If you’re a big-screen kind of iPhone fan, then the brand new iPhone 11 series, which made its debut at Apple’s September event, will be tempting. Two of its biggest and best phones are now the new Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max and last year’s top-of-the-line iPhone XS Max, but which one should you buy? This spec comparison delves into the features and highlights of both iPhones, and hopefully offers some guidance on which to buy and whether to upgrade.
|Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
||Apple iPhone XS Max|
|Size||158 x 77.8 x 8.1 mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.32 inches)||157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches)|
|Weight||226 grams (7.97 ounces)||208 grams (7.34 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED||6.5-inch Super Retina HD OLED True Tone display|
|Screen resolution||2,688 x 1,242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)||2,688 x 1,242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)|
|Operating system||iOS 13||iOS 13|
|Storage space||64GB, 256GB, 512GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|MicroSD card slot||No||No|
|Tap-to-pay services||Apple Pay||Apple Pay|
|Processor||A13 Bionic chip||A12 Bionic chip|
|Camera||Triple lens 12MP Wide, Ultra Wide, and Telephoto rear, 12MP TrueDepth front||Dual 12MP (with dual OIS) rear, 7MP TrueDepth front|
|Video||4K at up 60 frames-per-second, 1080p at 240 fps||4K at up 60 frames-per-second, 1080p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||Lightning connector||Lightning connector|
|Battery||Up to 20 hours video playback
Fast charging (18W charger)
Qi wireless charging
Fast charge capable (Additional charger needed)
Qi wireless charging
|App marketplace||Apple App Store||Apple App Store|
|Network support||All major U.S. carriers||All major U.S. carriers|
|Colors||Midnight green, space grey, silver, gold||Silver, space gray, gold|
|Price||$1,099 (base)||$1,099 (base)|
|Review score||Hands-on||4 out of 5 stars|
Performance, battery life, and charging
While we have yet to officially review the new iPhone 11 Pro Max, it makes sense that its performance will exceed that of the previous generation, if only because of its upgraded chipset. While the XS Max runs on the A12 Bionic chip, Apple’s newest big dog has the A13 version. Both have the same internal storage options of 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB. There is a slight difference in the RAM — 6GB vs. 4GB — which gives the newer phone a slight advantage in the multi-tasking department. But for general use, the difference is likely negligible.
If you’re upgrading from an older iPhone, the A13 Bionic chip packs a wallop. It derives its power from 18 cores, and Apple says A13 Bionic performance is up to 20% faster than the A12, performing over a trillion operations per second. The A13 has six cores in the main CPU, four GPU cores, and an eight-core NPU (neural processor) to power A.I. tasks. The new chips feature the third-generation Neural Engine, which facilitates faster machine learning of photos and videos. The GPU is up to 30% faster with a reported 40% reduction in power consumption.
Both models have wireless charging via the Qi standard, as well as fast charging with Apple’s fast charger. Apple says the iPhone 11 Pro battery lasts up to five hours longer than the iPhone XS Max. But here’s the kicker: Apple is bundling an 18W USB-C adapter with all the iPhone 11 Pros so the phone can charge from zero to 50% in 30 minutes. While the iPhone XS Max also supports fast charging, Apple bundles a paltry 5W charger in the box. Both phones also support 7.5W wireless charging.
The new phone takes the prize, as there are so many under-the-hood performance improvements as well as the splendid idea of bundling the fast charger into the box.
Winner: iPhone 11 Max Pro
Design and durability
In terms of size, the difference between the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone XS Max is negligible — we’re talking about fractions of an inch. These phones are not called Max for nothing. They are large, almost phablet style devices. Small hands, not to mention small pockets, will likely struggle with the size. Sure, they’re great for reading, playing games, and watching movies, but one-handed operation for emailing and other note-taking is not going to happen. Alongside their large dimensions is a beefy weight of over 7 ounces for each. Holding that phone up with one hand for any length of time will give you some arm wrestling cred.
The two phones have the same general look with a glass body, IP68 water-resistance, a metal chassis, a notch above the screen, and some arrangement of camera lenses mounted on the back. You can safely submerge the newer model in water that’s four feet deep as opposed to two feet deep, which may be significant to some users. Both are available in gold, silver, and space gray, while the new model adds a Midnight Green color option. The new iPhone sports a matte finish which alters the look and feel of it compared to the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone 11’s back design is sculpted from a single piece of glass, which Apple touts as the toughest glass in a smartphone.
Neither phone has a headphone jack or a fingerprint sensor — so Apple’s Face ID is used on both. The camera arrangement really sets these two devices apart from a design perspective: The placement on the new model is a self-contained box housing a triple set of lenses as opposed to the more subtle arrangement of the double lens on the XS Max.
Which wins? It’s kind of a toss-up. Both phones are similar in size with many of the same attributes.
In terms of raw stats, the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone XS Max seem like they would be nearly identical. Apple calls the new display Retina Display XDR instead of Super Retina HD. The reason? Apple boosted the brightness of the new model up to 1,200 nits and contrast up to 2 million-to-one, and that is roughly double that of the iPhone XS Max. The new OLED panel is also 15% more energy efficient. The iPhone 11 has also dropped 3D Touch in favor of Haptic Touch.
Everyone can get behind better brightness and contrast.
Winner: iPhone 11 Max Pro
Where the new iPhone 11 Pro Max really shines is in the camera, though the iPhone XS Max is hardly a slouch in the photo department. The new iPhone’s camera system features a triple 12-megapixel camera setup with a main lens that boasts an f/1.8 aperture, a telephoto lens with an f/2.0 aperture, and an ultra-wide-angle lens with an f/2.4 aperture, optical image stabilization (OIS), improved smart HDR, portrait mode with advanced bokeh, depth control, and brighter True Tone flash.
Three cameras are better than two, in this case. The new 120-degree ultra-wide-angle lens that lets users capture a wider field of view, is absent from the older iPhone. The iPhone XS Max features a dual 12-megapixel camera setup with OIS, f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures, and supports Smart HDR and that excellent Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and depth control.
The triple-camera is a major upgrade of the iPhone’s camera system and the software can now deliver enhanced images in low light. The updated camera app is designed to leverage the camera system to improve focusing speed, dynamic range, and detail capture. The telephoto lens features a wider f/2.0 aperture that facilitates better low-light scenes. The new Night mode in the camera app automatically switches on in low-light to capture brighter photos.
Alongside the camera are the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s video capabilities, which are similarly enhanced over the previous version. The new phone has a feature called Audio Zoom that automatically focuses on the audio emanating from the subject alongside the enhanced dynamic range and cinematic stabilization. QuickTake video lets you recording video by pressing and holding the shutter button.
Let’s not forget the front camera: The iPhone 11 Pro Max front camera got a boost from 7-megapixel to 12-megapixel resolution and it features improved Smart HDR and dynamic range. It can also record 4K videos at 60 fps with cinematic video stabilization and can for the first time record slow-motion selfies (slofies) at 120 fps. How enduring that slofie feature turns out to be is anyone’s guess.
Apart from the extra camera, there aren’t many new photo and video modes in the new phones, except for the A.I.-powered Night Mode. Most other features were already available on last year’s models, such as HDR and the ability to shoot video in up to 4K resolution at 60 fps.
Winner: iPhone 11 Max Pro
Software and updates
Apple’s iOS 13 is native to the new generation of iPhones, and it has distinct advantages over iOS 12. However, in terms of compatibility, the iPhone XS Max easily runs the new iOS just as well as the new version, so there’s no inherent advantage insofar as the operating system is concerned.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max sports a new chip called U1 that employs ultra-wideband technology to enhance spatial awareness. This allows it to accurately pinpoint other U1 devices. So for example, if you want to share a file using AirDrop, just point your iPhone at the recipient phone and that phone will appear in the list on the AirDrop sharing pane.
Winner: iPhone 11 Max Pro
Price and availability
Both the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone 11 Pro Max are top-of-the-line phones with price tags to match and the new version brings a number of new features to the package. The iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at the same price tag as the iPhone XS Max: $1,099. But it can meet or exceed laptop-level pricing, especially with increased storage capacity. The iPhone 11 Pro Max shoots up to $1,449 for the 512GB model.
You can buy the iPhone 11 Pro Max direct from Apple or at all major retailers and carriers. The iPhone XS Max has been discontinued by Apple, but you’ll still be able to find one if you shop around.
Overall winner: iPhone 11 Max Pro
Both the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone 11 Pro Max are fabulous phones in almost every respect. If you own an iPhone that’s a few generations old, the new models will be a revelation, but if you already own the iPhone XS Max, there is no earthly reason to upgrade to the 11 series at all.