iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

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  • Nearly identical design and styling, newer phone a bit thicker and heavier
  • Notch is 20% smaller
  • Same 6.7″ screen size, 120Hz ProMotion vs 60Hz
  • Faster Apple A15 vs Apple A14 on older model
  • Big improvement in battery life: 2.5 hours longer on average
  • New cameras, bigger sensor and faster aperture, zoom camera has 3X zoom (vs 2.5X on 12 Pro Max)
  • New Sierra Blue color

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Display and Design

Finally with 120Hz ProMotion! Also, 20% smaller notch!

One of the most exciting new features on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a display upgrade. The screen size and resolution are exactly the same as last year: a 6.7-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 1284 x 2778 pixels, but what’s new is that Apple is finally introducing 120Hz ProMotion for super smooth scrolling on the 13 Pro Max.

Previous iPhones run at 60Hz, which simply means that the screen refreshed 60 times each second compared to 120 times on this new model, and this faster refresh rate makes everything appear smoother when you interact with the screen. This is a big deal and definitely makes a big case for buying a Pro iPhone versus the non-Pro models which will still run at 60Hz.

Face ID is also still here, but this time you have a 20% smaller size for the notch that now gets less in the way on the 13 Pro Max.

On the design side, no major changes: same flat sides, same overall look, however the 13 Pro Max is a bit thicker and a bit heavier. That actually might be a bigger deal than it sounds: the 12 Pro Max was quite heavy at 228g, and the 13 Pro Max now weighs 240g. Are we reaching some sort of a limit here? This device can definitely be felt when you carry it in your pocket and it’s not the most comfortable feeling.

Both phones feature a stainless steel construction instead of the cheaper aluminum used on most other phones. You can tell the steel by the shiny, glossy sides, and that also happens to be one of the reasons for the added heft here. On the front, both phones use Apple’s Ceramic Shield toughened glass, no difference in that regard, and both have sapphire cover glass for the camera lenses for increased scratch protection. There is also absolutely no difference in their practicality with the same IP68 dust and water protection rating on the two.

But then we have the new iPhone 13 Pro Max colors! Pro models never quite get the fun color options of the regular iPhone models, and the 13 Pro Max remains quite conservative for the most part, but it does have that new Sierra Blue version that actually looks really appealing! We have the Graphite version up for review, and then you also have the bright Silver model and finally the Gold one, which is more like pale champagne and also looks quite stylish.

Battery and Charging

The biggest upgrade to iPhone battery life

While all iPhone 13 models get some form of a battery boost, the iPhone 13 Pro Max gets the biggest one. In fact, the battery here is the largest that Apple has ever put on an iPhone, and it delivers truly impressive results!e

Apple does not publish the exact battery capacity for the iPhone 13 Pro Max on its website, but tearing down the device reveals a 4,352mAh battery vs a 3,687mAh cell on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. That’s an increase of nearly 20%, which just so happens to provide the biggest leap in battery life on an iPhone since the iPhone 11 Pro Max!

So what about battery life? Official numbers from the company say that on average, the iPhone 13 Pro delivers 2.5 hours battery life increase over iPhone 13 Pro Max. And just look at the official estimates for battery life while streaming video:

  • iPhone 13 Pro Max — 25 hours
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max — 12 hours
Yes, that’s double the battery life while streaming video, which sounds insane, but let’s take the two for a spin on our own PhoneArena battery test table and see how they do!
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is crushing it on the web browsing test and that is one of the highest scores among all devices that we have tested so far. You might have expected a drop in battery life with 120Hz, but it’s quite the opposite as Apple has implemented the feature brilliantly. We are getting between 20% and 30% longer battery life in our tests, a really impressive showing!

The new 13 Pro Max is also great at our YouTube video streaming test where it managed to play back video non-stop for more than 10 hours, a first for an iPhone, and it beat the 8 hour 37 minute score on the 12 Pro Max.

And last but not least, gamers will be happy to know that you get excellent battery life there too as the score there also breaks the 10-hour mark. This compares to just 8 hours on the 12 Pro Max.

On the charger front… well, you don’t get a charger in the box on either one! Plan on spending an additional $20-$30 bucks for a fast charger here. Unfortunately, even these so called “fast chargers” that Apple supports are not quite as fast by modern standards, only maxing out at 20W, at least theoretically. We actually tried charging the 13 Pro Max with a 45W Samsung fast charger we had lying around, and it delivered higher speeds and fully charged the phone for just 1 hour and 40 minutes. Take a look at our charging speed test below:

On the wireless front, MagSafe is also still around with up to 15W charging speeds, that’s unchanged. In our testing, using the Apple MagSafe charger, it took about 2 hours and 45 minutes to fully charge up an iPhone. And the magnets and their strength also hasn’t changed on the 13 Pro Max. Take a look here for the best MagSafe compatible wireless chargers.

Cameras

All new cameras, a couple big new features too

While they look quite familiar, the three cameras on the iPhone 13 Pro Max are visibly bigger and the reason for that lies in the all new and bigger sensors that they use. First, though, here is a quick camera comparison with the iPhone 12 Pro Max:

  • Wide (main) camera: 26mm on both, f/1.5 aperture on 13 Pro Max vs f/1.8 aperture on 12 Pro Max
  • Ultra-wide camera: 13mm on both, f/1.8 aperture on 13 Pro Max vs f/2.4 aperture on 12 Pro Max
  • Telephoto camera: 3X zoom, or 77mm on 13 Pro Max vs 2.5X zoom on 12 Pro Max
Apple advertizes that the iPhone 13 Pro Max wide camera now captures up to 2.2X more light at night for both photos and videos, and the ultra-wide camera gets up to 92% more light, which sounds massive. But let’s take a look at the actual photographs:

During the day there is hardly any difference at all and photos look pretty much identical. But what about the low light performance?

Interestingly, the newer phone captures slightly darker photos for a moodier, more genuine “night time feel.” Notice the flaring from the lights that is quite annoying, it’s still present in both photos and videos.

The trend with darker photos is particularly noticeable when using the ultrawide camera. Some people will still prefer that brighter look, but you may argue in favor of the more realistic tonality with a darker shot. And yes, detail is cleaner with less noise with the ultrawide, there is a more pronounced difference with this camera.

The larger sensor and wider aperture allowed the iPhone 13 Pro Max to use night mode with merely a 1-second exposure compared to a 3-second exposure on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

There is quite a bit of difference when using the ultra-wide camera as well.

In such low light, even though we tapped on the native 3X zoom on the 13 Pro Max and 2.5X zoom on the 12 Pro Max, both phones actually used the main camera with digital zoom and night mode in the photo above.

A new feature on the 13 series is called Photographic Styles. This is basically photo filers on steroids: you can do local edits in real time and you can see the results right in the view finder. You can pick a more vibrant look, or a different style, and you can have the iPhone remember that personal preference you have and use it across all your photos.

You can now also capture macro photos on the iPhone 13 Pro / Max thanks to the new ultra-wide camera that has a new auto-focus system that allows to focus at a distance as close as just 2cm for incredible close-ups. This same feature applies for video too, where you can record macro video.
On the video side, the major new feature is called Cinematic Mode and allows you to rack focus while you are recording, and even change the focus of a previous recording captured on an iPhone 13 device.

Just like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also comes with a LiDAR scanner. The main use of that scanner is for augmented reality, but we are yet to see Apple realize its full potential, and for the most part you can probably just ignore its existence here.

New Apple A15 chip

Gains!

Apple has the lead in performance in the smartphone space, and the new Apple A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone 13 Pro Max raises the bar from the previous leader, which just so happens to be the Apple A14 in the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Both chips are build on 5nm technology, but the newer one features more transistors and a wider cache, and it gets improvements in CPU, GPU and AI performance, plus it brings very crucial camera ISP enhancements.

Below, you will find benchmark results from the iPhone 13 Pro Max vs 12 Pro Max to understand the real difference in speed:

So far, it is said that Apple has bumped the CPU frequency up from 2.99GHz on the A14 to 3.22GHz on the A15, which gives an under 10% increase in CPU performance, and the company has also boosted the cache which helps get better multi-core performance. Our take on these numbers is that the A15 is faster, but the A14 was already fast enough, so don’t expect some huge difference in the way these phones run in real life. This is more of a future-proofing move rather than addressing any particular problem. Unless you edit a lot of video on your phone that is, that definitely feels much quicker now.

On the GPU side, we are seeing slightly bigger gains. The new iPhone Pros with the Apple A15 Bionic scored 14,216 points on the Geekbench Metal graphics test, compared to 9,123 for the iPhone 12 family, and 7,338 points for the iPhone 11 series. That’s nearly 55% improvement, a bigger leap than you might have expected.

But in more realistic testing cases such as the 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme test that simulates 3D gaming, we see more modest gains in actual GPU speeds. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max also has the same 6GB of RAM as the previous model. That falls short of Android flagships but seems sufficient for the way iOS runs.

On the network side, you have 5G connectivity with support for mmWave in the US, as well as mid-band and low-band 5G, so you can get the full benefits of 5G. The iPhone 13 series also use the new Qualcomm’s X60 modem, a welcome upgrade over the X55 modem used in the iPhone 12 series. The main advantage of the newer X60 modem is that it gets rid of one limitation of the previous modem: while the X55 bundled 5G downlink with 4G uplink, which was problematic, the newer X60 combines 5G downlink and 5G uplink for lower latency. One thing we had heard earlier in rumors and that did not happen on the 13 Pro Max is Wi-Fi 6e support. Wi-Fi 6e is the new standard that can theoretically more than double bandwidth by opening the 6GHz channel for customers for the first time, but we guess that might come to the 2022 iPhones.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Specs Comparison

And here is a detailed specs comparison between the iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max release date happened on Friday, September 24th, and good news is that prices haven’t changed from earlier Pro Max iPhone and the starting price is still $1,100 for the base 128GB version. New this year is a 1TB model for power users, but that one will cost quite a bit at $1,600.

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