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Millions of people buy Apple’s largest iPhones each year for one main reason: they love the large screen.

That’s something to which I ought to be able to relate. I’ve always owned the largest MacBooks Apple offers: from the 17-inch MacBook Pro back in the day, through to the 16-inch one today. I also own and love the largest iPad available, and am on record as saying that I’d buy a bigger one if I could.

Then there’s my monitor, which is … quite large. I think one can reasonably conclude that I’m generally a fan of large screens …

iPhones have always been the exception, however, where I favored pocketability over screen size. But although it appears I will be keeping my iPhone 12 Pro Max, the screen size has almost nothing to do with that decision.

The main area I do appreciate it is for composing and viewing photos. No surprise there, of course: the camera is the reason I’m opting for this model over the iPhone 12 mini.

(Incidentally, when I tell you how much I adore the mini, you might understand when I admit that, just for a moment, I did even consider buying one as well, and carrying either mini or Pro Max depending on whether I expected to use the camera. Not even I could justify that much gadget extravagance, however!)

The large screen does also make a big difference when viewing videos. However, I rarely do this on my phone. If it’s anything other than a short video on Facebook, I’ll use the ‘Open in Safari’ option and then use iCloud to view it on my Mac. If I want to watch video on the move, I’ll use my iPad instead.

The Pro Max screen does also make an iPhone marginally better for reading ebooks, but it’s again very rare that I do this. Typically this is only when I have a few minutes to spare somewhere and don’t have either my iPad or Kindle on me. (And yes, I know I said I didn’t need a Kindle, but my girlfriend disagreed: apparently the 12.9-inch screen casts too much light even when dimmed when I’m reading in bed, so I bought a Kindle Oasis on Prime Day.)

I can see the benefit for games, but I very rarely play them. I haven’t even bothered taking up the three-month free trial of Apple Arcade that came with the phone, though I guess I ought to, just out of curiosity.

The screen size also makes a bit of a difference in Safari and Facebook, showing a little more content at a time, but it’s not a huge difference.

I mean, I do kind of get it. There are times when the additional screen real estate is beneficial. But for me personally, it’s not a big deal. Large screen iPhones haven’t appealed to me for the same reason that the iPad mini never did: it’s a cute gadget, but for me, the trade-off of usability against portability means they never won me over.

The camera has, totally. The examples in the Halide blog post further cemented the benefits to me. I’m not getting out enough during lockdown to have tested the hassle factor of carrying the phone in a bag, but I’ll do that in the next day or two.

The large screen, though? It’s handy sometimes, but there’s no way it would ever be enough to sell me on a large phone.

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Iphone 12 Diary: The Case Arriving Early Gives Me A Hands

Yep, after being all set to buy the iPhone 12 mini – the phone I’d wanted for years – I found myself going to the opposite end of the range: pre-ordering the largest model, not the smallest.

I explained last time the reason for that, but the tl;dr version is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the only way to get the best camera …

The reason is a simple one: my iPhone is my main camera. Not my best camera – I have a Sony a6300 as well as a DSLR – but my iPhone is the camera I always have on me, and so the one I use 99.9% of the time. Indeed, it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that my iPhone is a camera, music player and messaging device which I sometimes use for other stuff.

But, despite all the appealing photo features I listed, I did find myself wavering just a little when it came to placing my pre-order. Indeed, I came this close to ordering both phones to cover myself in case the Pro Max was just too big and I wanted to swap.

As it turns out, that precaution appears unnecessary: if I do decide to return the Pro Max and order the mini, I shouldn’t have long to wait.

I’d already created a cardboard cutout to give me a feel for the size, but the arrival of the leather MagSafe case this morning gave me a more realistic hands-on experience of what it would be like to use such a large phone. You can see it above, pictured next to my iPhone 11 Pro.

The first good news is that it still fits comfortably in my hand. It definitely wouldn’t be usable one-handed without Reachability, but then I never use that anyway as it’s rarely a problem to use my iPhone two-handed.

It also fits very comfortably into all my jacket pockets, including those with a phone-specific pocket.

It does, however, fail the trouser pocket test: fine in slacks, but not jeans or chinos.

This isn’t just an aesthetic or security issue: it means the phone would dig into my hip while cycling, and even if that weren’t uncomfortable I’d be worried about bending it. Not a problem for most seasons, when I’m wearing a jacket, but it is an issue in the summer months, when I’m usually cycling in shirt sleeves. This will mean I’ll have to put it into my bike bag (my handlebar design means there isn’t space to mount it on the bike.)

So, the size does definitely involve compromise. Especially when I think about the alternative of the iPhone mini.

The question, then, will be whether the camera performance makes the pocketability compromise worthwhile. So far, the reviews are somewhat mixed. Most say that the difference is smaller than you’d expect, but Austin Mann did have some convincing evidence that it is significant for low-light shots.

Ok, this kind of difference in such a small element of a photo is pretty irrelevant:

But look at this:

That is, for me, a realistic scenario. I love taking low-light shots when eating out, for example, and to me that’s a night-and-day difference in quality, if you’ll excuse the pun. We also have much more to come when the iPhone 12 Max Pro gets Apple ProRAW later in the year, while the mini won’t.

So for me, the question is only whether I can live with a much larger phone than I’d ideally like – while acknowledging, as I did earlier, that there’s also the possibility that I’ll fall in love with the larger screen.

Is it Friday yet?

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The Best Android Alternatives To The Iphone 12 Series

David Imel / Android Authority

The Apple iPhone 12 series is still great, and it’s a viable, more affordable alternative to the iPhone 13 series. iOS isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though. You may want to move to the Android side, and you’ll be glad to hear there are plenty of iPhone 12 alternatives. Here are some of our favorite ones.

Editor’s note: We will regularly update this list of the best iPhone 12 alternatives.

The best iPhone 12 alternatives

Powerful Android flagship phones stuffed with a ton of features.

Samsung promises three years of system updates for its phones.

Available in a wide variety of markets.

Samsung is Apple’s arch-rival in the mobile space, and the Galaxy S22 range is the Korean firm’s latest offering. These phones pack 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X screens, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200 processors, water resistance, and wireless charging.

Samsung Galaxy S22

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$100.04

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus

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$300.00

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

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$205.49

Powerful flagship phones with high-end experiences.

They lack an IP rating.

Available in global markets (no US release, though).

We’ve been eyeing the Xiaomi 12 series since late 2023, when it was launched in China. These phones were very hard to get anywhere else, but we’ve since seen a global launch, making it easier to recommend the device. That said, the Xiaomi 12 and Xiaomi 12 Pro are still hard to get in the USA, but there are multiple ways to import them.

Availability issues aside, these devices are definitely amazing iPhone 12 alternatives. They come with great high-end specs, including a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, 8-12GB of RAM, and 128-256GB of storage. Both also feature AMOLED displays with a 120Hz refresh rate, but the Pro version has a slightly larger 6.73-inch QHD+ screen, as opposed to the 6.28-inch 1080p panel found on the Xiaomi 12.

Of course, the Pro version is the better of the two. It comes with an excellent 4,600mAh battery, a triple 50MP camera setup, and 120W charging. It’s also not much more expensive than the base Xiaomi 12. That said, you might enjoy the more manageable size of the Xiaomi 12.

Xiaomi 12

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$10.00

Xiaomi 12 Pro

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$50.00

Awesome design and powerful performance.

Water resistance and wireless charging.

OnePlus tends to support its phones for as many as three versions of Android.

Now available globally, even in the USA.

Like the Xiaomi 12 series, the OnePlus 10 Pro was first released only in China, making it hard for us to recommend it as an iPhone 12 alternative. It has since been launched globally, though, and even North Americans can buy it from all major retailers.

The OnePlus 10 Pro is not only a great iPhone 12 alternative, but it’s also one of the best high-end phones around, as well as a pretty good deal considering what you get. We’re not fans of the speakers and software, and the IP rating is exclusive to T-Mobile in the USA, but it’s otherwise a competent phone.

Stunning video capabilities are similar to dedicated cameras.

It sports a fantastic 4K, HDR, OLED, 120Hz display.

The design is elegant and simple.

Battery life is solid.

Also: Here’s our Sony Xperia 1 III review

Other specs include a Snapdragon 888 processor, 12GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage. The 4,500mAh battery offers more than a day of regular use. And the camera is equally impressive, with three 12MP sensors (standard, ultrawide, and periscope zoom), especially for video shooters. It can shoot 4K video at up to 120fps. The video quality and stabilization are stunning, and you can even opt for the Cinema Pro app, which is based on Sony FS cinema cameras.

We could say the Sony Xperia 1 III is not only a great iPhone 12 alternative, but also an iPhone 13 one. And if you think the Xperia 1 III is a bit too pricey, the Sony Xperia 5 III is also a great device that costs slightly less, yet keeps most of the best features.

Sony Xperia 1 III

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$151.99

These are the first devices with Google’s Tensor chipset.

It sports a new awesome, fun, high-end design.

Like every other Pixel phone, you can expect industry-leading camera quality.

A large battery to keep you going for longer.

Are you looking for more options? We also have a list of the best Android phones available. We have also listed the best gaming phones if you want true power. Additionally, it would help if you also looked into the best camera phones around.

Pensacola With A Purpose: An Asb Diary

Part Five of a five-part series. Read entire series.

Cast of characters: Kendrick Sledge, CAS’09 (coordinator), Matt Fleming, CAS’06 (coordinator), Katie Ennis, COM’08, Dan Leach St.-Germain, CAS’08, Stephanie Shimada, CAS/COM ’07, Karen Benabou CAS, Hayley Sher CAS ’09, Rosemary Egar CAS’09, Evan Goodman CAS’08, Rebekka Nodhturft CAS’08, Amy Schweikert CAS’09, Beth Hewes SED’08.

Friday, March 10

As the rain mixes with the plaster dust and grime on our faces, Dan starts running and sliding through the mud, and we begin a game of blob tag, where the person who is tagged joins forces with “It” and tries to get other people out. We are holding hands and running and laughing, and we are so dirty that Kendrick is threatening not to let us back into the van.

Today, as usual, we have a plan: from 9 to 5, we work on the trailer, tearing away its aluminum siding and replacing the rotting wood framing behind. We lay some more plywood flooring and cover our new framing with tar paper. From 5 to 6, we take a trip to Wal-Mart to buy snacks for the very long ride back to Boston; from 6:30 to 7:30, everybody showers and gets ready for our big night out at an Italian restaurant. In the van, we argue about who should take the first shower, and Kendrick and I repeatedly warn everyone that we have only one hour of primping for 13 people. We realize that our warning is being taken too seriously when Stephanie cuts her shower time down to 90 seconds.

After dinner, we start to pack up our things, and contemplate having a group sleepover in one of our apartments. We think again, considering the tiring 24-hour drive ahead, and scratch that plan. A few of us hang out in one of the bedrooms, playing catch with toiletries and making ninja headdresses out of T-shirts. A select group, I discover the next morning, will stay up talking until 2 a.m. They will take pictures of themselves in various states of sleep deprivation for amusement on the long ride home.

Saturday, March 11

What we didn’t do; what we did

At 8:30 Saturday morning, we are packed to go. This, we note, is the second time we’ve managed to do something on schedule; the first time was sitting down to last night’s dinner. There is some regret that we failed to bring our projects to completion, and there is also a warm and well-earned feeling of accomplishment for what we did do.

We drove 1,400 miles and worked five days to put our personal dent in the $13 billion in damage that was wrought by Hurricane Ivan. We understand that the storm destroyed 150,000 homes, and we know that we helped to repair only two of them, but we also understand that two houses is two homes, in this case the homes of Terry and Pamela and of Carolyn.

We also learned so much — like how to live with 12 strangers for a week, how to use power tools, how to build things up and take them down. We learned that bad puns never get old — they get better — and that a game like Produce Master, which really just involves saying the names of vegetables, can get very risqué and be very much fun.

We wave good-bye to our home for the past week. We snag a souvenir palm frond to remind us of where we went and what we did. And we climb in the van.

Read entire series.

Read more Alternative Spring Breaks stories.

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Best Iphone 12 Deals In The Uk: Mini, 12, Pro & Pro Max Offers

At its 20 April Spring Loaded event, Apple announced that the iPhone 12 and 12 mini would also be available in purple, adding to the existing range of five color choices. The good news is that it isn’t more expensive – in fact, you can also get up to £75 off if you know where to look.

Here, we cover how to get your hands on every member of Apple’s first 5G-capable iPhone lineup and at the best price, whether you’re buying on contract or SIM-free.

The best iPhone 12 Deals (all models) right now

Also see: Where to buy the purple iPhone 12 and 12 mini

How much does the iPhone 12 range cost? 

The good news is that Apple hasn’t raised the price of the iPhone 12 range (aside from a slight tweak to the iPhone 12’s price) despite the jump forward in design, performance, and connectivity – but they are still expensive, and that’s especially true of the ultra-high-end iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

Here’s how the iPhone 12 range breaks down in cost: 

iPhone 12 Mini 

iPhone 12 Mini (64GB): £699/$699 

iPhone 12 Mini (128GB): £749/$749 

iPhone 12 Mini (256GB): £849/$849 

See our full review of the iPhone 12 mini.

iPhone 12 

iPhone 12 (64GB): £799/$799 

iPhone 12 (128GB): £849/$849 

iPhone 12 (256GB): £949/$949 

See our full iPhone 12 review.

iPhone 12 Pro  

iPhone 12 Pro (128GB): £999/$999 

iPhone 12 Pro (256GB): £1,099/$1,099 

iPhone 12 Pro (512GB): £1,299/$1,299 

Also find our full iPhone 12 Pro review here.

iPhone 12 Pro Max 

iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB): £1,099/$1,099 

iPhone 12 Pro Max (256GB): £1,199/$1,199 

iPhone 12 Pro Max (512GB): £1,399/$1,399 

All variants of iPhone 12 are now readily available to buy in the UK. The most obvious place to go to buy the iPhone 12 is Apple itself, but where else can you go? 

Below are all the top retailers offering the iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max both SIM-free and on-contract.

Best iPhone 12 Mini deals

Right now, you can get £100 off the iPhone 12 mini from Amazon, which is offering the market-leading price. It also has £75 off the new purple version.

Top retailers for iPhone 12 mini:

Best iPhone 12 Mini SIM-free deals

Below are some of the best SIM-free and contract deals around on the iPhone 12 mini

Best iPhone 12 Mini Deals Apple iPhone 12 mini (64GB)

1

From: Amazon

Was: £579

Now: £516.97 (£62.03 off)

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 mini, unlimited data & free Nintendo Switch

2

From: Mobile Phones Direct

Now: £44.99 upfront, £46 per month

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 mini (128GB)

3

From: Amazon

Was: £629

Now: £569 (£60 off)

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 mini with AirPods 2

4

From: Virgin

Now: From £29 per month (2GB)

View Deal

At time of writing the firm is offering a half-price deal on its 30GB data contract which may work out cheaper than the 2GB offer, at least in the short term.

Apple iPhone 12 mini (64GB) – Good condition

5

From: UR

Was: £579

Now: From £259.95 (£319.05 off)

View Deal

Plus, UR provides a case, glass screen protector, a 12-month warranty and 12 months of insurance against theft and accidental damage.

Apple iPhone 12 mini (64GB) – Renewed

6

From: Amazon

Was: £579

Now: £373.99 (£205.01 off)

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 mini (256GB)

7

From: Amazon

Was: £729

Now: £619.99 (£109.01 off)

View Deal

Best iPhone 12 Mini contract deals

Below are all the network providers offering the iPhone 12 mini. We’ve highlighted the best value offers across each provider for you:

Affordable Mobiles – 100GB data for £34 per month, no upfront cost

Carphone Warehouse – Free Homepod Mini with select deals – plans start at £29.99 upfront, £34 per month for 20GB data

EE – £55 per month, £30 upfront for 100GB data

O2 – £42.95 per month, £30 upfront for 30GB data over 36 months (£360 off with trade-in, and 6 months of Disney+, Prime Video or another streaming app)

Sky Mobile – £25 per month (usually £27) for 2GB data (no upfront cost) 

Three – Free AirPods, Beats Flex, case + screen protector, or Powerbeats Pro, plan

Virgin Mobile – £35 per month, no upfront cost for 30GB data with free Airpods

Vodafone – £49 per month, £49 upfront for 6GB data with choice of Amazon Prime, YouTube Premium or Spotify with purple iPhone 12 mini pre-order

Best iPhone 12 deals Best iPhone 12 deals SIM-free

You can find £75 off the iPhone 12 from most retailers right now, though Amazon has up to £80 off (including the 128GB option). Amazon also has £75 off the purple iPhone 12

Below are the top SIM-free deals across all retailers:

Best iPhone 12 deals on contract

Carphone Warehouse is giving away a free HomePod mini with select contract deals, while Three is bundling free AirPods, Powerbeats Pro or Beats Flex with iPhone 12 deals.

Below are some of the deals we’ve highlighted across leading UK network providers for the iPhone 12:

Carphone Warehouse – 1000GB data for £43 per month, £49.99 upfront with free HomePod Mini

EE – 10GB data for £55 per month, £50 upfront

O2 – Unlimited data for £30 upfront, £49.37 per month with free Disney Plus (or Amazon Prime Video) for 6 months

Tesco Mobile – 6GB data for £34.49 per month with free Tesco Clubcard Plus (36 months)

Three – Free AirPods, Powerbeats Pro, or Beats Flex – plans start at £37 per month, £210 upfront

Sky Mobile – 2GB data for £29 per month, no upfront cost

Virgin – Free Apple AirPods Pro on plans starting from £35 per month for 1GB data

Vodafone – £57 per month, £19 upfront with free Amazon Prime, Spotify or YouTube Premium for 2 years

Voxi – £44 per month for 12GB data with unlimited social media and video streaming, no upfront cost (30 months)

If none of the deals above catch your eye, you can compare iPhone 12 contract deals based on your budget using the tool below:

var tdsPcInpageConfig = { widget: { elementId: “tds-widget”, portal: “ukTelecom”, token: “6fb1fec4-fa7e-4833-a3bf-5e093a83c56d “, widget: “inDepth_default_proposition”, limits: { phoneId: [1932,1934,1933] } } }

Retailer

Price

$961.34

View Deal

Best iPhone 12 Pro deals on contract

You can also get the free HomePod mini or a pair of AirPods from Carphone Warehouse when you buy the iPhone 12 Pro. Below are some of the deals we’d recommend from leading network providers for the iPhone 12 Pro.

Carphone Warehouse -100GB data with free HomePod mini for £55 per month, £79 upfront, or 10GB data for £49.99 per month and £99 upfront with free AirPods

EE –  100GB data for £80 per month, £50 upfront with streaming add-on

O2 –  100GB data for £56.10 per month, £30 upfront – get £360 off with trade-in and free Disney Plus (or Amazon Prime Video) for 6 months

Three – Free AirPods, Beat Flex or Powerbeats Pro – plans start at £49 per month, £230 upfront for 4GB data with free Beats Flex

Sky Mobile – £41 per month for 2GB data (reduced from £47), no upfront cost.

Virgin – 30GB of data for £46 per month (reduced from £50), no upfront cost (36 months)

Vodafone – £82 per month, £49 upfront for 25GB data with choice of Amazon Prime, Spotify or YouTube Premium for free

Voxi – £52 per month with 12GB data with unlimited social media and video streaming, free next day delivery

Tesco Mobile – 6GB data for £39.99 (36 months) with free Tesco Clubcard Plus

Best iPhone 12 Pro Max deals Best iPhone 12 Pro Max SIM-free deals

Retailer

Price

$989.91

View Deal

Below are some of the best SIM-free deals on the iPhone 12 Pro Max right now:

Best iPhone 12 Pro Max Deals Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max – 128GB – Good condition

1

From: Back Market

Was: £1,099

Now: £479.99 (£619.01 off)

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB, refurbished)

2

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £1,099

Now: £709.99 (£389.01 off)

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max with AirPods Pro

3

From: Three

Now: From £68 per month, £99 upfront

View Deal

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max with 100GB data

4

From: Fonehouse

Now: £59 per month, no upfront cost

View Deal

Best iPhone 12 Pro Max contract deals

Carphone Warehouse – Best deal: Free Apple Homepod Mini, £49.99 upfront, £59.99 per month for 20GB 4G data

EE – Best deal: 100GB data for £86 per month, £50 upfront, includes 1 Smart Benefit (choice of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and more)

Fonehouse – Best deal: 100GB data for £55 per month, £134.99 upfront with Three 

O2 – Best deal: £59.10 per month, £30 upfront for 100GB data (was 90GB) over 36 months (£360 off with trade-in, 6 months of Disney+, Amazon Prime or another streaming app)

Sky Mobile – Best Deal: Starts at £45 per month, no upfront cost for 2GB data (higher data allowances available) 

Three – Best Deal: Free AirPods, Beat Flex or Powerbeats Pro – plans start at £56 per month, £99 upfront

Virgin Mobile –  Best Deal: £51 per month, no upfront cost for 30GB data (36 months)

Vodafone – Best Deal: £83 per month, £29 upfront for 6GB data and choice of Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, or YouTube Premium

AT&T (US) – Starts at $36.67 per month

When did the iPhone 12 phones go on sale? 

The iPhone 12 range launch is a little more staggered than it has been in previous years. 

The first iPhones available were the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, both released on 23 October.

Those waiting for the smaller iPhone 12 mini or ultra-high-end iPhone 12 Pro Max have had to wait a little longer. The good news is that the Mini and Pro Max were both released on 13 November, and are now available to buy worldwide.

Apple announced the purple variant of the iPhone 12 and 12 mini at its Spring Loaded event on 20 April. The handsets became available to pre-order on 23 April and will ship on 30 April.

What’s new with the iPhone 12 range? 

The iPhone 12 range is so exciting because there are a lot of changes on offer. The most noticeable is the design, which steps away from curved edges to something altogether more angular and reminiscent of the iPad Pro and even the iPhone 5. 

That new design also means Apple has expanded the size of the display of most of the range without impacting the overall footprint, with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro sporting a 6.1in display and the iPhone 12 Pro Max sporting a 6.7in display. There’s also the iPhone 12 Mini, with a 5.4in display in the same form factor as the original 4.7in iPhone SE.  

Let’s not forget the 5nm A14 Bionic, which Apple is calling the fastest chipset in any smartphone right now, with boosts to CPU, GPU and Neural Engine performance and, of course, 5G connectivity is standard across the entire range. There’s also MagSafe for iPhone – a new magnetic system that allows for improved wireless charging performance and opens the door for a new range of accessories. 

You’ve got new features specific to the iPhone 12 Pro range, including the ability to record and edit Dolby Vision content directly via the Camera and Photos apps. There are also features specific to the top-end iPhone 12 Pro Max, including a new DSLR-esque OIS (optical image stabilisation) system, a larger camera sensor, for a huge boost to low-light photography and the inclusion of a LiDAR sensor for lightning-fast autofocus capabilities.  

Believe it or not, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s new with the iPhone 12 range. If you want to know more, take a look at  everything you need to know about the iPhone 12 range, and if you’re wondering about the specific differences between the Pro models, we’ve got a piece on the iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max alongside our full iPhone 12 review.

While you’re here, you may also be interested in the best iPhone 12 and 12 Pro cases. 

Read next: Best Google Pixel 5 deals

Related stories for further reading

The Difference Between A Cpu And A Gpu

CPUs and GPUs are pretty similar. They’re both made from hundreds of millions of transistors and can process thousands of operations per second. But what’s the difference between a CPU and a GPU?

What Is a CPU?

The CPU (central processing unit) of a computer is often called the “brain” of a computer. It’s a collection of millions of transistors that can be manipulated to perform an awesome variety of calculations. A standard CPU has between one and four processing cores clocked anywhere from 1 to 4 GHz.

A CPU is powerful because it can do everything. If a computer is capable of accomplishing a task, it’s because the CPU can do it. Programmers achieve this through broad instruction sets and long feature lists shared by all CPUs.

What Is a GPU?

A GPU (graphics processing unit) is a specialized type of microprocessor. It’s optimized to display graphics and do very specific computational tasks. It runs at a lower clock speed than a CPU but has many times the number of processing cores.

You can almost think of a GPU as a specialized CPU that’s been built for a very specific purpose. Video rendering is all about doing simple mathematical operations over and over again, and that’s what a GPU is best at. A GPU will have thousands of processing cores running simultaneously. Each core, though slower than a CPU core, is tuned to be especially efficient at the basic mathematical operations required for video rendering. This massive parallelism is what makes GPUs capable of rendering the complex 3D graphics required by modern games.

What’s the Difference Between a CPU and a GPU?

If a CPU is a Leatherman, a GPU is a very sharp knife. You can’t tighten a hex bolt with a knife, but you can definitely cut some stuff.

A GPU can only do a fraction of the many operations a CPU does, but it does so with incredible speed. A GPU will use hundreds of cores to make time-sensitive calculations for thousands of pixels at a time, making it possible to display complex 3D graphics. However, as fast as a GPU can go, it can only really perform “dumb” operations.

For example, a modern GPU like the Nvidia GTX 1080 has 2560 shader cores. Thanks to those cores, it can execute 2560 instructions, or operations, during one clock cycle. And when you need to make a screen’s worth of pixels one percent brighter, that’s perfect. By comparison, a four-core Intel i5 CPU can only execute four simultaneous instructions per clock cycle.

However, CPUs are more flexible than GPUs. CPUs have a larger instruction set, so they can perform a wider range of tasks. CPUs also run at higher maximum clock speeds and are capable of managing the input and output of all of a computer’s components. For example, CPUs can organize and integrate with virtual memory, which is essential for running a modern operating system. That’s just not something a GPU can accomplish.

What About GPU Computation?

Even though GPUs are best at video rendering, they are technically capable of doing more. Graphics processing is only one kind of repetitive and highly-parallel computing task. Other tasks like bitcoin mining and password cracking rely on the same kinds of massive data sets and simple mathematical operations. That’s why some folks will use GPUs to run non-graphical operations. This is best known as “GPU computation.”

Conclusion

CPUs and GPUs have similar purposes but are optimized for different computing tasks. An efficient computer will need both to run properly.

Image credit: Mmanss (Own work)

Alexander Fox

Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.

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