23/09/2019 1:18 PM IST

iPhone 11 Pro Max Review: One For The Pros?

The new iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are obviously the best iPhones that money can buy for at least a year — but is the ‘pro’ label justified here?

Tushar Kanwar
The iPhone 11 Pro Max box.

The iPhone’s gone “Pro”, finally… a label Apple has reserved in the past for its flagship class of products — iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, iMac Pro-aimed at the professionals who need the extra firepower and all-out feature set, those who don’t balk at the sticker shock that the Pro nomenclature entails.

So we have the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (quite the mouthful, isn’t it?), the best iPhones money can buy… till September 2020 anyway. Both pack in a vastly improved triple-camera setup and processing power, but are they the phones for you?

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The iPhone 11 Pro Max and the smaller iPhone 11 Pro will be available from Friday 27 September in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB models in midnight green, space gray, silver and gold colorways starting at Rs. 109,900 and Rs. 99,900 respectively.

Both ship with Apple’s latest A13 Bionic chip, a triple-12MP camera setup and contrast and brightness boosted 6.5-inch/5.8-inch Super Retina XDR Displays. We’ve been pushing the bigger iPhone 11 Pro to the Max since the launch, and here are our key takeaways from the experience.

iPhone 11 Pro Max: What’s to like?

The cameras: Arguably the biggest jump in this generation has been in the camera department, where Apple used to be the top of the pile until Samsung, Huawei and Google caught up, and then left it behind. Even until recently, in good light, iPhones managed to take crisp and well-exposed images but it was low light shooting that regularly used to be their undoing.

The new iPhones bring in Apple’s implementation of Night Mode, which uses the improved hardware, extended exposures and algorithmic calculations to brighten up a scene. Based on the images we shot, Apple’s nailed the brief.

To Apple’s credit, it retains the sense of time and place, the “feeling” of the shot, with accurate texture and mood, without making a nighttime shot look like it was bright outside, as much of the competition often does. Night Mode isn’t implemented in a separate mode either—the camera app detects low-light conditions and automatically activates the mode and indicates the number of seconds you’d have to hold the phone steady to take the shot. 

Tushar Kanwar
A night time photo with the new iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The other big gain has been the addition of an ultra-wide camera, which lets you capture much more of that landscape or take dramatic shots up-close to your subjects, without any significant distortion or bending around the edges.

The ultra-wide experience within the Camera app is seamless, almost as if you’re zooming out of the regular view, and even while shooting with the primary shooter, the area “outside the frame” is visible and being captured automatically, which gives you a chance to make adjustments to the composition after the shot is taken. Impressive stuff.

And yes, whether you like the name or not, slow motion selfies videos, or “slofies” are actually a thing now, and this feature is going to see a large amount of use, at least in a certain age group. Videos by and large are an iPhone strength, and the 4K 60 frames per second recording on the wide and ultra-wide cameras is rock solid. 

Tushar Kanwar
Indoor photography on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is predictably good.

Battery life: Dropping 3D Touch on the Pro models has afforded the phones more space for bigger batteries, and coupled with the efficiency improvements on the A13 Bionic chip, we saw staggeringly good battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, with the phone lasting nearly two days of our typical testing usage-some Apple Arcade games, emails, Twitter/Instagram and lots of photos-and likely more in everyday use.

Apple is also finally including Type-C-to-Lightning 18W fast chargers in the box, which aren’t as fast as some of the flagship Androids out there, but can still juice up the phone to 80% in an hour. 

Design and spec bumps: The electric razor camera arrangement is divisive and borderline trypophobia-inducing to some, but we quite took to the new textured matte glass finish, and the new Midnight Green color is quite fetching. Apple claims the metal frame and glass is the toughest ever, so we’ve been putting those claims to the test with no scratches or dings to report in the two weeks of “bare” caseless use. What you will certainly notice is the added weight, even if you’re moving from an iPhone XS Max, but the weight feels a lot more balanced in the hand than say a top-heavy OnePlus 7 Pro.

While the display and notch look largely unchanged from last year’s XS models, the iPhone 11 Pro models now have a Super Retina XDR display, which is Apple-speak for a brighter 800 nits brightness display (with peak levels hitting 1200 while viewing HDR content) with 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Tushar Kanwar
The iPhone 11 Pro Max camera island.

Watching HDR content on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is a visual treat, particularly if you watch a lot of movies with dark-mixed lighting scenes, and the Dolby Atmos and spatial audio improvements on the built-in speakers round up what is an extremely competent entertainment device.

And of course, the A13 Bionic chip arrives with more processing and graphics firepower than the year before, but with Android phones just about hitting the benchmark scores seen on last year’s A12 Bionic, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of headroom to make the phone last. A handy addition you’ll also appreciate over the coming months is the support for Wi-Fi 6, the new generation wireless standard.

iPhone 11 Pro Max: What needs work

Nothing stands out: Granted, Apple doesn’t need an array of new tricks to sell its latest phones, but the iPhones 11 Pro variants are missing the du jour 2019 talking points — no reverse wireless charging, no in-display fingerprint scanners, and not nearly enough multi-tasking features (a la the iPad) to take advantage of the big screen. 

Tushar Kanwar
The back face of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Portrait mode: While we liked the expanded field of view on the selfie camera and the fact that Portrait Mode now works with pets and objects, it’s clear from our shots that it still needs work on its edge detection algorithms with objects.

iPhone 11 Pro Max: For the “Pros”?

The “Pro” name is a bit of a stretch, especially considering you can get most of the camera experience with similar processing firepower in the significantly cheaper iPhone 11. What we can say is that if you can stomach the significant outlay Apple demands for the Pro variants, you’re getting a seriously good smartphone with unparalleled hardware and performance and finally, a camera that is up there with the best of the lot.

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