The iPhone 13 Pro Max (starting at $1,099) is the ultimate professional content creator's phone. It combines Apple's excellent camera algorithms and software support with true two-day battery life for a massive phone that's always ready to realize your dreams. While the standard iPhone 13 (starting at $799) is our Editors' Choice and the best choice for most people, with a terrific balance of size, power, battery life, and price, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a terrific alternative for heavy users and artists, with its killer cameras and beautiful buttress of a battery.
Apple's iPhone 13 Lineup Reviewed
The Body: It's Big
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is, well, max. At 6.3 by 3.1 by 0.3 inches and 8.5 ounces, it's a large, heavy phone that you won't want to use in one hand. That's the price you pay (along with your $1,100) for this kind of battery life. But you're probably used to it already, as it's almost exactly the same size as the 12 Pro Max. It's a little heavier than last year's model, though, which weighed 8.0 ounces.
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Like other phones its size, this is more of a bag phone than a pocket phone. It fits in coat and jacket pockets, but it'll stick out of most pants pockets.
You can hold the iPhone 13 Pro Max in your hand...barely(Photo: Molly Flores)
One disappointment, at this size: The 13 Pro Max still has a Lightning port, as opposed to the USB-C port now on all of the "pro" style iPads and even the iPad mini. USB-C would allow for even faster charging, as well as interchanging chargers with your iPads and MacBooks. This may change in two years when the European USB-C law takes effect.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro
Read Our Apple iPhone 13 Pro Review
Apple iPhone 13
Read Our Apple iPhone 13 Review
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Read Our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review
OnePlus 9 Pro
Read Our OnePlus 9 Pro Review
Apple iPhone 13 mini
Read Our Apple iPhone 13 mini Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Read Our Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
Read Our Apple iPhone 12 Pro Review
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Read Our Apple iPhone 11 Pro Review
A roomy, narrow-bezel screen gets a little bit more real estate from a slightly smaller notch than on the iPhone 12 Pro Max; Apple says the notch is 20% smaller than before. On the back, the Pro Max's triple-camera system juts out noticeably. I'd smooth it out with a case, although you don't necessarily need one for protection—the phone carries IP68 waterproofing and has Apple's tough "ceramic shield" screen coating.
The 13 Pro Max comes in four colors, including blue, gold, graphite (gray), and silver. The blue is very cool and elegant, as you can see below.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
PCMag-Recommended Apple iPhone 13Pro Max Accessories
4.0 Excellent 4.0 Excellent
Apple - iPhone 13 Pro Max Leather Case with MagSafe - Sequoia Green
The Display: Double the Pleasure
Like its predecessor, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch OLED display with 2,778-by-1,284-pixel resolution, a wide color gamut, and Apple's TrueTone color management system. Apple has increased the standard screen brightness from 800cd/m2 to 1,000cd/m2, but I can't see that with my eyes—I'll have to wait for DisplayMate Labs' analysis for verification.
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The iPhone Pro models this year amp up their screen refresh rate to 120Hz. For now, that's almost entirely in Apple's first-party apps; third-party app creators will generally have to update their apps(Opens in a new window) to use the smoother animations.
The 120Hz screen will be great for gaming when the developers update their games(Photo: Molly Flores)
So you can't see the effect of 120Hz everywhere, but you can definitely see it in Safari. 120Hz is the sort of thing that you don't miss until you have it, but when you get it, it's really hard to go back to 60Hz. Right now, it primarily makes a big difference when scrolling through web pages; the pages are less tiring on the eyes because the scrolling is smoother. Here's a quick video showing the difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro:
On iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Note models, the 120Hz screen makes a big difference in stylus responsiveness. There's no such killer app here, so the 120Hz screen isn't necessarily a reason to go Pro, yet. It's a nice feature to have, though.
The Battery: An Absolute Beast
When you're out and about creating content, you don't want your battery to be at 1% when inspiration strikes. With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it probably won't be. This phone has the longest battery life of any iPhone ever, a shocking 18 hours of video playback time in our standard test. That's two and a half hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and three hours longer than the standard iPhone 13. In practice, this means it's perfectly possible to get two-day battery life here.
You have a range of charging options as well, although they haven't changed from the iPhone 12. The phone doesn't come with a power adapter in the box, so you should get a 20W USB-C adapter for fast wired charging. The phone also supports 15W Apple MagSafe wireless charging, and 7.5W Qi wireless charging.
Speed and Performance: Big GPU Boost
The iPhone 13 Pro Max uses Apple's A15 processor with 6GB of RAM, as opposed to the standard iPhone 13's 4GB of RAM. It also has five GPU cores to the iPhone 13's four GPU cores. Like all recent iPhones, it runs iOS 15.
The A15 processor is built on the same 5nm process as the previous A14, and its CPU performance doesn't show the same leap as we saw between previous generations. That's fine; when I compared the A15 with the competing Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, it still came out as the fastest mobile chip on the market.
The 13 Pro and Pro Max GPU showed a massive 35% jump on some GPU computing benchmarks, higher than the 20 to 25% improvement I'd expect it would get by adding the extra core.
So what's the 13 Pro Max doing with that extra GPU? The phone doesn't need it for aspects like UI responsiveness and gaming frame rates, which are both already terrific on the base iPhone 13. I'm pretty sure it's there to handle the 120Hz display, and it does that well. Additional GPU compute power may also imply better camera features in the future.
Connectivity: Not Much New, Yet
All of the iPhone 13 models have the same Qualcomm X60 modem and the same radio setup, which includes Wi-Fi 6 (but not 6E) and Bluetooth 5.0. The X60 modem is also used in other leading smartphones this year, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The advantages over the iPhone 12, for now, are in power efficiency—it helps get to that killer battery life. Otherwise, the iPhone 13's new 5G features mostly prepare it for things our carriers haven't implemented yet to extend the range and quality of 5G. None of them strike me as features that will monumentally change the 5G experience within the next two years.
The big screen gives plenty of room for web pages and videos(Photo: Molly Flores)
At this point, we aren't waiting for better 5G phone modems; the ball is in the carriers' courts, especially AT&T's and Verizon's, to improve 5G signal reach and network quality. The two carriers' performance flatlined in out Fastest Mobile Networks tests this year as we wait for them to turn on faster networks using new C-band spectrum, starting next year. Both the iPhone 12 and 13 lines will support those new bands, but older iPhones won't.
And while you might think a bigger phone makes for better reception, I don't have evidence that's true. All of the iPhone 13 models performed about as well as each other on Wi-Fi, and on the T-Mobile and Verizon networks, in my tests.
The big screen makes for an excellent camera viewfinder(Photo: Molly Flores)
The Camera: All Pros, No Cons
The iPhone 13 Pro is the ultimate device for visual content creators, and it's not all in the specs. Over the past year I've turned to either a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or an iPhone 12 Pro Max to take photos and create videos.
I really enjoy the S21 Ultra's 10x zoom. But when it comes to video, Apple's algorithms always seem to result in more consistent focus and more reliable exposure balance. Especially when you're shooting videos of yourself and thus can't mess with the settings, you need to lean on the AI plenty, and Apple's AI is still the smartest in the industry.
Left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, iPhone 13 Pro Max(Photo: Molly Flores)
The iPhone 13 Pro Max doesn't have some of the S21 Ultra's wildest features. There's no 960fps super slow-mo, and there's no 8K recording. But when I've talked to actual pro video creators, they've been more attuned to Apple's choice of features than to Samsung's. Two key examples: It seems that more people prefer Apple's Dolby Vision HDR instead of Samsung's HDR10+, and Apple's new (to the iPhone) ProRes video capture codec, which lets professional editors obtain a lot of control over final video quality.
I'm also sorry to say, for non-Apple users, that the iOS ecosystem is just where pro photographers and videographers generally operate. Third-party photo and video apps come out first for iOS, and iOS devices seamlessly integrate with the Mac computers that most video and art teams (including our own) use.
So serious video creators still use iPhones—that surprises no one. Why is the iPhone 13 Pro Max better than the iPhone 12 Pro Max or the standard iPhone 13? I didn't have a 12 Pro Max to directly compare the 13 Pro Max with, but I did compare it with the iPhone 12 Pro.
For one thing, there's the zoom. Moving from the iPhone 13 to the Pro or Pro Max gets you a 3x optical zoom, which is far better than the digital zoom on the less expensive phones and also better than the 2x zoom on last year's Pro, or the 2.5x zoom on last year's Pro Max.
The iPhone 12 Pro (left) gives you less optical zoom, at 2x, than the iPhone 13 Pro (center) or the Galaxy S21 Ultra at 3x (right)
The 13 Pro and Pro Max also introduce macro photography, which lets you take super-sharp close-up shots. Earlier models have trouble focusing at very short distances, as you can see below. I've never found a use for macro photography, but it's a popular pastime among more serious photographers.
The iPhone 13 Pro (left) and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (center) can do macro shots, while the standard iPhone 13 (right) can't
The larger sensor on the iPhone 13 Pro Max's camera promises better low-light photography, but in my experience, it was sometimes hard to find the difference. In this shot of a doll on a very dark rooftop, the iPhone 13 Pro Max's greater aperture led to dramatically reduced noise over the iPhone 12 Pro. (The 12 Pro Max had better low-light performance than the 12 Pro, however.)
This doll looks a lot less noisy in the shot taken with the iPhone 13 Pro (left) than the one taken with the iPhone 12 Pro (right)
I had real trouble telling the difference in night mode photos at other times. With this shot, taken in a relatively low-light condition but not night mode, there's a subtle improvement in the quality of the tiles in the image, but not enough to rock anyone's world.
It's hard to tell the difference between the iPhone 12 Pro (left) and the iPhone 13 Pro (right) in this shot
So, Should You Go Pro?
It's a little tough to sell the iPhone 13 Pro Max as an upgrade to the 12 Pro Max, which has a similarly excellent camera with terrific battery life. I just don't see the massive year-on-year camera improvements needed to move the needle here. But you're probably not going to upgrade your year-old phone, so that isn't much of an issue. For everyone else, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is an amazing content creation machine worth upgrading for.
Left to right: iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max(Photo: Molly Flores)
If you're coming from the 11 Pro Max and you're on T-Mobile, 5G will make a huge difference here, as our Fastest Mobile Networks tests show. AT&T and Verizon subscribers can still probably wait a year.
From anything earlier, the advances in low-light image and video quality introduced with the iPhone 11 generation will change your photo and video landscape, so it's definitely worth stepping up. And the 13 Pro Max's battery life will make sure it's ready when you are.
Speaking of which, the additional battery life makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max worth the $100 jump in price over the 13 Pro, in my opinion. And again, less intensely "pro" users will likely be just as happy with the standard iPhone 13 for $300 less, making it our Editors' Choice for the bulk of buyers. If you're creating your next masterpiece, though, there's nothing like a Pro, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max delivers the best of everything Apple has to offer.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Opens in a new window)See It$1,099.99 at Verizon(Opens in a new window)
Super-long battery life
Gorgeous, butter-smooth screen
Big and heavy
Cameras aren't a major improvement over previous model
The Bottom Line
Apple's iPhone 13 Pro Max is the ultimate mobile content creation machine, with the best camera and longest battery life of any iPhone.
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