Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max is its top of the range flagship with minor refreshes. But for the enthusiast and those coming from older iPhone models from a few years ago, the features bundled into the smartphone make it a tempting upgrade.
Design and build
The iPhone 13 Pro Max looks more or less like its predecessor. It is heavier at 240g and also thicker at 7.65mm. Given that the smartphone retains its sharp rectangular design, this may be a good thing. Because we feel it gives you a bit more grip and makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max a bit easier to hold in one hand. Although we would have liked to see some more noticeable improvements to its ergonomics. Sometimes, that large form factor in smaller hands becomes unweildy.
On the back, the smartphone has a noticeably larger camera bump and protrusion. But beyond that, you do not find many more differences. There is Ceramic Shield protection on the front, a textured matte glass on the back and a stainless steel frame. The latter immediately attracts smudges and fingerprints so that is something worth noting. We would have liked Apple to make this a bit more smudge resistant given it was a prevalent issue last year as well. But alas, it remains the same. And to tackle everyday water and dust, the iPhone 13 Pro is also IP68 certified.
With a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the largest iPhone in this years lineup. It also sports a 20 per-cent smaller notch for Face ID which makes the overall screen on the phone feel bigger. However, there are some bigger differences beyond that. The display features a higher brightness of 1,000 nits and a faster refresh rate up to 120Hz thanks to ProMotion. With this change, the iPhone 13 Pro Max feels extremely smooth when it comes to animations. General use definitely feels a lot more iPad Pro like. However, we feel Apple could have bumped up the speed of the animations slightly too for an even snappier effect.
Regardless, the change to 120Hz is welcome and puts the iPhone 13 Pro Max on par with all other Android flagships. And the experience is not capped at this refresh rate either. Depending on the content on screen, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’ refresh rate varies between 10-120Hz in order to optimise your display experience and power consumption.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is equipped with Apple’s latest A15 Bionic CPU. But unlike the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, it sports a few tweaks. There is a new 6-core CPU and a 5-core GPU here alongside a 16-core Neural Engine. The GPU is the big difference with an extra core and we will be testing how this compares with gaming in the next couple of days. So far though, everything seems to be working well with 6GB of RAM and iOS 15. We also want to add here that there are not many games optimised for that full 120Hz experience from the display but the ones that do work are glorious. Hopefully with time, developers get on board to optimise more games for this newer hardware as we think the core performance from the A15 Bionic will not be a bottleneck here whatsoever. We just hope the smartphone’s thermal management can keep up.
Much of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’ biggest upgrades come in the camera department. Here, you find a triple 12MP setup with upgraded sensors. And unlike last year, the cameras on the Pro and Pro Max variants are the same. The wide and ultra-wide angle cameras now capture more light in varying scenarios and that is evident. We found that camera quality remained good even when using the ultra-wide angle in low-light situations, an area where the smartphone struggled last year. Moreover, the lens also doubles as a macro-photography camera for close up images so long as you are in ample light.
“A new setting will be added in a software update this fall to turn off automatic camera switching when shooting at close distances for macro photography and video” says Apple.
As for the telephoto camera, it sees a slight upgrade to 3x optical zoom. While it is not much, for people who like zooming into faraway subjects, the extra range could be useful. But beyond those changes, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also focuses on video capabilities. Here, you get Cinematic mode, which even on the Pro versions is capped at 1080p 30fps, just like the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. But essentially, this will allow the iPhone 13 Pro Max to record portrait videos with a cinematic look and a blurred background. Continuing this trend of high-end video, you also find Pro-Res video support on the iPhone 13 Pro Max for the absolute enthusiasts. But this only works for variants with 256GB of storage or higher.
According to Apple, the iPhone 13 Pro Max will deliver up to 2.5 hours of extra battery life compared to its predecessor. And we assume this will be due to its power optimisation and larger battery capacity. Although we do not know the exact capacity of the battery. Given that we have only used the smartphone for a short time, judging battery life is difficult. Although over the next few days, we should get a good idea of whether the real world improvements are as impressive as Apple claims.
Pricing and availability
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at Dh4,699. It is currently available to pre-order and will be available to buy starting September 24 in four different colours. Stay tuned for our full review coming shortly.