Anton D. Nagy contributed to this iPhone 12 Pro Max After the Buzz post.
I think this might be the first time I do an After the Buzz when the succeeding product is revealed, but there’s a reason for it.
This is the iPhone 12 Pro Max, 2020’s best iPhone if you were to judge by the numbers, and what marked my return to Apple’s larger variant. I’ve never been a fan of the company’s approach to phablets because they’re mostly just bloated iPhones. The only other time I did was the 7 Plus, and because it was a better phone than the regular. The Xs Max or 11 Pro Max were all just larger size options. iPhones have always been more of a social media crutch to my primary Android phone, so if there is no added value, the extra size is unnecessary.
This 12 Pro Max was a different animal, at least on paper. It brought a larger camera sensor and in-body image stabilization, worthy perks for a creator like me to consider. It’s been with me everywhere for the past year, and during that period of time, let’s just say I have a couple of mixed feelings about my investment, which only makes me debate the 13 series. Let’s dive into our iPhone 12 Pro Max After hhe Buzz.
I think the best way to sum up expectations for this video is to call out the fact that I never completed this review. You’ll find my videos on the 12 Pro, 12, and 12 mini, but the reason why I skipped the 12 Pro Max, is because the more I used it, the more I realized it was only marginally better in things I didn’t care about.
I was so enthusiastic at the time that I actually picked it in Silver as my favorite color. Honestly, Pacific Blue was not as elegant in my opinion. At a glance, you could assume it aged well, but flat and glossy stainless steel is clearly not a good idea. Get up close and be ready for a ton of micro scratches, and judging by my use of Apple’s leather case, I guess there’s no way around it. It’s as if I deliberately scrubbed the bottom of this phone, which is not an issue with its less expensive aluminum siblings.
The last time Apple used flat stainless steel on the iPhone 4, its matte finish allowed you to even use a soap scrub to polish it. My advice is to pick a darker color with the 13 series, as they’re technically the same finish. That said, the frosted glass back remains intact, and so is the screen, proving that Ceramic Shield is really that good.
This is the phone with the least display micro-scratches I’ve used for so long, but that oleophobic coating wore off regardless. As for MagSafe, I say you should care about the chargers because no other puck of this size can charge any phone faster. I definitely did ignore Apple’s wallet accessories after all the horror stories of people losing their valuables. I’d recommend you consider MOFT’s Snap-On Stand and Wallet instead. It’s been with me all year, which pretty much guarantees it’s a better implementation that also becomes a kickstand.
This Pro Display XDR is another example of where I’m mixed. On a positive front, Its flat approach and its great contrast ratio make this one of the most immersive experiences you can get on a phone. Its dual firing speakers definitely don’t disappoint. If all you’ve been is an iPhone user, it’s great, but also very 2019.
Definitely, 120Hz coming to the iPhone 13 Pro is where this phone falls short. The high refresh rate has been a staple of Android phones for at least three years. The other is the notch getting in the way. I know it’s getting smaller with the next generation, but is it really functional while needing to wear a mask? I would’ve seriously preferred a fingerprint scanner on the power button like the iPad Air (and so does Anton), cause even the use of an Apple Watch to unlock the phone with your face covered is not always reliable.
What aged well on the iPhone 12 Pro Max
One thing that did age well was iOS 14. It took Apple way too long to launch widgets or an App Tray, but I have to say their reputation of late but better remains. I do prefer their visual consistency, which can be hit or miss on Android, and elements like Smart Stacks became invaluable for me to keep a minimalistic home screen that was still useful.
Maybe the only thing I was expecting was more widget adoption over time. As it stands, I have nowhere near the 179 apps I have installed, and I expect no judgment on that number, thank you. Still, even with the lack of a high refresh rate, this user interface remains snappy, I can’t say I deal with such a thing as app crashes, and the visual uniformity of apps is something Android should seriously consider. What I can’t praise iOS for, is its disservice to this large canvas. It’s seriously pointless for you to get a larger screen if the grid of icons is just stretched out. There’s no multi-window support. There’s no support for some sort of Apple Pencil input. The picture-in-picture video was a nice promise that under-delivered in support. Again, it’s the reason why I debate a larger phone if the canvas is underutilized.
What didn’t age well on the iPhone 12 Pro Max
One thing that didn’t age well is the battery. Larger iPhones have always had a reputation for more than a day of use, but I barely end a day with mine. Battery health has also degraded faster than ever at 89%, which makes me wonder if the optimized charging has been good enough. I can’t say it’s the 5G because I don’t get any better results with LTE. I can’t say it’s overheating or lag, because this A14 Bionic has definitely lived up to its performance reputation.
As for the only thing you can pick when buying an iPhone, I decided to go for 256 gigs of storage just because I use it as a quick video camera at times, and that aged pretty well. I’d even say the standard user is fine with the base 128 gigs. If anything I notice the added storage only makes me hoard more stuff.
The main reason for the bump in its capacity is because I’ve used an iPhone as my secondary video camera for a few years. I’m seriously not sure what voodoo Apple uses in their video codec, but ever since the iPhone 4, this collection of cameras can prove to be more versatile than even a standard mirrorless camera for quick secondary shots. Most people don’t know that at least a third of my AirPods Max review was filmed with this 12 Pro Max, and that’s as it paired with a Sony A7SIII.
I’m not saying it’s comparable, but so long as you have enough light it’ll sometimes adapt to harsher scenarios better, like on the inside of an airplane because it doesn’t depend on filters, ISO compensation, or other camera tricks to meter adequately for what you touch. That in-body stabilization also proved to be a godsend during quick walking shots of whatever other product I was reviewing.
iPhone 12 Pro Max photography
Now, I can’t say that feature served in helping me get better photos. After trying all four iPhones, I did notice that this Pro Max was slightly faster at taking a photo, but it wasn’t necessarily a better shot.
Regardless if you used the ultra-wide or standard lens that was dramatically larger than the other iPhones, I did some comparison shots even with the regular 12 and well, I can’t say the 12 Pro Max produced $400 worth of better photos. Whether during the day or at night, the Pro Max was just faster. And sure, the added speed can make a difference in reliability, with some shots having some minor elements that have them stand apart, but again, notice I say minor.
To conclude, I have to say that there’s a part of me that’s happy that the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are just different in their size. A year of phablet use left me with enough decolorized pockets, pinky finger strain, and one-handed nightmares, Which only makes me debate if it was all worth it. Even if there were differences between both Pros in the spec sheet, the results weren’t really what I would call substantial.
I know for a lot of you, having the larger iPhone is useful. I know for some it’s a status symbol. Sadly, I come from the time of the Galaxy Note where the added canvas had to serve a purpose, and I honestly feel the 12 Pro Max didn’t really live up to those expectations. I’m not saying it’s a bad phone, but it’s hard to justify its price, at a time when a device like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 is better in so many ways and costs less money. Expect that comparison once the 13 Pro Max hits store shelves.
Obviously, as an Apple user, I don’t blame you for sticking to the Ecosystem which is still second to none. That said, would I recommend that you look for a 12 Pro Max a year later even with a discount? Not really. If iPhone is your jam, it might be a better idea to even get a regular 13 that sports the same primary camera as this max, but with better optics, plus the same starting storage, or get the regular Pro if you want the added boost for less size and money.
16-inch MacBook Pro After the Buzz
Anton D. Nagy contributed to this 16-inch MacBook Pro After the Buzz episode post.
This is the 16-inch MacBook Pro and when I bought it last year I thought this would be it. Finally my dream machine. It’s actually the first product that started a very interesting trend. See Apple has always been known for showing consumers what they should want instead of listening to them, and its 15-inch predecessor was, in a word: a mess. From bad keyboards, to display issues, to thermal throttling, it was clear that Apple’s obsession over thin and light was ahead of its time. The solution was to just cave in and make the product larger. To own the title of being a Pro product, function had to follow form and not the other way around.
The problem is that this product was either late or the catalyst Apple needed to prove that it was time to transition. It patched the problem the 15-inch model had, but then notice how it hasn’t been refreshed since 2019.
Transition periods are always complicated, and no company is more notorious for them than Apple. This is the company that pushed the market to adopt the CD-ROM over floppy drives, only to kill the slot early for digital media. USB over Serial Ports, only to kill that for USB-C. It made the headphone jack popular again, only to kill it later over Bluetooth. Yes, it’s a pattern, but even if Apple has been right most of the time, what happens when you’re caught in-between?
Here I was thinking this computer would be it, so I spent an insane amount of money in maxing it out to its full potential. Yes, that amount. And then about two months into living my dream, I realized I made a mistake. A very expensive one.
So, for context, I bought this computer in September of 2020. My 2018 15-inch unit was already coughing at 4K exports, and after the M1 announcement in June, it was clear that this computer wasn’t going to get an Intel refresh. Yes, I know I was a year late, but if you saw the presentation, the numbers were just too good to be true, and Apple has always been notorious for overpromising and under-delivering in its pro products. My logic was to avoid the curse of the early adopter because I couldn’t trust my workflow to an unproven product. I don’t need to remind you how bad the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro or 2016 15-inch touch bar models were.
So everything started fine. Ordered in silver to avoid the scuff marks from space gray, got my dbrand skins to give it this retro look in white, and this MOFT Invisible stand is a godsend. Propping this computer to a higher position has proven to be crucial for less back pain, and also heat dissipation. For the better part of two months, I was in heaven.
I think that what I liked most about this computer was its screen. You’d think that an extra inch in real estate isn’t much, but the near border-to-border design is crazy immersive. Even today this 16-inch Retina Display is best in class for any laptop when it comes to color accuracy and detail, even if it falls behind in contrast as a natural limitation of IPS LCDs. Still, the combination of this panel with these speakers is still crazy. I have yet to hear louder and richer results from any other laptop, in whatever category you’d like to compare it to.
The combination of the skin, plus the stand has helped it remain like new more than a year later, and I also noticed that the added thickness serves an extra purpose. I no longer get that sticky feel after trying to open this laptop when exposed to heat, and I now notice the glass panel is no longer prone to permanent marks from the keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, it’s back to being great. Sure a bit noisier but the return to these scissor switches has solved all the issues of its predecessor. I still wish we had the option to lose the touch bar, but I’ll admit it doesn’t bother me as much. My hands are mostly concentrated on this massive trackpad which is still best in class, and where its size doesn’t get in the way of your work. If anything I feel that way about the large palm rests, but it comes with the territory if you want a machine this large.
Overall from multi-tasking to video editing, to watching a movie, for the better part of two months, I was in love. My problem is when I had to order the M1 MacBook Pro and Air for review. Theoretically, these two products have never really competed against the larger variant, so I thought this was just your typical laptop review, that I would then edit on my 16-inch model, but then this happened…
This is Part 1 of when I learned I had made a mistake. Yes, two computers that cost a quarter of what this larger computer cost, were almost as good. I mean sure, I could export a video around 2 minutes faster on the 16-inch model, but that was the least of my problems.
See, the 16-inch MacBook Pro falls into the old paradigm of computing, which was that the more you have the better. Larger meant better thermals, more space for larger batteries, more fans for cooling, a discrete GPU. And you guessed it, all that hardware just chews up the battery. The fans of this computer are so aggressive that even if I let it play the screen saver, they will kick in. But again, I say paradigm because at the time we didn’t know any better. We knew fan noise and terrible battery life were par for the course on powerful laptops.
So yeah, cue in the M1, and the paradigm shift. Forget the need for cooling, the fan is there just in case, which as a result means that you can enjoy true all-day battery life. I won’t bore you with all the details, I’ll link to those two separate videos for you to understand where I’m coming from. Point is, those two entry-level computers are just as good in performance, and better in everything other than the fact that this one has more screen real-estate and ports if that’s your jam.
But then we get to Part 2 of when I learned I made a mistake, and it’s that I didn’t think planned obsolescence would reach this computer so quickly. WWDC 2021 already started placing a couple of nails into the coffin of any Intel Mac. If you noticed, MacOS Monterrey already has features that will only come to Apple Silicone. Sure they aren’t consequential, but I’d call it a red flag.
And then there’s the fact that I’ve spent the last few weeks not wanting to use this 16-inch MacBook Pro because I’m already noticing a lot of apps slowing down, and these aren’t even power-hungry apps. The amount of lag in some Microsoft Office apps like OneNote is insane. The sluggish launch of certain basic apps like Chrome is unnerving. The beach balls and dropped frames on Final Cut Pro, regardless of my 64 gigs of RAM just don’t make sense. I’m not saying that developers or even Apple have decided to abandon these apps for Intel Macs, but I can tell you performance has been degrading quickly since the launch of the M1 variants. And sure, it could be perception, given how I’ve been exposed to both computers, but if I’m paying more for an Intel Mac in absolutely every category, I technically should get a better experience! If all the extra specs I bought don’t reflect a better overall experience, then it means this lineup has no reason for being.
To fix some of the lag, I was forced to get creative and look for ways to optimize my machine, regardless of the excess hardware I bought it with. Even the M1 needs some fine-tuning every now and then just to keep it in good shape, and one of my favorite tools to get that done is CleanMyMac X.
To conclude, let’s just say this video felt like a moral responsibility. The 16-inch MacBook Pro was a great solution to a problem two years ago, but for those who think Apple isn’t willing to cannibalize its own products, just remember how the iPhone killed the iPod.
If we’re honest, I struggle to think who this computer is for right now. Even if you were one of those people that prefers a large display, I think buying any M1 with an iPad for Side Car, or even an external monitor would be cheaper than the base model of this 16-inch model. The chips are dated so it’s not for Intel fanatics. Unless you need specific plugins that are still not supported by M1, this product has simply no reason for being.
Bottom line, I can’t recommend you buy it in 2021. If it had massive discounts, then sure, but as it stands right now, I seriously recommend for you to wait for the refresh that’s rumored for the fall. Fun fact, I’m actually editing this video on the M1.
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