iPhone 15 Pro Max review: Class-leading smartphone experience

The iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts a class-leading display, stellar cameras, top-tier performance, and a seamless software experience, all encased in a premium build.

October 26, 2023 02:30 pm | Updated October 28, 2023 09:49 am IST

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is Apple’s most advanced phone yet

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is Apple’s most advanced phone yet | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

In the hunt for a new premium phone, consumers have two options: an impressive list of new features with unique specifications on paper, or phones that free them up from constantly having to fine-tune their device’s settings.

While the first option could lead you to a new find, the second is an art form, perfected by Apple year after year. While Apple may not double down on innovation every year, their smartphones provide all-round solid performance.

This year, Apple launched its iPhone 15 series, dropping four new devices in September. Among these is the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple’s most advanced phone yet, featuring aerospace-grade titanium, improved cameras, and, for the first time in the device’s history, USB Type-C.

Design

The iPhone 15 Pro Max exudes a premium feel with a sense of unwavering confidence while still being lightweight. The use of aerospace-grade titanium makes it feel incredibly sturdy, while a brushed texture and contoured edges add a touch of sophistication.

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The phone is available in four different titanium finishes -- black, white, blue, and natural-- allowing users to choose one that fits their style. 

The volume rocker and the new Action button are located on the left hand side of the phone.

The volume rocker and the new Action button are located on the left hand side of the phone. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

The phone’s display is protected by Apple’s Ceramic Shield and the device features a textured matte glass back. On the front is the Dynamic Island, home to the device’s selfie shooter and a host of sensors for Apple’s reliable Face ID functionality.

While the power button is located on the right side of the device, the volume rocker and the new Action button, which replaces the Alert slider, are located on the left.

One of the biggest changes on the new iPhones this year is the switch to USB Type-C.

One of the biggest changes on the new iPhones this year is the switch to USB Type-C. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

This Action button is customizable, allowing quick access to essential functions like the camera or flashlight, besides switching between ‘Ring’ and ‘Silent’ modes.  

One of the biggest changes on the new iPhones this year is the switch to USB Type-C. The iPhone 15 Pro Max offers USB 3 speeds, claiming to be up to 20 times faster than USB 2.

Display

This iPhone has one of the best screens among smartphones we have tested. If you prefer screens that balance true-to-life colours with just the right amount of kick, this phone stands out as an ideal choice, delivering exceptional colour accuracy and realism.

The device packs a 6.7-inch FHD+(2796x1290-pixel resolution) OLED screen that translates to 460 ppi. It also comes with support for high refresh rates up to 120 Hz and the device can automatically select the refresh rate based on what you are doing.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max packs a 6.7-inch FHD+(2796x1290-pixel resolution) OLED screen.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max packs a 6.7-inch FHD+(2796x1290-pixel resolution) OLED screen. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

The display is bright, vivid and showcases relatively natural colours with ample saturation for the oomph factor. It features Apple’s True Tone functionality that automatically adapts the display’s colour temperature to the surrounding lighting conditions, ensuring a consistent, optimal viewing experience. 

The phone also packs support for the highly customizable Always-On display functionality.‌ We put the phone’s HDR capabilities to the test, streaming content from platforms like YouTube and Netflix, and found absolutely no room for disappointment.‌

As for sonics, the phone boasts a dual-speaker setup, one speaker at the bottom and one at the top . These speakers deliver not only ample volume but also an astonishing level of bass for a smartphone. The mid and high frequencies are well tuned, crafting a harmonious auditory experience.

Cameras

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a total of four lenses. This time around, Apple has introduced some software magic to allow users to shoot with the equivalent of seven cameras by artificially introducing various focal lengths and software enhanced zooming capabilities in addition to the all-new periscope telephoto shooter.

The app’s interface is user-friendly and intuitive.

The app’s interface is user-friendly and intuitive. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

The app’s interface is user-friendly and intuitive, allowing users to easily switch between different camera modes and settings.

As for rear cameras, the phone features a 48MP rear primary shooter with an f/1.78 aperture along with an-all new 12MP 5x periscope shooter and a 12MP ultrawide lens.

The primary camera allows users to switch between three focal lengths — 24 mm(default), 28 mm, and 35 mm. Additionally, it outputs 24MP images by default most of the time(primary sensor), which is a welcome change as casual users do not need to access the Pro Mode to get higher quality images.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max packs three rear facing cameras.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max packs three rear facing cameras. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

The primary camera shoots detailed, vibrant images with ample sharpness in varied lighting conditions. Shots taken at night are bright and extremely detailed with reduced noise and grain.

The primary camera shoots detailed, vibrant images with ample sharpness in varied lighting conditions. 

The primary camera shoots detailed, vibrant images with ample sharpness in varied lighting conditions.  | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

While the device offers commendable HDR performance during daytime photography and in some low lighting conditions, it also comes with Apple’s classic HDR image processing which may be viewed as an Achilles heel by some while others may appreciate the same.

Shots taken at night are bright and extremely detailed with reduced noise and grain.

Shots taken at night are bright and extremely detailed with reduced noise and grain. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

For shots taken in challenging lighting scenarios and extreme low lighting conditions, the device may not always preserve details in the shadows, but may darken the same to preserve sharpness and reduce grain. 

This is not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination as the device prioritizes details and clarity in these scenarios and strays clear of introducing undue noise.

The zooming capabilities of the device are noteworthy. 

The zooming capabilities of the device are noteworthy.  | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

The zooming capabilities of the device are noteworthy. The 2x digitally zoomed photos are of high quality, offering good detail and low noise. Shots taken with the 12MP 5x telephoto shooter are surprisingly impressive as images taken with this sensor are clean and sharp with good colour reproduction. The presence of 3D sensor‑shift optical image stabilization ensures shake-free images. The 5x telephoto camera, in particular, stands out for its superb night-time photography capabilities.

The 5x telephoto camera, in particular, stands out for its superb nighttime photography capabilities.

The 5x telephoto camera, in particular, stands out for its superb nighttime photography capabilities. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

While the performance of the ultrawide shooter has definitely improved over its predecessor, it is not the best that we have tested. In good lighting conditions, users can expect pleasing, sharp shots with a wider field of view.

However, the quality dips when there is a dearth of light, with loss of detail in the darker areas. On the plus side, the ultrawide camera now supports macro photography, offering detailed close-up shots.

While the performance of the ultrawide shooter has definitely improved compared to its predecessor, it is not the best that we have tested. 

While the performance of the ultrawide shooter has definitely improved compared to its predecessor, it is not the best that we have tested.  | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

‌The selfie camera is no slouch either, boasting a 12MP sensor with a f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization (OIS).‌ It delivers fantastic results with plenty of detail, accurate colours, and effective OIS.

The portrait mode excels at subject separation and background blur, although some minor over-processing is noticeable on close inspection. The selfie shooter captures images that selfies are sharp, vibrant, and well-detailed. All in all, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers an extremely capable set of cameras that are reliable and leave behind most of the competition in the dust.

Video performance

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also excels as a formidable video capture tool, offering a rich array of lens options for versatile shooting experiences. Action mode ensures stable recording, even during fast-paced events, while Cinematic mode elevates your filmmaking capabilities. Much like portrait mode photography, it allows you to shift focus seamlessly between subjects while shooting.

However, what sets the iPhone apart is its unique post-shoot focus adjustment feature. Although it lacks 8K video shooting (a feature some competitors offer), this isn’t a significant drawback considering the limited presence of 8K TVs in most households. It offers 4K video at 60fps along with a cinematic 4K at 24fps option for those seeking a more artistic touch.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also excels as a formidable video capture tool.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also excels as a formidable video capture tool. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

All recordings benefit from top-notch stabilization. Slow-motion enthusiasts will appreciate the 1080p at 240fps capabilities. The Action mode, clocked at 60fps, uses the ultrawide camera, delivering super-smooth, remarkably stabilized video, even at 2.8K resolution. For creative control, the Cinematic mode at 4K/30fps is a good option. The choice between H.265 HEVC and H.264 video encoders allows flexibility, with H.265 being mandatory for 4K60 and HDR.

The phone also excels in audio, capturing wide stereo sound at 192kbps. In daylight, the phone shines, producing 4K videos with rich detail, superb sharpness, accurate colours, wide dynamic range, and an overall natural look. The ultrawide camera’s corner-to-corner sharpness is also a standout. Low-light video retains good detail, low noise, and pleasing colour saturation, with softer but usable 2x and 5x zoom options.

Performance

The iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts the A17 Pro chip, fabricated using a 3nm process. This chip packs substantial improvements in CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine capabilities, allowing the phone to deliver top-tier performance, effortlessly handling everything from standard apps to professional tools.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max delivers top-tier performance, effortlessly handling everything from standard apps to professional tools. 

The iPhone 15 Pro Max delivers top-tier performance, effortlessly handling everything from standard apps to professional tools.  | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

Navigation between different apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram was an extremely snappy experience. Browsing the web and scrolling through feeds was also a delight, thanks to the high refresh rate, outstanding screen and the new chipset. We played Call Of Duty on the highest settings, and the phone delivered with no major issues.

‌The phone does heat up at times but not always when you expect it; for instance, the device warmed up when we set it up for the first time.

Battery

The phone packs a 4,400mAh battery and comes with support for 20W wired charging, 15W MagSafe wireless charging and 4.5W reverse charging.

 A single charge can deliver up to two days of battery life on light to medium usage.

 A single charge can deliver up to two days of battery life on light to medium usage. | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

It takes about a half-hour to reach 50% while using the wired charger. The battery life is unparalleled; a single charge can deliver up to two days of battery life on light to medium usage. Even for a heavy user, a single day of battery life is almost a given.

Software

The software experience on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is top-notch, thanks to the iOS 17, which introduces a range of exciting features that enhance usability. Standby Mode, for instance, turns the device into a smart display while charging, offering users quick access to relevant information such as the time, calendar events, and weather.

The interactive widgets are customizable and provide information on your home screen at a glance, allowing for a more personalized and efficient experience. ‌

 iOS 17 introduces a range of exciting features that enhance usability

 iOS 17 introduces a range of exciting features that enhance usability | Photo Credit: Varun Krishan

One key strength of iOS is the consistent user interface across Apple devices. This integration with other Apple products, such as the Apple Watch and Mac, creates a cohesive ecosystem that seamlessly shares information and functionality.

As always, security and privacy are paramount in iOS. Apple’s commitment to safeguarding user data is evident in features like App Tracking Transparency and Privacy Reports. Users have greater control over their data and can make informed decisions about app permissions.

Verdict

The iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts a class-leading display, stellar cameras, top-tier performance and video shooting capabilities, and a seamless software experience, all encased in a premium build.

While it occasionally exhibits minor heating and Apple’s unyielding stance on low-light HDR might disappoint some, these hiccups don’t mar the overall excellence of the smartphone.‌

If you’re in the market for a high-end, all-encompassing reliable smartphone experience that doesn’t overwhelm with unnecessary extras, the iPhone 15 Pro Max stands out as a compelling choice.

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