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iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X: The biggest changes to Apple's flagship

iphone 12 pro vs iphone x
(Image credit: Apple/Tom's Guide)

For a phone that caused a lot of chatter when it debuted three years ago, you don't hear much about the original iPhone X these days. Maybe that's because the once radical design has since appeared on six iPhone models since the iPhone X's debut. Or maybe because after a spate of iPhone X imitators, Android phone makers moved on to other designs that didn't use an X-style notch.

Most likely, though, it's because the iPhone X is getting up there in smartphone years, even at a time when users are holding onto their smartphones longer. It's a good thing, then, that Apple has released new iPhones, highlighted by the iPhone 12 Pro. This latest iPhone is one of the best phones out there and it's every bit as radical as the iPhone X once was.

The iPhone 12 Pro may share a look with the iPhone X, but we that's where the similarities end. This iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X face-off looks at what those differences might be and whether you'd be wise to consider an upgrade.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X specs

iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro MaxiPhone X
Starting price$999$1,099$999
Screen size6.1-inch OLED (2532 x 1170)6.7-inch OLED (2778 x 1284)5.8-inch (2436 x 1125)
CPUA14 BionicA14 BionicA11 Bionic
RAM6GB (rumored)6GB (rumored)3GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB, 256GB
Rear cameras12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.0); LiDAR Scanner12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.2); LiDAR scanner12MP wide (f/1.8), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)
Front cameraTrueDepth camera (f/2.2)TrueDepth camera (f/2.2)TrueDepth camera (f/2.2)
Battery size2,775 mAh (rumored)3,687 mAh (rumored)2,716 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)9:06 (5G); 11:24 (4G)Not yet tested10:49
5GYesYesNo

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X price

The iPhone X caused a stir at the time it launched, with the largest price ever for an iPhone. At $999, the iPhone X cost $200 more than the iPhone 8 Plus that came out at the same time as Apple's 10th anniversary phone.

These days, people don't even blink at the thought of a $1,000 phone, as phone makers — including Apple — routinely offer phones with four-figure prices. The iPhone 12 Pro models continue that tradition, as iPhone 12 Pro costs $999 and the iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,099.

If you've held onto your iPhone X, there's another figure that's worth paying attention to — your phone's trade-in value. As of this writing, Apple offers up to $250 if you trade in an iPhone X when buying a new iPhone. That number's been adjusted downward since the launch of the iPhone 12.

Apple is now taking iPhone 12 orders, and we've rounded up the best iPhone 12 deals. While the the iPhone 12 Pro ships on Oct. 23, the iPhone 12 Pro Max doesn't arrive until Nov. 13.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X design

Apple's latest phones still take their cues from the iPhone X in one visible way — that notch housing the front camera and sensors that support features like facial recognition and Memojis will still dip into the top of the display. The bezels on the iPhone 12 Pro models have gotten thinner, but the notch remains the same size despite a pre-launch rumor.

The new phones will several design differences from the iPhone X, highlighted by flat edges reminiscent of the iPhone 5, instead of the slightly curved sides featured on the iPhone X and other recent Apple phones.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X

iPhone 12 Pro  (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

All of Apple's iPhone 12 models feature a Ceramic Shield display that makes the iPhone 12 Pro more likely to survive a drop without damage than older iPhone. The IP water resistance rating is more stringent, too — you can drop the iPhone 12 Pro into 6 meters of water, and it will survive for 30 minutes. The iPhone SE could only withstand a meter of water.

The latest models have gotten more colorful, with Pacific Blue joining Silver, Graphite and Gold as an option. The iPhone X came in Space Gray and Silver.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X display

The iPhone X featured a 5.8-inch Super Retina display, and the iPhone 12 Pro comes in two models with bigger screens. The standard iPhone 12 Pro offers a 6.1-inch display while the iPhone 12 Pro Max lives up to its name by turning to a 6.7-inch panel. Last year, Apple's Pro phones upgraded to a Super Retina XDR display that features improved brightness and better support for extreme dynamic range content, and there's no reason to think that won't continue with the iPhone 12 Pro.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X

iPhone X (Image credit: Future)

The iPhone X shows off more of the color gamut than the iPhone 12 Pro — 128.6% to 115.6%. Color accuracy is essentially the same with the iPhone X recording a 0.27 Delta-E rating to the iPhone 12 Pro's 0.28. (Numbers closer to zero are better.) There's no question which phone's screen is brighter — we measured the iPhone 12 Pro at 742 nits on a light meter compared to 574 nits for the iPhone X.

(We're focusing on the iPhone 12 Pro for this face-off, but Apple also introduced two other models — the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. The former's 6.1-inch display is larger than the iPhone X's, as well, while the iPhone 12 mini will go in the opposite when it ships in November direction with a 5.4-inch screen. Both iPhone 12 models will offer OLED panels, just like the iPhone X.)

iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone X

iPhone 12 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X cameras

It's safe to say cameras have gotten more sophisticated since the iPhone X made its debut. Back then, the iPhone X looked pretty cutting edge with dual rear 12MP cameras — a wide angle shooter with an f/1.8 aperture and a telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture. These days, the most expensive iPhones feature three lenses — a main camera, an ultra wide angle shooter and a telephoto lens.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X

iPhone X

And that's precisely what the iPhone 12 Pro has, though there are differences in the iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max camera optics. Both phones have a 12MP wide angle lens as their main camera, featuring a larger f/1.6 aperture. On the iPhone 12 Pro Max, though, the sensor is bigger, improving low-light performance for that particular model.

There's no difference in the 12MP ultrawide lens on either iPhone 12 Pro version, but the telephoto lenses on both phones have different apertures. (It's larger on the iPhone 12 Pro.) More importantly, focal lengths of the telephoto lens are different — 52mm on the iPhone 12 Pro versus 65mm on the iPhone 12 Max. That allows the Max to enjoy a larger optical zoom range over its smaller counterpart.

There's more than just an extra lens separating the iPhone 12 Pro lineup from the iPhone X. Apple has added a LiDAR sensor to its new phones, which improves portrait shots and low-light performance. 

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X

iPhone 12 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Beyond hardware improvements, Apple has also tweaked its software for taking photos. The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max can take Night mode photos from every lens, and features like Smart HDR and Deep Fusion have been improved for the new phones. As good as the iPhone x was at picture-taking in its day, we now rate the iPhone 12 Pro as the best camera phone.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X performance

The A11 Bionic chip inside the iPhone X earned it the title of the fastest phone ever when we tested the device in 2017. That's a title each successive iPhone release has held on to, and the iPhone 12 Pro has done the same, thanks to its A14 Bionic chip.

Our iPhone 12 benchmarks show that the A14 not only outperforms recent iPhones but also extends the gap Apple enjoys over Android phones. We don't have an iPhone X around to run more modern benchmarks on, but suffice it to say, with the iPhone 12 Pro outperforming an iPhone 11 Pro Max on tests like Geekbench 5 and our timed video-encoding test, we wouldn't expect the iPhone X to fare any better.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X

A14 Bionic (Image credit: Apple )

Apple doesn't disclose how much RAM it puts into its phones, but the iPhone X came out at a time when Apple was a little stingy with the memory. Teardowns revealed the iPhone X had 3GB of RAM; we're expecting the iPhone 12 Pro models to have 6GB. Storage in the base model of the iPhone 12 Pro has finally moved past the paltry 64GB Apple puts on its phones; both the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max start at 128GB and scale up to 512GB.

The iPhone 12 Pro models can do something the iPhone X can't — connect to 5G networks. In fact, all four new iPhones include 5G connectivity, a first for Apple's phones. And thanks to extensive support for all kinds of 5G bands, the new phones work with every carrier's network in the US.

iPhone 20 Pro vs. iPhone X battery and charging

In addition to how much memory it includes in phones, Apple also doesn't talk up battery sizes, but the iPhone X had a 2,716 mAh battery. That helped the phone last a little less than 11 hours on our battery test, which was a pretty good result at the time. 

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X

iPhone X

We would have expected the iPhone 12 Pro to do better, but 5G is a demanding technology. When we tested the 6.1-inch model using our Tom's Guide battery test — continuous surfing over cellular networks until the phone runs out of power — the iPhone 12 Pro died after 9 hours and 6 minutes. Turning off 5G improved things dramatically, as the iPhone 12 Pro improved to a time of 11:24. That would have been good enough to land on the best phone battery life list.

Perhaps the iPhone 12 Pro Max will turn in a better result — it should have the biggest battery of all of Apple's phones. But 5G is definitely taking a toll on the new iPhones' battery life.

The iPhone X was among the first Apple phones to support fast-charging, though you wouldn't know it from the 5W charger Apple included with its phones. But is it better to have an underpowered charger or none at all? That's a question iPhone 12 owners will ask themselves, as there's no charger included with your new phone. The move reduces e-waste, but it means people who want to take advantage of fast-charging support in the new iPhones will likely have to buy their own charger, like the 20W brick Apple offers for $19.

iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone X

iPhone 12 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple added a new MagSafe feature to its iPhone 12 models that allows you to attach compatible accessories with magnets. In the case of wireless charging pads, that means a more secure fit, which should improve charge times. It also means springing for more accessories to charge your phone.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X software

Here, the iPhone X and the iPhone 12 Pro find themselves on equal footing because of Apple's comprehensive support for older phones with its iOS updates. iOS 14 runs on phones as old as the iPhone 6s, so if you've got an iPhone X, yo likely upgraded to the new OS before the iPhone 12 Pro was even an official product. 

That means you'll be able to benefit from features like revamped Widgets, the new App Library, Siri improvements, and enhancements to the Messages and Maps apps.

iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone X

iPhone 12 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The one area where iPhone 12 Pro users might eventually have an edge is on features that rely specifically on the hardware that comes with Apple's new phones. Specifically, the LiDAR sensor included with the iPhone 12 Pro models could work with augmented reality apps built using the ARKit 4 tools included with iOS 14. We're still waiting for app makers to highlight new features that make the most of LiDAR.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone X outlook

It's been three years since the iPhone X debuted, and Apple has introduced a lot of changes to its phone hardware since then. That's continued with the iPhone 12 Pro, making it a clear upgrade over its 3-year-old predecessor.

The addition of 5G connectivity, a new LiDAR sensor and a much faster processor place the iPhone 12 Pro well ahead of the iPhone X. What we've seen from the cameras and benchmark testing has only confirmed our suspicions about the new phones.

We hope iPhone X have been budgeting for an upgrade because the iPhone 12 Pro definitely improves upon this older device.