This morning we finally got our hands on Apple's iPhone 5. While we are eager to get started on battery life testing, that'll happen late tonight after a full day's worth of use and a recharge cycle. Meanwhile, we went straight to work on performance testing. As we've mentioned before, the A6 SoC makes use of a pair of Apple's own CPU cores that implement the ARMv7 ISA. These aren't vanilla Cortex A9s or Cortex A15s, but rather something of Apple's own design. For its GPU Apple integrated a PowerVR SGX543MP3 GPU running at higher clocks than the dual-core 543MP2 in the A5. The result is compute performance that's similar to the A5X in Apple's 3rd generation iPad, but with a smaller overall die area. The A6 has a narrower memory interface compared to the A5x (64-bits vs. 128-bits), but that makes sense given the much lower display resolution (0.7MP vs. 3.1MP).

As always, our performance analysis starts out on the CPU. Although we originally thought the A6 ran its two CPU cores at 1GHz, it looks like max clocks range between 800MHz and 1.2GHz depending on load. Geekbench reports clock speed at launch, which varied depending on CPU load. With an app download process in the background I got Geekbench to report a 1.2GHz clock speed, and with everything quiet in the background the A6 reported 800MHz after being queried. This isn't anything new as dynamic voltage/frequency adjustment is in all smartphones, but we do now have a better idea of the range.

The other thing I noticed is that without a network active I'm able to get another ~10% performance boost over the standard results while on a network. Take the BrowserMark results below for example, the first two runs are without the iPhone 5 being active on AT&T's network while the latter two are after I'd migrated my account over. The same was true for SunSpider performance, I saw numbers in the low 810ms range before I registered the device with AT&T.

Clean, No Network

Overall, the performance of the A6 CPU cores seems to be very good. The iPhone 4S numbers below are updated to iOS 6.0 so you can get an idea of performance improvement.


SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1 - Stock Browser

As we mentioned in our earlier post, SunSpider is a small enough benchmark that it really acts as a cache test. The memory interface on the A6 seems tangibly better than any previous ARM based design, and the advantage here even outpaces Intel's own Medfield SoC.

I also ran some data using Google's V8 and Octane benchmarks, both bigger JavaScript tests than SunSpider. I had an AT&T HTC One X with me while in New York today (up here for meetings this week) and included its results in the charts below. Note that the default HTC web browser won't run the full Octane suite so I used Chrome there. I didn't use Chrome for the V8 test because it produced lower numbers than the stock browser for some reason.

Google V8 Benchmark - Version 7

Google Octane Benchmark v1

Here we see huge gains over the iPhone 4S, but much closer performance to the One X. In the case of Google's V8 benchmark the two phones are effectively identical, although Octane gives the iPhone 5 a 30% lead once more.

These are still narrowly focused tests, we'll be doing some more holisitic browser tests over the coming days. Finally we have Geekbench 2, comparing the iPhone 5 and 4S:

Geekbench 2 Performance
Geekbench 2 Overall Scores Apple iPhone 4S Apple iPhone 5
Geekbench Score 628 1640
Integer 545 1252
Floating Point 737 2101
Memory 747 1862
Stream 299 946

Apple claimed a 2x CPU performance advantage compared to the iPhone 4S during the launch event for the 5. How does that claim match up with our numbers? Pretty good actually:

This is hardly the most comprehensive list of CPU benchmarks, but on average we're seeing the iPhone 5 deliver 2.13x the scores of the iPhone 4S. We'll be running more application level tests over the coming days so stay tuned for those.

A6 GPU Performance: Nearly Identical to the iPad 3

Before we got a die shot of Apple's A6 we had good information pointing to a three core PowerVR SGX 543MP3 in the new design. As a recap, Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX543 GPU core features four USSE2 pipes. Each pipe has a 4-way vector ALU that can crank out 4 multiply-adds per clock, which works out to be 16 MADs per clock or 32 FLOPS. Imagination lets the customer stick multiple 543 cores together, which scales compute performance linearly. The A5 featured a two core design, running at approximately 200MHz based on our latest news. The A5X in the 3rd generation iPad featured a four core design, running at the same 200MHz clock speed.

The A6 on the other hand features a three core PowerVR SGX 543MP3, running at higher clock speeds to deliver a good balance of die size while still delivering on Apple's 2x GPU performance claim. The raw specs are below:

Mobile SoC GPU Comparison
  Adreno 225 PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 543MP2 PowerVR SGX 543MP3 PowerVR SGX 543MP4 Mali-400 MP4 Tegra 3
# of SIMDs 8 4 8 12 16 4 + 1 12
MADs per SIMD 4 2 4 4 4 4 / 2 1
Total MADs 32 8 32 48 64 18 12
GFLOPS As Shipped by Apple/ASUS - - 12.8 GFLOPS 25.5 GFLOPS 25.6 GFLOPS - 12

The result is peak theoretical GPU performance that's near identical to the A5X in the 3rd generation iPad. The main difference is memory bandwidth. The A5X features a 128-bit wide memory interface while the A6 retains the same 64-bit wide interface as the standard A5. In memory bandwidth limited situations, the A5X will still be quicker but it's quite likely that at the iPhone 5's native resolution we won't see that happen.

We ran through the full GLBenchmark 2.5 suite to get a good idea of GPU performance. Note that the 3rd gen iPad results are still on iOS 5.1 so there's a chance you'll see some numbers change as we move to iOS 6.

We'll start out with the raw theoretical numbers beginning with fill rate:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Fill Test

The iPhone 5 nips at the heels of the 3rd generation iPad here, at 1.65GTexels/s. The performance advantage over the iPhone 4S is more than double, and even the Galaxy S 3 can't come close.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Fill Test (Offscreen 1080p)

Triangle throughput is similarly strong:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test

Take resolution into account and the iPhone 5 is actually faster than the new iPad, but normalize for resolution using GLBenchmark's offscreen mode and the A5X and A6 look identical:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test (Offscreen 1080p)

The fragment lit texture test does very well on the iPhone 5, once again when you take into account the much lower resolution of the 5's display performance is significantly better than on the iPad:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Fragment Lit

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Fragment Lit (Offscreen 1080p)

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Vertex Lit

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Vertex Lit (Offscreen 1080p)

The next set of results are the gameplay simulation tests, which attempt to give you an idea of what game performance based on Kishonti's engine would look like. These tests tend to be compute monsters, so they'll make a great stress test for the iPhone 5's new GPU:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt HD

Egypt HD was the great equalizer when we first met it, but the iPhone 5 does very well here. The biggest surprise however is just how well the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro with Adreno 320 GPU does by comparison. LG's Optimus G, a device Brian flew to Seoul, South Korea to benchmark, is hot on the heels of the new iPhone.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt HD (Offscreen 1080p)

When we run everything at 1080p the iPhone 5 looks a lot like the new iPad, and is about 2x the performance of the Galaxy S 3. Here, LG's Optimus G actually outperforms the iPhone 5! It looks like Qualcomm's Adreno 320 is quite competant in a phone.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt Classic

The Egypt classic tests are much lighter workloads and are likely a good indication of the type of performance you can expect from many games today available on the app store. At its native resolution, the iPhone 5 has no problems hitting the 60 fps vsync limit.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt Classic (Offscreen 1080p)

Remove vsync, render at 1080p and you see what the GPUs can really do. Here the iPhone 5 pulls ahead of the Adreno 320 based LG Optimus G and even slightly ahead of the new iPad.

Once again, looking at GLBenchmark's on-screen and offscreen Egypt tests we can get a good idea of how the iPhone 5 measures up to Apple's claims of 2x the GPU performance of the iPhone 4S:

Removing the clearly vsync limited result from the on-screen Egypt Classic test, the iPhone 5 performs about 2.26x the speed of the 4S. If we include that result in the average you're still looking at a 1.95x average. As we've seen in the past, these gains don't typically translate into dramatically higher frame rates in games, but games with better visual quality instead.

Final Words

We still have a lot of work ahead of us, including evaluating the power profile of the new A6 SoC. Stay tuned for more data in our full review of the iPhone 5.

Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • tuxRoller - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - link

    The simple answer is buy whatever the current Nexus is OFF CONTRACT (the Google model, not the verizon model).
    The more thorough answer is to research popular models and buy those off contract (in case you aren't getting the message, buy your phones off contract--- it costs a bit more upfront, but less in the long run and you get much more flexibility but you really need to stick with GSM). Then you can either rely on kies (which I"ve never used but have heard is pretty good), or run the latest AOKP/AOSP ROM of your choice.
    Frankly, the problem is the expectations of smartphones. Although Apple's model insulates people from this (on all sides, not just the mobile area), essentially, the problem is that which Window's faces. Smartphones ARE COMPUTERS. Just as Windows runs on radically different hardware so does Android. This means that the carriers need to get out of the way of the upgrade process (why are they involved so much anways? I thought the telephony subsystems on these SoC ran their own RTOS?). I think this will happen in time b/c you can currently upgrade your phone outside the carrier approval process.
    Android, being linux based, should be able to run on any of these SoC as long as the drivers are provdied (which the OEM's can handle).
  • KoolAidMan1 - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Nailed it. Of course, anyone with your opinion is *obviously* brainwashed...
  • richpmd - Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - link

    Maps works fine for me too. Also see the Anandtech review on iOS 6 which found the Maps to be quite serviceable.
  • Fluffles - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    There's a quick fix for that!:

    Or even quicker!:

    Yea but I mean I'm buying a 200$ smartPHONE for only the maps, maybe ill get two and use the other one as a phone, music player, video player, web browser, video caller, wireless hotspot, address book, document editor, gaming device, social networking device, quick camera fix, video recorder, voice recorder, personal reminder, alarm clock, voice assistant, send SMS, send email etc... But the maps suck so all that other stuff doesn't matter. Logic at its best.
  • aNYthing24 - Friday, September 21, 2012 - link

    Nice custom design by Apple.
  • tipoo - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    I'm starting to wonder how custom it is, since we now know its max clock is 1.2GHz vs 800MHz in the 4S, that's 1.5x the speed right there, fix the memory controllers (which were a sore point in A9) and you might have 2x without that much customizing.
  • michael2k - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    You still have to improve performance by 33% to see a 100% improvement:

    33% improvement is still a good improvement in the course of 11 months.

    In other words, at 800 MHz the A6 should still be 133% of the A5 and at 1.2GHz, a 50% clock increase, you get to 200%.

    Given the improvements as measured can be even higher, Apple's accomplishment isn't trivial.
  • lowlymarine - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Of course, as we've all learned by now browser benchmark performance is largely a measure of how well you cheat (see: IE9 SunSpider scores), so I take any comparison to Android handsets with a grain of salt, especially in light of this:

    But those are still some darn impressive numbers compared to the outgoing 4S. I'm looking forward to TI's and Samsung's Cortex-A15 CPUs even more now, since at the end of the day the iPhone "5" still has too tiny a screen, no simultaneous voice and LTE, and runs iOS.
  • jameskatt - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Waiting for second best is what Android users look forward to.
  • tuxRoller - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    I wouldn't expect the Cortex A15s to be radically better than krait in pure computation, though they have other advantages (the biggest, IMHO, are the virt extensions).

    Thanks for including other benchmarks than just sunspider! I'd still like to see the Kraken benchmarks and Firefox browser included, but this is certainly better.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now