Yes, it is possible.
rsync also has
--update, but with it
rsync still uses its delta-transfer algorithm in case the src is newer.
rsync provides the
--whole-file option to disable this algorithm. Thus,
$ rsync --update --whole-file ...
should have the effect that src files are only copied to the destination when they are newer. And only mtime checks should be used for this.
There are several reasons to avoid the delta-transfer algorithm for special use cases. Mainly performance reasons and perhaps transfer volume in very special cases.
To quote from the man-page:
With this option rsync’s delta-transfer algorithm is not used and
the whole file is sent as-is instead. The transfer may be
faster if this option is used when the bandwidth between the
source and destination machines is higher than the bandwidth to
disk (especially when the "disk" is actually a networked
filesystem). This is the default when both the source and
destination are specified as local paths, but only if no
batch-writing option is in effect.
The case about networked filesystems should be the most common one.
Also, since the delta-transfer algorithm is a heuristic you can imagine files where the algorithm ends up transferring the whole file and just adds (time and space) overhead.