System Performance

With the iPhone SE I've decided to make the transition to our 2016 benchmark suite. We've been including some of these for a little while now, and some tests from our previous suite are still around. There is one test omitted, which is Basemark ES / Basemark Metal, which we'll be deploying once we have all the data from this year's flagship Android smartphones. Comparisons to those Android phones will also have to wait until their respective reviews, and for now I can only really compare the iPhone SE to Apple's other iPhones along with 2015's flagship Android devices.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2015 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

JetStream 1.1

At this point I think we're ready to move to our 2016 web browser benchmarks. Octane is now retired, as there's  a large degree of overlap between it and JetStream, with JetStream using a more sensible methodology with measurements for tests like the mandreel-latency test. Kraken, Octane, and Jetstream all have some overlap, but Kraken and JetStream are different enough to make it worth keeping Kraken on. Finally there's WebXPRT 2015, which we already introduced as a replacement for WebXPRT 2013 some time ago. 

As expected, the iPhone SE matches the iPhone 6s in our JavaScript tests. The improvement over the iPhone 5s is significant, with roughly double the performance in all cases. This is right in line with Apple's 2x performance claim, and it's important to note that these are updated iPhone 5s figures run on iOS 9 to ensure that it also benefits from the improvements made to Apple's Nitro JavaScript engine since it launched in 2013. 

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Unlimited ES 3.1 / Metal - Graphics

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Unlimited ES 3.1 / Metal - Physics

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Unlimited ES 3.1 / Metal - Overall

We originally planned to use 3DMark Sling Shot Unlimited, which is an OpenGL ES 3.0 test that runs off screen 1920 x 1080 tests to produce results that are useful for comparing devices and SoCs. However, in the interest of test longevity we have moved to the even newer Sling Shot Extreme test, which uses OpenGL ES 3.1 on Android and Metal on iOS, with a Vulkan version coming to Android in the future. The tests in Sling Shot Extreme render off screen at 2560 x 1440, so it should be a good target for GPU performance well into the future.

In this test the iPhone SE performs well. I experienced a strange situation where the iPhone 6s would consistently score lower than the SE, and I'm not sure if this is due to driver differences or some other problem, but in any case the SE and the 6s both end up at the top of the chart, and the final score is nearly three times higher than that of the iPhone 5s. I'm still waiting on final reviews for this year's Android flagships, so comparisons to Snapdragon 820 and Exynos 8890 will have to wait a bit longer.

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Offscreen)

With T-Rex HD being such an old test, I've decided to retire it except perhaps for reviews of devices with relatively slow SoCs. That leaves GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan, and hopefully GFXBench 4.0 in the near future. In Manhattan the iPhone SE performs exceptionally well, achieving a frame rate that is ever so slightly more than three times that of the iPhone 5s. While there's obviously a degree of variance, I think this shows that Apple's 3x GPU performance claim is not an exaggeration, and on such a tiny display with a relatively low resolution you can render a scene like Manhattan at native resolution and almost achieve 60fps.

NAND Performance

With the first generation of the MacBook, Apple introduced their own PCI-E SSD controller with support for NVMe. At the launch of the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro, they noted that both devices had significantly improved storage performance. During the course of our review we discovered that Apple had essentially brought some version of their controller down to their mobile devices, and as a result they led the rest of the mobile market by a large margin when it came to overall storage performance.

With the iPhone SE, Apple uses the same controller as they do in the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro. Since this iPhone is a 64GB unit, we can take a look at the potential impact of a smaller SSD that may not be able to utilize parallelism to achieve the same performance as its 128GB and 256GB counterparts in Apple's other devices. To analyze the storage performance of the iPhone SE I've used StorageBench, a NAND benchmark developed by Eric Patno which is comparable to our AndroBench 3.6 test on Android.

Internal NAND - Random Read

Internal NAND - Random Write

Internal NAND - Sequential Read

Internal NAND - Sequential Write

Despite the fact that the storage capacity is half that of our iPhone 6s review unit, the iPhone SE performs essentially just as well. Random reads actually end up being faster, while random writes are nearly identical. Sequential reads trail the 6s by a bit, but sequential writes end up being identical much like random writes. The differences are enough to attribute to testing variance, and it's probably safe to say that the storage performance on the 64GB iPhone SE is identical to that of the 64GB and 128GB models of the iPhone 6s.

Intro and Design Battery Life and Charge Time


View All Comments

  • lucianmarin - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    I had the SE for 6 days. It bricked after taking a photo. I was lucky the retailer accepted my return.

    Don’t buy this device. It’s the worst iPhone ever. The buttons on the sides make noises when you touch the screen, same for the camera lenses. I will use my iPhone 4S until it brakes… Steve Jobs is really dead. Apple as we knew it is dead.
  • darwiniandude - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Apple has the best warranty support in the industry, bar none. How are you lucky they accepted your return? Apple offers 14 day no questions asked money back. With a faulty device, you could have the whole thing replaced on the spot via mail in or Apple Store anywhere on the globe. I've handled a bunch of these so far, no issues with buttons or noises, the camera lens is fixed. Something was clearly not right with your device.
    Apple has very high physical build quality, fit and finish and the SE is no exception. Read any reviews.

    Your 4S is commendable for still being able to run the current software, but it is thick, heavy, unbelievably slow compared to modern devices. Horrible camera. The ancient and fragile dock non reversible dock connector. Keep using it by all means, but the 5s was over twice as fast as the 4s. The SE is more than twice as fast again. Absolutely no comparison. And compare the camera.
    Sorry, I just don't get this comment. You obviously got a rare dud.
  • osxandwindows - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Dude, you had a faulty device.
    Some people don't think sometimes.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, May 19, 2016 - link

    "I still find myself asking whether the 6s is truly worth that $250 premium."

    It's good to see Apple finally releasing a device with a vaguely realistic price point. No way the 6s is worth that much more!
  • yhselp - Thursday, May 19, 2016 - link

    It's the phone I've been waiting for except it doesn't have 3D Touch, and it doesn't have fast Touch ID. I am willing to pay the $250 premium for those two features alone. I hate it that Apple decided to go the budget route with their very late, and only, new small iPhone. It feels like a second-class citizen, an afterthought aimed at earning a quick buck in an overlooked market. I want a premium, feature-rich small iPhone, not this. They just can't kill two birds with one stone that way.

    There's no need for an iPhone 6 mini design, but they could surely tweak the screen size. They could make it just a tad bigger, while keeping the footprint largely unchanged. It could be a little shorter, and a little wider. Why does a small phone need to sport such a wide aspect ratio? Why should any phone that is not strictly made for media consumption? It's unpractical. The tablet market reflects this nicely and offers wonderful aspect ratios. Apple don't even put 16:9 screens in their premium laptops. The 16:9 choice for smartphones has always baffled me.

    The real issue with the 4-inch screen size is that iOS 9 just isn't designed with that size in mind. Many native apps feel cramped, where that wasn't the case before. The fact that Apple launched a new 4-inch iPhone and did nothing to amend this in iOS speaks volumes about their commitment, or lack thereof, to the 4-inch form factor.

    All things that should have been addressed in the article - things that I'm pretty certain Anand himself would have payed attention to. These Android points throughout the whole article coupled with the facts-of-life, borderline spiritual 'getting used to life and the joys of breathing sunshine' part about the 4-inch form factor, and the reviewer's touching coming of age story about phone screen sized feels a tiny bit subjective, and largely unnecessary. To review a product one needs to be intimately familiar with the platform going back years. That goes for any platform. I wouldn't like to read an Android review by a person that has mostly used iPhones throughout the years. I wouldn't like to read a phablet review by someone that doesn't like the form factor either. The fact that the reviewer thinks that the single hand usability is the primary, if not only, benefit of a smaller screen phone is enough proof that they aren't the right person to review such a device.

    Anyway, I can't begin to express how much I hope that Apple would truly decide to pay attention to and innovate in the small form factor platform and produce a new, revolutionary small iPhone. I'm not going to say it, but you-know-who might have done you-know-what differently.
  • tom5 - Thursday, May 19, 2016 - link

    Where's the HTC 10 review Part 2? Reply
  • Meteor2 - Thursday, May 19, 2016 - link

    Tbh by the time the 2016 reviews are published here, people will have read all they want elsewhere so the articles won't get many views, and Anandtech won't get much ad revenue :(. Reply
  • beck2050 - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    Weak screen is deal breaker. Much better options in that price range. Reply
  • jkhoward - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    Anyone want to trade? I have a 6S Plus and I am looking to get this phone... Won't charge anymore, just want the trade... Currently on T-Mobile. Reply
  • DiegoLinden - Sunday, May 22, 2016 - link

    Nice review, i still using a Iphone 4 that is 3.5' inch , i dont really like android system and they big screen, but was thinking about get a ~4.7inch(because my i4 is rly slow after the last update available) and now i think i go to this iphone xD


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