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iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: which should you buy?

iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: Apple)

You’re probably reading these words because you typed iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max into Google, along with something like “what’s the difference?”, or “which is better?” Or maybe you didn’t. Either way, it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask, and you’re here because you want to know if it’s worth upgrading from your iPhone 12 Pro Max to Apple’s shinier, newer model.

There’s plenty to cover, so without further ado, let’s dive straight into the showdown.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: price

The iPhone 13 Pro Max launches at the exact same price as the iPhone 12 Pro Max did last year in both the US and Australia, while UK launch prices are £50 cheaper.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max launched at $1,099 / £1,099 / AU$1,849 for 128GB of storage, and $1,199 / £1,199 / AU$2,019 for 256GB, up to $1,399 / £1,399 / AU$2,369 for 512GB. Note that unlike the new iPhone 13 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Pro Max didn't have a 1TB model.

In comparison the iPhone 13 Pro Max prices can be viewed below. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max price
UKUSAustralia
iPhone 13 Pro Max 128GB£1,049$1,099AU$1,849
iPhone 13 Pro Max 256GB£1,149$1,199AU$2,019
iPhone 13 Pro Max 512GB£1,349$1,399AU$2,369
iPhone 13 Pro Max 1TB£1,549$1,599AU$2,719

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: at a glance 

  • Near-identical looks. iPhone 13 Pro Max thicker, heavier, new Sierra Blue colour
  • 20 per cent smaller notch on iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • 13 Pro Max has a 120Hz ProMotion display vs 60Hz on the 12 Pro Max
  • Pro Max has updated cameras with faster aperture, 3x zoom
  • New Cinematic Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • Faster Apple A15 Bionic processor on the 13 Pro Max
  • Battery life is up to two and a half hours longer on the iPhone 13 Pro Max

 iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: design 

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

You might be hard pressed to spot the difference between the iPhone 13 Pro Max and its predecessor. After all, the overall stainless steel design is essentially the same, and they’re almost exactly the same dimensions too, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max measuring in at a practically imperceptible 0.3mm thicker, and slightly heavier at 240g versus the 228g weight of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Look a bit closer though, and you’ll notice a few differences, like the fact that the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a slightly narrower (20 per cent narrower, to be specific) screen notch. While both share the same Gold, Silver and Graphite colours, the iPhone 13 Pro Max introduces a new shade, Sierra Blue, which is noticeably lighter than the dark Pacific Blue option for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

 iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: screen 

iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

We’ve already covered the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s smaller notch, but there’s an even more important difference between the two OLED screens under the hood. While the iPhone 13 Pro Max has the same 6.7-inch screen size and 1284 x 2778 resolution, it trounces the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 60Hz refresh rate with a 120Hz screen.

While we’ve yet to test it out in person, we can definitely say that we’ve noticed a difference in smoothness using 120Hz Android handsets from the likes of Samsung and OnePlus, especially when moving from a 60Hz display. The main thing you’ll notice is a difference in smoothness when scrolling, and while not a total game-changing improvement, it’s the sort of subtle feature you won’t want to give up if you’ve become accustomed to it.

Beyond the faster refresh rate, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also has Apple’s ProMotion feature, which means it can adjust its refresh from 120Hz to as low as 10Hz, depending on what you’re using your phone for. This prevents any extra battery from being used up on a faster refresh rate for no reason (e.g. if you’re simply reading static text).

Another key difference is the brightness, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max offering a 28 per cent brighter display, which should make for better visibility outdoors on sunny days.

 iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: camera

Apple iPhone 13 Pro camera lenses

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with some noticeable camera changes. For starters the main wide camera has an f/1.5 aperture on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, versus the f/1.8 aperture on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The ultra-wide camera on the 13 Pro Max has an f/1.8 aperture versus its predecessor's f/2.4 camera, while the telephoto camera on the iPhone 13 Pro Max has 3x optical zoom, versus 2.5x on the 12 Pro Max.

More exciting perhaps is the fact that thanks to the largest sensor ever used in an iPhone, the 13 Pro Max’s main camera now captures up to 2.2x more light for both photos and videos, while the ultra-wide camera sucks in a whopping 92 per cent more light. This means that low-light shots are likely to be noticeably better on the newer iPhone 13 Pro Max compared to the 12 Pro Max. Not only that, but you can also capture macro shots on the 13 Pro Max thanks to the ultra-wide camera’s new auto-focus system that lets you capture subjects just 2cm away.

There’s noticeable improvements with video too, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max featuring a new Cinematic Mode that has a rack focus and manual focus feature that adds a more professional quality to your shots. You can, impressively, also change the focus of a previous recording, which could be game-changing for mobile creators, though will probably be an underused feature for the average casual user.

 iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: power 

iPhone 13 A15 Bionic

(Image credit: Apple)

It’s no surprise to hear that the iPhone 13 Pro Max (along with its mini, 13, and 13 Pro siblings) is the fastest iPhone ever made, not to mention the most powerful smartphone in the world when it comes to raw specs.

No other non-Apple smartphone processor comes close to the power offered by the new A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Its new six-core CPU and four high-efficiency cores are 50 per cent faster than the competition, while the new GPU is reportedly 30 per cent faster than rivals. A new 16-core Neural Engine also means that machine learning skills are boosted too, unlocking new iOS 15 features like Live Text in Camera and a new 3D Maps navigation feature.

Compared to the likes of the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s A14 Bionic processor, the gap is likely less, and while the newer handset obviously wins out on raw power, you could happily go another year with the iPhone 12 Pro Max without coming close to feeling that you’re short on power.

While both handsets come with 6GB and 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options, the iPhone 13 Pro Max also has a gargantuan high-end 1TB variant for media hoarders and power users.

 iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: battery life 

iPhone 13 battery

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a slightly larger battery (the exact capacity isn’t specified) than the iPhone 12 Pro Max coupled with software optimisations and the ProMotion display, Apple promises that the iPhone 13 Pro Max will last up to two and a half hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is a decent increase in longevity.

Charging speed, however, remains the same, with both handsets offering 20W fast charging which should boost you up to 50 per cent in around half an hour.

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: verdict

iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Without having reviewed the iPhone 13 Pro ourselves (though we’re working on it), we can’t categorically state which handset is better. But it’s more than reasonable to make some assumptions based on the on-paper changes, and clearly, in every category, the iPhone 13 Pro Max comes out on top.

That isn’t however, suggesting that every iPhone 12 Pro Max owner has to upgrade. This is definitely an evolutionary update as opposed to something brand spanking new. The design is more or less identical, and while the 120Hz screen is certainly a nice feature, it might not be worth the upgrade in itself. 

If you’re a casual photographer who tends to stick to daylight shots then you can probably stick to your guns for another year at least. If, however, you take lots of low light shots and/or are an avid videographer, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera upgrades will be mightily tempting – especially with the improved battery life.

Stay tuned for our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review for our final verdict.

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