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Intro

The iPhone 14 Pro Max has gotten a few new features and with them come a few new reasons for users to upgrade from their two year old iPhone 12 Pro Max.

It all starts with the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s Dynamic Island that replaces the notch with a pill-shaped cut-out that animates and bubbles and expands, acting like a kind of a new status bar. The 14 Pro Max is also faster and more power-efficient thanks to the new A16 Bionic chip, plus you also get a leap in image quality with a new and larger main camera sensor, as well as a new and surprisingly useful 2X zoom mode.

As you can see, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max might look similar to the 12 Pro Max, but they are quite different on the inside.

In this article, we summarize all those differences between the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the 12 Pro Max, so let’s start with the…

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max differences in a nutshell:

  • Similar design, but thinner screen borders on newer iPhone
  • Dynamic Island vs notch
  • Faster A16 Bionic chip
  • Higher res 48MP main camera, upgrades across all cameras
  • 4K Cinematic Mode video, Action Mode stabilization
  • New emergency features, satellite connectivity on new iPhone
  • Same battery life, same charging speeds

Table of Contents:

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Design and Display Quality

Brighter display with thinner borders

The iPhone 14 Pro Max keeps the design that the iPhone 12 Pro Max championed into the world with flat sides, a shiny stainless steel frame and a matte glass back.

There are some slight changes, though, with the new iPhone weighing more, and it’s also a bit thicker.

Apple has also trimmed down the borders around the screen for a more elegant look. And yes, the Dynamic Island takes up less space than the notch and is fully interactive: you can tap it to open the app that it’s showing and long-press to get quick controls for things like music playback.

For all the rest, the 14 Pro Max has the same IP68 water and dust protection as the 12 Pro Max, and the same old Lightning port for charging. And just in case you are wondering, neither has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

In terms of colors, Apple sticks with four colorways on both models. Both have the classic Space Black (Graphite on 12 Pro Max), Silver and Gold versions, but the new 14 Pro Max gets a new Deep Purple shade, which we have to admit looks very nice.

There is also not much of a difference when you open the box: just a Lightning cable in the box, no charger included.

Face ID remains the biometric security solution of choice for Apple, and despite the new shape of the cutout, it works just the same on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

But what about the screens? The size is the same: 6.7-inch OLED display with beautiful colors, but the 12 Pro Max lacks one key feature: 120Hz ProMotion, so scrolling doesn’t look nearly as smooth.

Not only that, the 14 Pro Max gets 1-120Hz refresh rate, and the ability to drop down to 1Hz allows for the new Always-on lock screen with dimmed wallpapers.

The newer model can also get way brighter at up to 1,600 nits (even 2,000 nits if you take it outdoors), while the 12 Pro Max goes up to 1,200 nits. Keep in mind that in the chart above, the brightness numbers we measured are different because we use an all-white screen for testing, while those official numbers are tested at just 1% white levels.

Performance and Software

Faster speed on the newer model

Under the hood, you have the Apple A16 Bionic chip on the new model vs the A14 Bionic on the older one. The newer chip is manufactured using the more efficient 4nm process and delivers not only faster speeds, but also improved power efficiency.

Benchmark Results:

Benchmarks show a nearly 17% improvement in single-core CPU speeds and a nearly 30% boost in multi-core speeds. This new iPhone is the fastest phone in the industry and this not only ensures smooth performance, but also makes it perfectly future-proof.

On the 3D Mark Wildlife stress test, we see an improvement of 36% in the initial GPU burst, and a nearly 30% improvement after the thermal throttling kicks in, so gamers will definitely appreciate these faster graphics.

In terms of software, both run on iOS 16, but the newer iPhone scores a few exclusives. One is SOS via satellite, which allows you to beam an SOS signal even in remote areas with no signal. The other is Crash Detection, which uses an upgraded accelerometer and is just what it sounds like and should automatically call emergency services in case of a severe car crash.

With 5 or 6 years of software support, both devices are also perfectly future-proof, but do consider that two of those years have already passed on the 12 Pro Max.

 

Camera

A new 48MP sensor coupled with Photonic Engine for improved quality 

Both phones come with a triple camera system on their backs, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max takes it to the next level with a much larger main camera sensor. Not only that, but there is a new Photonic Engine that runs a bunch of tweaks to photos captured with all the cameras, so they end up looking better.

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs 12 Pro Max camera specs:

  • Wide camera: 48MP, f/1.78, 24mm on 14 Pro Max vs 12MP, 26mm on 12 Pro Max
  • Ultra-wide camera: 12MP on both
  • Telephoto camera: 3X zoom vs 2.5X zoom

The ability to capture full-res 48MP photos sounds great for landscape shots with ample detail, and Apple also uses this large sensor for practically lossless 2X zoom capture. Having optical-quality 2X zoom is great for portraits, and we love having it back on the 14 Pro Max.

Keep in mind that the new phone does NOT capture 48MP photos by default. Instead, it uses quad pixel, which means it combines four pixels into one, and you still get 12MP photos.

You can notice the wider field of view on the new iPhone, but with the new sensor we also feel like Apple went ballistic with the sharpness.

In this night photo, you can see similar colors, but once again the sharpness on the iPhone 14 Pro Max is dialled up to the extreme, and we actually prefer the softer look out of the previous iPhone.

You can see quite a bit of a difference in the color processing, and we really appreciate how the new iPhone is better able to process the image, the face of Nick is well exposed on the newer phone. But once again, it is that sharpening that really stands out like a sore thumb.

In low light, the new iPhone can resolve more detail with the ultra-wide camera.

There is a pretty noticeable difference in the colors on these two portrait mode shots, unfortunately both of them were affected by a bit of sun flare.

But it’s not just about the hardware, of course. A number of features are only available on the newer 14 Pro Max:

  • Cinematic Mode — blurs the background like Portrait mode, but for video.
  • Action Mode — gimbal-like stabilization, perfect for those adventurous/action moments with a ton of movement: bike rides, runs, etc.
  • Photographic Styles — a custom look that is automatically applied to each photo you capture. 

Audio Quality and Haptics

While the iPhone 12 Pro Max has loudspeakers that deliver good-quality sound, the 14 Pro Max makes a big leap in both volume levels and richness. Those who value great audio quality on their phone will appreciate the newer model.

We do not see any changes to the Taptic Engine that drives the haptics, or the vibration feedback, but it has been excellent from the start, so that’s no reason for concern.

Battery Life and Charging

Big boost in battery life

The iPhone 14 Pro Max has the same sized battery as its predecessor, but compared to the two-year old 12 Pro Max, it’s a massive leap.

So those who value great battery life are in for a treat with the 14 Pro Max, and this alone might be a good reason to upgrade.

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 3,687mAh
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max: 4,323mAh or more (+20%)

This results in 25 hours of video streaming on the new model vs only 12 hours on the same test for the older one, and audio streaming time has improved from 80 hours on the 12 Pro Max to 95 hours on the 14 Pro Max.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

In our independent tests, we found the 14 Pro Max to last nearly 2 hours and a half more for video streaming and nearly 5 hours more for browsing the web, which is a massive difference.

On the charging front, both use the Lightning connector with slight differences in the charging speed. The 12 Pro Max can charge at up to 20 watts, while the 14 Pro Max can go as fast as 27W.

Both also support MagSafe wireless charging at 15W speeds.

Specs Comparison

Summary and Final Verdict

So, is it worth upgrading from the 12 Pro Max to the newer 14 Pro Max?

If you want the latest and greatest… it might be.

The boost in battery life is the most significant improvement in our view, but so is the smooth 120Hz ProMotion screen. And camera lovers will also find quite the upgrades with the larger, 48MP sensor and Cinematic Mode video now in 4K. Other features are also welcome, and some like the SOS via satellite and crash detection might save your life one day. 

At the same time, some decisions on the iPhone 14 Pro Max feel a bit strange: the excessive sharpening in photos in particular feels like a step backwards. Still, with quite a few improvements, and coupled with some sweet trade-in deals, an upgrade might actually make a lot of sense.

So… are you happy with the innovations in the 14 Pro Max, and would you upgrade from the 12 Pro Max to the 14 Pro Max?

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