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Hands-on review: iPhone 11 Pro Max takes the workhorse phone to a whole new level

09 Jan 2020

Last year, Apple launched it’s ‘Pro’ line of iPhones, promising a new level of differentiation to the range of mobile devices already squarely positioned in the luxury category.

In a nutshell, the improvements the Pro range boasted were in its camera system, battery life, and increased performance – as Apple touts, “the first iPhone powerful enough to be called Pro”.

We got the opportunity to review the iPhone 11 Pro Max - here’s my take on whether the Pro moniker is deserved.

Design

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is matte glass on the back and stainless steel down the sides. My take on it is that it’s too pretty to be enclosed in a case – which gives people around me anxiety.

For the size of my hands, I find that adding a case to the iPhone 11 Pro Max made it a tad too bulky and heavy for my liking. I liked that matte glass back didn’t collect fingerprints, supporting my no-case, living life on the edge habit, while also being functional and supporting wireless charging with Qi-certified mats.

Aside from that, the core design of the 11 Pro Max hasn’t changed much with its notch and edge-to-edge screens.

Display

The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a Super Retina XDR Display, with up to 800 nits of peak brightness outdoors, and 1200 nits when watching Dolby Vision movies.

I found it sharp enough and bright enough that I actually enjoyed watching tv shows (especially anime) on it, and playing casual games was an experience that was much improved by the sheer quality of the display.

Camera

We’ve all seen the memes of the triangular triple camera placement on the new Pro iPhones, and yes, they’re distinct and can be spotted from a mile away.

Before you judge the three cameras as being too extra, I’m here to tell you that they’re worth it. The Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto lenses give you a lot more flexibility to shoot – we’ve all had the problem of not being able to move back far enough to frame our subject the way we wanted to.

The 11 Pro Max also boasts improved low-light performance, capturing more data than before. Night mode turns on automatically, capturing multiple images and fusing them for brighter images with natural colours and more details.

Another area where the improved camera really made itself felt was in video capture – the video stabilisation made my footage smooth even when filming while walking on uneven surfaces.

Apple also improved the interface of its camera app, intuitively switching between the cameras, allowing you to look outside the frame and take videos in a more seamless manner.

Battery Life

For me, the battery life on the Max iPhones have always been the most convincing reason to get them.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max features a more efficient OLED material on the display that extends its battery life – to the point that I got used to being able to go two days without having to charge the device. This came in especially handy on those multi-day camping trips in the summer.

Performance 

The iPhone 11 Pro Max has an A13 chip, designed for machine learning. Apple says the A13 Bionic has 2 performance cores that are up to 20 percent faster and user up to 30 percent less power that its predecessor, the A12 bionic chip.

The clearest manifestation of this is the speed at which FaceID recognises and authorises a user – with the 11 Pro Max, it verifies you in a blink of an eye, and the speed is noticeable even compared to its predecessor, the iPhone XS Max.

App switching was breezy and smooth, with apps performing at the speed of thought.

Verdict

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is an extremely powerful device and performs in all the ways I hoped it would.

Should you buy it over other cheaper Android devices?

That depends on how invested you are in the Apple ecosystem, how much you value customisability over security, and how much you need the features to be at the level of sophistication you’re paying for.

To say that the iPhone 11 Pro Max is not a cheap phone is a huge understatement. In New Zealand, the RRP for the 64GB model is $2,149 and for the 512GB model, it’s $2,849.

But if you treat buying phones like an investment, the 11 Pro Max is one of the most worthwhile in the market at the moment.