System Performance Cont'd

Moving on towards our more GPU-bound workloads, we use our standard test suite of benchmarks like GFXBench and 3DMark to get a good idea for performance. Unfortunately, due to the move to iOS 9 the Unity engine version used in Basemark X is no longer working so for now we’re left with 3DMark and GFXBench. There is also Basemark OS II’s graphics test, but this is embedded in a larger benchmark with CPU and storage performance tests.

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Overall

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Graphics

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Physics

As always with 3DMark, there are some issues in the data structures used. Due to the data dependencies present within the physics test, it is necessary for the CPU to stall for data to be committed to memory before continuing on to the next portion of the test instead of executing instructions in parallel. This strongly reduces the practical performance of the CPU because the architecture is primarily focused upon instruction-level parallelism to deliver major performance gains. However, due to the strong showing in graphics performance the iPhone 6s’ still manage to take the lead.

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Offscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Offscreen)

In GFXBench, the A9 SoC just shows absurd performance. It’s strange to think about how the iPad Air 2’s GPU seemed incredibly quick at the time but with the A9 Apple has surpassed that level of performance in their smartphone SoCs. The move to a new generation of PowerVR GPU IP, in addition to the move to a FinFET process node are really the drivers for this kind of performance improvement.

Overall, the Apple A9 SoC is the best SoC in any phone shipping today. In cases like web browsing, gaming, and even just going through the UI it’s quite evident that this new SoC is a major factor in improving performance and smoothness across the board. Something as simple as visiting some popular tech websites will show this, which really goes to show how much “specs” still matter due to their influence on user experience.

NAND Performance

At this point is almost goes without saying that storage performance is important, but in a lot of ways the testing here is still in its early days. In the case of the iPhone 6s we’ve discussed what distinguishes its storage solution from others in this industry, but for those that are unaware the iPhone 6s uses PCIe and NVMe instead of a UFS or eMMC storage solution. In a lot of ways, this makes the storage on board closer to the SSD that you might find in a more expensive PC but due to PCB limitations you won’t necessarily see the enormous parallelism that you might expect from a true SSD. In the time since the initial results we've found that all of our review units use Hynix-supplied NAND. In order to test how this storage solution performs, we use Eric Patno’s storage test which allows for a simple storage test comparable to AndroBench 3.6.

Internal NAND - Sequential Read

Internal NAND - Sequential Write

Internal NAND - Random Read

Internal NAND - Random Write

Here, we can really see the enormous performance improvements that result from a combination of TLC NAND with an SLC cache, along with the new NVMe protocol which allows for low CPU overhead and removes architectural bottlenecks to storage performance. This should allow for things like faster burst photos and faster app updates. Downloading and updating apps on the iPhone 6s feels noticeably faster than it is on the iPhone 6, to the extent that small apps feel like they install almost instantly when I’m on a WiFi connection fast enough to saturate storage bandwidth.

System Performance Battery Life and Charge Time


View All Comments

  • IanHagen - Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - link

    Would you be so kind and post some sort of source for the allegedly professional review that deemed the iPhone camera as really poor? I'll be waiting by the sea. Reply
  • hlovatt - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    Fantastic review, particularly liked the deep dive on the CPU.

    It must be hard to ignore the nasty comments some people make because you don't like their favourite phone as much as some other brand. Rest assured that their are many more people who appreciate your efforts than those who seem to have way too much invested in their choice of phone.
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    -- * Especially the SoC

    So, yes or no (and show your work): the Apple Ax processors are modified ARM ref. devices simply by adding off-the-shelf functionality available to any engineer with an HDL/CAD/etc. workstation? Seems so from all the various descriptions, here and elsewhere.
  • extide - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    No they are clean sheet implementations of the ARM v8 instruction set. No off the shelf ARM Cortex CPU is even remotely similar, they are all much narrower designs. This chip is honestly designed more like an Intel Core CPU than an ARM one. Too bad you can only get it in an iPhone :( Reply
  • Byte - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    Im a hardcore MS hore and hate Apple. But their iPhones cannot be beat. Android STILL feels like Windows Mobile phone which I i've used years before smartphone was a thing, starting with Palms. I'm a bit disappointed with the new camera, but pictures still look better on an iPhone than S6 even with Samsungs far superior screens. Android only had a short uptick when iPhones were stuck in the low screen sizes, but now Apples stronghold is insane. It will only take a paradigm shift from actual phones to challenge that, which might be very soon. Reply
  • pliablemoosethebanned - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    Ignore the idiots, great review guys. Reply
  • Caliko - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - link

    With Apple's track record,

    You have a better chance building a snowman in hell than get them to pay you for something.
  • Alexey291 - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - link

    So you're implying that they forfeit their marketing contracts? I'm just asking because you seem to be the resident apple expert here Reply
  • Bragabondio - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - link

    I guess, to avoid comments like the above you guys need to state in the summary if you are using Iphone, Android or s/g else as a daily driver.
    The idea is that all of us have our preferences and biases but sometimes when we like an ecosystem (or if we were more familiar with a particular ecosystem) we made decision on what is important to review based on personal preferences and biases. For example, I like a lot a CNET review of the new Apple TV where the author immediately stated he is an Android guy. So when at the end he gave it an overall score of 4 out of 5, people who are into Apple ecosystem are aware that the product was reviewed by somebody who may have different expectations about what a streamer/casual game machine should do compared to them.
    I guess most of you guys from Anandtech are into Apple so it is difficult to find somebody who can provide an alternative angle but at least you can state where you are coming from.
    The SoC of the new Iphones may be great but if I can paraphrase the Russian proverb it is not the SoC alone that makes the phone great.
  • jospoortvliet - Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - link

    Well didn't the author write his daily phone is a HTC One M7? And compare the iPhone with it at some points? I have the One as well and he said the right things - looks like Apple has simply done a great job on almost every front. Reply

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