iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max review..
...The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the best that Apple can cram into a smartphone - the high-end screen, powerful speakers, upgraded processor all support the huge upgrades to the camera. However, this phone is really for the Apple fan or someone that really needs that extra lens or a touch more battery life - the iPhone 11 feels like it offers better value.
- Night mode really shines
- Lovely back
- Reams of power
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the largest and most powerful phone Apple’s ever created, taking the very best of its technology and combining it with an upgraded design that includes a new matte back, three cameras designed to rival the best from Google and Huawei, and an enhanced battery for greater endurance.
However, it’s also one of the most expensive phones on the market, the much more powerful of the iPhone 11.
Digging deeper into the camera, we’re impressed most with the Night mode: the iPhone 11 Pro Max is capable of turning night almost into day, but doing so while preserving plenty of detail.
We found the newly-added ultra-wide camera to be handy when you want to squeeze in more of a scene (although we didn’t find we needed it that often) and for improving the background defocus effects… although it still wasn’t perfect in our testing.
The design of the iPhone 11 Pro Max will be familiar to most, with the same design language as the previous two models (the iPhone X and iPhone XS), although the matte back feels nice in the hand. The 'Max' size won’t appeal to all, but it does facilitate the large and impressive 6.5-inch OLED display, which offers a brilliant cinematic experience, both visually and through the upgraded stereo speakers.
The camera bump on the rear of the phone feels a little sharp and takes up a lot of space, although if you’re right-handed it stays out of the way when you're going about your daily tasks.
Apple promises that the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s battery will last five hours longer than the XS Max from last year, and that claim is borne out in our tests - it particularly excelled when playing back HDR video on the phone, and the 20-hour battery life for multimedia seems accurate.
In day-to-day use we found that this is just about a 24-hour smartphone (assuming you sleep for a portion of that time), and the fast charger that (finally) comes in the box gives you around 20% in 15 minutes, and a full charge in just an hour and a half.
With iOS 13 on board, the Pro Max feels more refined than previous models, and tweaks to the accuracy and range of Face ID make it simpler to use every day, with things like opening a notification when the phone is placed flat on a desk made much easier.
The raw performance of the iPhone 11 Pro Max also impressed, although we did encounter some slowdown in the camera app; however, if you're looking to edit video on the go (and don’t forget this phone can shoot 4K at 60 frames per second, and do it well) then you’ll enjoy the extra grunt on offer.
Overall, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is a real step forward, and the most advanced iPhone yet. However, when thinking about what’s truly new here, we weren’t able to single out much beyond the improved camera (especially Night mode) and the slightly upgraded cinematic experience.
If you want to save some money, we’d suggest checking out the iPhone 11 - while we constantly found little nuggets of impressive performance throughout our testing of the 11 Pro Max, we couldn't shake the feeling that this is really only a phone for the Apple fan who wants the best of everything, with no compromises.
...This is my first iPhone. The main reason I decided to try the iPhone 11 was because it was reasonable priced. I love the Face ID and the large screen. They both make the phone so easy to use. The security and privacy are great which is another reason I decided to try an iPhone. It took me a while to get used to the iPhone operating system but the user guide was very helpful. The camera has some great features. I think the iPhone 11 is a great phone for a reasonable price.
We don’t usually get into assessing the camera so quickly in our reviews, but the main change in 2019’s iPhone range is to the imaging quality on offer.
In terms of hardware, the key difference is the addition of the ultra-wide camera, making it three cameras on the rear of the phone.
These sit proud from the back of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, with the glass square surrounding them matching the color of the phone itself, which helps to minimize the visual impact of three prominent black holes on the rear.
What you’ve got here are a ‘normal’ wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a new ultra-wide one. The telephoto option zooms you 2x closer to your subject, and the ultra-wide-angle lens enables you to cram twice as much of the scene in front of you into the frame.
This is great if you’re trying to get a shot of a group of friends or an animal, but can’t move further back or closer - the iPhone 11 Pro Max will allow you to crop in or pull back without having to move.
All three cameras pack 12MP sensors, which is pretty standard for most smartphones these days, allowing for a good balance between pixel size (to capture more light) and resolution (for capturing plenty of detail).
Video recording has also been improved, with the Pro Max now able to capture 4K at 60 frames per second (fps). This means you’re getting smoother footage thanks to more information being captured, but it’s worth remembering that this will fill up the storage on your iPhone that much quicker.
There's a lot that can be said about the iPhone's - or any modern smartphone's - camera these days, as they pack in so many features, and on the whole you'll struggle to take a poor-quality snap with any of them.
The first is Night mode - previous models from Apple have failed to capture truly impressive photos in the gloom, and other brands have stolen a march here, with Samsung, Huawei, and particularly Google leading the way, offering phone cameras that can almost turn night into day through advanced post-processing of images.
Apple's new Night mode certainly brings it into the conversation - in our eyes, it's the single biggest reason to buy a new iPhone. You'll need to hold the phone steady, or brace it or mount it on a tripod, but if you do you're rewarded with the ability to take pictures with detail that even your eyes can't see.
Depending on the light levels (and whether you're using a tripod or not) the iPhone will ask you to hold still for between 2-5 seconds normally – however, you can manually extend this up to 30 seconds (if the iPhone is in a tripod or leant against a wall) to get ‘fully bright’ scenes.
The results were sometimes staggering - the levels of sharpness and brightness the iPhone can achieve using Night mode have to be seen to be believed.
We say the results were sometimes staggering, because if you introduce any motion the whole picture is ruined. This means that if you're trying to snap some friends dancing, it's not going to work at all, and you'll need to turn off Night mode to get any kind of sharpness (although the pictures are still fairly bright).
Better portrait mode
The other upgrade to the static camera is to Portrait mode: not only is it better at figuring out the outlines of the person, animal or other subject that you want to keep sharp, it's also now able to work at a 'normal' distance, as well as zoomed in as on previous models, thanks to the extra sensor being able to pick up more information about depth.
The results are pretty good, especially when you're snapping people in well-lit, contrasting scenes - in fact, get such shots right and the images can be stunning. You can play with the different lighting modes on offer to hide blemishes, or use the new High Key Mono option to create a more ethereal, stylized picture.
However, when taking some images, hair recognition was still a problem, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max struggled to get the head of a cat fully sharp. Taking pictures of objects should work better, but we found that generally these were a little fuzzy around the edges too.
...This phone is awesome and feels like a huge upgrade. The internet will debate the minutia between other makes and other iPhones but it doesn't matter. If you upgrade, you'll be happy. Face ID works easily and fast. Thought I'd miss the home button but it turns out it takes about a day or so to learn a thumb-up swipe instead to get home. Cameras and lenses are outstanding, image quality excellent.
However, the overall quality of photos, especially compared to the i
iPhone XS Max of last year, is brighter and sharper as you'd expect. The ultra-wide camera is nice to use if you remember it's there, but the results were slightly distorted in areas, despite Apple's best efforts to solve this with image processing.
Snapping between the camera modes wasn't always smooth, especially with the ultra-wide-sensor juddering a little, and often we'd turn on the camera and be met with a blank preview that only some mode-switching could fix.
We've actually skipped over some of the 'normal' camera mode results of the iPhone because they're just as good as last year - images are generally bright, in focus and full of detail and color. Apple's snaps are less saturated than those from the cameras of some rival brands, and blow up well, displaying lovely levels of clarity.
In the video mode too, things are improved - our sense is that the 4K, 60fps mode is more of a headline feature than a really useful one, but if you're a serious photographer or videographer looking to buy this phone (as the name of the iPhone 11 Pro Max would suggest) then you'll want such features; the detail is richer and - crucially - the exposure is more balanced, meaning you can create better-looking movies.
This feature is really only something that will appeal to the social media elite, those wanting to take truly head-turning footage with an iPhone, and with the onboard editing suite allowing you to alter the color and filters of the entire video directly on your device, there's a lot to enjoy here.
One thing we didn't enjoy was the use of the word 'Slofies' in Apple's marketing - these are just slow-motion videos that can now be captured with the front-facing camera, and you shoot them on all three of the new iPhones.
The results are fine - most users will likely find them entertaining and share-worthy - but it's that name that grates.
Aside from the camera, the iPhone 11 Pro Max screen (we can’t get over how infuriating that name is to write) is one of the main selling points for this high-end, expensive phone.
Watching films feels more immersive - you can see more detail, and overall the video playback is far more cinematic. That’s because the iPhone can usually only display 800 nits of brightness (the metric for how bright the screen can get), which is still pretty good - but when playing a Dolby Vision film things get even more impressive (up to 1200 nits, according to Apple).
If you’ve not got anyone around you, that cinematic feel can be improved by playing sound out of the speakers - Apple has created a virtual surround sound setup, and while it’s not as good as hearing the same thing through a decent pair of headphones, the sound does feel like it’s moving around your ears.
Again, it’s not a new thing for the smartphone industry, but it does show that Apple is still working to offer the best-possible media experience all these years after the release of the iPod.