The iPhone 11 wasn’t a bad phone, but Pro versions improved on it significantly. With a bigger, better screen, a longer-lasting battery, and big camera upgrades, the iPhone 11 Pro Max in particular was some way ahead. But that was a couple of years ago, and today’s big iPhone is the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Is it worth saving a fortune with a refurbished iPhone 11 Pro Max? Our iPhone 11 Pro Max review explains all.
- Brilliant design
- Strong features
- Good performance
- A couple of generations old
- No 5G
iPhone 11 Pro Max – overview
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the flagship, enlarged version of the iPhone 11. Launched with the rest of the family in September 2019, the phone was available new until the iPhone 12 Pro Max replaced it, in October 2020.
This phone has a number of important upgrades over the iPhone 11. Most notably, its large 6.5” OLED screen is a major improvement over the standard phone’s smaller LCD. It gets a bigger battery, and a more impressive triple camera system, yet it’s barely any larger than the standard iPhone 11.
There’s lots to like, then, including the fact you can buy a refurbished iPhone 11 Pro Max for less than half the price of today’s iPhone 13 Pro Max. But is it worth buying into a phone that’s a couple of generations old? Our iPhone 11 Pro Max review explains all.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – design
The iPhone 11 Pro Max features the same ‘bezel-free’ design seen in the iPhone 11. Put the two in your hand, though, and you’d barely notice one is a plus-sized version of the other. While the iPhone 11 is larger than the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is fractionally smaller than its newer equivalents. The end result is that the Max model is just 7mm longer and 2mm wider than the model it’s meant to enlarge.
At the same time, it does offer a bigger screen. Its 6.5” display works out around 14% larger than the iPhone 11’s 6.1. The glass that protects it stretches towards the phone’s edge, where it tapers down towards the curved metal sides. These are stainless steel on Pro level iPhones, and feel cool and smooth to the touch.
While the design feels great to hold, it is too large for comfortable single-handed use. It’s also worth noting that the screen glass isn’t as strong as the Ceramic Shield of newer phones – the iPhone 11 Pro Max definitely needs a case for added protection. And while it’s waterproof to two metres for 30 minutes, newer iPhones are tested to three times that depth.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – display
Although they launched at the same time, this phone’s display is comprehensively better than the 6.1” LCD fitted to the iPhone 11. Aside from being bigger, it’s an OLED panel, meaning that it forms a picture from millions of tiny LED lights. It’s brighter, has a higher contrast level, and in theory should be more efficient too.
Perhaps more importantly, it has a much higher resolution. Its 2,688×1,242 dimensions mean it has more than twice as many pixels as the iPhone 11’s 1,792×828 screen. The result is something incredibly crisp, where you simply can’t see any jagged lines.
Since the iPhone 12, all iPhones have come with OLED screens, so this phone’s display isn’t much better than, say, the standard iPhone 13. It’s a huge improvement over the iPhone 11, though.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – camera and video performance
While the iPhone 11 gets a 12-megapixel (MP) dual-camera setup at the rear, the iPhone 11 Pro Max improves on it with a third, telephoto lens. This extends the phone’s optical zoom range from 2X to 4X, and with digital help this stretches to a very handy 10X. It’s easier to fill more of the frame with a portrait, or to capture more detail without approaching the subject. Optical image stabilisation steadies the telephoto and wide lenses, helping reduce shake and blur.
Otherwise, the iPhone 11 Pro Max has the same camera performance as the iPhone 11. It offers a range of powerful and creative photo modes, including an impressive night mode, and multiple portrait modes. There’s support for 1080p HD and 4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second (fps), and HD slo-mo at up to 240fps. The front-facing 12MP camera offers many of the same features, although it’s limited to software stabilisation, along with a maximum 120fps when shooting slo-mo.
Both cameras produce decent results – they’re more than good enough to capture selfies, group shots and decent landscapes. Night mode is strong, particularly when using the rear camera, but it’s not as impressive as on the iPhone 12, or the brilliant iPhone 13 Pro. If you’re shooting professionally, invest in a Pro level iPhone 13 if you can. If you just want a great all-round phone camera, this will do nicely.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – performance
Geekbench 5 results
CPU single-core scores:
- iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 1,746
- iPhone 12 Pro – Score = 1,603
- iPhone 11 Pro Max – Score = 1,338
CPU multi-core scores:
- iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 4,899
- iPhone 12 Pro – Score = 3,967
- iPhone 11 Pro Max – Score = 3,452
3DMark Wild Life Extreme results
- iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 3,118
- iPhone 12 Pro – Score = 2,216
- iPhone 11 Pro Max – Score = 2,144
Worst scores (20-minute loop):
- iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 2,235
- iPhone 12 Pro – Score = 1,595
- iPhone 11 Pro Max – Score = 1,617
The iPhone 11 family uses Apple’s own A13 Bionic chip. Although it’s a couple of generations behind the A15 Bionic in the iPhone 13, it’s still remarkably competitive – even the fastest Android phones lag behind. The iPhone 11 Pro Max gets exactly the same chip as the stock iPhone 11, so it’s no surprise that their benchmark performance is very similar.
In Geekbench 5, which focuses on general number-crunching, the iPhone 11 Pro Max got a 1,338 single-core score with a 3,452 multi-core result. Its compute score of 7,621 placed it about 19% behind the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but still comfortably ahead of other competitors.
This phone has plenty of power for gaming and other 3D intensive work. It scored 2,144 in the 3D Mark Wild Life Extreme benchmark, almost matching the 2,175 we measured for the iPhone 12. By way of comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 5G – one of the fastest Android competitors – lags just under the 1,800 mark.
It may not be the latest thing, but the iPhone 11 Pro Max is still a usefully fast phone. It’ll be some time before there are apps that it struggles to cope with.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – battery performance
The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a bigger screen than the standard iPhone 11, but its OLED technology is more energy efficient. Add in the fact that its bigger body has room for a bigger battery, and it’s no surprise to find it lasts longer on a charge. Apple says you’ll get up to 20 hours of video playback, compared to 17 hours for the standard phone.
We tested a refurbished iPhone 11 Pro Max which indicated that it still had 97% of its battery capacity when new. It looped an HD movie for 18 and a half hours – nearly four hours more than the standard iPhone 11, and longer than any other phone we’ve tested.
Like other recent iPhones, you can charge the Phone 11 Pro Max with either a Qi wireless dock, or via its Lightning connector. Stump up for a 20W charger and Apple says the exhausted phone will recover to 50% charged in 35 minutes – it took 37 minutes in our test. The phone reached 80% charge in an hour and 11 minutes, and was fully charged in two hours 20 minutes.
While it takes slightly longer to charge than most recent iPhones, the flipside is that the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s bigger battery runs down more slowly. It should comfortably last a day between charges, even if you throw some entertainment or gaming into the mix.
Battery life (movie playback)*
- iPhone 13 Pro – Time = 19hr 2mins
- iPhone 12 Pro – Time = 14hrs 07mins
- iPhone 11 Pro Max – Time = 18hrs 34mins
Charge Time (0-80%)
- iPhone 13 Pro – Time = 53mins
- iPhone 12 Pro – Time = 51mins
- iPhone 11 Pro Max – Time = 71mins
*Battery life test involves looping the playback of an HD movie from fully charged until the phone shuts down.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – options and additional features
The iPhone 11 Pro Max came in four ‘sensible’ colours reserved only for Pro level models: silver, gold, Space Grey and Midnight Green. It was available with 64GB, but plenty of people paid more to get 256GB or 512GB of storage.
A reconditioned iPhone 11 Pro Max might come with a charger or EarPods – the iPhone 11 family was the last phone to launch with them. All iPhone 11 models work with Qi wireless charging docks, but they aren’t compatible with the MagSafe range of accessories, introduced with the iPhone 12. As with any iPhone, there’s still a massive range of official and third-party accessories.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – build quality and things to look out for
There’s not much to go wrong with an iPhone 11 Pro Max, but like any phone it’s easy to damage. It’s worth knowing that the toughened glass over the screen isn’t as strong as the Ceramic Shield introduced with the iPhone 12. Drop this phone and there’s a good chance you’ll break the front or rear glass – or both. For this reason it pays to buy a decent case. Adding a screen protector will prevent you scratching the screen glass, too.
iPhone 11 Pro Max – verdict
It’s hard to recommend the standard iPhone 11 now that it’s two generations behind, but the iPhone 11 Pro Max is altogether more appealing. With a big, high-resolution screen and oodles of battery life, it’s still a great phone if you enjoy watching video. If you’re a gamer, its A13 Bionic chip remains surprisingly competitive, too.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no good if you need 5G, and we can’t recommend it if you want truly pro-level photo or video performance – save up for the iPhone 13 Pro Max instead. But if you want a great all-rounder that balances size, features and performance, a refurbished iPhone 11 Pro Max still makes an awful lot of sense.