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.

BrowserMark

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
SIMD Name - USSE USSE2 USSE2 USSE2 Core Core
# 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 @ 200MHz 12.8 GFLOPS 3.2 GFLOPS 12.8 GFLOPS 19.2 GFLOPS 25.6 GFLOPS 7.2 GFLOPS 4.8 GFLOPS
GFLOPS As Shipped by Apple/ASUS - - 12.8 GFLOPS 25.5 GFLOPS 25.6 GFLOPS - 12
GFLOPS

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.

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  • Penti - Sunday, September 23, 2012 - link

    Big difference? They could have made it equal to porting games to PS Vita. I.e. not just traditional mobile games. If a phone costs as much as the Touch then the appeal of it is drastically reduced. If you can get a SGS2 for the same you get games, software / apps and even more features and a much more flexible device. It's more then (i.e. higher price) popular gaming friendly Android tablets. If you don't need a telephone it's still hard to justify the price. As a second device, or gaming device, portable computing device it gets almost impossible to justify. Despite that it should have many uses in a household. You can control stuff remotely, stream music to stereos and tvs, stream tv-shows and movies (at least to Airplay devices) and much more. When that is not defensible it becomes take it or leave it with the iPhone 5 instead while in reality people have many different devices and generation of devices in a household. Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Going from 800MHz to 1200 accounts for a 1.5x change in speed, we know that the Cortex A9 was penalized from bad memory controllers, I'm wondering if getting to 2x was done just by changing those two things, and not so much the actual processor architecture. Does that seem feasible? Reply
  • FrenchMac - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    The instruction set of the A6 processor is not the same (armv7s) like an Cortex A15 processor with twice the number of floatting point registers. Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Right, forgot about that. Apart from that, I wonder how extensive the customization is. Reply
  • zdw - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    One minor nitpick - you have the iPhone 4S's screen resolution as 540 width, when it's 640 across in the legend on some of the comparison graphs (GL Benchmark, etc.) Reply
  • Bpease - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Damn, I know Sunspider is generally crap, but my old Dell D420, with a low voltage Core Duo (U2500) clocked at the same max GHz as as the A6 (1.2 GHz) scores only slightly faster 820ms vs 908ms for the A6. In terms of GPU performance the A6 creams the integrated Intel part.

    Given that this CPU was not cheap at launch, and sucks down 9W for the CPU alone, it is amazing to see how far Smartphones have progressed since the first iPhone / Android devices.

    However, I can imagine by 2015 Smartphones running quad-core Arm V8 64-bit processors at ~ 3 GHz with an exponentially faster GPUs, combined with a wireless dock, it truly will be the post PC era.

    Question is why would 95% of population need anything faster?
    Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    That sounds not right. My parents Pentium 4 2.9GHz, which is way slower than that Core Duo, gets 750 on Chrome, and an old Core Duo laptop I have gets ~400. What are you using, IE? Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Oh sorry, missed the 1.2GHz part. Maybe you're right. Reply
  • Zink - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Locked at 800MHz in power saving mode my Sandy Bridge laptop i5 gets 710ms in Chrome. Reply
  • Bpease - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Yep the IPC of the ULV Yonah (2006) chips is far low than the 2011 i5. However if you compare the per watt performance of the A6 / A15 class chips, they are outstanding.

    My main point was that my old Dell U420 equipped with a slow zif SSD, is still a sufficiently swift web / youtube browsing machine for many people.

    Given another 3 years software / Hardware development and the 64-bit architecture of the Arm's V8 design to exploit 4 GB + worth of RAM, I can't see most people needing anything more than a tablet / smartphone, especially with technologies such as Intel WiDi improving rapidly. I just can't see how companies like HP will stay in business, as brand is so important in the mobile computing market.
    Reply

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