Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review 28/10/21

Price: Discontinued – buy refurbished on Mozillion

Mozillion rating:

 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Front View

If you want a bigger, better iPhone but your budget doesn’t stretch to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Pro Max fits the bill. It’s the flagship of the iPhone 12 lineup, combining the highest specs with the biggest screen and a battery that seems to last forever. With top-end camera performance and buckets of storage, it’s the best iPhone 12 – but is that still good enough? Discover more in our iPhone 12 Pro Max review.


  • Brilliant design
  • Exceptional photo and video features
  • Blistering performance


  • Too big and heavy for mainstream tastes
  • No longer the latest iPhone
  • You can’t buy it new from Apple

iPhone 12 Pro Max – overview

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was the best performing and most impressive iPhone 12 you could buy, right up until Apple discontinued it. While it shares the same processor as other iPhone 12s, upgrades to its screen, battery and camera system make it a powerful gaming and multimedia tool.

This phone’s giant 6.7” OLED screen is perfect for movies or games, but it means the iPhone 12 Pro Max itself is significantly bigger and heavier than a standard iPhone 12. One-handed use is impractical, and it’s a bulky device to carry around. Still, with four ‘Pro only’ colours and the iPhone 12’s trademark crisp design, it’s a great looking phone.

Apple has replaced this phone with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which packs processor, battery and camera upgrades, but the new phone is also very expensive. So, is this the perfect time to buy a reconditioned iPhone 12 Pro Max? Find out in our iPhone 12 Pro Max review.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max in a hand image

iPhone 12 Pro Max – design

It’s comparatively easy to tell the iPhone 12 Pro Max apart from the rest of the iPhone 12 range. For a start, there’s that size – it’s more than a centimetre longer than the standard phone, and almost 3cm longer than the iPhone mini. Like the iPhone 12 Pro, the back panel is frosted rather than shiny, and there are three cameras rather than the dual setup seen on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. You can have the iPhone 12 Pro Max in four colours exclusive to the Pro models – Pacific Blue, gold, graphite and silver.

Visually the iPhone 12 design survives the stretch to Max size. Its glass runs right up to the narrow stainless steel border, to sensational effect. The rear glass looks extremely classy in blue, but against lighter colours the dark camera lenses stick out awkwardly. In the hand, the phone’s smooth surfaces and size make it trickier to grip, and it’s too wide for comfortable one-handed typing.

Apple says its Ceramic Shield glass is four times tougher than the glass used on the iPhone 11, and practical tests have tended to back this up. Despite impressive drop resistance, we’d still recommend a case – phones don’t come any more expensive to replace.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Front

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Side

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Back

iPhone 12 Pro Max – display

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Display

You could hardly accuse the iPhone 12’s 6.1” display of being small, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max is about a fifth bigger. Its 6.7” OLED packs in a useful 2,778×1,284 pixel resolution, at a density of 458 pixels per inch (ppi). What that means in practice is that the dots making up the screen image are so closely packed together that you can’t see them, so text, diagonal lines and all images look crisp and smooth. Add in typically vibrant colours and a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and the result is a superb, bright, large screen that really delivers for video and gaming.

It’s not unrivalled, though. Some high-end plus-sized Android rivals feature even bigger screens and higher ppi figures. As an example, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 6.8” display manages 3,200×1,440 pixels, which works out at 515ppi.

While Apple’s distinctive notch housing the front camera takes up a smaller portion of the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s bigger screen, it still takes a nibble from the edge of full-screen video. You’ll find far less intrusive camera cutouts on far cheaper Android phones. Apple has managed to shrink this notch on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which also gets a 120Hz refresh rate upgrade. On the iPhone 12 Pro Max it’s limited to 60Hz.

iPhone 12 Pro Max – camera and video performance

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a significantly better rear camera than the standard iPhone 12. It’s a triple-lens system, which combines the standard phone’s wide and ultra-wide lenses with a telephoto one. It offers a 2.5x optical zoom in with a 2x zoom out, with digital zoom of up to 12x – that’s a narrow improvement even on the 10x found on the iPhone 12 Pro.

There’s also a LiDAR sensor not found on standard iPhone 12 models. This depth-mapping technology provides fast focusing even in poor light, and helps power a Night Portrait mode unique to the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. In practice, low-light performance is one of this phone’s strengths. It can resolve surprisingly sharp portraits in the dimmest lighting, and grab relatively noise-free shots even in near-darkness.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max gets some subtle feature improvements over the standard iPhone 12. Most notably there’s support for Apple’s ProRAW image format, and you can record HDR Dolby Vision video at up to 60 frames per second (fps), double the standard phone.

This is a great camera setup, with strong low-light performance and powerful image processing to help enhance the results. Its wide zoom range also helps fill the frame with whatever you’re shooting. Even so, Apple has massively moved things on with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. If you’re considering an iPhone for photography and filmmaking use, it could well be worth saving for the newer phone.

iPhone 12 Pro Max – performance

Geekbench 5 results

CPU single-core scores:

  • iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 1,746
  • iPhone 13 – Score = 1,723
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – Score = 1,605

CPU multi-core scores:

  • iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 4,899
  • iPhone 13 – Score = 4,612
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – Score = 4,186

3DMark Wild Life Extreme results

Best scores:

  • iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 3,118
  • iPhone 13 – Score = 2,523
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – Score = 2,407

Worst scores (20-minute loop):

  • iPhone 13 Pro – Score= 2,235
  • iPhone 13 – Score = 1,983
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – Score = 1,603

Right up until the iPhone 13 replaced it, the iPhone 12 remained the fastest smartphone you could buy. It’s built around Apple’s own A14 Bionic chip, which can shred just about any game or benchmark you care to throw at it. The A15 in the iPhone 13 may now be faster, but this is still a seriously quick device.

We recorded a Geekbench 5 single-core score of 1,605, with a mighty 4,186 in the multi-core test – significantly quicker than a Samsung Galaxy S21. Things were even more impressive in 3D, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max notching up 8,588 in the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark – the highest score we’ve yet recorded.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also managed a leading 2,407 in the Wild Life Extreme benchmark, but as with all iPhones this blistering speed comes with a catch. Running flat out causes the phone to heat up, after which it slows down to prevent overheating. Over the 20-cycle stress test, the phone’s score fell to 1,603, representing a one-third drop between the one-time maximum, and the fastest sustained speed.

iPhone 12 Pro Max – battery performance

With a bigger screen to power and more room inside, it’s no surprise to find that the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a bigger battery. This offers a hefty boost over the smaller iPhone 12 models: Apple says it’ll play video for up to 20 hours, or audio for 80 hours. We tested it by looping an HD video with the brightness set to 50%. It lasted 17 hours and 49 minutes: four hours longer than the iPhone 12.

When it is time to recharge, you can top up with a Qi or MagSafe wireless charger. This phone’s size could present a problem with some in-car charging pads – it only just fitted ours, but it did charge without issues. Using a Lightning cable and a 20W charger, we recharged the exhausted iPhone 12 Max Pro to 50% in 30 minutes. It went on to hit 80% in 54 minutes, and was fully charged in a little over two hours.

While this phone has great battery life, it’s worth mentioning that the iPhone 13 Pro Max is significantly better. According to Apple, it’ll play video for a further eight hours, and stream video for more than twice as long.

Battery life (movie playback)*

  • iPhone 13 Pro – Time = 19hr 2mins
  • iPhone 13 – Time = 18hrs 46mins
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – Time = 17hrs 49mins

Charge Time (0-80%)

  • iPhone 13 Pro – Time = 53mins
  • iPhone 13 – Time = 55mins
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max – Time = 54mins

*Battery life test involves looping the playback of an HD movie from fully charged until the phone shuts down.

iPhone 12 Pro Max – options and additional features

The iPhone 12 Pro Max comes in four colours only available on iPhone Pro models. Each is a little more muted and stylish than the solid colours on the everyday iPhone 12 alternatives. It’s available with either 128GB, 256GB or 512GB, but not the 1TB capacity introduced with the iPhone 13 Pro models.

You won’t find much other than a Lightning cable in this phone’s box. If you want headphones or a charger, you’ll need to pay extra. It’s also worth noting that the supplied USB-C to Lightning cable doesn’t fit in the majority of car and device USB ports. If you don’t already have a USB-A to Lightning cable, you might want to buy a couple.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silver

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Pacific Blue

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Graphite

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Gold

iPhone 12 Pro Max – build quality and things to look out for

Not much goes wrong with an iPhone 12. Some have complained that 5G reception can hammer the battery life, but you can turn it off from Settings>Mobile>Mobile Data Options>Voice & Data.

Any phone’s battery will age over time. On an iPhone you can view the remaining capacity from the Settings app: choose Battery and select Battery Health. By default, iOS enables Optimised Battery Charging – we’d leave it switched on if you want to keep your battery healthy for longer.

We’d also recommend buying a case, no matter how tempting it is not to. The iPhone 12 Pro Max’s stainless steel edges are strong, and the front screen is very hard to break, but the rear screen isn’t as tough. It’s also easy to pick up scratches that will cost you money if you want to sell an iPhone 12 Pro Max.

iPhone 12 Pro Max – verdict

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is better than an iPhone 12. With a better zoom range, bigger screen and longer battery life, it also has a slight edge over the iPhone 12 Pro. Provided you don’t mind the larger size, it’s technically the most impressive iPhone 12.

There’s no doubt that the iPhone 13 Pro Max steals its thunder. The new phone is generally quicker with stronger battery performance, and the iPhone 13 Pro models in particular have a stonking new camera. If you’re serious about photography or filmmaking, save up for one of those.

However, if you’re looking for a bargain, the iPhone 12 Pro Max makes more sense than ever. Stylish, powerful, 5G compatible and with a cracking screen, buy a refurbished iPhone 12 Pro Max and you’ll get a lot of phone for much less money.