíd think.

    Otherwise, the other improvements are very incremental and probably not worth the upgrade if youíre already using an iPhone X/Xr/XS/XS Max.

    Pros:
    Great image setup
    Wider front facing camera
    Long battery life

    Cons:
    Expensive
    Oddly arranged rear cameras
    Obnoxiously tuned speakers

    4.5/5
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Our Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max Review started by howard View original post
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