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Apple iPhone XS Max vs 12 Pro Max: Is It Upgrading Time?

author Luis Silva (November 2020 Updated: August 2021 - 6 min. reading time)

The iPhone 12 Pro Max comes at a higher price, but it's the smartphone you should pick.

It has better performance (+60%), a better display, better cameras, better battery life, and more internal storage (128GB vs. 64GB).

Anything else?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also comes with a larger (+0.2") display, better peak brightness, faster wireless charging (15w vs. 5w), and more RAM (6GB vs. 4GB).

How much more will those additional features cost me?

If you're not considering subscribing to a service provider, it should be about $530 more expensive.

Is it still worth buying the iPhone XS Max in 2021?

The iPhone XS Max is still a great phone, even in 2021, even more so if you can find it with a great deal. You can also consider other devices like the iPhone 12, as it has better performance, better cameras, more security updates, and faster charging.

Is it worth buying the iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2021?

For a phone introduced in 2020, the iPhone 12 Pro Max still has good performance, good cameras, and excellent glass protection. It still makes sense in 2021, it doesn't mean you can't take a quick peek at the iPhone 12 Pro, though.

Keep reading for answers to all your questions about their differences, how they stack up against their rivals, and you'll know how the tech experts evaluate their specs.

Check prices on Amazon Check prices on Amazon
Click here or scroll down to check prices on eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions.

Apple iPhone XS Max, Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

If you have the chance, should you upgrade? Or is the iPhone XS Max good-enough?

That's what we're about to find, so let's go.

In November of 2020, Apple launched its iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone XS Max, however, saw the light of day in September 2018.

Here you can look at the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, compare each other's features, and decide which one is best for you. Let us delve into the finer details.

The weight of each section

For additional information regarding our smartphone comparisons, check this FAQ.

to check who their rivals are.

Price*
vs.
Device iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Release Date 2018, September 2020, November 2y.
OS Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.
Security Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Which One Has The Best Performance?

Performance-wise, Geekbench 5 scores the iPhone 12 Pro Max 60% ahead in the multi-core ranking. This should be a no-brainer here.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is also a top performer against similarly priced phones. The average score is 3376, but it got 4240.

One can entitle the iPhone 12 Pro Max as high-end.

Performance*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
SoC Apple A12 Apple A14
Graphics Apple GPU Apple GPU
Geekbench 5 Score 2655
4240
1585
OS iOS 12 iOS 14.1
Tek-Score
6.4
9.1
2.6

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

Apple iPhone XS Max front transparent png Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max front transparent png

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best screen, but that isn't something to worry about.

Usually, devices in this price range only do around 743 nits, but there's a 213 nits gap below that for the iPhone XS Max.

If your next device can't do at least 450 nits, it will disappoint you when in direct sunlight or displaying HDR content. Now about the HDR feature:

About the iPhone XS Max, you should know that 89% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 93% have an Always-On display.

Considering the iPhone 12 Pro Max, 89% of its rivals can play HDR content, offer you more than 60hz of refresh rate, and have an Always-On display, and all have an AMOLED screen.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Size 6.5
6.7
0.2
Screen Type AMOLED AMOLED
Resolution (px) 1242x2688
1284x2778
228456
Refresh Rate 60hz 60hz 0
Dots per Inch 455.55
456.77
1.22
Always-On-Display No No
Notch Wedge Wedge
Peak Brightness 530 nits
822 nits
292
HDR HDR10 HDR10
Sub Tek-Score
2.7
3.2
0.5
Protection Corning toughened glass Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Tek-Score
5.8
7.6
1.8

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

Apple iPhone XS Max back transparent png Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max back transparent png

By DXOMARK's standards, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is also roughly 51 points above other cameras for the same budget. And the iPhone XS Max isn't good enough to win this battle.

About the iPhone XS Max: DXOMARK reviewed this camera and gave it 118 points. Then, if you consider its telephoto lens, it'll get 126** points. For a thorough review, click here.

To put things in perspective: you'd probably like to know that all of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more and have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and 93% feature Optical Image Stabilization. On the other hand, only 15% of them feature a macro lens.

About the iPhone 12 Pro Max: The guys over at the DXOMARK labs scored this camera with 138 points. By adding the telephoto and wide-angle lenses, we'll get to the final score of 150 points. If you want to know more about every tidbit, check it here.

Winding it up, if you must know, all of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K, feature a telephoto lens, have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and feature Optical Image Stabilization. Still, only 11% of them feature a macro lens.

We can classify the iPhone 12 Pro Max as a high-end.

Just in case it's a deciding factor, the iPhone 12 Pro Max zoom lens is 35mm below what you'll commonly find on similarly priced devices.

**This score still needs improvement, at least for phones with no zoom and up to 35 to 40MP. They moved to a new camera test protocol, and I only have few reviewed devices to deduce a compatible score.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 1.8
1.6
-0.2
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 4 2 -2
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 2160 2160 0
Score 126
150
24

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Extra Camera(s) iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 2.4
2.2
-0.2
Lens 52mm (2x zoom)
65mm (2x zoom)
13
Lens Type Telephoto lens Telephoto lens
Megapixels - 12
Aperture - 2.4
Lens - 13mm
Lens Type - Ultra-wide-Angle
Score 8 12 4
Selfie Camera iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Megapixels 7
12
5
Aperture 2.2
2.2
0.0
Lens 32mm 23mm -9
iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max vs.
Tek-Score
7.4
8.8
1.4

Who has the best frame?

They're not that far apart, so you can't go wrong here.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is 20 g. (0.79 oz) heavier than the other, weighing about 208 g. (7.34 oz). But because screen size also matters, I've created an adapted score for a "weight to display size" ratio. The iPhone XS Max got 3.2, and that's another way of saying it's kind of weighty for its screen size. Having said that, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has 2.1, which indicates it's oddly heavy.

The iPhone XS Max is resistant to water up to 1 to 3 meters, just like the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It should be for less than 30 minutes, and it's freshwater in standby mode only.

Looks*
vs.
Body iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Size 157 x 77 x 7 mm
(5.54 x 2.72 x 0.25 in)
160 x 78 x 7 mm
(5.64 x 2.75 x 0.25 in)
2737
Weight 208 g. (7.34 oz)
228 g. (8.04 oz)
20
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Space Gray, Gold, and Silver Silver, Gold, Graphite, and Pacific Blue
Screen To Body Ratio 85.85%
88.38%
2.53
Disp.Size To Weight Score 3.2 2.1 -1.1
Looks 8.9/10
10.0/10
1.1
Waterproof IP68 IP68
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Tek-Score
6.7
6.4
-0.3

*100% = 4+ colors + front and back glass + S2BR: 86+%.

Which has the best battery?

At 3174 mAh, the iPhone XS Max is the owner of the smallest battery, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max features 3687 mAh. And by GSMArena's standards, the latter is the winner here.

Alright, that's not a reason to make the iPhone XS Max shine. Apple didn't care that much about it. By doing some math, it got a "battery to physical size" rate of 2.1.

Apple brought MagSafe from their Macbooks so you can effortlessly charge the new iPhones. That's great, but it's yet another proprietary solution.

Battery*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Capacity (mAh) 3174 3687 513
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 78% left
82% left
4
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 60% left
67% left
7
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 64% left
69% left
5
Bat. To Phone Size Score 2.1 2.6 0.5
Sub Tek-Score
6.7
7.3
0.5
Fast Charging 15w
20w
5
Wireless Charging 5w
15w
10
Tek-Score
6.0
6.7
0.7

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max, for sure.

The iPhone XS Max has 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. Also, similarly priced adversaries usually deliver more RAM and more storage. They average at 8GB of RAM and 135Gb of storage.

In its turn, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of integrated storage. Again, you'll most likely get more storage and more RAM on most of its rivals. 9Gb/199Gb. That's the average.

Storage shouldn't be an issue on any of these phones. However, if you plan to store some movies or record tons of videos, 64 GB will be a problem sooner than later.

Storage*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
RAM (GB) 4GB
6GB
2
Internal (GB) 64GB
128GB
64
Micro SD No No
Tek-Score
2.8
6.0
3.3

*Internal Storage + 256GB Memory Card (Max: 512GB).

Which is the most connectivity-friendly?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is your better option, as it features 5G.

You can find the iPhone 12 Pro Max in the (LTE and) 5G variant.

Connectivity
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Network LTE 5G
Bluetooth 5.0
5.0
NFC Yes Yes
3.5mm jack No No
Tek-Score
3.6
4.6
1.0

Which is more affordable?

Here are the best deals on some major online stores:

Apple iPhone XS Max

Reference: $650

Apple iPhone XS Max

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Reference: $1,180

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions, but it will mean a lot if you click on one of these buttons before purchasing your next phone (or whatever else you end up buying). You'll be helping to take this to the next level.

Prices on eBay are in $US but Europe-based. You can click to check the prices in your country.

Prices marked with ! are from renewed/refurbished/carrier-locked phones (except eBay prices that, as a last resort, can be from bids or used devices).

How much of a "phone" can your money buy?
That's how much "score" you can get with $100 based on the global score that you'll see in the next section (higher is better).

Have you found better prices elsewhere? The formula is simple: score/price*100.

Value for money iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max VS
Amazon 1.33 ! - ! -
eBay 0.83 0.62 -0.21
Best Buy - - ! -
Walmart - ! - -

Also, don't forget to check the latest deals from these four stores, and the state of the art on mobile technology, if you don't want to overpay on your next smartphone.


Related articles:


Best smartphone deals


The Best Unbiased Smartphones For All Budgets


Smartphone Specs Statistics: The State Of The Art (Q1 2021)

Are you also considering other options? The global score can help. For reference purposes, I'll tell you where most of its rivals average. They usually sit close to 7.0 (for the iPhone XS Max) and 7.7 (for the iPhone 12 Pro Max).

Verdict: What Makes the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Stand Out?

Clearly, the following pros and cons table doesn't help with these two, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max does stand out. Its sibling is really smooth, but this one does take it to another level. Not only that but also its display is way brighter when in direct sunlight. It has much better cameras, better battery life, and it charges way faster when on wireless chargers.

Apple finally improved internal storage (that now starts at 128GB) and it has the much needed 6GB of RAM for more power users.

Pros iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
#1 Performance Performance
#2 AMOLED AMOLED
#3 Cameras Cameras
#4 Fast Charging Fast Charging
#5 Wireless Charging Wireless Charging
#6 Glass Protection Glass Protection
Cons iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
#1 Always-On-Display Always-On-Display
#2 MicroSD Slot MicroSD Slot
#3 Weight Weight
#4 3.5mm Jack 3.5mm Jack
#5 Price Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 Pro Max
Gaming Score
5.6
6.9
1.3
Tek-Score
5.62
7.42
1.80
Your Score

Scroll the sliders down below to get your own personalized score. Let's suppose you value performance and battery life, and you don't really care about anything else. Then, just set the "Performance" and the "Battery" sliders up to 5 (5+5=10), and then the other sliders down to 0. You'll know what's the best phone for you.

Performance 1.9
Display 1.7
Cameras 1.4
Frame 0.9
Battery 1.9
Storage 2.0
Connectivity 0.4
Total Should be 10 or as close as possible: 9.6

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

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About me

Hello!

My name is Luis Silva, and I have a degree in computer management. Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved everything to do with tech. Music, pictures, video editing, I've done it all! This site is a place for me to share some of the knowledge I have, as well as keep up-to-date with current trends. This is a wonderful place for tech-geeks and everyone else that just want to learn more about tech and smartphones in general.


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Apple iPhone XS Max Related Comparisons


Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Related Comparisons

×

"Display size to phone weight" ratio explained

This indeed is a "display size to phone weight" ratio, but because every phone ended up somewhere between 0.0272 and 0.0421, I've amplified (adapted) those values so they would fit in a 0-10 scale. As of now, the best smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A40, with 140g. (4.94 oz) for a 5.9 inch display. It got a score of 9.92. While the worse device is the iPhone 8 Plus, which weighs 202 g. (7.13 oz) and has a 5.5-inch display. It ended up with a score of 0.75.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

"Battery to device size" ratio explained

This score should give you an idea about the energy footprint of the devices you're considering. It reflects not only the hardware and the energy that it requires but also the amount of energy that the battery can deliver.

The major spenders on any device should be the display and the SoC. But everything from a notification led to its modems need to be optimized, or else, the OEM should simply include a bigger battery as a compensation. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible due to size limitations. But in the end, if a particular OEM can do a good job and give you excellent battery life on a small device, so should everyone else. That's why I've added a "battery to device size" ratio. But since the real scale went from 119 (for the Galaxy S10e, Snapdragon variant) and up to 164 (for the iPhone 7 Plus), I've decided to convert them so they would fit in a 0-10 scale, being 0 the worst device, (the iPhone 7 Plus) and 10 the one every OEM should look up to.

As an example, Apple did an excellent job on the iPhone 7. It has a score of 8. Despite having a small capacity, the hardware is well optimized, and it still gives you decent battery life considering its size. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, with those bezels shrinking its display size, clearly could've been the #1 in our top 10 list of best battery devices if Apple simply filled all that empty space with a bigger battery.

As a side note: I haven't included the dept of the devices in this formula because even if a device ended up being 1mm/0.03 inches thicker, it wouldn't matter that much to those who really value battery life.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

Rivals

As of now, these are the rivals that were considered for each of them. They may change every time its prices are updated.

These are the lowest prices found on Amazon, eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.


 Apple iPhone XS Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12
    $689
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $565
  • ApplerivaliPhone X
    $579
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11
    $575
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 9
    $598
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 SD
    $535
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ SD
    $535
  • HuaweirivalP30 Pro
    $599
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Plus
    $600
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Pro
    $600
  • GooglerivalPixel 5
    $580
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Plus
    $600
  • OnePlusrival8T
    $549
  • XiaomirivalMi 10
    $529
  • OpporivalReno4 Pro
    $594
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9
    $551
  • OpporivalFind X3 Lite
    $554

 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Pro
    $969
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.SD
    $1049
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 20 U.EX
    $999
  • HuaweirivalMate 40 Pro
    $1065
  • OpporivalFind X2 Pro
    $950
  • XiaomirivalMi 11 Ultra
    $1079
  • OnePlusrival9 Pro
    $969
  • VivorivalX60 Pro Plus
    $1177
  • OpporivalFind X3 Pro
    $1149
×

Formula deviation

Since the guys at DxoMark don't review every camera out there, I've come up with a formula based on the ones that they do rate, so I could get an equivalent score for the ones they don't review. After testing it against these cameras, I got the deviation between that and their DxO score.

Device: DxOScore Deviation
Samsung Galaxy A50: 88 -1
Apple iPhone XR: 104 1
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: 108 -7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro: 87 1
Sony Xperia 1: 99 -1
Sony Xperia 5: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: 126 2
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: 96 -3
Xiaomi Pocophone F1: 92 -1
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 90 -1
Apple iPhone X: 101 3
Apple iPhone 11: 112 -1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 107 1
Apple iPhone XS Max: 110 -2
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: 124 1
Samsung Galaxy S10: 124 2
Apple iPhone XS: 110 -1
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 120 -2
OnePlus 7 Pro: 122 0
OnePlus 7T Pro: 122 0
Huawei P30 Pro: 125 -1
Google Pixel 4: 117 0
Google Pixel 3: 103 0
Google Pixel 2: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 127 -2
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: 132 2
OnePlus 6: 100 0
OnePlus 6T: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 105 -1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 120 0
Xiaomi Mi 9: 115 0
Huawei Mate 30 Pro: 132 0
Huawei P40 Pro: 140 -1
Apple iPhone SE 2: 101 0
OnePlus 8 Pro: 126 0
Xiaomi Mi 8: 105 1
Samsung Galaxy A71: 89 1
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro: 134 0

As you can see, most cameras sit between 1 and -1, while a few of them go up to 2 or -2. That means it's reasonable to assume other similar cameras that they don't review to, in the worst-case scenario, be anywhere from -2 to 2 points from the score that the formula gets.

For example: Given that the Pixel 4 got 117 points and that the Pixel 4 XL share the same year and camera specs, it's reasonable to expect a score of 117 too. But in reality, if they do review that camera, it may end up anywhere between 115 and 119.

Be aware that at DxO, they give a score based on their opinion, not based on any formula. That's why I think there's an odd difference of 6 points between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. In theory, they should have the same camera.

I'm guessing that the Mi 9T Pro got a deviation of 7 points because they tested its Chinese variant (the K20 Pro).

Update: They just changed their protocol to include preview image evaluation and trustability. I'm keeping the old table (for now) for reference purposes, and I'll be adding a new one as soon as they review at least a couple of new mclass-range cameras.

You can expect the same (or a bit bigger) deviation for high-end cameras, but anything with a score below 100-110 should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is valid for all cameras tested with the previous protocol. For those that they dclassn't test, the deviation may be up to twice as much.

×

About GeekBench 5

This is just a quick note to let you know that, if, by any chance, the smartphone you're looking for isn't on the GeekBench site yet, you can check on GsmArena.com, as they also usually test smartphones with that benchmark tool.



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