iPhone 12 and 12 Pro dual review: Playing Apple’s greatest hits | GeekComparison

The iPhone 12 is like an album of Apple’s greatest iPhone hits. It combines the well-known design aesthetic of the iPhone 5, the promised generational leap in wireless technology of the iPhone 3G, and the dense camera system and large OLED display of more modern flagships.

The iPhone 12 has so many compelling features that it’s hard to recommend the iPhone 12 Pro to a small number of people. There’s just not much to tell them apart, and that’s a good thing. The cheaper iPhone 12 is more than good enough for almost everyone.

At least that’s how things stand today. But in a few weeks it will all change again. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are the middle children between the two models that will generate the most buzz later on, I think: the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

I say that because, in my experience, most people fall into two camps: they either want the biggest phone screen they can get their hands on (the 12 Pro Max), or they want their phones to be as small and one-handed as possible (the 12 mini ).

Unfortunately, we don’t have those phones in our hands to review yet. But other than screen size differences and some camera improvements on the 12 Pro Max, they won’t be much different from the two 6.1-inch phones we’re reviewing today.

Specifications

Specs at a glance: iPhone 12 and 12 Pro
Screen 2532×1170 6.1-inch (420PPI) OLED touchscreen
Operating system iOS 14.1
CPU Apple A14 Bionic
RAM 4GB for iPhone 12; 6GB for iPhone 12 Pro
GPU Apple-made A14 Bionic GPU
Storage 64, 128, or 256 GB for iPhone 12; 128, 256 or 512 GB for iPhone 12 Pro
Networking Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, 5G
ports Lightning
Camera Two 12 MP rear cameras (wide angle, ultra wide angle) for iPhone 12; three 12 MP rear cameras (wide angle, ultra wide angle, telephoto) for iPhone 12 Pro; 7 MP front camera for both; Dolby Vision HDR 4K video recording
Mate 5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in (146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm)
Weight 165g (5.78oz) for iPhone 12; 6.66oz (189g) for iPhone 12 Pro
Starting price $799 for iPhone 12; $999 for iPhone 12 Pro
Other benefits MagSafe, Face ID
Apple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro product image

Apple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

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All new iPhones have Apple’s A14 system-on-a-chip, which includes a CPU, a GPU, the Neural Engine, and more.

Manufactured on a 5nm process – probably the same process that will be used for upcoming Apple Silicon Macs – the A14 is an iterative step forward in terms of CPU and GPU speeds, but it’s a giant leap (Apple says) for the Neural Engine, which handles most machine learning processing. (Some is done on the CPU or GPU, depending on the task.)

Apple has doubled the number of cores in the Neural Engine from eight to sixteen, and the company claims a 70 percent performance boost as such.

The iPhone 12 claims up to 17 hours of battery life for local video playback and just 11 hours for streaming video for both devices. That’s roughly on par with other recent high-end iPhones, but it’s just a little short of what the iPhone 11 promised.

ports

As for the ports, there’s still only one, and it’s still Apple’s own Lightning connector, even though almost everyone in the industry has adopted USB-C, including Apple’s own Mac and iPad teams.

Combined with the introduction of MagSafe, Apple’s persistence in sticking with Lightning for another year leads me to think the company’s next game is to forego the charging cable altogether. If they were to move to USB-C, it feels like it would have been designed to do that. The fact that it didn’t suggests that Apple could try to skip USB-C and go straight to completely wireless. If that happens, there will obviously be some major pros and cons.

We will cross that bridge when and if we get there. For now, the plus side is that if you’re coming from a previous iPhone model, you won’t have to replace your existing wired accessories and charging cables.

Screens

Moving on to the screens, both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have 6.1-inch OLED displays with 2,532×1,170 pixels. Both support HDR (although, as with other recent iPhones, the panels are 8-bit, not the 10-bit typically associated with HDR panels) and have a maximum HDR brightness of 1,200 cd/m2. However, they are not exactly the same as the maximum typical brightness (when not viewing HDR content) for the iPhone 12 is 625 cd/m2. It’s 800 for the iPhone 12 Pro.

The display on the 12 is a huge step up from the lower resolution LCD of the iPhone 11. But while I’m an obsessive videophile and a display tech geek, anecdotally I couldn’t see any significant difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro screens in normal use.

I almost mocked last year’s iPhone 11 screen in my review when I compared it to the 11 Pro, even though I acknowledged that most people don’t care that much. If I don’t see a significant difference this time, I think few will.

A lot of noise will be made about the fact that the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro don’t have 120Hz displays, while many Android competitors do, in one form or another (albeit often with some major compromises). A 120Hz screen – which refreshes twice as fast as the 60Hz screens that have been standard for years – feels a bit nicer when scrolling through websites and the like, but it’s a subtle difference. If you’re used to 60Hz, you won’t miss it. In the unlikely event that you’re already used to 120Hz, you’ll probably adapt, but it’s a compromise.

Android phones operating in 120Hz mode often have a major impact on battery life; the screen is usually the number 1 battery drainer, and after all, it works twice as hard in this mode. I suspect Apple skipped 120Hz because battery life is already hitting pretty hard with 5G, and it deemed 5G a higher priority. According to Apple, the combination of 5G and a 120Hz display may have been too much to bear for the iPhone’s battery life all at once.

So while 120Hz would have been nice, no one really needs the. Still, it would have been cool.

Aside from that, Apple’s displays are top notch. DisplayMate’s deep dives give them the best possible numbers, and while they’re beaten by Samsung’s best in some specific measures, they have a commitment to color accuracy and tuning that Samsung doesn’t have. It’s a matter of preference, but suffice it to say the iPhone 12’s screen is as good as it gets.

Storage

If you’re looking for a differentiator between these two devices, look no further than the storage options. The iPhone 12 comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB configurations. For the 12 Pro that is 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB.

64 GB will not be enough for many people, while 128 GB or 256 GB will be optimal for most people. But for a few select users, even 256GB won’t be enough – those folks will have to consider shelling out for the Pro. Other than a few extra camera features, this is the best reason I can think of to spend extra for the Pro.

Cameras

Speaking of cameras, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro share many of the same specs. The difference is mainly that the Pro has a third telephoto lens and the ability to capture HDR video at 60 frames per second (the iPhone 12 is capped at 30fps when HDR is enabled).

On both phones you have a 12 MP wide-angle lens (ƒ/1.6 aperture, seven elements) and a 12 MP ultra-wide angle lens (ƒ/2.4, 5 elements). The latter is for use cases such as shooting groups of friends in tight spaces, as it allows for 2x optical zoom. The iPhone 12 Pro adds that 12 MP telephoto lens (ƒ/2.0 aperture, six elements) to enable 2x optical zoom.

The 12 Pro also adds a lidar scanner, which can be used both for more realistic augmented reality experiences and to improve some features, such as the speed of autofocus in dark environments.

As for video capture, both phones support HDR video in Dolby Vision – Apple claims these are the first smartphones to do this – but as mentioned above, the iPhone 12 Pro can do this at 60fps, while the iPhone 12 is limited up to 30 fps.

Otherwise, the video recording functions are quite similar. Both can record 4K video at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps and 1080p at 30 or 60 fps. They can also record slow-motion video at 1080p and 120 fps or 240 fps.

Finally, both phones pack a 12 MP (ƒ/2.2) aperture front-facing camera, as well as the TrueDepth sensor array found in flagship phones since the iPhone X, facilitating the phones’ facial recognition features.

We’ll go beyond the specs and take a closer look at the cameras and their distinguishing features in the camera section of the review.

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