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iPhone 14 Pro Max Review: A Pricey Evolution




At a glanceExpert’s Rating
ProsDynamic Island is a game-changerAlways-on displayLong battery lifeIndustry-leading performanceConsExpensive, especially in the UKNo longer the best iPhone for battery lifeHeftyOur Verdict

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is undoubtedly the best showcase of Apple’s technology with features like Dynamic Island and Apple’s take on always-on display tech, but it’s also expensive (especially in the UK) and now has big-screen competition from the cheaper iPhone 14 Plus.

Price When Reviewed

$1,099

Best Prices Today: iPhone 14 Pro Max

$1099

Though the iPhone 14 Pro Max might not look that different to its predecessor, there’s a lot to get excited about this year. With headline features including an upgraded 48Mp rear camera, an always-on display, Apple’s top-end A16 Bionic or the genius Dynamic Island that turns an annoyance into a part of the iOS experience, it’s a very tempting upgrade on paper.

However, with competition in the form of the big-screen iPhone 14 Plus, and a £150 increase in the UK, is it still the iPhone to go for? Well…

Design & build

Same design as its predecessorPremium materials add heftNo SIM tray in the US

The iPhone 14 Pro Max has what some might describe as an iterative design, and by that I mean practically nothing has changed compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. That’ll either be great news if you’re like me and love the iPhone’s angular edges and slightly industrial design, or terrible news if you think it’s big, bulky and unwieldy.

To be fair, at 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.9mm and 240g, it’s certainly not the easiest iPhone to use one-handed, and I’ve got fairly large hands. It’s not so much of a big deal when I’m using it at home to scroll through TikTok mindlessly, but it does have a noticeable presence in my pocket once I venture out and about.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

The phone has a stainless steel frame and a glass rear, offering an upgrade in materials compared to the aluminium-framed iPhone 14, however, it does add weight as a result. The polished look of the stainless steel band does add to the premium look and feel, but it’s certainly a fingerprint magnet compared to its aluminium counterpart.

While that has traditionally been something you’ve had to put up with if you want the big-screen experience, the addition of the 6.7in, 203g iPhone 14 Plus means you can opt for a more lightweight big-screen iPhone if you’re not too fussed about the Pro features on offer.

The camera bump on the rear is slightly larger this year – though for good reason, which I’ll come to a bit later – which can make the iPhone wobble if put down on a flat surface, though that is negated with a case that, let’s be honest, we’ll all be using with such a high-end smartphone.

When it comes to colour options, you’ve got the fairly standard Space Black, Silver and Gold alongside a new Deep Purple finish, offering a stunning shade of purple that replaces the light blue variant from last year’s Pro collection. The white variant I was provided for review looks nice, but the purple finish is the one to go for in my opinion.   

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Elsewhere, everything is where you’d expect, with volume rockers and a silent mode switch on the left, a Lightning port on the bottom (possibly for the last time before USB-C becomes standard) and a power button on the right, though you might notice the lack of a SIM card tray if you’re in the US. That’s because Apple has gone all-in on eSIM support in the US, negating the need for a physical SIM card.

The good news for those hesitant to move to an eSIM setup is that it’s US-exclusive and you can freely switch your SIM at a moment’s notice in all other regions worldwide.

Display & audio

Dynamic Island is a game-changerAlways-on display is a welcome additionImpressive audio experience

The iPhone 14 Pro Max sports the same 6.7in Super Retina XDR screen as its predecessor, complete with support for Dolby Vision HDR content and a stunningly detailed visual experience. It’s the big-screen iPhone (though there’s also the non-Pro iPhone 14 Plus to consider) and its big dimensions are well suited to watching TikToks and Netflix movies.

The most immediately obvious change compared to its predecessor is the redesigned notch, which is now dubbed ‘Dynamic Island’ by Apple. Exclusive to the Pro models, the oblong-shaped cutout actually adds to the iOS experience rather than detracts from it as with most competing cut-out cameras.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

It does that by dynamically changing shape depending on what you’re doing, seemingly expanding and shrinking at will. It’ll expand and display a Face ID icon when scanning your face, it’ll display a lock symbol when your iPhone is locked and display your AirPods battery life when you first connect.

It’s used for much more than displaying icons though; apps like Music can use Dynamic Island to display now-playing info, and with a tap, you can gain access to shortcuts to control music.

It’s not exclusive to Apple apps either, with third-party apps able to make use of the tech. That includes Live Activities which look to replace the barrage of notifications you get from apps like Just Eat and Uber Eats when ordering food with a simple widget that lives in the cutout – though, sadly, most currently don’t use it.

The display can now also dynamically shift between as little as 1Hz and 120Hz, allowing you to enjoy the buttery-smooth refresh rate when gaming and scrolling while saving battery life in areas with little motion, like the Lock and Home screens.

It also allows Apple to provide an always-on display experience for the first time, and in true Apple fashion, outdoes most of the Android competition that has had the tech for years.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Unlike Android smartphones that display a black screen with basic time and notification information, Apple gives you the entire lock screen experience complete with your widgets, notifications and even your wallpaper. It looks more like a dimmed lock screen than an always-on display, and while it took a bit of getting used to, it’s one of the best features of the new iPhone – especially when it comes to keeping track of incoming messages when playing the PS5!

Also expect one of the best audio experiences on a smartphone, with Apple’s stereo speaker setup offering surprising depth when listening to music and a wide soundscape when watching YouTube videos or TV shows on Netflix. It’s better with connected earbuds (Apple hopes you’ll opt for the new AirPods Pro) but you’ll do just fine without them most of the time.

Specs & performance

A16 Bionic comfortably outperforms the competitionSatellite Connectivity for emergency servicesCar Crash detection

As you might expect from Apple’s top-end smartphone, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a top-end performer that, with Apple’s new A16 Bionic at its heart, can battle off the Android competition with nary a worry – in terms of raw CPU performance, anyway.

It’s a 4nm chipset, down from the 5nm of the A15 Bionic, with a 20% boost to power efficiency and a more modest 10% improvement in performance. Though Apple doesn’t officially note the accompanying RAM, Geekbench 5 reveals that it houses 6GB. It might not sound like much compared to some Android competitors, but simply put, the iPhone doesn’t need as much RAM to keep performance up.

It’s the first time that Apple has kept its latest processor exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro range, with the standard models getting the A15 Bionic from last year’s Pro models for a more unexceptional speed bump. It’s an easy move for Apple to tempt people to pay more for the Pro models, but as seen in our benchmark tests, it’s not that much faster than last year’s chipset.

For reference, I tested the iPhone Pro Max with 1TB of storage but it’s also available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB if you don’t need as much.  

If those numbers don’t mean much then let me assure you: the iPhone 14 Pro Max is about as fast and responsive as they come. There was never as much as a hint of stutter or lag, with impressive performance even in graphically demanding titles like Genshin’s Impact, photos and videos are captured instantly and it can even handle video editing – as long as you’re happy to edit on a smartphone-size display, that is.

Expect equally as fast performance when it comes to connectivity, with 5G support alongside Wi-Fi 6 with 3×3 MIMO support, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC and Apple’s U1 Ultra-wideband chip to help you locate AirTags and other Apple products.

Other notable features include satellite connectivity for emergencies, allowing you to directly connect to satellites from your iPhone in areas without cellular coverage. Using a built-in system on the iPhone, you’ll answer questions about your emergency which are then relayed to emergency responders along with information like your location and current battery life.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Also new is Car Crash Detection, which as the name suggests, uses a variety of built-in sensors on your iPhone to detect when you might’ve been in a crash. If it detects large changes in gravity or exceptionally loud noises, it’ll automatically call emergency services for you.

It’s another handy ‘peace of mind’ feature that I hope I’ll never need to test out, but it’s worth noting that there are reports that it’s being accidentally activated on rides at theme parks. Thorpe Park’s Stealth might be scary, but I don’t think I’ll need an ambulance.

Cameras & photography

48Mp rear camera is the star of the showAll-round improvements to low-light photographyImproved Dolby Vision HDR video capabilities

Everything I said about the cameras and photographic capabilities of the iPhone 14 Pro also applies to the iPhone 14 Pro Max, as the two share the same upgraded camera system.

The star of the show is undoubtedly the main rear 48Mp snapper, boasting an impressive aperture of f/1.8 and OIS. It uses pixel binning tech to crunch images down to a more manageable size – around the same resolution as a standard 12Mp sensor – while using that extra detail to generate more detail and light. It’s a trick used on high-megapixel cameras on the Android side for years, but it’s new here.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

It provides a noticeable boost in quality compared to the already-capable iPhone 13 Pro Max, with great colour accuracy, impressive detail and balanced dynamic range.

It also excels at low-light photography with a 64% larger sensor and 2.44-micron pixels, able to subtly capture details in low-light conditions rather than simply artificially brightening the scene like most Android competitors. It’s truer to life, and you can adjust the amount of light before the snap is taken to further customise the look.

Though still the same megapixel count at 12Mp, the 120-degree ultrawide lens has also had a boost in low-light photography, making use of a larger sensor and improved f/2.2 aperture. Considering low light was a weak spot for the 13 Pro Max’s ultrawide lens, it’s great to see, though don’t expect quite the same quality as the main lens.

The 12Mp 3x telephoto lens still might not be able to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 10x optical zoom but the tight angle provided is ideal for portrait photography, and like the other cameras, there’s a slight boost to low-light photography for more dramatic and moody portrait shots.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

The main highlight of the 12Mp front-facing TrueDepth camera has to be the addition of autofocus, providing better selfies regardless of whether you’re shooting in Portrait mode or not, and it’s a particular boon in group shots where multiple faces need to be in focus. Apple’s clearly confident of its capabilities, also allowing you to shoot in Apple’s ProRAW format for pro-level post-processing.

Video performance has also been improved, though don’t expect to see 8K video here just yet. Instead, the iPhone 14 Pro Max can record at 4K@60fps in Dolby Vision HDR, up from the 30fps of its predecessor. There’s also a new Action Mode that further helps stabilise video footage, and as ever, you’ve got Apple’s Cinema Mode that lets you shift focus in videos for a more Hollywood-esque shooting experience.

Battery life & charging

No longer the best iPhone for battery lifeStill a comfortable all-day deviceUnofficial charging at up to 29W

One of the biggest draws for the top-end iPhone 14 Pro Max has traditionally been battery life, with Apple’s Pro model usually offering the best battery life of any iPhone, but that’s not the case this year.

That plaudit now goes to the iPhone 14 Plus, which even Apple admits will last longer than the iPhone 14 Pro Max in all instances except video playback where Apple’s dynamic display tech allows the Pro model to drop down to a lower refresh rate. As noted by my colleague Henry in his review, the iPhone 14 Plus “lasts for absolutely ages”.

That’s not to say that the iPhone 14 Pro Max features a sub-par battery – it alleviated the battery anxiety I had when testing the regular iPhone 14 Pro, comfortably able to handle my above-average-use of texting, calling, gaming and streaming TikTok without a top-up – but if you want the very longest battery life possible, that’s the iPhone 14 Pro Max isn’t the one to go for.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Though Apple officially claims that the iPhone 14 Pro Max charges at 20W, independent reports suggest that the iPhone 14 Pro Max can handle 29W charging. Either way, you don’t get a 20W brick in the box, so if you’ve got a spare 30W charger laying around, you could take advantage of slightly boosted charge times.

Using a 35W charger I had to hand, the iPhone 14 Pro Max got 22% charge in 15 minutes, 52% in half an hour and a full charge in around 90 minutes. It’s certainly not fast charging by Android standards, but I’ll take anything that’ll make the iPhone charging experience faster.

As ever, you’ve also got the option of 7.5W Qi wireless charging and 15W wireless charging by Apple’s MagSafe system.

Software & updates

iOS 16 provides a polished experienceWorks well as part of a larger Apple ecosystemYears of software updates

The iPhone 14 Pro Max comes running iOS 16 – but the same can be said of the iPhone 8. Software support and longevity are key factors in Apple’s popularity, with the company continuing to update older models of iPhones for years, getting the latest features and improvements. Though the Android competition is starting to improve with multi-year OS upgrades, it still doesn’t come close to what Apple offers.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

iOS 16 itself introduces a bunch of new features including the ability to customise your lock screen for the first time – a convenient feature considering the always-on display tech of the new Pro models – alongside the ability to edit and unsend messages, cut out subjects from photos with a single tap and more.

It’s the culmination of a lot of small features that make iOS what it is, whether it’s small benefits like being able to reply to texts on a connected iPad or Mac, or the fact you can copy links and codes from one device and paste on another immediately.

It’s better as part of a larger ecosystem of Apple products, of course, but Apple’s software experience really is top-tier whether you’ve got one device or many.

Price & availability

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is very much a top-end smartphone with a price tag of $1,099/£1,199 with 128GB of storage.

That’s a particular hit to the UK market, which has seen an increase of £150 compared to its predecessor. It’s arguable that the 48Mp snapper, Dynamic Island, always-on display and other improvements help offset the increased price, but it’s worth noting that there hasn’t been an increase in the US.

That makes the already expensive iPhone even harder to justify for UK buyers.

If you are tempted to pick up the iPhone 14 Pro Max, it’s available from Apple worldwide alongside local retailers like Best Buy in the US and Amazon in the UK. Take a look at the best smartphones to see how the top-end iPhone compares to the Android competition.  

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Verdict

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a showcase of Apple’s latest and greatest tech, offering a premium visual experience with its 6.7in Super Retina XDR display, Dynamic Island tech and improved ProMotion tech that allows for an always-on display experience on the iPhone for the first time, along with an enhanced 48Mp rear snapper and features like Car Crash Detection.

The big screen is perfectly suited to scrolling through TikTok, watching TV series on Netflix, and playing games on Apple Arcade, and with the A16 Bionic, there’s not even a hint of stutter or lag. Simply put, it’s the best of the best.

However, it’s not a clear-cut decision this year; as well as a price hike for UK consumers, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is no longer the only big-screen iPhone. You now have a choice between it and the iPhone 14 Plus, which is both cheaper and offers better battery life, though without the Pro features.

If you’re not too fussed about the latest tech, the iPhone 14 Plus could be a cheaper big-screen option that suits your needs.

Specs

160.7 x 77.6 x 7.9mm240g6.7in Super Retina XDR displayAlways-on displayIP68 dust and water resistanceA16 BionicMain 48Mp camera, f/1.78, sensor-shift OIS120-degree 12Mp ultrawide, f/2.212Mp 2x telephoto, f/2.84K@60fps with Dolby Vision HDR support12Mp f/1.9 front-facing camera with autofocusBluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6 with 2xMIMONFCSatellite connectivityCar Crash detection

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