Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max – Review 2023 – PCMag Middle East

The iPhone 15 Pro Max (starting at $1,199) seems like a modest update to Apple’s premiere smartphone at a glance, but it packs a harder punch than expected. Based on its lighter build, speedier performance, helpful Action button, and capable software, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is already a winner. Switching from Apple’s old, proprietary Lightning port to the industry standard USB-C may seem overdue, but it expands the iPhone’s capabilities in more ways than you might imagine. Add in superior battery life, a longer camera zoom range, and higher base storage than the smaller iPhone 15 Pro, and it’s clear the 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone for serious creators and power users, as well as our Editors’ Choice winner.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max represents the biggest change to the phone’s design since the 2020 iPhone 12 series…not that you can tell immediately. From several feet away, the 15 Pro Max looks a whole lot like the 14 Pro Max, the 13 Pro Max, and the 12 Pro Max. Upon closer inspection, however, you can see all sorts of changes.
To start, there’s a new shape and material for the frame. Gone are the severe angles and stainless steel of the 14 Pro Max in favor of slightly rounded edges and titanium. Apple says the titanium is stronger and lighter. We haven’t tested the former, but the latter is certainly true. The 15 Pro Max weighs 7.81 ounces, which is notably less than the 14 Pro Max’s 8.47 ounces. This may not seem like a lot, and yet the real-world difference is stark. The 15 Pro Max is also smaller than its predecessor, albeit just barely, at 6.29 by 3.02 by 0.32 inches (HWD) compared with 6.33 by 3.05 by 0.31 inches. Together, the rounded edges and the smaller, lighter hardware genuinely improve the experience of holding and using the phone.
By comparison, the iPhone 15 Pro (starting at $999) weighs 6.6 ounces and measures 5.77 by 2.78 by 0.32 inches. The 15 Plus (starting at $899) weighs 7.09 ounces and measures 0.01 inches taller and wider than the 15 Pro Max. Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra (starting at $1,199), the top competing Android device, comes in at 8.25 ounces and 6.43 by 3.07 by 0.35 inches, which makes it bigger and heavier than Apple’s latest. This year the iPhone Pro models are being offered in Black Titanium, Blue Titanium, Natural Titanium, or White Titanium.
The fit and finish of the iPhone 15 Pro Max are as good as you’re going to find from any smartphone maker in the market. The titanium has a fine grain to it and more of a matte quality than the shiny polished stainless steel of earlier models, though there are some instances when your fingerprints might change its color. Apple continues to use its Ceramic Shield for the front glass and textured matte glass for the rear. It claims these are tougher than most other smartphone glass types. iPhone competitors such as the Galaxy S and Pixel series rely on Corning Gorilla Glass Victus or Victus+. The iPhone 15 Pro Max meets the IP68 rating for protection against dust and water, which is an expected feature for a high-price flagship. This means a quick dunk in the pool or creek won’t spell watery doom for your precious phone, and you can even rinse it off if it gets dirty. (Of course, we still recommend you use a protective case for any phone that costs this much.)
Two of the biggest hardware changes are found in the outer edges of the handset. First, we’ll note that the combined power/screen lock button is in its usual spot on the phone’s right edge. This button has perfect travel and feedback. The same is true for the separate volume keys that are positioned on the left edge. What’s different? The ringer switch on the left edge is gone, and so is the Lightning port on the bottom.
Apple has upgraded the Pro iPhones this year with an Action button, which replaces the ringer switch. By default, the Action button still controls the ringer and a long press will toggle the phone between silent and ring modes. Taking a page from its Android competitors, though, Apple lets iPhone Pro owners customize the action this button takes. You can set it to perform your choice of a number of functions, including launching the camera, turning on the flashlight, capturing a voice memo, setting Focus Mode, turning on the magnifier, toggling an accessibility feature, or enabling your own shortcut. This last option really opens up the door for creative uses. For example, using Apple’s Shortcuts tool you can use the Action button to open your garage door or turn on/off smart home devices like lights. I had no trouble setting it up to launch Shazam so I could learn the title of nearby playing music. The sky’s the limit here, so have fun. The only drawback is that the button is slightly awkward to reach given its high position on the left edge.
If you gaze at the bottom edge of any of the iPhone 15 devices, you’ll see a USB-C port instead of the old Lightning port. Apple was partially forced into making this change due to a mandate by the EU that all smartphones (and select other devices) charge via the same cable. The idea is to make life easier for consumers as well as to reduce e-waste. Either way, the iPhone 15 now has a USB-C port that can do all sorts of things.
For example, it can send a charge in the reverse direction, allowing you to use your iPhone to power up your AirPods Pro or Apple Watch Series 9. The 15 Pro Max and 15 Pro can also use the port to send 4K60 ProRes video from the iPhone directly to an external SSD for recording. That’s an enormous benefit to certain types of creators. You can also connect the iPhone to input devices, such as cameras and microphones to capture footage or audio, as well as connect directly to 4K60 HDR displays for mirroring the iPhone’s display to watch movies or play games.
Though there are plenty of Lightning-based accessories for older iPhone models, the number of USB-C accessories now compatible with the iPhone 15 line is already robust. The 15 Pro models both support the USB-C 3 Gen 2 spec, which means faster data transfer speeds (up to 10Gbps) than the USB-C 2.0 supported by the non-Pro iPhone 15 models, which is limited to 480Mbps. Let’s not forget, however, that Android phones have been using USB-C for many years.
While the iPhone 15 Pro Max is still unmistakably an iPhone and its upgrades don’t seem significant on paper, the end result of Apple’s shift in materials, buttons, and ports will have a lasting—and positive—impact on iPhone owners.
Apple hasn’t brought any significant upgrades to the Pro line’s displays this year. While the vanilla iPhone 15 and 15 Plus lose the notch and gain access to the Dynamic Island, the two Pro models carry over most features from the previous generation. The one worthwhile change is what you don’t see: Apple has reduced the thickness of the bezels by a fraction of a millimeter all the way around. This means less black border surrounding the screen and is what helps make the 15 Pro models slightly smaller than their 14 Pro predecessors.
The phone’s Super Retina XDR display measures 6.7 inches across the diagonal and packs 2,796 by 1,290 pixels for a density of 460ppi. The smaller 15 Pro has a 6.1-inch screen with 2,556 by 1,179 pixels for the same density of 460ppi. The screen supports Apple’s ProMotion technology, which is a fancy way of saying it has an adaptive refresh rate that runs from 1Hz up to 120Hz. This makes for a smoother scrolling experience when using the phone. It also supports automatic True Tone white balance to match the ambient light and covers the entire P3 gamut for wide color. The contrast ratio remains 2,000,000:1 and brightness carries over at 1,000 nits max (typical), 1,600 nits (HDR peak), and 2,000 nits (outdoor peak). This makes the phone great for watching movies and for use outdoors under bright sunlight. I had no trouble seeing the screen under the harshest lighting conditions.
By way of comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x Infinity-O screen at 120Hz with a 3,088-by-1,440-pixel resolution and a pixel density of 501ppi. The Google Pixel 7 Pro ($899) has a 6.7-inch OLED panel at 3,210 by 1,440 pixels and a slightly higher pixel density of 512ppi. The iPhone 15 Plus has the same size and resolution screen as the Pro Max, but it loses the high refresh rate and always-on display.
Speaking of which, Apple hasn’t done much to improve the Dynamic Island and always-on display of the Pro models. That said, more apps now support Dynamic Island actions, such as Uber and United, and more apps support home screen widgets, such as Lyft and YouTube Music.
The Dynamic Island contains the user-facing camera as well as the module that powers Face ID. The face unlock tool is the only biometric security option offered by the iPhone and it’s one of the industry’s best. It works quickly and consistently to unlock the phone in a variety of lighting conditions. It can even account for changes to your facial appearance, such as the addition of glasses, hats, face masks, and beards. Most Android phones rely on fingerprint readers for biometrics, including both the S23 Ultra and the Pixel 7 Pro.
Each year Apple debuts a new processor alongside its iPhones. This year, it’s called the A17 Pro, a change in the naming convention compared with last year’s A16 Bionic. This new chip relies on a 3nm process and has a 6-core architecture with two performance cores and four efficiency cores that Apple says are 10% faster than the A16. Apple doesn’t provide clock speeds, but benchmarking apps suggest the top core has a speed of 3.77GHz. The A17 Pro also features a brand new six-core GPU that’s 20% faster than the A16 and a 16-core Neural Engine that’s twice as fast at machine learning tasks. Apple says the A17 Pro should bring major performance improvements to mobile games, such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing. The chip is also what makes some of the phone’s high-end features possible, such as the ProMotion display, AV1 decoder, and high-speed USB.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is offered in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage options. Apple nixed the 128GB model from the Max lineup (thus raising the base price of the Pro Max line by $100), but that option remains for the smaller 15 Pro. Apple doesn’t disclose the amount of RAM in iPhones, but our test model has 8GB according to benchmark apps. These storage options are in line with competing devices, as is the base amount of RAM. Some high-end Android phones come with 12GB or even 16GB of RAM, but iOS doesn’t require as much memory to run as Android so 8GB should be plenty. And based on our tests, it is.
Comparing iPhone benchmarks with Android benchmarks isn’t quite an Apple-to-apples comparison, but it still provides us with some guidance on how the iPhone 15 Pro Max performs against its peers.
Starting with Geekbench 6, which calculates CPU power, the iPhone 15 Pro Max notched 2,928 on the single-core test and 7,268 on the multi-core test. That easily trounces the scores of the iPhone 14 Pro Max at 1,874 and 5,445 and the Galaxy S23 Ultra at 1,545 and 5,078 on Geekbench 5.5. The Pixel 7 Pro, meanwhile, scored a lowly 1,050 and 3,190 in comparison. The Galaxy runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor while the Pixel runs on a Tensor G2.
Next, we ran several versions of the GFXBench test, which covers graphics, including Aztec Ruins, Manhattan, and T-Rex. Apple’s device averaged 60fps across all three tests while the Galaxy S23 Ultra ran faster at 62fps and the iPhone 14 Pro Max ran slower at 54fps. What’s notable here is that Apple improved by about 11% year over year.
We also ran 3DMark, in which the phone scored 3,634 with an average frame rate of 22fps. 3DMark’s rankings suggest the phone beats about 85% of other devices that have used the benchmark, including the 3,377 of the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Apple gave us early access to Resident Evil Village, a game headed to iOS soon that takes advantage of the A17 Pro. The game looks fantastic on the iPhone 15 Pro Max screen and runs smoothly with consistent frame rates and jitter-free action. The lighting, in particular, is spectacular, though the phone was noticeably warm by the time we were done playing.
The 15 Pro Max easily handled all the standard apps you’ll find on many iPhones, including Safari, Mail, Messages, and the camera, and also pushed through professional apps like GarageBand, Lightroom, and iMovie without stopping to catch its breath.
Simply put, you don’t have to worry about horsepower with the iPhone 15 Pro Max (or the iPhone 15 Pro, which uses the same processor). The 15 Plus and 15 are somewhat slower due to their year-old A16 Bionic chip.
Other top phones just can’t compete with the Pro Max’s battery. Apple doesn’t specify the size of iPhone batteries, but the lithium-ion power cell is likely around 4,400mAh, which is less than the 5,000mAh capacity of many premiere Android phones. Apple is simply able to do more with less and crush the competition along the way.
We run every phone through the same battery drain test: We set the display brightness to the maximum and stream a YouTube video over Wi-Fi until the battery dies. Apple claims the 15 Pro Max can stream video for 25 hours in this scenario, but we clocked it at 20 hours and 15 minutes. That’s a marked 1.25-hour improvement over last year’s iPhone 14 Pro Max, which reached 19 hours. It’s also better than the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s battery life of 13 hours, 11 minutes and the Pixel 7 Pro’s 10 hours, 30 minutes.
In terms of real-world usage, the phone easily pushed through 1.5 days between charges, if not longer. If you want or need a battery that lasts, the Pro Max is the iPhone to get.
On the charging front, the iPhone officially supports 20W wired charging. The phone no longer ships with a charging brick, but it does come with a high-quality, braided USB-C-to-USB-C cable. We measured the iPhone 15 Pro Max charging at rates up to 27W with a high-speed brick, but that’s the fastest speed you should expect to see. Competing Android phones charge faster, such as 45W for the S23 Ultra and 80W for the OnePlus 11 5G.
In our tests, the 15 Pro Max battery reached a 50% charge from 0% in 33 minutes, which is just off the 30-minute mark Apple claims. A full charge took closer to 85 minutes, or a few minutes quicker than last year’s phone, which took 90 minutes. The S23’s total charging time was 71 minutes while the OnePlus 11 5G recharged fully in just 27 minutes.
The iPhone is compatible with Apple’s MagSafe wireless charging tech, which uses magnets to help align the phone properly on MagSafe charging accessories. MagSafe charges wirelessly at a rate of 15W, which powers up the iPhone in about 120 minutes. You can use standard Qi wireless chargers, too, but those will charge at a slower rate of just 7.5W. Of note, the phone did get warm during full power-ups.
Need to breath some life into your AirPods or Apple Watch? The iPhone 15 Pro Max supports reverse charging via USB-C at 4.5W. That’s new for all iPhone 15 models.
Apple hasn’t named the iPhone 15 Pro’s modem, but it’s the Qualcomm Snapdragon X70, which is a jump up from the X65 of the iPhone 14. It continues to support sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, including valuable C-band spectrum in the US. We tested the 15 Pro Max on Verizon’s network in and around New York City and came away impressed.
Download speeds in an area with solid Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband coverage reached 301Mbps, which is a significant upgrade compared with the 90Mbps we saw on the iPhone 14 Pro Max tested in the same spot, but about equal to the 295Mbps speeds of an S23 Ultra. More importantly, upload speeds reached new highs, climbing from 8.3Mbps on the iPhone 14 Pro Max to 122Mbps. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also performed better in low-signal regions, measuring speeds of 21Mbps down and 14Mbps up compared with the S23 Ultra’s 17Mbps down and 9.3Mbps up in the same spot.
Wi-Fi gets a big upgrade this year, jumping from the slightly outdated Wi-Fi 6 spec to Wi-Fi 6E, which is what most flagship smartphones are adopting. When testing the phone about a foot from a Verizon Fios router with 940Mbps service, we saw a peak download speed of 640Mbps, which is in line with the 609Mbps scored by the S23 Ultra but markedly quicker than the Pixel 7 Pro’s 475Mbps and the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s 435Mbps. Uploads were only modestly quicker at 239Mbps compared with 209Mbps for the 14 Pro Max. The phone did well when tested at the Wi-Fi network’s edge, where it peaked at 8.1Mbps down against the S23’s 6.35Mbps.
The 15 Pro Max carries over the Bluetooth 5.3 connection from last year. This is still the latest spec and the iPhone’s codec support remains unchanged with AAC, Apple Lossless, and FLAC, in addition to spatial audio. In our tests, listening to music on a pair of true wireless earbuds sounded great and the connection held firm beyond the typical Bluetooth range.
Apple has added Thread networking technology to the iPhone 15 Pro line. This means the phone will be able to talk directly to Thread-based smart home devices without needing an additional hub. Apple says the feature isn’t active yet, though, and will be enabled down the road with a software update.
In case you were wondering, Apple didn’t bring back the SIM card tray. All US-bound iPhone 15s support eSIM only, with up to two active numbers for as many as eight eSIM profiles stored on the phone. I was able to transfer my Verizon account from the iPhone 14 Pro Max to the 15 Pro Max seamlessly in under one minute. According to tales of woe across the internet, your mileage here may vary.
With an active Verizon account, the voice calls, HD voice calls, and conversations I had on the phone were perfectly clear. I didn’t encounter any network issues at all and the earpiece above the display provides plenty of volume for calls whether you’re at home or on a busy city street. The new Voice Isolation feature makes you sound much clearer to those you call, as it eliminates background noise to make your voice stand out.
The phone includes built-in stereo speakers with the earpiece serving as one and the bottom-firing speaker as the other. Most music and video content sounds great on the speakers, with balanced highs and lows. Our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” has clean, detailed highs and reasonably present low-end thump. You might hear some distortion if you crank it up all the way. If you like it loud, you’re better off with a Bluetooth speaker.
Apple brought Emergency SOS and Crash Detection to the iPhone 14 family last year. This year, it’s offering a slightly stepped-down version of the service called Emergency Roadside Assistance. It works the same way, using the iPhone to send text messages to a satellite-based service in areas with no cellular coverage, but rather than calling in the cavalry for a full rescue, it connects you to AAA for help charging a car battery or changing a flat tire. It’s free for AAA subscribers, but non-AAA subscribers may have to pay for tows and other auto services. We did not test this feature but it is available to all iPhone 15s in the US for a period of two years.
Last, there’s Apple’s second-generation Ultra Wideband chip. This extra radio mostly extends functionality within Apple’s own ecosystem. For example, it adds new Find My features to the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen with USB-C, allowing for pinpoint accuracy in finding them when lost. The same goes for finding other iPhone 15s. People with Apple’s latest iPhones can more accurately locate one another using the Find My app when out and about, which now shows more precise directions and distance. In practice with two iPhone 15s, this feature worked almost scarily well, providing direction and distance details with stunning accuracy.
Each iPhone 15 has the same 48MP main camera sensor and Apple is doing something interesting this year. Typically, smartphone makers would bin a 48MP sensor down by a factor of four to create brighter 12MP images. Here, Apple is combining a binned 12MP shot with a full-size 48MP frame into a single 24MP image that Apple claims has more detail while retaining good low-light performance. iPhone 15 owners can opt to take full-resolution pictures in HEIF and ProRAW if they wish.
For the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, Apple is allowing owners to tweak this main camera further. Thanks to the size of the 48MP sensor, the Pro lets creators dial in the equivalents of 24mm (1x), 28mm (1.2x), and 35mm (1.5x) lenses, which are standard primes, and quickly jump between them. You have to enable this in the settings.
Finally for the main camera, Apple says it can capture 2x “optical” zoom photos by using the central 12MP of the sensor. It claims this method produces 2x zoomed photos that are as sharp as those taken with an approximate 2x glass lens.
The Pro iPhone models this year each have a 12MP ultra-wide camera at f/2.2. This camera produces 0.5x superwide shots (or as teens say, a point-fiver) and can double as a macro camera for extreme close-ups (~2cm) of subjects such as flowers.
The third camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 5x optical telephoto lens at the equivalent of 120mm at f/2.8. This is made possible by a tetraprism to bend and extend the incoming light, as well as a new 3D sensor-shift optical image stabilization module that keeps things steady at the greater focal length. The smaller iPhone 15 Pro has a 3x optical telephoto lens at the equivalent of 77mm.
Like the main camera, all iPhone 15s share the same 12MP TrueDepth front-facing camera for selfies.
OK, that’s a lot of cameras. How do the photos look? In a word, excellent.
In daylight, the iPhone 15 Pro Max takes bright, clean photos with lots of detail and plenty of warmth. You’ll find sharp focus and solid white balance across the board, with accurate color. Tonal highlights and shadow detail are pleasing. Whether you use the ultra-wide, main, or telephoto camera, the colors are matched well.
Stepping indoors, things take a bit of a turn. Photos show far more noise inside, particularly when there’s overly warm lighting.
It’s easy to switch between the three lenses, as well as the three focal lengths of the main lens, with simple taps on the screen, but of course you can pinch to zoom as you wish. The iPhone 15 Pro models support seamless zooming across the three cameras.
The ultra-wide camera does a really fine job with macro shots, as evidenced by the above close-up of some colorful Rice Krispies treats.
The 5x optical zoom camera delivers pleasingly sharp results, such as these rocks in a river. The 5x photos are far cleaner than the 3x shots of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, though the Pixel 7 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra outgun the iPhone here with even sharper images.
Nighttime photos are also quite good. This image of a Thai restaurant shows lots of detail without overblowing the sky.
The difference between a regular selfie and a portrait mode selfie is easily evident. The former gives you a slightly wider field of view with plenty of depth in the background, while the latter provides a nice degree of bokeh. There are some obvious lighting effects applied in the latter case to brighten your face.
Speaking of bokeh, every shot of a person, dog, or cat taken with any iPhone 15 model automatically captures depth data so you can turn it into a portrait after the fact. (We did exactly this with the cat photo above.) It’s a fun tool that gives you some extra latitude when you forget to enable portrait mode.
As far as video is concerned, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a total powerhouse. Not only does it capture up to 4K60 in ProRes, it supports 1x to 3x cinematic zoom, the Academy Color Encoding System, and Log encoding for custom post-processing color correction. It’s able to record directly to external hard drives via USB-C, and offers a range of slow-motion and hyperlapse recording tools in addition to its Action mode for stabilization.
Google and Samsung have upped their game with their most recent phones, but video is something the iPhone excels at. If you’re a vlogger or video enthusiast, the iPhone 15 Pro Max should be your first and only choice of smartphone for video capture.
All four Apple iPhone 15 models ship with iOS 17, the latest operating system from the tech giant. For a full rundown of all the fresh features, check out our in-depth review. iPhones going back to the XR, XS, SE (second generation or later) have access to iOS 17 and the bulk of its features.
We particularly like Standby Mode, which turns your iPhone into a smart display of sorts when it’s charging and rotated sideways. You can configure your iPhone to show a clock, your calendar, the weather, and more. Other than the settings tools used to control the Action button and the always-on display, as well as a few extra camera tools, the iPhone 15 Pro models have all the same software as the standard iPhone 15 devices.
The most important thing to know about the iPhone 15 Pro Max is that it will receive security and feature updates for many years to come. The majority of Android devices get two to four years of software updates and then maybe another year of security updates. Most iPhones receive about five years of both software and security upgrades.
iPhones are never cheap and the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the costliest of the bunch. At $1,199 for the base 256GB model, it’s $200 more than the base iPhone 15 Pro. Those two extra Benjamins get you double the storage, a larger screen, notably better battery life, and a significantly more powerful 5x zoom lens on the telephoto camera. Otherwise, the two phones share the new titanium frame, customizable Action button, USB-C port with speedy data transfers and reverse charging, A17 Pro processor, and helpful always-on display. The iPhone 15 Plus ($899) costs even less but loses the speedy processor, telephoto camera, always-on display, and more. If you prefer Android, the Galaxy S23 Ultra ($1,199) and Google Pixel 7 Pro ($899) are the best alternatives. The S23 Ultra has better optical zoom and the S Pen stylus, while the Pixel 7 Pro has truly helpful AI-based photo editing tools on board. But if you’re looking for the best iPhone for creating content of any kind, the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max is well worth the price of admission, earning it our Editors’ Choice award.
I’m PCMag’s managing editor for consumer electronics content, overseeing an experienced team of reviewers and product testers. I’ve been covering tech for more than 20 years. Prior to PCMag, I worked at outlets such as Android Authority, Fortune, InformationWeek, and Phonescoop.
PCMag is obsessed with culture and tech, offering smart, spirited coverage of the products and innovations that shape our connected lives and the digital trends that keep us talking.


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