iPhone 15 Pro Max Review – Titanium Temptations
The iPhone 15 Pro Max and the series around it brings USB Type-C to the field after being forced by the EU. This is probably the most important feature that it could get and will go down history. For the better or worse.
iPhone 15 Pro Max (256GB): RM6,499
iPhone 15 Pro Max (512GB): RM7,499
iPhone 15 Pro Max (1TB): RM8,499
+ Top-notch performance and butter smooth experience
+ Camera setup is probably the one reason to get it
+ Finally zoom capabilities using Cinematic Video mode
+ USB Type-C opens up so much possibilities
+ Battery is definitely not disappointing for my usage
+ The curved edges definitely feel so much nicer to hold
+ You can now set the default camera lens to load every time you fire up the camera
+ Customizable Action button and we all love customizability
- Boring design. Can't differentiate easily with the previous generation
- The heat is rather significant at least before iOS 17.0.3
- Not digging the "Contact Poster" and "Name Drop" for how it works
- External storage mounting methods (or supported FS) need to be improved
A year ago, I delved into the Apple ecosystem with the iPhone 14 Pro, marking my inaugural journey with Apple’s iconic device. Since then, my tech arsenal has expanded, welcoming the iPad Mini, MacBook Pro M2, and Mac Mini M2. However, it hasn’t been a seamless transition. My trusty Android remains by my side, compensating for areas where the iPhone falls short. Yet, there’s an air of anticipation with the arrival of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. As the most formidable member of the iPhone 15 lineup, I opted for the 1TB variant to truly gauge its prowess. Has this swayed my allegiance completely towards Apple? Let’s delve deeper.
Unboxing iPhone 15 Pro Max
For seasoned iPhone enthusiasts, unboxing may feel like a familiar ritual. However, the anticipation of discovering the device’s features never wanes. The iPhone 15 Pro Max package retains elements from its predecessors: the device itself, a USB Type-C to Type-C cable (which is new this time around), user manuals, a SIM ejector tool, and the quintessential Apple sticker. A fun sidenote: my son eagerly awaits that sticker every time I unveil a new Apple product.
Recalling my iPhone 14 Pro purchase, I had invested in the MagSafe Charger. Fortunately, this accessory remains compatible, ensuring my initial investment endures. And if you’re curious about the color choice, I opted for the distinctive Blue Titanium – a shade that stands out amidst its counterparts.
|CPU||Apple A17 Pro
2 x performance cores up to 3.78GHz
4 x efficiency cores up to 2.11GHz
16-core Neural Engine
|Memory||8GB Micron ‘D1β’ LPDDR5 DRAM|
|Display||6.7″ 2796 x 1290 (460 ppi) LTPO Super Retina XDR 120Hz OLED with Dolby Vision, 19.5:9 ratio
10-120Hz ProMotion adaptive refresh rate
HDR10, True Tone, P3, 1000 nits (typical), 1600 nits (HDR), 2000 nits max brightness
|Audio||Spatial audio playback with stereo speakers|
|Camera||48 MP, f/1.8, 24mm (wide), 1/1.28″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, sensor-shift OIS
12 MP, f/2.8, 120mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.06″, 1.12µm, dual pixel PDAF, 3D sensor‑shift OIS, 5x optical zoom
12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF
TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)
Stills: Night mode portrait with LiDAR, Portrait mode with Focus and Depth Control, Portrait Lighting with six effects, Adaptive True Tone flash, Panorama, Night mode, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 5, Apple ProRAW, Photographic Styles, Macro Photography, Auto-image stabilization, Advanced red-eye correction, Burst mode
Video: Up to 4K60 HDR video with Dolby Vision, 4K60 ProRes video with external recording, 4K30 HDR Cinematic mode, 1080p240 slow-mo, 2.8K60 Action mode, Log Video
|Selfie Camera||12MP f/1.9, 23mm (wide), 1/3.6″ selfie camera
Stills: Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, Animoji & Memoji, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, Apple ProRAW, Photographic styles
Video: Up to 4K60 HDR video with Dolby Vision, 4K30 HDR Cinematic mode with zoom, 4K30 ProRes video, 1080p120 slow-mo, Retina Flash
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, WiFi 6E with 2×2 MIMO
NFC with reader mode
Ultra Wideband chip
5G NR sub-6GHz with 4×4 MIMO (Bands n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n26, n28, n29, n30, n38, n40, n41, n48, n53, n66, n70, n77, n78, n79)
FDD-LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 30, 32, 66)
USB Type-C 3.2 Gen2
15W MagSafe wireless charging, 7.5W Qi wireless charging
|Dimensions||159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25 mm|
|Ingress Protection||IP68 (max depth of 6m up to 30 mins) under IEC standard 60529|
The iPhone 15 Pro Max houses the A17 Pro chip, dropping the Bionic nomenclature from the name this time around. It’s Apple silicon redefined using the latest 3-nanometer transistor technology. The A17 Pro chip also brings about some new features. It has dedicated engines for pro features like the ProRes codec, a new AV1 decoder that improves streaming services efficiency, and and for the first time, it has a USB controller that supports USB3 speeds up to 10Gbps. It was openly claimed that the CPU itself is 10% faster, the GPU is 20% faster and the Neural Engine has been bumped up to twice the performance in comparison to the A16 Bionic chip. These are rather bold claims, but there’s only one way for us to find out.
First up, our Geekbench test shows what the CPU is capable of. Judging by the score, Apple really wasn’t lying when they claimed that their CPU is 10% faster. In fact, if my maths teacher didn’t lie to me, this is way higher than 10% on both the single core and multi-core performances. Off to a good start.
Next, we have our Antutu v7 benchmark test. Bear in mind, Antutu puts multiple elements to test including the CPU, GPU, Memory and the UX rendering. The iPhone 14 Pro previously scored 970635 and got kicked off from the charts. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is giving a very fierce competition to the rest of the devices. In fact, it’s the first device to hit 1.5m on Antutu score in our charts. As exciting as it is to see this unfolding, it feels too good to be true.
To test our graphics, I ran the Wild Life Extreme Unlimited test that pushes 4K rendering intensively. Previously on the iPhone 14 Pro, we managed to score 3026 overall score with an average of 18.1 fps which was pretty impressive. The iPhone 15 Pro Max on the other hand managed to score 3676 overall with an average 22 fps. Blowing your mind too? I know. We’re not done yet though.
This time, we are bringing a new test to the list, the Solar Bay by 3D Mark. Apple is now embarking into the ray tracing technology to bring gaming into a whole new level. Solar Bay does exactly that. Though at the time when I was testing this iPhone 15 Pro Max, the ray tracing games were not available, I am looking forward to try the Resident Evil Village and I’m already on their Beta list. The review couldn’t wait, so we may have better results in next year’s iPhone 16 tests. For now, let’s leave these raw results of Solar Bay showcasing 4539 score and average 17.3fps.
Without comparison, these results don’t mean much yet but Solar Bay also allows us to put the iPhone under stress. It’s one thing being able to deliver performance, its another thing to sustain it on longer period. As you can see, sustaining ray tracing is indeed a very challenging task, but being able to maintain around 15 fps even after 20 minutes is pretty good for a first time. History has taught us that until it can’t hold 30 fps average, ray tracing would still not be mainstream. If I may guess, I give Apple 2 more generation to achieve stable ray tracing that will be playable for long hours.
Here’s my battery data. I’ve been using and abusing the iPhone 15 Pro Max like my daily driver since the day I got my hands on it. I replicated my iPhone 14 Pro here to keep the routine ongoing so these are not just any basic test data. The 4441mAH battery is now significantly larger than my only Pro variant previously and I didn’t have any battery anxiety on the previous gen. I know many people are demanding a faster charging feature, but to me, at this point of time, with my usage behavior, even the 15W MagSafe wireless charger is doing a fine job for now. I’m not backing Apple on this, but to me, the reality of using a smartphone is about understanding our behavior rather than demanding speed in everything. Fast charging a battery has its consequences, and trust me, my recent few years of experience dealing with batteries has taught me a lot! This screenshot above is basically my usage on the busiest day of my week and by 1.45am I just touched red point which is still 20% battery to go.
Okay, these results seem way too crazy for current times but that’s what Apple does. It gives a tough competition to other manufacturers setting a bar that survives long enough for the year only to come back stronger again. We saw this last year, we’re seeing it again. These wow results made me doubt my methods so much that I even repeated these tests a couple of times just to be sure. Mark my words today, these results are soon going to seem normal for other devices. Then next year, let’s recall this paragraph again to prove my point.
Without a doubt, top place here is taken by the USB Type-C availability. The clutter that this will reduce is going to be one point on its own, but in reality, the USB Type-C is a much bigger deal for us, the users. Combining speed, versatility and practicality, the USB Type-C might just be the primary reason most people would want to adopt the iPhone if they haven’t already. There are plenty of goodness here, so I’m going to break them down into smaller digestible chunks.
For starters, the most common feature that most Android users have used, abused, and moved on, is the two-way charging. So, anything that uses well under 4.5W and Type-C cable can now draw power from the iPhone 15 Pro Max to charge them. This means, you can now charge your AirPods, Apple Watch, or other USB PD devices from your iPhone 15 Pro Max. Just don’t expect to charge your iPad or Macbook using this method, obviously.
Then, there’s 4K60 HDR Video Output that can be achieved using native DisplayPort cables or USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. Yes, yes, I know. Android users have enjoyed this for a while now too. But you see, when Apple does it, it does it gracefully right out of the box. This is 4K60 Dolby Vision output that you’re getting, straight from the iPhone 15 Pro Max. I mean, I suppose people who own iPhone 15 Pro Max already have some solid Dolby capable home theatre, no?
I also assume you have the “Apple ecosystem” already, especially a Mac? Then you can now transfer ProRAW images and ProRes videos faster than ever, using Capture One integration. I mean, you probably have been doing this using AirDrop so far and knowing the size of these files, you probably would appreciate the faster speed using physical interface.
Not enough? Okay, here’s another one. You can use a Thunderbolt 4 cable and can get up to 10Gbps transfer speed to any other USB 3 devices. That’s almost 20 times faster transfer speed than average USB transfer. Oh, Apple has the cable for you if you don’t have it. Starting only from RM399 for 1m cable and up to RM799 for 3m option. What? You can’t afford it? This is Apple bro.
Okay fine, let’s tone it down a notch then. Yes, this is our 6th paragraph still talking about the USB Type-C. If you have a pendrive or microSD adapter that uses Type-C connector, plug it into the socket and you can now export your files from your iPhone to external drive. YES! That’s not a typo and I’m not calling in bluffs here. 15 years later, iPhone can now finally share files to external sources seamlessly!
You see what’s the big deal here for us? All this goodness that we get just because of Type-C availability. If so good it is, what took Apple so long to implement something this good you may ask? Think about it. What’s the biggest mistake many iPhone users made all this while? Buying iPhones with small storage options only to realize they quickly run out of it. Especially Pro users. But now, just get the smallest 256GB storage variant, and invest your excess cash in a high speed, durable enclosed, large capacity NVMe storage and every time you run out of storage, plug it into your iPhone, select all your images and just move them over – without the need of iCloud too. And when iPhone 16 arrives, it won’t feel as bad to upgrade considering the money you have saved, right? Difference between 256GB and 1TB variant of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is RM2,000. So I’ll let you digest the numbers now.
Next, the Titanium Design. I do love the iPhone 15 Pro Max better than the iPhone 14 Pro if we’re to consider the contoured edges. Holding it in palm does feel exquisite. But what I appreciate most here, is that this is not just any other Titanium. This is Titanium Grade 5, which is an alloy fused with 6% Aluminum and 4% Vanadium. This is the composition that you would see in spacecraft, to make things lighter and durable at the same time. This composition is also extremely hard to bend and mould, so the fact that Apple managed to bring this to the iPhone does deserve applause. Look, I’m not gonna play material expert here. I just happened to know Titanium a little more deeply because some time ago, I did some research about Titanium vs Ceramic while buying a curling tong for my wife, so sue me.
Of course, how can we talk about iPhone 15 Pro Max without mentioning the camera, right? The iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts an unparalleled Pro Camera System, encapsulating the prowess of seven pro lenses. The Main camera offers users the flexibility to swiftly switch between 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm focal lengths, ensuring shots at super-high 24MP resolution by default. This resolution retains intricate details, especially noticeable in the texture of clothing, hair, or skin. The novel Photonic Engine now empowers Night mode and next-generation portraits, allowing users to capture richer details and enhanced color even in challenging lighting conditions.
Further enhancing the device’s versatility, the Ultra Wide camera comes with a 13mm focal length, facilitating macro shots with an impressively minimal focus distance of just 2cm. For those looking for extended range, the device also hosts Telephoto cameras. The iPhone 15 Pro features a 3x Telephoto lens at 77mm, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers a groundbreaking 5x Telephoto lens at 120mm. This extended range is accompanied by innovative features like the tetraprism design and 3D sensor-shift, providing stabilization and ensuring crisp images even at significant distances.
Last in the camera division, the TrueDepth front camera redefines selfie quality. Infused with the capabilities of the advanced computational photography, the TrueDepth camera captures exquisite next-generation portraits. Night mode and Smart HDR further elevate photo quality, promising selfies with unprecedented clarity and dynamic range. In a nutshell, the iPhone 15 Pro Max camera system promises a blend of versatility, innovation, and uncompromising quality, setting new benchmarks in mobile photography. Oh, and let me add-on a little bit. You can now set the default lens to load on the camera instead of always resetting back. 24mm (1x) or 28mm (1.2x) or 35mm (1.5x), your choice now, accessible in the Camera settings.
Now let’s touch a bit on the Action Button. For generations, iPhone users have familiarized themselves with the only mechanically moving component in the iPhone, the silent button. It has finally got some love and now allows more configurations including focus mode, camera launch, flashlight, voice memo, translate, magnifier, shortcut to an app, accessibility, conventional silent mode, or just do nothing. To compensate the silent mode, the silent mode option in the Control Center is still accessible by pulling down the drawer from the top right. The button is now customizable, and we all love customizations. So this one gets a credit.
Of course, gaming. I mean, after spending this much on a smartphone, we expect the gaming to be nothing short of a good experience too, right? Then let me put it here, ray tracing is coming to iPhone and iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are the first devices to ever get it. I was privileged to get a sneak peek at Resident Evil Village, one of the earliest games to utilize ray tracing on the iPhone. However, since it’s still in preview build, I am not allowed to present any benchmark scores yet. I don’t have to comment either. If you’re from the PCMR realm, you already know the sensation of first time trying ray tracing. It’s no different.
Now let’s get to the more controversial part of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
There is no way for me to sugarcoat this, the iPhone 15 Pro Max does heat up. And the heat that it builds gets pretty significant very quickly especially when I run intensive tasks on it. I could still feel the heat even under the case. Turns out, while the iPhone did top most of the benchmark charts, it’s ambitions has caused it a rather massive knife on its throat.
As I was testing out the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple dropped the iOS 17.0.3 update that clearly stated it would fix the heat issues. I had my predictions, and I didn’t want to jump the bandwagon especially since I was knee deep into my review already. I could only think of one way Apple could fix this and that was by pulling off their feet from the performance throttle. How much would that be? I ran separate benchmarks before and after upgrading. To keep things consistent, I even ran the tests three times both before and after. Here are the results.
I was indeed right. I tested on both Geekbench and Antutu, and their results were lower after the upgrade. I’ve added my Geekbench score here as it clearly shows the iOS version that I’m running too. The good news though is that, even though Apple had to resort to reducing the performance, the headroom was so much that it still retains the iPhone 15 Pro Max as a winner in our benchmark results. It also did reduce the heat by a mile, but on very prolonged use, I still notice the heat slowly building up, just not that hot anymore.
Secondly, iPhone 15 Pro Max, or more like, iOS17 introduced a new feature that is called “Contact Poster” and “Name Drop”. Contact Poster allows you to create your own poster that contacts will see when you call. Pick a favourite picture or Memoji, pair it with a favourite font and there you have it – your very own calling card. Name Drop on the other hand allows you to swap contact info with someone by just bumping the top of two iPhones. Interesting right? As excited as I was about this feature, I got a little disappointed when I got to test it out. Turns out, both of those features are not really integral to each other. I thought, I could design my own Contact Poster and when I do a Name Drop, that Contact Poster gets synced along. I took some time decorating my Contact Poster, adjusting the font, aligning the image, among other things. I thought to myself, “this is what I want people to see when I am calling them”. Otherwise, what was really dumb about saying out my number loudly to the person who’s saving it anyway?
Another thing that I found rather nuisance is the fact that iPhone is specific about the storage formats that I use. Opening up the device to an external world is all cool and dandy, but being a device that people buy for its simplicity, many users will be dumbfounded when their storage don’t mount for example. As techy as I may be, I too had my dumb moment temporarily. I plugged in the HyperX Savage Exo portable SSD and the iPhone just wouldn’t mount the drive. It would work fine on my desktop though. It was then it hit me that my drive was pre-formatted in NTFS format and the bare minimum, I would need to format it to exFat first. Sure, it’s just how UNIX systems are, but adding more filesystem support is not a complicated task for Apple – especially since the iPhone has always been marketed as “it just works”. At the very least, Apple can implement either; a prompt asking the user if they want to format the drive?;open up AirDrop for other OS too :P – No harm having daydreams, aint that? Who knows they’re reading this.. ^_^
The iPhone 15 Pro Max marks an important history for Apple. This was the generation that was forced upon Apple. The introduction of Type-C might hurt Apple’s banks a bit, but it will open up opportunities too. Most people I know hesitate to get iPhone only because of its prices. Now that storage becomes less of a problem, you no longer have the necessity for a larger storage. You don’t want to deal with the hassle? Then pay RM8,499 instead for the sake of convenience. I think it’s fair that way.