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iPhone 13 Pro Max review

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s stellar cameras, 120Hz display and longer battery life add up to a practically perfect phone.

iPhone 13 Pro Max viewed from the back
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s stellar cameras, 120Hz ProMotion display and longer battery life add up to a practically perfect phone in our testing. The charging could be faster and Touch ID would be nice, but overall this is a beast that can’t be beat.

For

  • Best cameras in a phone
  • Superior performance
  • Cinematic video mode
  • Brighter display
  • Excellent battery life

Against

  • Could use faster charging
  • Cinematic mode capped at 1080p

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is what happens when you get practically everything you could want in a phone. This premium flagship (from $1,099) packs a 120Hz refresh rate display, the fastest performance of any handset and epic battery life.

But it’s the iPhone 13 Pro Max's cameras that put this phone over the top, as they're the best I've tested on a phone so far. You can shoot Cinematic mode videos with a compelling bokeh effect, choose your own Photographic styles and take super close-up shots with a new macro mode that leverages the ultra-wide camera. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max specs

Starting price: $1,099
Storage: 128, 256, 512, 1TB
Battery life (hrs:min): 12:16
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution (ppi): 2778 x 1284 (458)
Adaptive refresh: Up to 120Hz
Processor: A15 Bionic
Rear cameras: Pro 12MP (Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide)
Zoom: 3x optical / 15x digital
Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth
Colors: Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue
Size: 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 8.5 ounces
Water resistance: IP68

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera bump is definitely more prominent this time around, thanks to the larger sensors, and the overall design is heftier than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But I do like that the notch on the 6.7-inch display is smaller. Check out our iPhone 13 Pro review if you want all the same features in a more compact and slightly less expensive phone.

If you're looking for something more affordable and don't need a telephoto lens or 120Hz display, check out our iPhone 13 review and iPhone 13 mini review. 

While I wish Apple offered faster charging and Touch ID, as you’ll see in my full iPhone 13 Pro Max review, this is the best iPhone — and best phone period.

iPhone 13 Pro Max price and release date

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is available to buy right now, starting at $1,099 for 128GB of storage. Going up to 256GB costs $1,199, 512GB is $1,399 and the whopping 1TB option is priced at a gulp-inducing $1,599.

On the other side of the Atlantic in the U.K., the 128GB iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at £1,049, hitting £1,149 for the 265GB model and £1,349 for the 512GB version. If you have plenty of money to burn and want a lot of storage, then the 1TB iPhone 13 Pro will cost a wallet-walloping £1,549.

Note that you can save on the iPhone 13 Pro Max if you trade in your old iPhone or other phone. And we’re tracking the best iPhone 13 deals to help you save some money on this rather pricey Apple phone.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Design and colors

  • Smaller notch but a bit heavier than iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Sierra blue is our favorite color

The iPhone 13 Pro Max retains the flat edges of the iPhone 12 Pro Max but looks a bit different. For one, the camera array is larger than before, so it takes up a bit more real estate on the back of the phone.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Weighing 8.46 ounces, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is also notably heavier than its 8.03-ounce predecessor. But I’ll allow that given the new iPhone Pro has a larger battery.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the plus side, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s notch is a bit smaller on the display, as Apple shrunk it 20% while retaining the same key Face ID tech. It’s not a full-screen look, but it’s an improvement over recent iPhones.

iPhone 12 Pro Max (left) and iPhone 13 Pro Max (right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My only real complaint with the iPhone 13’s design is that it doesn’t offer Touch ID, either in the power button or underneath the display. At a time many people are still wearing masks in public places, it would be nice to have an alternative way to easily unlock our iPhones.

There have been some user complaints that the iPhone 13 series is having issues unlocking with the Apple Watch, which is supposed to work while you're wearing a mask. Fortunately, Apple says that a fix is coming. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max in graphite (left) and iPhone 13 in blue (right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes in four colors: graphite, gold, silver and sierra blue. I would opt for the blue model if paying with my own money. The graphite model I tested has a sleek professional vibe, but it’s not as playful.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Display

  • 120Hz ProMotion display delivers smoother performance and animations
  • Brighter screen easier to read outdoors

The biggest upgrade to the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s display — and biggest upgrade overall — is the new ProMotion display. This 6.7-inch panel can dynamically scale its refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz, which results in smoother overall performance and animations.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For example, when scrolling on The New York Times homepage with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max side by side, I could more easily read the text on Apple’s newer phone when quickly scrolling on both displays. It just feels more responsive.

iPhone 13 Pro Max (left) and iPhone 12 Pro Max (right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

These benefits carry over to other activities as well, such as swiping between apps or returning to the home screen. But I’m more excited by apps that take advantage of ProMotion. This includes Catalyst Black, a frenetic online battle game that had me shooting in all directions and transforming into monsters. And the whole experience was wonderfully fluid. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro currently have an issue where certain third-party apps are not running at 120Hz. Apple says that a fix is coming. 

Another plus for the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s screen is its increased brightness. We measured an average of 837 nits with the Adaptive setting off and 1,038 nits with with Adaptive on. The iPhone 12 Pro Max averaged 654 nits with Adaptive off. The Galaxy S21 Ultra maxes out at 821 nits.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s display delivers stunning detail even in low-light scenes. When watching the trailer for James Bond No Time to Die, I could make out every creepy crevice in Rami Malek’s transformed face.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Cameras

  • New sensors let in more light for brighter images
  • More powerful 3x optical/15x digital zoom
  • Compelling macro mode

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a bigger camera array for a reason. The main wide camera is Apple’s largest yet at 1.9μm pixels (up from 1.7μm) while offering a f/1.5 aperture, which is rated to deliver a 49% more light thant the iPhone 12 Pro Max. And the ultrawide camera offers a larger f/1.8 aperture (was f/2.4 for iPhone 13 Pro Max) for brighter pics while offering a wider field of view.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Zooming on the iPhone 13 Pro Max gets a boost as well, as the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s telephoto lens offers a 3x optical zoom, up from 2.5x on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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iPhone 13 Pro Max — Zoom 3x (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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Galaxy S21 Ultra — Zoom 3x (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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iPhone 13 Pro Max — Zoom 15x (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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Galaxy S21 Ultra — Zoom 15x (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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Galaxy S21 Ultra — Zoom 30x (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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Galaxy S21 Ultra — Zoom 100x (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

And there’s lots of camera upgrades beyond the hardware. For example, the iPhone 13 Pro Max leverages the ultrawide camera to capture images as close as 2 cm away. I really enjoyed getting up close with this piece of wood on a nearby beach. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max struggled to get close, I could capture every nook and cranny with the new iPhone.

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iPhone 13 Pro Max macro

iPhone 13 Pro Max macro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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iPhone 13 Pro Max macro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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iPhone 13 Pro Max macro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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iPhone 13 Pro Max macro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max also did a superb job capturing this purple pansy, with rich color and lots of details in the petals. And I got real close to this dreaded spotted lanternfly crawling in the rocks; I could even make out each of its legs and fine lines in its wings. 

Another new iPhone 13 camera feature is Photographic styles, which lets you choose how you want your photos to look in terms of tone and warmth. Your options include standard, rich contrast, vibrant, warm, cool. And you can adjust these as you see fit. 

In terms of overall image quality, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a step ahead of the other best camera phones. Take this photo of pumpkins, which has the sun overhead and a fair amount of shadow. The iPhone 13 Pro Max captures a more vibrant sign in the foreground and the pumpkins themselves look more vibrant than in the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s shot. However, Samsung’s photo is a bit brighter overall.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max takes a more pleasing portrait of me standing in front of the Manasquan reservoir. My face and green shirt are both brighter. And if you’re hanging on to an older phone like the iPhone 11 Pro, you can see how much better the new iPhone is; I come out dark and fuzzy in this shot. 

The more complex a photo is, the more the iPhone 13 Pro Max shines, as evidenced by this comparison shot taken near the edge of the water. The iPhone’s photo more accurately captures the translucence of the water while making the surrounding rocks pop, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s pic looks flat by comparison. 

Despite a jump from 2.5 to 3x for the telephoto zoom on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it’s still behind Samsung’s best. Zooming in on some boats at 3x, I prefer the slightly brighter images from the S21 Ultra in this case. And at 15x digital zoom, the writing on the boat looks sharper in the Samsung shot. At least the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 15x zoom is better than the 12x max digital zoom on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s bigger sensor shines in this selfie comparison with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. My face and blue shirt look brighter with the new iPhone while I get a little bit lost in the shadows with last year’s camera.

When it comes to ultrawide photos, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is neck and neck with the Galaxy S21 Ultra here. But I give a slight edge to the new iPhone because of the detail in the rock and especially the ripples in the water.

To test the iPhone 13 Pro Max in low light I shot these hydrangea flowers at night in nearly complete darkness. Neither image looks very sharp, but the iPhone delivers a more accurate pink and brighter green leaves.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Video and Cinematic mode

  • Cinematic mode steals the show with automatic focus and bokeh
  • ProRes support for more creative control

The Cinematic video mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is so good that you’ll feel like a mini Spielberg. That’s certainly how I felt after shooting several clips that apply a bokeh effect to your footage and automatically switch the focus to multiple subjects depending on what’s going on in the frame.

iPhone 13 cinematic mode

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In one video I recorded of a German Shepherd and Shepherd-Rottweiler mix, I appreciated how the iPhone 13 Pro Max automatically blurred out the dog in the background, resulting in a sense of depth, and I could change the focus point on the fly just by pressing on the display.

I also had fun with the Cinematic mode by having my son capture me walking along a trail and attempting a layup playing basketball. In both cases, the iPhone 13 Pro Max delivered a convincing bokeh with the video. Check out the video below to see how iPhone 13 cinematic mode works. 

Unfortunately, the resolution for Cinematic mode is capped at 1080p across the entire iPhone range, so you can’t have portrait mode videos and 4K quality at the same time. 

If you want even more creative control, the iPhone 13 Pro Max supports ProRes video, a format preferred by video editors. You can record in ProRes up to 30 fps in 4K, but note that only the 256GB and higher models support 4K; the 128GB model is limited to 1080p in ProRes likely because these files take up so much storage. Check out our how to record ProRes video on the iPhone 13 Pro tutorial for more. info. 

No matter what you shoot, you won’t be disappointed in the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s video quality. In this sweeping shot of the Manasquan river, everything from the sky trees and puffy clouds to the rippling water and swaying branches looks DSLR-like. However, I did notice a little noise as I zoomed in at 3x.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Performance

  • A15 Bionic blows the door off of Android phones
  • Sizable graphics improvement

Thanks to its new A15 Bionic chipset, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is ridiculously fast and grabs the title of world’s fastest phone. I got totally lost in the Warp Drive racing game, which delivers fast frame rates and silky smooth action even as you zoom (and sometimes teleport) around the track.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

And I also got a kick out of Seek, which flexes the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s machine learning muscles by instantly identifying several plants around my abode, from coleus to new guinea impatiens.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In terms of benchmarks, the iPhone 13 Pro Max once again destroys the Android competition. In Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the iPhone 13 Pro Max notched a multi-core score of 4,549 and a single-core score of 1,720. The Galaxy S21 Ultra hit 3,440 and 1,123, respectively, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max reached 4,111 and 1,603. 

Interestingly, the iPhone 13 scored a slightly lower 4,436/1,668, which we think could be due to the Pro Max having more RAM. (Apple doesn’t reveal how much memory it puts into its different iPhone models.)

You should expect a graphics boost on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, as it vaulted ahead of the competition on the 3DMark Wild Life unlimited test. It registered a frame rate of 68.4 frames per second, compared to 54 fps for the iPhone 12 Pro Max and 34 fps for the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Video editing should be quick work for this phone, too, as it took only 25 seconds for the iPhone 13 Pro Max to transcode a 4K file to 1080p in the Adobe Premiere Rush app. That’s only a little faster than the 28.5 seconds from the iPhone 12 Pro Max but way speedier than the Samsung’s 1:02 time.

Check out our iPhone 13 benchmarks page to see how the iPhone 13 Pro Max and all the new iPhones compare to each other and the Android phone competition. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Battery life and charging

  • 12 hours and 16 minutes of battery life is among the longest lasting phones
  • Charging still stuck at 20W with no USB-C port

Now we come to one of the best parts of the iPhone 13 Pro Max review: battery life. Thanks to a larger battery and other enhancements, the iPhone 13 Pro Max lasted a fantastic 12 hours and 16 minutes on the Tom’s Guide battery test, which surfs the web over 5G continuously at 150 nits of screen brightness.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max last year lasted 10 hours and 53 minutes and Galaxy S21 Ultra endured for 11:25. Anything above 11 hours is great, so the iPhone 13 Pro Max earns a spot on our best phone battery life list. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Head over to our iPhone 13 battery life results page to see how the iPhone 13 Pro Max compares to the other new iPhones and the best Android phones. 

The news is not that great on the charging front, as the iPhone 13 Pro Max reaches just 50% capacity after 30 minutes using a 20W UBC-C charger, while other phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro and Xiaomi 11T Pro can get to 100% in 30 minutes or less. MagSafe charging, while convenient, is even slower at 15W.

There is some good news. The iPhone 13 Pro Max can get to 100% in a fairly brisk 90 minutes if you use a higher-power 30W charger. It costs $49 from Apple. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: iOS 15

  • SharePlay lets you watch videos and listen to music with friends
  • Focus cuts down on distractions

iOS 15 isn’t the leap iOS 14 was in terms of adding widgets, but it delivers some smart and fun upgrades. FaceTime gets some needed audio and video improvements and a future iOS 15 update will let you listen to music or watch movies or TV shows with friends or family. And the Messages app has a new Shared with You section for easier access to shared photos, articles and more.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I especially like the new Focus feature in iOS 15, which lets you filter notifications based on what you’re doing. Notifications are also more streamlined, thanks with a new summary view so you don’t get overwhelmed.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Other iOS 15 goodies include a redesigned Safari (I actually don’t like the address bar at the bottom, but you can change it), a more full-featured Weather app and an enhanced Maps app with more detail and better road views. Last but not least, Live Text gives you Google Lens-like powers by recognizing text in real time via the camera for looking up things.

iPhone 13 Pro Max problems and issues

Thus far iPhone 13 owners have encountered a few problems. For example, some iPhone 13 users are finding that the phone won't unlock with an Apple Watch, though a fix  is on the way. In addition, some iPhone 13 owners are complaining about the touch display not being responsive enough in some cases, which could be an iOS 15 issue. 

On the iPhone 13 Pros in particular, there are complaints that the cameras are automatically switching between lenses without warning, and Apple will be rolling out an update that will enable users to turn this off. And the ProMotion displays on the iPhone 13 Pros are not running at 120Hz with some apps, which Apple will be addressing in an update. Of course, developers need to optimize their apps as well.

See our iPhone 13 problems roundup for more info.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review: Verdict

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is that rare phone that gets a 5-star rating from us. You get superior cameras and video recording capabilities — including the very compelling Cinematic mode and macro mode — blistering performance and a very responsive 120Hz display. Plus, the battery life is even better this time around and among the best we’ve seen from a 5G flagship.

I also appreciate the slightly better 3x optical zoom and 15x digital zoom on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the brighter screen and the slightly smaller notch. But I wish Apple could deliver faster charging, and I’d like to see a sleeker design next time around with the iPhone 14 with less of a camera bump and perhaps full-screen look. 

Some may simply prefer the iPhone 13 Pro because it’s smaller and lighter, as there are no other functional differences between the two handsets. But if you prefer a bigger screen, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the closest thing to perfect you can get in a phone.

Of course, you might want to wait another year for the iPhone 14 before you decide upgrade from your current Apple phone; if so check, out the seven biggest upgrades we want to see from the iPhone 14.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • dsignori1
    Nice review, thanks. I'm excited to receive my 13 Pro Max Friday. I appreciate the detail in your camera section. Great job.
    Reply
  • jomppupomppu
    This and the "Best Phones" list makes me really mad. The S21 Ultras bad things are no charger and no microSD. The iPhone has neither, and also bigger problems. Still, its 1st on the list, even though the Samsung has faster charging and better cameras. (Not to mention higher res screen, S Pen and more smaller things) Also, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a good alternative. The only real advantage the iPhone has is performance, but very few people actually need S21U performance on a phone, so even more is overkill and no reason to place the iPhone higher up. This whole website feels really biased towards Apple.
    Reply
  • dsignori1
    jomppupomppu said:
    .... The only real advantage the iPhone has is performance, ...

    Well, that's debatable. Many prefer the iPhone camera, and almost everyone prefers the iPhone's video capabilities. iOS stability, OS updates, integration with the ecosystem, iMessage, and more are things many people prefer on iPhones. I've owned about 5 Samsung phones (Notes) and loved them. I have an iPhone now and I prefer all of the above on the iPhone.

    I wouldn't get to worried about reviews, they are opinions. We all have them, right? :)
    Reply
  • Mark Spoonauer
    Thanks for your comment. You're wrong about the S21 Ultra cameras. We tested them side by side and iPhone delivers better image quality in most situations. As of now the S21 Ultra has a better zoom and that's pretty much it. But that could change with the S22.

    As for S21 Ultra cons, we're comparing microSD to previous Galaxy phones and it's something that was taken away. The iPhones never had them.
    jomppupomppu said:
    This and the "Best Phones" list makes me really mad. The S21 Ultras bad things are no charger and no microSD. The iPhone has neither, and also bigger problems. Still, its 1st on the list, even though the Samsung has faster charging and better cameras. (Not to mention higher res screen, S Pen and more smaller things) Also, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a good alternative. The only real advantage the iPhone has is performance, but very few people actually need S21U performance on a phone, so even more is overkill and no reason to place the iPhone higher up. This whole website feels really biased towards Apple.
    Reply
  • willyzz
    jomppupomppu said:
    This and the "Best Phones" list makes me really mad. The S21 Ultras bad things are no charger and no microSD. The iPhone has neither, and also bigger problems. Still, its 1st on the list, even though the Samsung has faster charging and better cameras. (Not to mention higher res screen, S Pen and more smaller things) Also, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a good alternative. The only real advantage the iPhone has is performance, but very few people actually need S21U performance on a phone, so even more is overkill and no reason to place the iPhone higher up. This whole website feels really biased towards Apple.

    See my comment on the iPhone 13 Pro review by Tom's guide:

    https://forums.tomsguide.com/threads/iphone-13-pro-review-one-of-the-best-phones-ever.491651/post-1974436
    I have a feeling you will agree with a lot of the statements. By the way, the same things outlined there apply to the 13 Pro Max review as well.
    Reply
  • willyzz
    Mark Spoonauer said:
    Thanks for your comment. You're wrong about the S21 Ultra cameras. We tested them side by side and iPhone delivers better image quality in most situations. As of now the S21 Ultra has a better zoom and that's pretty much it. But that could change with the S22.

    As for S21 Ultra cons, we're comparing microSD to previous Galaxy phones and it's something that was taken away. The iPhones never had them.

    I have no doubt that the 13 Pro Max delivers better camera performance in quite a few situations. However, a lot of camera comparisons can be subjective and in some cases come down purely to preference.

    I mentioned a lot of this in a comment on Tom's Guide's 13 Pro review, but I would like to repeat it here too. (Link to that comment):

    https://forums.tomsguide.com/threads/iphone-13-pro-review-one-of-the-best-phones-ever.491651/post-1974436
    In both your 13 Pro reviews, you neglect to mention that the S21 series ISN'T the iPhone 13 competitor. The S22 series is the iPhone 13 competitor. You are highlighting how the iPhone 13 Pro Max beats a last generation Samsung phone. It should do this easily, it is no miracle feat.
    The S22 is touted to have very impressive performance, courtesy of the Exynos 2200. By the way, to illustrate my point above even more clearly; the Exynos 2200 graphics are outperforming the A14 Bionic by over 50% while under throttling. I know... new gen vs last gen. Unfair, right?

    Please in your future reviews of ANY phone include some information about the device's competitors, unreleased or not.
    Reply