Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max initial review: iPhone gets 'maxed' out

Apple has upgraded the iPhone XS Max to become the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and it lost the roman numerals in the process. But how has the device changed and are the changes exciting enough to consider an upgrade?

We had a play with the new iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro at the company’s September event in Cupertino ahead of the launch on the 20 September to find out.

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iPhone Pro 11 Max design

  • New midnight green colour
  • IP68 for water resistance up to 4 meters for up to 30 minutes
  • Three cameras on the rear of the phone

The new iPhone 11 Pro Max is similar to the iPhone XS Max it replaces, with the main difference being the addition of an extra camera on the rear and a new frosted glass finish, which Apple likes to call matte.

The front of the iPhone 11 Pro Max features a new Super Retina XDR 6.5-inch OLED display, with the same design notch as we’ve seen with the iPhone X and XS models.

The big change on the back is the new camera enclosure. It features three camera lenses in a triangle formation within a square that protrudes the design.

The glass rear is now tougher, up to IP68, and that should mean you can put the iPhone 11 Pro Max in water up to 4 meters for 30 minutes.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max comes in four colours: space grey, silver, gold, and a new midnight green.

The matte finish somehow makes the Pro Max not look as big or as shiny and cumbersome. It’s an optical illusion, of course, because it’s virtually the same size as the XS Max that came before it, but it’s something we didn’t expect to feel.

iPhone 11 Pro Max screen

  • 5-inch OLED display

The iPhone 11 Pro Max features the company’s biggest iPhone screen that comes in at a whopping 6.5 inches. Aside from keeping screen technologies like Apple True Tone, the display also now offers 1,200 nits brightness, more than enough for HDR video playback, and a two-million-to-one contrast ratio, which is twice that of the iPhone XS Max.

The move to the new display delivers two further outcomes: a better battery life because it’s a much more efficient display (combined with a new processor), and we lose 3D Touch.

Like the iPhone XR, the 11 Pro Max will feature Haptic Touch instead, and to be honest, we think that’s for the better.

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iPhone 11 Pro Max gets a new processor

  • A13 Bionic processor
  • 18W Fast charger included in the box
  • Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos support
  • Improved battery life of 5 hours over the XS Max 
  • No 5G

This year, Apple has moved to the A13 Bionic, an upgrade from the iPhone XS Max A12 Bionic.

Our time with the new smartphone from Apple was short and certainly not enough time to give our verdict on how the new A13 Bionic processor performs.

The new processor, combined with the new GPU, should mean that the device will be able to easily cope with video editing, processing images, playing games, and anything else you can throw at it.

Unlike previous years, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 all feature the same processor at the heart of the experience. In fact, the specs of the Pro vs Pro Max are identical apart from the size of the battery and the size of the screen.

Go for the bigger model, and it’s about enjoying that bigger screen and a promise of a longer battery life rather than gaining any other bonuses or benefits.  

We look forward to putting the iPhone 11 Pro Max through its paces when we get one for review.

From what we’ve seen so far, the device will be more than able to cope.

There’s also fast charging, as found in the iPhone XS, but this time Apple actually includes an 18W charger in the box, so you can enjoy it without having to go an buy an additional charger.

However, one disappointing but expected exclusion from the comprehensive spec list is the lack of 5G connectivity. It’s something the networks were probably hoping for, but given the infancy of the 5G networks both in the UK and the US, the demand we suspect isn’t there yet, giving us something to already look forward to with the iPhone 12 Pro.

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Are you ready for you close up? 

  • Triple camera system
  • New ultra-wide lens added
  • Night Mode
  • Front facing camera also upgraded

Like the iPhone 11 Pro, the Pro Max is all about photography and delivers three lenses to make sure you can make the most of most situations.

You now get a 12 mega-pixel wide, 12 mega-pixel tele-photo, and 12 mega-pixel wide lens on the back to give you .5x, 1x, and 2x optical zoom from the three cameras. In camera terms, that’s a 26mm standard / 52mm tele / 13mm wide experience.

New to iPhone users is going to be an ultra-wide camera that will allow you to get in much more of what you see in front of you.

It’s a trend we’ve seen from other smartphone makers, and Apple has now included it on the Pro Max, too.

The new camera app in iOS 13 now shows you what you could be taking a photograph of, with an always-on preview of the ultra-wide lens ,and it’s easy to switch between the three lenses as the swipe of a finger through the zoom toggle.

We like the fact that, as a by-product, Portrait mode doesn’t have to be so close – just like the iPhone XR from 2018.

Apple has also introduced Night Mode, presumably in response to the successes Google has had with the feature, and the system works using software smarts to understand you are taking a picture at night and tries to compensate, accordingly.

We’ve yet to try Night Mode for ourselves, and the results Apple showed us looked good but very “noisy”. We are holding out judgment until further closer inspection.

On the video front, you can shoot up to 4K 60 fps with HDR support; iOS 13 intros new video editing features; and Apple has even gone as far as introing a new font, called SF Camera, specifically for the camera app to give it a more “pro” feel.

First Impressions

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the top dog, the big daddy, the Pro of the Pros when it comes to the iPhone range. When compared to the 2018 iPhone 8 and the iPhone XR, the specs on this device are monster.

It’s powerful, big, and fully equipped, and will allow serious iPhone users to finally have a device that is very different from their partners, mothers, or kids.

And while there is still plenty to test out and review, everything looks very impressive from what we’ve seen so far.

Apple certainly seems to have “maxed” out the specs, and we suspect there is plenty more to discover once we start diving deeper into the company’s latest iPhone offering.

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