Review: The iPhone 12 Max Pro v the iPhone 12 Mini

The smartphone trend is for big and beautiful, but small can also be sublime.

Take the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini. I've just spent several days testing them out and there's much to like about both; but for me, Apple's smallest device has the edge - if only because its diminutive size makes it refreshingly different. 

The iPhone 12 Mini - petite yet powerful

The iPhone 12 Mini has the same specs as the iPhone 12 - the same A14 Bionic processor, high grade cameras and 5G support.

It's power and performance packed tightly into a tiny device.

'Ooh yes,' I said breathily upon first cradling my red review unit in the palm of my hand. The other half raised his eyebrows, but only a little - he's used to my fondness for inanimate objects and he agreed it was rather cute.

The Mini passed the pocket test with ease as I ummed and ahhed about what to wear on an evening out. 

A small phone with a big screen

Compared to the iPhone SE, also released by Apple earlier this year, the iPhone 12 Mini has significantly more screen real estate yet in a smaller package. Its 5.4-inch screen has a tight 477ppi pitch, making text small but much sharper than on the iPhone SE's 4.7-inch, 326ppi screen.

Red iPhone 12 Mini with black MagSafe leather wallet.
The iPhone 12 Mini with MagSafe leather wallet. Photo credit: Newshub.

Reading articles on my phone or looking at emails wasn't as difficult as I'd imagined, although admittedly it took a day or so to adjust after several years of using bigger devices.

Apple's move to a Super Retina XDR display is awesome. iPhone 11 users would straight away notice that the iPhone 12 Mini offers richer black tones and better contrast.

Small is perfect for quick snaps

The Mini has the same great camera set-up as the iPhone 12. There's a 12MP main camera with a f/1.6aperture and a 12MP ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree field of view and a f/2.4 aperture.

The iPhone 12 Mini easily fits in a pocket.
The iPhone 12 Mini easily fits in a pocket. Photo credit: Newshub.

This change in aperture on the main camera from f/1.8 to f/1.6 is what allows it to take better photos in low light conditions than the iPhone 11, while those with an even older model will find everything about the camera greatly improved.

For shooting videos, the iPhone 12 Mini does not disappoint. It can record videos up to 4K 60 frames per second and up to 4K 30 frames per second in Dolby Vision HDR, which means that footage looks more colourful and detailed than the non-HDR clips.

Interestingly, I found myself taking more photos and video than usual because it was so easy to point and shoot without making much of a fuss. 

Battery life could be better

Given its size, the iPhone 12 Mini's battery life was better than I expected.

After a typical day's use from breakfast until dinner, it was usually down to about 30 percent and that was with me streaming music, watching a little video, taking photos and doing lots of browsing and checking emails.

Heavy users running lots of different apps might not be so lucky.

Is the iPhone 12 Mini a good buy?

Not everyone wants a phablet, so a pocket sized phone that's powerful and premium looking (and in a range of cool colours) will tick many people's boxes, and many will find they can easily live with its slightly smaller battery life.

The iPhone 12 Mini is on sale in New Zealand now and starts at $1349.

The gold iPhone 12 Pro Max and red iPhone 12 Mini.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini. Photo credit: Newshub.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max -  mighty on every front

The iPhone 12 Pro Max bellows premium, especially in the gold finish, but make no mistake - it's huge.

I wish it were easier to hold and manipulate. For me, the boxy edges actually make it harder to handle than other large phones with curved edges. 

To be fair, it doesn't help that I've been switching between the Pro Max and the Mini which I sometimes forget I'm carrying. There'd be no chance of that with this phone. In fact, if I ever have to use it in self-defence, woe betide the person on the receiving end.

At 6.7-inches, the Pro Max is Apple's largest phone ever and its OLED screen is very impressive. Watching videos on it is an absolute joy.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max screen in a human hand.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photo credit: Newshub.

It's all about the camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max

All of the iPhone 12 range have the same ultrawide and selfie cameras, but only the two Pro models have a telephoto lens. On the Max, the zoom function provides 2.5x optical zoom and 5xoptical zoom range as opposed to just 2x optical zoom and 4x optical zoom range found on the iPhone 12 Pro.

The longer telephoto camera in the iPhone 12 Pro Max is useful, but some competitor phones from the likes of Samsung offer a much further reach of up to 10x optical zoom without any loss in quality.

The two Pro phones also have the liDAR sensor which helps with autofocus in low-light for photos and videos and for augmented reality applications.

The gold iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photo credit: Newshub.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max really does take great photos in low light. It has a wide angle camera with a larger sensor than the others in the range which, according to Apple, offers an 87 percent improvement in low light capability.

It also has something called 'sensor-shift optical image stabilization', which balances the sensor instead of the lens. This last feature is usually found in professional DSLR cameras and will be of particular interest to people who shoot a lot of video. 

As with other phones in the range, the addition of Dolby Vision HDR video recording to allow for more accurate colours and brightness is also exciting. The iPhone 12 Pro Max can capture 4K at 60 frames per second.

Framing control on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is excellent with portraits.
Framing control on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is excellent with portraits. Photo credit: Newshub.

 A big battery for a big device

As to be expected, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the largest battery of the range and for me easily lasted a day and half with some fairly heavy use, but is still fairly comparable to the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

To buy or not to buy?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the phone for you if you are a professional photographer or a very enthusiastic amateur and you want the very best of the best.

It produces stunning photos and videos and its supersized screen makes watching films, playing games or reading a pleasure.

But big can be bulky and this is most definitely a two-handed phone. For something a little smaller (but not as tiny as the iPhone 12 Mini) and just as premium, it's worth considering the iPhone 12 Pro.

The largest iPhone also comes with the highest price - the Pro Max is on sale now in New Zealand and starts at $2099.


Emma was supplied an iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini to review.