iPhone 15 Pro Max review: The ultimate upgrade

A stronger and lighter titanium design, more powerful zoom, blazing A17 Pro chip and smart Action button add up to a stellar phone

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is a powerful flagship phone that delivers upgrade-worthy features, including a lighter and more compact titanium design, a bigger 5x zoom and a useful Action button. The A17 Pro chip is the fastest around and enables console-quality gameplay, while the battery lasts an epic 14 hours. Our only complaints are slow charging via USB-C and a not-quite-great digital zoom.

Pros

  • +

    Stronger and lighter titanium design

  • +

    Longer 5x zoom

  • +

    Action button adds flexibility

  • +

    Best-in-class A17 Pro chip

  • +

    Super long battery life

Cons

  • -

    $100 higher starting price

  • -

    Slow charging compared to other phones

  • -

    Action button only does one thing at a time

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The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the first new iPhone I’ve picked up in a long time that made me say “whoa.” And that’s thanks to a new titanium design that makes this big 6.7-inch flagship wonderfully light. Apple also managed to trim the bezels while making the phone shorter and narrower, resulting in a big-screen beast that doesn’t feel that big.

There’s a lot of other welcome upgrades to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, including a handy Action button that lets you perform all sorts of shortcuts. You also get the world’s first 3nm processor in the A17 Pro, which delivers console-like graphics. And there’s finally a bigger 5x telephoto zoom to get closer to your subjects — which starts to close the gap with Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Not everything about the iPhone 15 Pro Max is whoa-inducing. At $1,199, the device has a $100 higher starting price than the last model. And while it’s nice to see a USB-C port — and an end to Lightning — the charging is still relatively slow. So is the iPhone 15 Pro Max the best phone yet? I’ll go over all the pros and cons in this in-depth iPhone 15 Pro Max review.

If you're on the fence, check out our iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 15 Pro comparison. 

iPhone 15 Pro Max Review: Specs

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iPhone 15 Pro Max Specs
Price$1,199
Display6.7-inch OLED
Refresh rate120Hz adaptive
CPUA17 Pro
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear cameras48MP main/12MP ultrawide/12MP telephoto w/ 5x zoom
Front camera12MP
Battery4,422 mAh [rumored]
Battery lfe (Hrs:Mins)14:02
Charging PortUSB-C
Size6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches
Weight7.8 ounces
ColorsBlack, white, blue, gray

iPhone 15 Pro Max release date and price

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a release date of September 22. The starting price for the iPhone 15 Pro Max is $1,199, which is $100 more than the iPhone 14 Pro Max, making it the most expensive iPhone ever. Fortunately, that price includes 256GB of storage, which is double the standard amount in last year’s flagship.

You can also upgrade to 512GB for $1,399 and 1TB for $1,599. If you’re looking for the lowest price, our iPhone 15 deals page has the latest info on iPhone 15 Pro Max discounts.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Design

The iPhone 15 Pro Max ditches the stainless steel sides of past Pros for a titanium design, and it’s a big deal. Why? Because the space-age grade 5 titanium Apple uses is stronger yet lighter. Yes, it’s the same titanium used on the Mars Rover.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Natural Titanium color has grown on me, thanks to its sci-fi vibe. The Blue Titanium is nice as well; you also can pick up the phone in Silver Titanium and Black Titanium.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max weighs 7.8 ounces, compared to 8.5 ounces for the iPhone 14 Pro Max. I really notice the difference when I have the phone in my hand and in my pocket.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The new Pro Max is also more compact, measuring 6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 inches vs 6.33 x 3.05 x 0.31 inches for its predecessor. So while the new iPhone is a tad thicker, it’s easier to use with one hand. It’s the first big-screen iPhone that doesn’t feel like one.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 15 Pro Max feels better too because of its contoured design. The edges are rounded and less sharp than the last Pro Max, so they dig into your hands less.

The bottom edge houses the new USB-C port, which is way overdue but still welcome because you can charge your iPhone, iPad and MacBook with the same cable.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Action button

The Action button, which replaces the ringer switch, is one of the best and also most frustrating things about the iPhone 15 Pro Max. But let me start with the good news.

The button still silences calls with a long press if you have the Silent Mode setting assigned. But in the settings app you can configure the Action button to launch all sorts of things, including the camera, voice recorder, flashlight, translate and more. And you can even pick specific actions from within an app, like launching right into a selfie with the Camera app.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you want even more options, the Action button works in sync with the Shortcuts app, so you can assign it launch any app you want with a long press, or create shortcuts to do things like message a specific contact — which is nice to have when I want to let the family know I’m on the way home or running late.

My problem with the Action button is that it supports only one function at a time. So if you want it to launch the camera you can’t use it to also mute calls. My advice to Apple would be to let people perform app shortcuts with a double press and keep the long press for silent mode.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: USB-C

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has USB-C charging, and it’s about time. Apple has finally retired the Lightning port after over a decade — which Apple is clearly being forced to do against its will due to EU regulations. But I do appreciate not having to carry around an extra cable just to charge my iPhone, since so many of my daily devices use USB-C.

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With this port you can also charge your other Apple gadgets, including the newly updated AirPods Pro with USB-C charging case. 

If you want to transfer photos and videos quickly to your Mac or external drive, the iPhone 15 Pro Max supports USB 3 for 10Gbps speeds. That’s not exactly state of the art — several other phones have the newer 3.2 standard.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Display

There’s actually not that much new with the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s display, with the exception of thinner bezels around the 6.7-inch OLED panel. Apple says you still get 1,600 nits of peak brightness and 2,000 nits outdoors.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The ProMotion display continues to offer 120Hz refresh rates, so you get smooth scrolling and animations. And with the always-on display, you can still check notifications, the time and more without having to unlock your iPhone.

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iPhone 15 Pro Max Display Test Results
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 15 Pro MaxGalaxy S23 Ultra
Max brightness (HDR)1,550 nits1,444 nits
sRGB119%112% / 193% (Vivid)
DCI-P384.5%78% / 136.7 (Vivid)
Delta-E (lower is better)0.140.3

I also continue to appreciate the Dynamic Island. It’s easy to get real-time updates at the top of the display, such as the status of my Uber ride, my United flight status or easy access to my Spotify playlist. 

In our test results, the Pro Max hit a max of 1,550 nits when playing HDR content, which is about the same as the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The Galaxy S23 Ultra was a slightly dimmer 1,444 nits on the same test.

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Color reproduction remains strong on this panel, which I noticed when watching the trailer for Aquaman 2. The underwater world’s colors looked vibrant and the details on Jason Momoa’s gleaming costume sharp.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In our testing the iPhone 15 Pro Max reproduced 119.4 % of the sRGB color gamut and 84.5% of the more demanding DCI-P3 color space. The Galaxy S23 Ultra hit a lower 111.2% / 78.8 % in Natural mode but a higher 193% / 136.7% in Vivid mode.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s display offers more accurate colors, as it earned a Delta-E score of 0.14 (where zero is perfect). The S23 Ultra notched 0.3.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Cameras

The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s biggest camera upgrade has it playing zoom catch up with the competition, but it arguably surpasses all the best camera phones in overall quality. There’s a larger main sensor for the 48MP camera, which now shoots 24MP photos by default but the Pro Max also lets you choose from 48MP HEIF (to save space) or ProRAW for more creative control).

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The main camera also gives you three shooting options: 24mm, 28mm and 25mm, and you can pick which one by tapping the 1x button to toggle between them. In addition, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s camera is smart enough to sense depth info, so you don’t have to engage portrait mode to take a portrait of a person or pet. You can also change the focus point of your shot after the fact.

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Let’s start with the zoom. A new tetraprism lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max achieves a 5x optical zoom, which is a big jump up from the 3x on the previous model and the regular iPhone 15 Pro. You also get a max of 25x digital zoom, up from 15x on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

In our side-by-side testing with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivered a sharper and warmer picture at 5x. But at 25x digital zoom, the iPhone’s shot has more noise and less definition than Samsung’s.

It was a similar story with this photo of an FDNY boat. At 5x, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers the crispest details both in the boat and in the surrounding water.

But at 25x zoom, the iPhone falls behind both the Pixel 7 Pro and especially the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Check out the 'Never Forget' text on the Marine FDNY sign.

What impresses me the most is the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s night mode performance, as you’ll see in these comparison shots. First up, we took this photo of some Halloween decorations indoors. The 15 Pro Max delivers the most definition in the skull and the text on the book spines below. And the TV lacks a proper black in the iPhone shot, while there’s a cloudier cast in the Pixel and Samsung pics.

In this photo next to a pool, the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivers a sharper and more vibrant looking volleyball, and the concrete looks brighter, too.

So what about portraits. I give the edge to the Pixel 7 Pro in this photo taken in Little Island park with the New York City skyline in the background. My face and blue shirt pop more.

However, the iPhone 15 Pro Max wins with this selfie portrait versus the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Samsung’s phone smoothed over my fact too much, while you can really make out my eyes and individual strands of hair in the iPhone’s pic. This could be due to Apple’s improved Smart HDR tech for better dynamic range.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max takes a deliciously colorful photo of this fruit tart. I give the nod to the Pixel 7 Pro because the Blueberries have a bit more detail, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s shot is too oversaturated.

In this extreme macro close-up of a white poppy flower the iPhone 15 Pro Max beats the Pixel 7 Pro in the very center of the stigma, although the petals look good on the Pixel pic.

Last but not least, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s ultrawide camera gets a modest upgrade with a new anti-reflective coating. It does a great job handling the sun coming in from the left side of the frame with a nice gradation of color in the blue sky, and both the wooden posts in the foreground and the building on the right look sharper. The warmer color profile might not be for everyone, though.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Video

The iPhone 15 Pro Max packs a number of video upgrades. Cinematic mode now supports digital zoom up to 3x. And pros will appreciate the ability to export ProRes footage via USB-C at up to 4K and 60 frames per second.

Based on my testing, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers breathtaking video quality, and the 5x zoom lets you get closer to the action than ever before. Check out this 4K clip of a yacht on the Hudson River. As I zoom in you can make out the reflection of the rippling water on the back window as the reeds sway in the foreground.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also captured crisp footage of a giant St. Bernard in Madison Square Park surrounded by other pups. Even with a mix of sun and shadows the video looks clear with even exposure.

In this clip of a fountain, the result is movie-quality with the iPhone 15 Pro Max capturing several birds flying off without any blur, as well a woman’s dress flowing against the breeze. And as I zoom in, the sound of the band off to the left gives way to the trickling water. This is pretty impressive.

iPhone 15 Pro Max: Performance

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the potential to be the best gaming phone ever, and that’s thanks to the new A17 Pro chip. Yes, Apple’s latest silicon offers 10% faster CPU speed and twice as fast machine learning performance but the all-new 6-core GPU is the biggest deal.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You can literally play console-quality games, complete with ray-tracing technology for the most realistic lighting effects on a phone. Check out the gameplay in Diablo Immortal, which is fluid with stunning graphics and life-like reflections.

The Resident Evil Village demo I tried was equally as scary and immersive as the title on my Xbox Series X, though the touch controls were tough to get used to.

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iPhone 15 Pro Max benchmark results
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 15 Pro MaxGalaxy S23 Ultra
Geekbench2,783 / 6,9451,396 / 4,882
3DMark Wild Life Unlimited92 fps / 15,39987 fps / 14,611
Adobe Premiere Rush (video editing)24.5 seconds40 seconds

On Geekbench, which measures overall performance, the iPhone 15 Pro Max notched a single-core score of 2,783 and a multi-core score of 6,945. That’s a substantial leap from the 1,396/4,882 showing on the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, and it’s also well above the iPhone 14 Pro Max (1,882/5,333).

The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s graphics scores were even more impressive, as it hit 92.2 frames per second in 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited with an overall score of 15,399. That’s about 25% faster than the iPhone 14 Pro Max and also beat the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 87 fps and 14,611. 

We also time how long it takes to transcode a 4K video to 1