iPhone 15 Pro Max review: scope the difference

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iPhone 15 Pro Max review: scope the difference

iPhone 15 Pro Max Intro


The Pro Max is — as usual — the biggest, meanest, best iPhone you can buy right now. Apple came out swinging with a new processor — the A17 Pro is built on a 3 nm process and can run console-grade games (literally — Assassin's Creed: Mirage, Resident Evil 4, and others coming).

There's also a new zoom lens — Apple finally dipped a toe in the zoom wars with a new 5x tetraprism lens. It doesn't expand up to 100x with software optimizations, no. But, with in-sensor cropping, Apple now provides zoom steps between 1x, 2x, 3x, and 5x for multiple framing choices.

Of course, the titanium frame is also a new selling point, and it comes with new brushed finishes, which is peak industrial design.

The entry price, however, also grew. Technically, Apple did not increase the price of the iPhone 15 Pro Max... it simply removed the cheapest 128 GB storage option. Now, the Pro Max starts at 256 GB, and that'll be $1,200, please. Honestly, this has been a long time coming — with the focus on camera and gaming for these iPhones, serious powerusers would barely even look at the 128 GB option, and high-res video recording wasn't available on the base iPhone 14 Pro Max, for example.

7.6
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
What we like
  • Cool new titanium frame
  • Action Button opens up more possibilities
  • Speakers are great as always
What we don't like
  • Color options are a bit limited
  • Action Button needs fleshing out — it only does one thing
  • Doesn't come with USB 3 cable in the box
7.6
PhoneArena Rating
7.2
Price Class Average
Battery Life
7.4
7.1
Photo Quality
7.6
7.3
Video Quality
6.9
6.7
Charging
4.6
5.8
Performance Peak
6.7
6
Performance Daily
7.4
6.9
Display Quality
8
8
Design
8
7.5
Wireless Charging
6.7
6.4
Biometrics
8
8
Audio
8
8
Software
10
8
Why the score?
This device scores 5.3% better than the average for this price class, which includes devices like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
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As you can see above, the iPhone 15 Pro Max total review score is lower than you might expect. That is not because the phone is flawed in some unexpected ways, but because we have implemented a new rating system at PhoneArena that gives readers a better idea of the performance of a phone across different categories. Remember to look at the scores and compare them to the average for the class, and we believe you will find these scores tremendously useful. Learn more about the new PhoneArena Smartphone Review Rating system here.

Let's start with a look at...

What’s new in iPhone 15 Pro Max

  • New titanium build material
  • Weighs less than before
  • Faster A17 Pro processor
  • USB Type-C charging and data port with USB 3 speeds
  • New 5x zoom camera
  • Camera now shoots 24 MP photos, instead of 12 MP
  • Same screen size, thinner bezels
  • New Action Button instead of Mute switch

Table of Contents:

Also read:

iPhone 15 Pro Max Unboxing



The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in a very slim box, which is nice, but that also means that there is no charging brick in there. Hardly a surprise, but still worth mentioning.

What you do get in the box is a braided USB-C cable in white, but do keep in mind that this is a USB 2 cable, while the iPhone itself supports the USB 3 standard, so if you want to use these faster transfer rates, you would need to purchase a USB 3 cable separately. Thankfully, any USB 3 or Thunderbolt compatible cable will work, you don't need to shell out for MFi, specifically.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Specs

Another year another processor... oh, is that USB C?

Here's a quick overview of the numbers that matter, but for a full specs sheet, do check iPhone 15 Pro Max specs:


It's no shock that we get a new processor again, sure. However, the new Apple A17 Pro chip has earned a new name — not Bionic, it's called the Apple A17 Pro. It now allows for USB 3 speeds for data transfers over the USB C port (10 gigabits per second or 20 times faster than USB 2.0 and Lightning).

iPhone 15 Pro Max Design & Colors

Attack on Titanium


The iPhone 15 Pro Max looks very much like iPhone 14 Pro Max before it, but there are some notable differences. One, the frame is now a brushed titanium finish, so no more smudges on a stainless steel frame. It still does collect fingerprints, but we find it to be less egregious than before. Secondly, the bezels around the iPhone 15 Pro Max's screen are noticeably thinner, making the entire phone ever so slightly smaller.

The corners have also been beveled — they don't have a sharp edge jabbing into your palm, but feel soft as they press against your hand. Personally, I prefer the old iPhones' jabbyness — the iPhone 15 Pro Max already feels a bit slippery with its brushed titanium finish, and those rounded edges further made me feel like I don't have a good grip on the phone.

The rest is as it should be — a massive camera bump with three lenses on the back, flat sides, and a screen with a Dynamic Island cutout on the front. That latter thing is, if you haven't been following, a black cutout in the screen, top center area. It houses the selfie camera and the Face ID sensors, but Apple also found a way to make it feel "intentional". The software draws animated widgets around the cutout whenever you have tasks running in the background, so it kind of "hides" the Face ID sensors by pretending that it's all a widget.

I didn't mind the notch before the Dynamic Island a whole lot, since it didn't cut into 16:9 content. The Dynamic Island does sit slightly lower, so it does slightly clip in some videos, or photos, and most certainly — presists in full-screen games. The animated widgets and "mini taskbar" vibe it gives off are nice, for sure, but I do wish Apple found a way to push the Island just a tad more out closer to the frame. Or, you know, maybe finally get on the "under-screen selfie camera" tech. Admittedly, the tech for that may be tough to develop for massive production to satisfy the iPhone demand.

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The combo of power and volume buttons are also untouched, but a staple of the iPhone — the mute switch — has been removed from the iPhone 15 Pro series. Instead, we get a new Action button that works similarly to the one found on an Apple Watch Ultra.

By default, the Action button will still function as a mute switch. But you can also customize it to do various actions upon holding it down — turn on the flashlight, open an app, enter a Focus Mode, but best of all you can use the Shortcuts app to do literally anything and everything. Some clever suggestions include setting the Action button to run the Google Assistant, start a Spotify playlist, so there's some good room for customization there.

Unfortunately, the Action Button can only do one thing, which is kind of a letdown. It would've been nice for a single click to still toggle between mute and sound on. Then, have the hold-down gesture to launch your custom action. But, as it is right now, once you tie that Action Button to one specific thing. Personally, I have it set up for the flashlight, but quick-launching the camera is a close second favorite.

The iPhone 15 Pro colors this time are even more muted and non-intrusive than before. Or should we say non-inspiring?  OK, we have the Natural Titanium, which is a light beige-ish or brown-ish tint, and looks kind of cool, awesome, industrial. Then, a White Titanium, which kind of covers the same base, but OK — if you want a more clean look that's there. Then, there's the Black Titanium and Blue Titanium, both of which are dark and muted takes.

Some people do like the new colors, but it seems that titanium did come with its own challenges. We just don't have a color that "pops" in this series. And, while we have not tested this on our units ourselves, the Internet claims that it may be a bit too easy to scratch the paint off the new titanium-framed iPhones. So, maybe the Natural Titanium is the best way to go with the 15 Pro models?

iPhone 15 Pro Max Display



The iPhone 15 Pro Max sticks to a 6.7-inch OLED panel, as before. And yes, it still has the Dynamic Island cutout we first saw on the 14 Pro series. 

We get to enjoy that 120 Hz ProMotion refresh rate, the Always On feature (which used to be a bit too "on", but iOS settings now let us tone it down), and super-high peak brightness capabilities for watching HDR video in any situation.

There was no upgrade to the peak brightness in 2023, but that's fine — 2,000 nits peak is still plenty of light, more than you would typically need.

Display Benchmarks



In our lab tests, we found similar results as the previous model, but we hoped for lower minimum brightness for more comfortable use of the phone in bed, but that has not happened. If you find it too bothersome, experiment with the "Lower white point" option in the Accessibility settings. You can also set it as a shortcut for the Action Button or triple-tapping the power button.

Color accuracy is great, as always, but still — Apple has been struggling with the pure whites ever since it started using OLED screens. There's still a slight yellowish or greenish tint applied to any background that is pure white. However, if you are one that uses True Tone — you will rarely consider it being a problem, since the iPhone will constantly be shifting color temperature to match your ambient lighting conditions.

Then again, as seen in the benchmark results above, Samsung and Google do have the same struggle with their own OLED panels.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Camera

Up periscope! Uh... I mean — up tetraprism!


Speaking of cameras, we have put the iPhone 15 Pro Max through our new in-depth camera testing, with each camera getting its own score and then one final score for the whole camera system. You can learn more about our rating process by checking out the PhoneArena Camera Score benchmark page.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the familiar triple camera with a LiDAR system, and now uses its internal room to house a new 5x zoom lens (120 mm equivalent).

  • 48 MP main/wide camera
  • 12 MP ultra-wide
  • 12 MP 5x zoom telephoto lens

Of course, that 48 MP sensor was introduced with the iPhone 14 Pro series and was a leap from the 12 MP of before. But, this time, Apple improves the way it processes data from that sensor. Instead of taking 12 MP photos by default, we now get 24 MP pictures for more detail without sacrificing light data thanks to upgraded Photonic Engine and HDR algorithms.


The differences are small but not negligible. The iPhone 15 Pro's photos look less oversharpened, shadows and highlights in dynamic scenes blend more naturally into one another, and general visibility inside shadowed areas is improved.

The telephoto lens now has a tetraprism design, which allows for a 5x optical zoom — that's an upgrade over the previous year's 3x. When you punch in the digital zoom, the iPhone 15 Pro Max can go up to 25x, which is up from the previous model's 15x.


What about zoom levels between 1x and 5x? Especially for portrait shots? Well, Apple is very confident in its ability to harness the power of the 48 MP sensor to give us "lossless" zoom not only 2X (48mm), but now also at 1.2X (28mm) and 1.5X (35mm). These are super popular focal lengths and you can even set your iPhone to default to say a 1.5X mode, which is definitely something we will do.

However, there's a give-and-take here — naturally, if you use the main sensor for 2x or 3x Portrait Mode shots, you lose that 24 MP default resolution. We are back to 12 MP, so portraits don't really look that much better than last generation's iPhones, which were able to use a 3x telephoto camera for them. But they also don't look worse!


You can definitely see a big improvement in quality at 5X and 10X zoom levels with clean detail and excellent stabilization, so shots turn out crisp both during the day and in low light.

You can now also shoot 48 MP photos in HEIF instead of RAW, which is much more storage-efficient. And, thanks to the USB 3 port, videographers can record 4K 60 FPS footage in ProRes straight to an external storage device for easier transfer of work files.


One thing that has not changed much is the ultra-wide camera, which still takes 12 MP shots, so it does not quite have the impressive detail of the new main camera. If we were the betting kind, we would bet on an upgraded ultra-wide camera in the next iPhone 16 Pro series.


Selfies are another area which has remained mostly the same with some tweaks to skin tones and HDR processing, but nothing major.

Low Light Photo Quality



The main camera captures clean, detailed shots in low light with improvements to Smart HDR. Again, the improvement over the previous generation is small, but visible in the tiny details, which come out sharper and more natural.


The ultra-wide camera captures similar photos as before — maybe with slightly better visibility in the shadows, but no major improvements here.


With the 5X camera you win some, but you also lose some. Notice that at 3X zoom the level of detail is quite low simply because you no longer have a 3X lens on this phone, but when you go to 5X the quality is really improved and even at 10X in night time conditions you get a plenty good picture (even if it has some noise).

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

When it comes to video quality, the iPhone 15 Pro Max remains unbeaten: you get super crisp footage with excellent video stabilization at up to 4K60 quality.

The new 5X zoom lens will definitely come in handy for videographers, giving you more freedom when framing scenes and setting up shots. It also helps that its stabilization is excellent.

Video Thumbnail

The real kicker, however, is USB-C and ProRes. Yes, you can record directly to an SSD, and yes, it's as easy as plug and play, an icon appears in the camera app and all your footage goes to a separate folder on the SSD. Incredibly easy and the ProRes quality is just really, really impressive. Of course, that remains a very niche and pro feature: ProRes video is ginormous and just one minute can take nearly 15GB of space, but those who care about video will absolutely love it.

Spatial Video


Of course, do remember that Apple is preparing for an AR / VR future, with the Apple Vision Pro slated for release in H1 of 2024. To make sure you can start capturing memories that you can revisit in VR later, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will both be able to shoot Spatial Video (coming later via an iOS update). It's just worth mentioning that only the Pro models in the iPhone 15 lineup will be able to do this — in case it forms your buying decision.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
PhoneArena Camera Score
BEST 154
152
PhoneArena Photo Score
BEST 160
157
Main (wide)
BEST 85
82
Zoom
BEST 27
23
Ultra-wide
BEST 25
24
Selfie
BEST 30
27
PhoneArena Video Score
BEST 149
147
Main (wide)
BEST 79
77
Zoom
BEST 24
21
Ultra-wide
BEST 23
23
Selfie
BEST 28
27

We have rigorously tested the camera on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and above you can see the results of those tests. We carefully measure the performance of all cameras in various test scenes, ranking the performance across important metrics like exposure, subject exposure, color accuracy, detail, artifacts and more. We do these tests for both photos and videos. 

You can learn more about our PhoneArena Camera Score testing protocol here.
 

iPhone 15 Pro Max Performance & Benchmarks

3 nm of goodness


Another year, another new chip for the iPhones — it is called the Apple A17 Pro this time around. But this time it's an even bigger jump up than usual — with a 20% faster GPU that now provides for hardware-accelerated ray tracing and a 10% improvement in the performance cores of the CPU.

The Apple A17 Pro is the world's first 3 nm smartphone chipset. Long story short, the nm here signifies transistor size. Smaller transistors means you have more room on the chip. Plus, the pathways between them are much shorter. So, you get more transistors that can do more work, but transfer information to one another with less energy needed. That's why we say it will be more energy-efficient — more calculations for less battery drained. In theory.

Performance Benchmarks


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2958
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max2423
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra1971
Google Pixel 7 Pro1412
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max7288
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max6306
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra5115
Google Pixel 7 Pro3303
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max4236
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max3382
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra3828
Google Pixel 7 Pro1836
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max2632
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max2327
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra1951
Google Pixel 7 Pro1292

In real-world testing the improvements are indeed very significant, but we did notice that the phone can get a bit warmer than usual with these higher speeds. At launch, the iPhone 15 Pro Max was having some overheating issues with specific apps. But, as the months went by, software updates ironed all of that out. The unfortunate result is that the performance now throttles pretty easily. So, the A17 Pro is super-powerful... for a while.

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will get actual console-grade games — Assassin's Creed: Mirage and Resident Evil: Village, among others — further down the line. If we look at the App Store pages for those games, it says they support M-chip iPads and the iPhone 15 Pro models specifically. Therefore, the A17 Pro chip is kind of comparable to the M1 (still not quite as powerful with 3D rendering). That's pretty impressive!


Apple does not talk about RAM on its phones, but we know we have 8 GB of RAM now — a small bump over the 6 GB in the iPhone 14 Pro, which will help with multitasking.

As for storage, the 128 GB base variant is gone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max starts from 256 GB,  then goes up to 512 GB and 1 TB. Don't be quick to celebrate though — Apple did not upgrade the lowest tier, it removed it. Meaning that the iPhone 15 Pro Max now starts at $1,199 for 256 GB — the $1,099 option is gone.

As for that USB-C port on the bottom, it is here thanks to European legislation rather than Apple's own will, but that's for the better as it means the end of cable clutter. And the new Apple A17 Pro chip allows for super-fast data transfer speeds (finally), which lets you copy files from your iPhone at up to 10 Gbps. But you need to buy yourself a USB 3 cable for that, the nice braided cable in the iPhone 15 Pro Max's box is better suited for charging than high-speed data transfer.

We also get Wi-Fi 6E on the Pro models, trailing behind a bit, as premium devices are slowly getting Wi-Fi 7 nowadays.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Software: iOS 17



New in iOS 17  are features like the Contact Poster, which is a new way to share your contact details and allows you to customize how you appear to people you call. Apple has also gone back to improve autocorrect and predictive typing with the keyboard — it should now remember your style of expression and adapt to you better. There's also a new Journal app, which will help us figure out what to actually write in it with suggestions, daily recaps, and questions. And cool stuff like transcribing voicemails or audio messages in iMessage, so you can just glance at what is being said — we do hate those people that drop a voice memo in a group chat and expect us all to listen to it on the spot, right?

Of course, these features will also be landing on any phone that supports iOS 17 (that'll be iPhone XS era and newer).

With further updates, we got the Journal app, a facelift for Weather with new widgets for it, the "jump to last unread" arrow in iMessage, a Translate shortcut for the Action Button, and the ability to record Spatial Video on the iPhone 15 Pro models — for when the Apple Vision Pro launches.

Apple's iPhones are known to get iOS updates for years on end — commonly 5 years of support is what you should expect. So, the iPhone 15 Pro launched with iOS 17 in 2023 and should get:

  • iOS 18 in 2024
  • iOS 19 in 2025
  • iOS 20 in 2026
  • iOS 21 in 2027
  • iOS 22 in 2028, end of life

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iPhone 15 Pro Max Battery

Pro Max battery for a Pro Max life

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
( 4422 mAh )
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
Battery Life Estimate
7h 25m
Ranks #11 for phones tested in the past 2 years
Average is 6h 40m
Browsing
19h 20m
Average is 15h 18m
Video
9h 45m
Average is 10h 6m
Gaming
9h 36m
Average is 7h 41m
Charging speed
25W
Charger
53%
30 min
2h 1m
Full charge
Ranks #74 for phones released in the past 2 years
Wireless Charging
15W
Charger
29%
30 min
2h 36m
Full charge
Ranks #16 for phones released in the past 2 years

The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a 4,422 mAh battery, a very slight increase over the 4,323 mAh battery on the 14 Pro Max, but that phone already was a marathon runner.

We put the 15 Pro Max through the paces using our independent tests and here are the exact battery life numbers we got.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 45 min
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max11h
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra8h 54 min
Google Pixel 7 Pro9h 39 min
Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max19h 20 min
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max19h 5 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra18h 57 min
Google Pixel 7 Pro14h 19 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max9h 36 min
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max8h 39 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra7h 13 min
Google Pixel 7 Pro4h 11 min

As you can see, in the lighter web browsing test, the 15 Pro Max lasts just as long as its predecessor, but in more demanding conditions like on our YouTube test the 15 Pro Max lasted less than the previous model. This is the powerful A17 Pro chip rearing it's battery-hungry head. It may be built on an efficient 3 nm process, but it's still a beast that needs to eat!

iPhone 15 Pro Max Charging Speeds



The iPhone 15 Pro Max may have USB Type-C, but Apple is in no hurry to add some kind of crazy-fast charging.

We get the same 20 W power draw on the wire and 15 W charging with a MagSafe puck.

%Higher is better
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
28%
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
29%
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
41%
Google Pixel 7 Pro
25%

The iPhone 15 series is also ready for the new Qi2 wireless charging standard, with the first pucks ready to hit the market by the end of 2023. It's basically no different for iPhone users — it sticks with magnets and charges with 15 W.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Audio Quality and Haptics


The iPhones always have a clear, detailed sound, with a noticeable bottom end and a V-shaped EQ. They sound good, but have been beaten out by other premium devices like Asus' excellent ROG Phones, or even the Xperia 1 V, which may sound a bit boxy but doesn't distort in the high end like the iPhones sometimes do.

All that said, there are no big changes to the iPhone 15 Pro Max speakers — a slight improvement, maybe meatier in the mids, but no change in the overall tonal characteristic.

As for haptics — don't fix what's not broken. In the case here, it's the Taptic Engine, which has been excellent for years now, and has been the standard in "how phone feedback should feel".

iPhone 15 Pro Max Summary



At the end of the day, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is another upgrade cycle in the tick tock style (not to be confused with TikTok).

And while it's not huge if you are coming from an iPhone 14 Pro Max, it is very noticeable if you are on an older model.

It does feel a bit stingy that a $1,200 model still comes with 256 GB, especially since Apple markets this phone as a pro videographer tool. And the fact that it doesn't, at the very least, come with a nice USB 3 cable in the box is slightly controversial (par for the course with Apple phones, really).

But we can't deny that it's an excellent piece of kit — as a phone, as an entertainment device, as a camera. Keep an eye out for those A17 Pro overheating news, but if all is smoothed out — this phone is a definite buy.

iPhones are predictably solid, but this time Apple has pushed the boundaries with the lighter weight, the big camera upgrades, and the new USB-C port. But has the company done enough to convince you to buy it? Let us know in the comments!

Pros

  • Cool new titanium frame
  • Action Button opens up more possibilities
  • Speakers are great as always
  • A17 Pro chip is an absolute beast
  • USB Type C with USB 3 speeds!
  • Slightly improved, much welcomed camera image processing

Cons

  • Color options are a bit limited
  • Action Button needs fleshing out — it only does one thing
  • Doesn't come with USB 3 cable in the box
  • 5x zoom camera doesn't feel like a huge benefit

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