Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
If you held off buying last year’s iPhone 12 Pro models, you made a very wise decision. The new iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max will arrive in stores this Friday and – despite the name – there’s nothing unlucky for those who have already pre-ordered one. With a faster A15 Bionic processor under the bonnet, big improvements to the triple-camera, a silky smooth 120Hz ProMotion display, more built-in storage, and better battery life …there’s a lot to love here.
Apple has introduced a striking new blue colour this year
That new ProMotion screen is something we criticised Apple for excluding from the iPhone 12 Pro series last year, so it’s great to see the feature finally make an appearance. So, are these now the ultimate iPhones? Express.co.uk has been putting these premium devices to the test. Here’s our full iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max review.
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: What’s in the box?
While most Android manufacturers continue to bundle bigger and faster chargers in the box that refill your battery in minutes, Apple has taken a very different approach. To cut down on electronic waste, the US firm stopped supplying a plug last year and things haven’t changed in 2021.
That means the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max arrive with only a lightning cable in the box …and nothing else. While we’re sure that many iPhone owners never used the new plug supplied with their latest handset – continuing to rely on the old charger already plugged into the wall. However, for those who haven’t owned an iPhone before, or who don’t have one of the new faster USB-C connected plugs… you’ll need to fork-out £19 to buy one separately from the Apple Store. It’s no surprise that Apple hasn’t reversed its eco-friendly promise, but buyers might be a little shocked when the device arrives free of any plastic wrap.
Yes, this year Apple is taking things up a notch by getting rid of the plastic wrap that usually keeps the box looking box fresh. Apple says this decision will save over 600 metric tons of waste – which is clearly vital – but we have to admit (with some guilt) that we missed the theatre of ripping the seal and pulling off that wrap.
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Display
We bemoaned its exclusion last year, but Apple has now delivered the stunning 120Hz ProMotion screen we’d been dreaming of. This boosted refresh rate makes a ginormous difference, with every stroke on the screen looking buttery smooth like never before.
Most flagship Android devices have had this technology for some time – indeed, Apple’s own iPad Pro series has enjoyed this amazing ProMotion screen since 2017. It has taken way too long to arrive on the iPhone (and it’s a shame the feature is reserved for the costlier Pro series this time around) but we’re over the moon that it’s finally here. And there’s no question that ProMotion really adds to experience of the 13 Pro.
Once you’ve used it, you’ll never want to go back and Apple has also been clever by making this technology adaptive. That means when you’re simply staring at a static webpage, reading an article like this, and don’t need the screen to refresh, the device can drop to as low 10Hz to conserve battery life. However, the moment you start scrolling or playing games, it leaps into those faster speeds, which refresh twice as frequently as last year’s iPhone 12 Pro could manage.
The new Pro has a 120Hz screen which makes scrolling silky smooth
The display is also brighter than the 12 Pro and continues to include True Tone technology, which adapts the white balance depending on the temperature of the light around you. Like last year, the screen is also compatible with Dolby Vision and HDR10 content.
There’s no question these are the best displays ever shipped on any iPhone but, just like last year’s models, it is worth noting that the 6.7-inch panel found on the 13 Pro Max is pretty humongous and won’t suit smaller hands or small pockets and bags.
One final upgrade to this year’s screen is that the notch is now considerably smaller than on iPhone 12 Pro. It’s not gone completely, but it’s definitely easier to forget, although we wish Apple had taken the opportunity make the most of the extra screen real estate, for example, reinstating the remaining battery percentage in the corner of the screen that we used to get with all iPhone models.
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Design
When you pull the 13 Pro and Pro Max out of the box, you won’t find any major design changes. There are some striking new colours, including a lovely Sierra Blue which, having tested, we can definitely recommend.
However, that’s about it.
Both phones are slightly thicker and heavier than before. but it’s nothing too noticeable (the iPhone 12 Pro Max was already pretty hefty). However, the fact Apple hasn’t tinkered with the design is no bad thing.
The sharp industrial-style design with colour matched glossy stainless steel edges still look great and you can never fault Apple’s build quality, which remains first class.
These new phones also continue to feature Apple’s Ceramic Shield technology, which makes them able to withstand a decent amount of punishment without fear of a cracked screen or broken glass back.
They are also fully IP68 water-resistant with that rating allowing them to stay underwater for 30 minutes without any worries of a soggy circuit board.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Camera
The iPhone 13 Pro cameras were already pretty impressive, but things have got even better in 2021. The triple-lends snapper gets bigger sensors across the board for improved image quality. As well as the option zoom, there’s now a macro option for extreme closeups.
We have been snapping images with both the older iPhone 12 Pro and new models and there’s definitely an improvement when shooting in low-light. Not only that, the new macro capability is also impressive and can shoot images at a ludicrously close range.
SEE IMAGE SAMPLES BELOW
iPhone 13 Pro Max camera samples
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera samples
Apple Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max camera samples
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Anyone who regularly records video will find a raft of new features, including support for the ProRes format in 4K at 30fps.
Then there’s the new Cinematic mode. This allows you to add a Hollywood feel to your movies with the focus automatically tracking faces and objects. If you point the camera on a person they will look pin-sharp in the shot but the minute they turn to talk to someone behind the clever camera system will switch focal points. You can also change the focus manually simply by tapping on the screen.
It works seamlessly and certainly adds some style to your home videos although it will be interesting to see just how many people actually use it once these devices are launched. It’s worth noting that this option has only been made capable thanks to the A15 Bionic processor so don’t expect to see it in an update to your iPhone 12.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro and Max get a new Cinematic mode
The Cinematic mode changes focus automatically
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Processor and battery life
There are some very big upgrades going on under the glass and stainless steel chassis, including a much faster A15 Bionic processor. It’s the same chip found in the cheaper iPhone 13, although its performance is boosted further thanks to a 5-core GPU that Apple promises will provide the fastest speeds for gaming and high-intensity tasks, like photography and video production.
There’s no question the 13 Pro is an absolute beast when it comes to raw power and we honestly don’t think that you’ll find anything it can’t cope with. As well as that upgrade to performance you’ll also find a bigger battery, which adds around two hours of extra battery life between charges. Fans always want more battery life and there’s no question that the 13 Pro and Pro Max really deliver on this promise.
Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro range gets a smaller notch
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Extras
If you have a healthy bank balance, you can now buy the iPhone 13 Pro models with a whopping 1TB of storage. That’s enough to store around 600,000 photos without fear of running out of space.
It will set you back around £1,500 to own this ultimate iPhone, but it could actually be worth that incredible price tag when you spend all day shooting videos and shots for your Instagram feed.
If 1TB sounds a little too rich for your blood, the entry-level iPhone 13 Pro ships with 128GB, with 256GB and 512GB models also available. As well as more storage, both 13 Pro models continue to get access to the latest 5G data speeds, which can download files at speeds over 300Mbps.
It’s impressive stuff and makes some home broadband look embarrassingly slow, but don’t forget that 5G is pretty new and isn’t available in many parts of the UK just yet.
MagSafe also makes a return offering an easy way to refill the battery and stick accessories to the case such as the neat Leather Wallet.
We’ve been using MagSafe for the past year and really love how easy it is to connect accessories and pump power back into the battery. Just don’t forget that these are all added extras with a charger costing £39 and the Wallet removing £59 from your wallet.
Finally, you’ll continue to get Apple’s fabulous Face ID, which unlocks the phone in flash and it comes pre-installed with the latest iOS 15 software.
The new A15 Bionic processor is a powerhouse
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Price
The Pro models have never been cheap and that’s not changed in 2021. Although prices haven’t gone up, if you opt for the top end 1TB Pro Max you will find over £1,500 being removed from your bank account. Ouch!
The standard 13 Pro starts from £989 with 128GB of storage with the Pro Max costing at least £1,089. If that all sounds like too much for your bank balance to cope with then don’t forget that the iPhone 13 starts from under £700 and you can still buy the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 at discounted prices from the Apple Store and mobile networks.
One final way to reduce the price of your new purchase is to hand over your old iPhone. Apple offers over £600 with its trade-in deals. Sadly, Apple isn’t selling the iPhone 12 Pro anymore, so don’t expect to see any discounts on last year’s Pro models unless you pick up the last stock from third-party retailers, like Amazon or John Lewis.
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max review: Final Verdict
The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max were missing a few key features to be truly competitive… but we’re pleased to report that iPhone 13 and 13 Pro Max deliver everything we asked for.
There’s that gorgeous 120Hz ProMotion display, more battery life, improved triple-camera with a huge boost to low-light photos and Cinematic mode videos, and, for those who need it, 1TB of storage.
Sure, the hardware design hasn’t changed from last year, which is a bit of a shame and, like most of us during lockdown, things are a bit heavier. You’ll also need to pay extra to buy a fast-charger to take advantage of the best charging speeds and not everyone will benefit from the supercharged 5G downloads as these networks are still pretty patchy.
But with all that said, there’s no question that this is the ultimate iPhone and, if your wallet can handle the price, it’s hard not to recommend.