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Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Fully-loaded!

Three things stand out in the new iPhone 13 Pro Max and they are photography, display, and battery life, and all these perform exceptionally well
ohit KVN
Last Updated : 26 October 2021, 10:01 IST
Last Updated : 26 October 2021, 10:01 IST
Last Updated : 26 October 2021, 10:01 IST
Last Updated : 26 October 2021, 10:01 IST

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Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
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Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Apple's new iPhone 13 series made its way to India in late September. Like the predecessors, it comes in four variants-- regular iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, and the 13 Pro Max.

As the name suggests, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best of the lot. The new model looks identical to the predecessor but comes with better photography hardware, a bigger battery, and a new display. I have been using it for a little over a week and here are my thoughts on Apple's most powerful iPhone to date.

Design, build quality, and display
When looked at from a bit far apart, the iPhone 13 Pro Max resembles the same as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but there are a couple of discernible changes.

On the back, Apple has incorporated a huge triple camera module with bigger lens sizes on the new model. Another change is the smaller notch in the display panel. When placed side-by-side with the 2020-series model, the difference is huge.

The company says it has reduced the size of the notch by 20 percent, but visually the front camera compartment looks much smaller compared to the predecessor. However, the extra space up top is underutilised. It would have been great if Apple had made adjustments to incorporate battery percentage reading within the battery cell icon in the top right corner.

Apple always uses premium materials to build iPhones. This time too, the iPhone 13 Pro Max features surgery-grade stainless steel for the rails around the edge and comes with the Ceramic Shield on both the front and the back. Developed jointly by Apple and Corning, the phone protective gear is touted to be the toughest glass shield for mobile in the industry.

I did not dare to try any drop test to check the durability of the phone, but happy to note that it has got no scratches for the past one and half weeks. I haven't put any additional screen guard and so far, it has managed to remain scar-free.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max with an Apple leather case. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
The iPhone 13 Pro Max with an Apple leather case. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Speaking of build materials, Apple says the new iPhone 13 Pro series is made with the most environmentally-friendly process. The device's components now have 98 per cent recycled rare earth materials, 99 per cent recycled tungsten used in taptic engine and on the screen's electrodes, and 100 per cent recycled gold and tin used in main logic board plate.

Also, the antenna bands and 10 other components of the device are made of recycled plastic.

Add to that, the retail package of all the new iPhone 13 series no longer comes with any plastic wraps or content and thereby reducing 600 metric tonnes of plastic from entering the environment. The package is said to be made of 100 per cent wood fiber developed using recycled material, procured from responsible sources.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with an IP68 rating, meaning the device can survive underwater for up to six metres for close to 30 minutes.

However, given the high cost of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I still recommend prospective buyers to purchase a screen guard or at least get a phone case to protect the device from accidental falls.

Apple offers three varieties of cases--polycarbonate transparent cases, rubbery silicone, and leather. There are third-party brands too such as Spigen. They too have good collections.

As far as the display is concerned, it features a massive 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2778x1284p) with ProMotion technology.

Depending on the type of the tasks such as web browsing, gaming, watching videos, the device's display panel can intelligently adjust the refresh rate from as low as 10Hz to 120Hz max.

Thanks to the new tech, browsing the web and navigating on the phone has definitely improved a lot, but most of the third-party apps are yet to support ProMotion. Nevertheless, it will only get better over time.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with a Pixel density of 458 ppi (pixels per inch), True Tone technology, HDR, and offers a peak brightness of up to 1200 nits.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Apple in a bid to encourage app developers to join their effort of offering a better user experience for consumers has opened a website (here) detailing instructions on how they can optimise ProMotion refresh rates on their respective apps for iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Pro series.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Despite the decreased size of the FaceID module of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it works flawlessly. In the early days, it failed to open the screen with a facemask on, even with an Apple Watch.

A software glitch caused the iPhone 13 series to lose connection with the companion Apple Watch. Thankfully, just a few days ago, Apple released a patch iOS 15.0.1 and this resolved the issue.

[Note: In April 2021, Apple released watchOS 7.4 and iOS 14.5 with a face unlock feature. Once updated, it allowed users to unlock the iPhone X and newer models with Apple Watch Series 3 (& new versions) when he/she attempt to use Face ID while wearing a face mask]

In other normal scenarios and even at night with pitch darkness, FaceID instantly recognises the face and unlocks the screen quickly.

Performance
The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes packed with new generation 5nm class 64-bit architecture Apple A15 Bionic. It houses 15 billion transistors, a 6-core CPU with two performance and four efficiency cores in addition to a dedicated 5-core GPU, a new 16-core Neural Engine, and an advanced Image Signal Processor (ISP). It is capable of performing 15.8 trillion operations per second.

With this, it promises to offer 50 per cent better CPU performance and 30 per cent faster graphics processing over the A14 Bionic. Also, it is said to be much superior compared to the nearest Android competitors, which house Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 silicon.

Does it live to the hype?
Absolutely Yes. I may sound cliched, but have to say, the iPhone 13 Pro Max performs buttery smooth.

During the entire review period, Apple's new mobile never showed even the slightest hint of lag-ness in any activity be it loading apps, browsing the internet, operating the camera, and most importantly while playing games.

I tested the iPhone 13 Pro Max on the AnTuTu performance benchmarking app, and it scored an impressive 8,71,243 points, several leagues, ahead of any Android rival.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Battery life

Unlike Android phone-makers, Apple never reveals the battery capacity of iPhones. But, it does mention that the device will be able to playback videos for these many hours. The new iPhone 13 Pro Max supposedly can play up to 28 hours of videos straight with a full charge, the longest for any iPhone to date.

In real-life usage terms, the iPhone 13 Pro Max does live up to the hype. I was able to use it for two days without any charging in between. My daily routine starts at 6:30 am and read all the notifications and be ready to leave for office by around 8:30 and reach by around 10:15 am. Yes, it's a long commute, but I prefer to travel on a bus and get time to catch up on all the morning news alerts and also spend some time on social media platforms. Once, I reach the office, I limit the iPhone usage just to read WhatsApp messages and emails. Later in the evening, while traveling back home, I watch videos on OTT apps, movie trailers on YouTube and browse social media platforms.

I have to add that I usually download content from OTT apps at home the previous day via Wi-Fi and this helps reduce the draining of the phone's battery when outside. With this arrangement, I was able to get two full days on the iPhone 13 Pro Max with a single charge.

By the time, I retire for the day around 11:00 pm, it had more 60 per cent on day one. The next night, it had around 15 per cent left with low power mode on.

I'd like to note that some days when I indulged in binge-watching on YouTube a bit more than usual, I activated low battery mode to keep the background activities of other apps under check and extend my screen time on the device.

I never play games on a phone, but for the sake of testing the full capabilities of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I played Asphalt 9: Legends for a little over an hour a day. With this, I have been able to get the full day's battery with more than 40 percent juice still left in the tank.

Besides Asphalt 9: Legends, there are more exciting games to try. You should check out the Apple Arcade section to get the best ad-free games.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Photography
Besides the screen and the battery, another biggest upgrade you can expect in the new iPhone 13 series is the camera hardware.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

it should be noted that there was a disparity in the previous iPhone 12 Pro (review) and 12 Pro Max (review) series. The latter model had bigger sensors. But, this time, both the iPhone 13 Pro and the 13 Pro Max have the same 12MP triple-cameras.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

In the iPhone 13 Pro series, Apple has incorporated an all-new 12MP Wide camera that has a larger sensor with 1.9 µm pixels, the largest ever on iPhone. Coupled with a larger f/1.5 aperture, it promises less noise and faster shutter speeds, capture even more detailed photos in low-lit conditions.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The Ultra-Wide 12MP camera also features a much wider ƒ/1.8 aperture and a new autofocus system, that promises a 92 percent improvement for low-light environments, to produce images that are brighter and sharper.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It also comes with a bigger 77mm 12MP Telephoto sensor. It now supports 3x optical zoom for a total 6x optical zoom range on the camera system.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample with ultra wide-angle mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample with ultra wide-angle mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample with normal wide-angle mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample with normal wide-angle mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample with 3X optical zoom mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample with 3X optical zoom mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The iPhone 13 Pro series also supports Macro mode, a first for any iPhone. It promises to capture sharp, stunning images where objects appear larger than life, magnifying subjects with a minimum focus distance of 2 centimeters. Users can also shoot close-up macro videos including Slo-mo and Time-lapse.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As you can see in the sample photos, Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max takes stunning pictures across all lighting conditions. They are sharp, near-natural, and detailed. This time, Apple has offered five photography styles-- standard, rich contrast, vibrant, warm and cool.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Each style offers a unique flavour to the photos in terms of the colour tones of the subject, the scene both foreground and the background. It comes in handy to get more variety of the same photo and is worth sharing on social media platforms.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The macro shots have come really good too. The pictures capture minute details of subjects such as flowers. The tiny pollens look more vibrant with colourful petals in the background. Also, the phone managed to get tiny bristles on the legs of the spider and also vein patterns on the wings of dragonfly clearly.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Even the night mode pictures too look really good and manage to capture more realistic colours of the scene.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max with night mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max with night mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Like the previous iPhones, Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max once again set a new benchmark for video recording. This time, Apple is offering Cinematic mode, which can capture high-quality video bytes with dynamic shallow depth of field features. The transformation of autofocus on the faces of the people in the scene is silky smooth. Users can even change the focus of a person even after the recording is done. This is by far the best camera phone in the market in 2021.

Apple is slated to release a new software update to bring a 4K ProRes video recording feature exclusive to iPhone 13 Pro and the 13 Pro Max. It promises to capture the highest quality possible video on a phone. We have come to understand that just one minute of video footage in ProRes will be around 1.5GB to 5.5GB. We are keen to test it out, but for now, we have to wait.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On the front, it features a 12MP TrueDepth camera. It is capable of recording up to 4K videos and also supports all six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono) of the Portrait lighting modes. It takes brilliant selfies in all light conditions.

Final thoughts
Three things stand out in the new iPhone 13 Pro Max and they are photography, display, and battery life, and all these work exceptionally well. The major credit has to go to the new A15 Bionic chipset.

I have seen phones with support for 120Hz screen refresh rate offering excellent viewing experience, but struggle to offer a full day even with a 5,000mAh battery.

However, the new Apple silicon with deeper integration with sensitive display sensors on the iPhone 13 Pro series manage to efficiently rationalize the power usage and dynamically change the refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz for different activities from browsing to gaming to ensure the device delivers longer battery life and by the way, it excels brilliantly.

I was able to use the phone for two days straight without any anxiety of it dying in the middle of the day. If you are an extreme user who plays games a lot and also binge on videos, the iPhone 13 Pro Max will deliver a full day with at least 30-to-20 per cent juice left in the tank.

As told before, iPhone 13 Pro Max takes photography experience a notch up over the predecessors and several levels above compared to the rival brands. Right now, it is the best camera phone in the market. Period.

Who should buy Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max?
For the iPhone 12 Pro owners, it is an incrementable upgrade and I suggest they can continue their current handset for another year if not two.

However, for those with iPhone 11 or older models, they should get the iPhone 13 Pro series. You will definitely see the major difference in user experience in almost all aspects.

And, if you are an Android phone owner thinking of jumping the ship, you can go either for the regular iPhone 13 or the 13 Pro. If you have more cash to splurge, get the iPhone 13 Pro Max. You won't regret it.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro price starts at Rs 1,19,900 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max begins at Rs 1,29,900. They are available in graphite, gold, silver, and sierra blue colours. Also, consumers get four storage options--128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and all-new 1TB.

Get the latest news on new launches, gadget reviews, apps, cybersecurity, and more on personal technology only on DH Tech.

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Published 06 October 2021, 14:11 IST

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