The 14 Pro Max is Apple’s largest and most capable iPhone, but you’ll have to pay for the privilege
- 48MP RAW camera is great
- Impressive battery life
- Spectacular display
- A bit unwieldy
The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max will divide opinion. There will be plenty of people who love the big screen and the long-lasting battery, but there will be a significant proportion of iPhone fans who just don’t get on with that huge 6.7in display. They might prefer something more pocketable that’s easier to use with one hand instead.
This argument, like the iPhone Pro Max, hasn’t changed much over the past 12 months. It’s still a gigantic, attractive slab of glass and polished stainless steel and it’s still the longest-lasting iPhone, although the iPhone 14 Plus runs it close this year.
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Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: What you need to know
So what, if anything, is new in 2022? In terms of the physical look of the thing – the size, weight, buttons and rear camera housing – not an awful lot. From a distance, if someone were to whip out the iPhone Pro Max from their pocket, you’d be hard pressed to tell whether it was a 13 or a 14 Pro Max, unless they’d bought the phone in the new purple colour, of course.
Once you start using the phone in earnest, however, you’ll discover that there are plenty of new features to play with this year. The new, high-resolution 48MP main camera that can produce stunning RAW images is the obvious highlight, but there are also plenty of other exciting developments.
The new “Dynamic Island” front camera notch that incorporates a clever new notifications system is a major step forward. Then there’s the Always On Display, which can show all sorts of information, including your photos, while the phone is on standby. Finally, it has the ability to detect car crashes thanks to an upgraded accelerometer and it can communicate via satellites, although only in the US and Canada at the time of writing.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: Price and competition
It’s the largest of the Pro offerings this year, and you can expect to pay a pretty penny for the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Even the lowliest offering with a mere 128GB of storage will set you back £1,199 SIM-free, and that price rises to £1,309 for the 256GB model, £1,529 for the 512GB model and £1,749 for the 1TB phone.
Essentially, this works out at £100 more expensive than the iPhone 14 Pro, £150 more than the iPhone 14 Plus and £250 more than the iPhone 14. It’s expensive but, as flagship smartphone prices go these days, it’s not particularly unusual.
Android handsets have been hitting similar heights in recent years although, as ever, those willing to make the jump away from iOS will get more for their money. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, for instance, starts at a £1,249 RRP, comes with double the storage of the iPhone 14 Pro Max and has fallen in price since its release, currently standing at £872 at Amazon.
If you’re going to go down this path, the Google Pixel 7 Pro is well worth a look, too. It comes with an AMOLED screen of the same size, has three cameras – including a longer 5x telephoto than the iPhone Pro Max 14 – and costs £849.
You can even nab yourself a folding phone if you don’t mind a bit of extra thickness. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, for instance, has fallen in price dramatically since launch and can be bought for under £1,300 right now, and you can get a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 for even less at around £800.
If you’re adamant about sticking with Apple, though, and your iPhone has seen better days, you can still buy an iPhone 13 for £749 or an iPhone 12 for £649. Neither have the new features, the big screen or the camera quality of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but they’re far, far cheaper.
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Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: Design and key features
If you’re happy with a large display and the pocket-stretching dimensions that go with it, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is a nicely designed example. With Ceramic Shield glass on the front and rear it’s about as scratch-resistant as any phone on the market; I’ve run an iPhone 13 Pro for a whole year and there’s barely a hairline on the front.
The polished stainless steel frame sets this off nicely, as does the fingerprint-smudge-resistant matte finish glass at the rear. All the usual Apple touches are present and correct, too. That includes IP68 dust and water resistance (up to 6m depth for 30 minutes), Face ID for quick unlocking, payments and password entry, and wireless charging via Apple’s elegant MagSafe system.
I was sent the new Deep Purple colour for this review and it looks great, although I must admit having a soft spot for the rather more blingy Silver model.
I do have gripes. The camera housing protrudes even more than it did last year, so those who prefer to go no-case-commando will suffer from severe rocking when texting on a desk or table. Do yourself a favour – buy a case. And the phone is just too big for me, but if you’re over the “how big is too big” debate and love a big ’un, this will be just your cup of tea.
The only new features that will make a noticeable impact on how you use the phone day to day are the Dynamic Island – a notification system that surrounds the TrueDepth camera cutout at the top of the screen – and the Always On Display. Both are impressively elegant marriages of hardware and software design.
The Dynamic Island might sound weird but as soon as you hold it to expand your music controls or see the timer you just set show the remaining time right there, accessible with a quick tap, you’ll be sold. It’s a system that just works, to steal an Apple marketing line.
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The Always On Display, likewise, is a feature that comfortably sits in the “how did I ever live without this?” category. And Apple, of course, has taken it to the next level compared with most rivals. Rather than simply displaying the text of your clock, notifications and appointments, the iPhone can take over the whole screen and show your lockscreen photograph or even directions for your current Apple Maps navigation session. The latter is a bit of a power drain but you get the idea. It makes a big difference to the way you use the phone and it means you don’t have to pick up your phone just to check the time or who messaged.
The other new features are impressive but not things that will change the way you use the phone from day to day. I genuinely hope I never find out how effective the car crash detection is, although others have tested it and found it works reasonably well. And, while I love the outdoors, there aren’t many places remote enough in the UK and Europe to make the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature a game changer, even if it was available in the UK.
It is worth noting, however, that Apple has sneakily improved the GPS radio on the new iPhone, which now supports dual frequency GPS, just like the new Apple Watch Ultra.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: Display
As it has been for a few generations now, the iPhone’s display is an OLED unit, and that means perfect black levels and vibrant colours. The resolution on the Pro models is slightly higher than on last year’s phones, thanks to slightly slimmer bezels, but the difference is minimal. The move from 1,284 x 2,778 to 1,290 x 2,796 delivers an improvement in pixel density of only 2ppi. In short, you won’t see a difference in sharpness.
This year’s Pro models have received a significant upgrade on the brightness front, however, with peaks of 2,000cd/m² possible during outdoor use with auto brightness enabled and up to 1,600cd/m² during HDR playback.
If anything, these claims are conservative. In my testing, I recorded peaks of 1,607cd/m² in HDR video and I saw parts of the screen reach 2,286cd/m² in bright ambient conditions. I’m not convinced this is entirely necessary, however. Peaks half as bright as this are perfectly good enough to be readable in any conditions. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s just posturing at this stage.
Nevertheless, this is a superb screen. It’s OLED, so it’s a fabulous display on which to watch any kind of content. It can reproduce 98.3% of the P3 colour gamut and it’s superbly colour-accurate, too. In applications that operate in sRGB, such as a web browser, the average Delta E colour difference was 0.83, and during HDR playback, using the Calman ColorChecker patches, I saw an average Delta E of 1.84. These are superb scores and ensure the colours you see onscreen will closely match those intended by whoever produced the TV show, movie, photo or graphic you’re looking at.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: Cameras
While the difference between previous Pro iPhones and this model are generally small, the new 48MP camera is a big upgrade, despite the fact that the aperture is smaller than it was in the iPhone 13 Pro (f/1.8 vs f/1.5). In general use and in good lighting, you probably won’t see much of a difference, although the new camera does have a slightly wider field of view (24mm vs 26mm).
Enable RAW mode, however, and move to a low-light environment, and you’ll see that the new camera is able to resolve much more detail than the old one. I’ve been frequently impressed at how sharp, clean and colourful photographs taken at night look on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The only irritation is having to remember to tap the RAW button every time; although I can see why Apple made this decision as 48MP RAW images occupy quite a chunk of storage space at over 50MB per shot.
Elsewhere, things are considerably less exciting. It’s about time Apple stepped up and improved the reach of its telephoto camera but you’re getting the same old ultrawide and 3x zoom cameras as last year.
You do get the additional ability to zoom at 2x but this isn’t all that exciting, either. Apple hasn’t added an extra camera lens – instead, it’s a clever software sleight of hand that crops the middle 12MP from the 48MP camera and presents it as a 2x telephoto. You could do the same yourself by cropping into a 48MP image captured from the main rear camera instead.
Most of the other upgrades are to video. As with the 13 Pro models, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max are the only devices that can capture – and play – 4K Dolby Vision footage, and it looks fantastic on the iPhone’s screen.
The upgrades this year, however, are in the rather esoteric Cinematic mode, which now supports recording at 4K where last year it was limited to 1080p.
And then there’s the new Action mode, which sacrifices some resolution to deliver smoother, action-camera style image stabilisation. It’s certainly impressive and adds yet another string to the iPhone’s video capture bow, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say the 14 Pro Max is any kind of GoPro Hero 11 Black replacement. It’s just too heavy and bulky for that, not to mention valuable. Would you mount a £1,200 phone on your head and go canyoning? I wouldn’t and, I suspect, nor would most Pro Max owners.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: Performance
Unlike the regular iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus, the Pro range this year does get a chipset upgrade. In 2022, the iPhone 14 Pro Max gets the Apple A16 Bionic and, surprise surprise, it’s faster than last year’s model. There’s a small bump to the manufacturing process, which goes from 5nm to 4nm, and the clock frequencies are similarly improved, with the two performance cores rising from 3.23GHz to 3.46GHz, and the efficiency cores going from 1.82GHz to 2.02GHz.
The interesting thing the benchmarks reveal is that graphics performance isn’t better than last year’s Pro Max; not that you’ll notice particularly. This is a chipset that outperforms its closest rival from Qualcomm – the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – and will be faster than the 8 Gen 2 when it arrives in phones as well, according to early benchmark results.
If your main concern is battery life, however, there’s plenty of good news. Not only does the iPhone 14 Pro Max last longer than the iPhone 13 Pro Max but it’s also the best-performing iPhone ever in our video-rundown test. It lasted 23hrs 42mins, which is also a better result than the iPhone 14 Plus, and anecdotal evidence suggests that you’ll comfortably get through a day’s use and more without thinking about it too much.
That’s much better than the regular iPhone 14 Pro, which lasts a day with moderate use, but will run short before bedtime if used more intensively.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review: Verdict
All of which boils down to what is a fairly simple verdict for the iPhone 14 Pro Max. If you can afford it, this is the iPhone to buy if you value battery life above all else. It’s more expensive than the 14 Pro but not by enough to put you off if you’ve already committed to splashing out on one of the top-end Apple handsets.
The camera is great, the display is glorious, and performance and battery life are up there with the best. The price is so high now, though, that you might just want to pause for a moment, sit down and think seriously about switching. Do you really want to pay out £1,200 on a phone, good though it is, that doesn’t fold and lacks the telephoto reach of a handset costing hundreds of pounds less?
If not, then fair enough, but just be aware that, increasingly, Android flagships are offering more features and better value at a similar level of quality.