System Performance

One of the more popular and pervasive beliefs in this industry is that specs increasingly don’t matter. In a lot of ways, this review isn’t really the right place to address whether or not this matters, but the short answer is that things like SoC performance matter quite a bit. Outside of the display, the SoC and RF subsystems are one of the biggest power consumers in a phone today and unlike the display or RF systems the CPU and GPU can cause short spikes of enormous power consumption. At this point, we’ve seen SoCs this year that consume anywhere between 6 to over 12 watts when faced with a full load situation. The important part here is that when an SoC uses that much power, it needs to be delivering enough performance to justify the power consumption. In order to test aspects of the phone like the SoC we use our standard suite of benchmarks, which are designed to test various real-world scenarios to get an idea of what peak performance looks like.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2013 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2015 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

In the standard web browser benchmarks, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are clearly in the lead. The difference in some cases is significant, but given that the benchmarks that we’re running here are all enormous optimization targets it's still a reasonable comparison point. In the interest of trying to avoid optimization targets I decided to look at some new JavaScript benchmarks that aren’t regularly used right now. One interesting benchmark is Ember Performance, which is a JavaScript app framework that is used in a number of popular websites and applications. This isn’t as popular as AngularJS at the moment, but in the absence of a good mobile benchmark EmberJS should be a reasonably good proxy.

EmberJS (Chrome/Safari/IE)

In this benchmark, we can see that there’s a pretty enormous performance uplift that results when you compare the iPhone 6s' to anything else out there on the market. Weirdly enough, on average it looks like Samsung’s S-Browser ends up slower here than Chrome, but it’s likely that this is just because S-Browser is using an older build of Chromium which negates the advantages of platform-specific optimizations that Samsung is integrating into S-Browser.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

Looking at Basemark OS II, once again Apple is basically taking the lead across the board. The differences aren’t necessarily as enormous as they are in single-threaded browser benchmarks, but the iPhone 6s’ retain a significant overall performance lead over the next best mobile devices.

Overall, in benchmarks where CPU performance is a significant influence the iPhone 6s is pretty much at the very top of the stack. Of course, Apple has also had about 6-8 months of time since the launch of SoCs like the Snapdragon 810 and Exynos 7420 so this is at least partially to be expected. The real surprise and/or disappointment would be if future Exynos and Snapdragon SoCs continue to lag behind the A9 in CPU performance.

A9's GPU: Imagination PowerVR GT7600 System Performance Cont'd and NAND Performance
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  • TitaniK - Friday, November 13, 2015 - link

    I used to be so pro android and have tried all main phones on the market; Samsung 3&4, note3,4, htc one m7, nexus 4. I need my phone constantly mainly for business as well as pleasure and at the end, i surrendered to Apple product; so reliable, fast and just clean. It's just a well tuned machine. I compare it this way; android is the NASCAR of mobile devices where Apple is Formula 1. Cars go very fast in both organizations but the Formula 1 machines are simply finer tuned and polished machines. Reply
  • 10basetom - Sunday, November 8, 2015 - link

    Even though my last two phones have been Androids, I would have to agree with the reviewer's assessment that Android phones have been, more or less, a zero sum game. You can call me jaded, but there's not a single Android phone in the past year that has gotten me truly excited, maybe with the exception of potentially cheaper (relative to YotaPhone 2) dual screen phones coming out of China that would change how you use a phone on a daily basis. PDAF, laser autofocus, and RAW support are nice specs to have for a limited group of photography aficionados, but I don't consider them real innovation in the overall user experience department. Most consumers (i.e., non-geeks) who use phones to take everyday photos will not notice -- or even care -- whether their phone has PDAF or not; and for people who want to take frameable photos, they would probably do so with a tripod and DLSR rather than a mobile phone. Besides, the cameras in the iPhone 6s' are nothing to laugh at.

    When I think of progress in mobile OS usability, it would have to be something that gives the end user more pleasure in using it, or increase their productivity in a measurable way (e.g., less time in doing something, fewer taps). Maybe I've just been using Android for too long, but there is nothing in Lollipop or what I've seen of Marshmallow that makes me stop and silently shout "damn, that is impressive!". Sure, the interface is a little more streamlined with enhanced jazzy animations (that I turn off anyway to improve performance), and some new iterative features sprinkled here and there, but nothing revolutionary. It's unfortunate that most Android phone manufacturers build a custom skin on top that more often than not makes the phone less usable and more buggy, and also more confusing when you move from one Android phone to the next.

    The WinCE-based Neno OS that introduced a 100% swipable interface and weaned people off the stylus two years before the original iPhone -- that's way into revolutionary territory. The pulley menu system in Sailfish OS -- now that's something refreshing. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but at least they are trying something different, and when you do get used to it, it really does improve one-handed usability. The 3D Touch interface in the new iPhones? Now that's bordering on revolutionary. Again, it may not seem apparent when you first use it, but after living with it for an extended period of time until it becomes habit, you would be hard-pressed to go back to a mobile phone without a pressure-sensitive touch layer. The exciting thing is that we are just scratching the surface of what 3D Touch can bring; and the module could be made thinner and lighter so that future iPhones won't get such a large weight bump.

    Other than the superior A9 SoC which has already been widely discussed, the other big thing for me that Android phones have been dropping the ball on is storage architecture. Whereas most Android phones are still advertising eMMC 5.0 storage solutions, the iPhone 6s' have moved way beyond that. Samsung's move to UFS 2.0 is a step in the right direction, and I hope all other Android phone manufacturers will follow suit soon.
    Reply
  • dusszz - Monday, November 30, 2015 - link

    I've been a long time android user seriously thinking of switching to iphone. Android OS in general is not meant for high end devices because prior to nexus 6p, android is designed for nexus phone which is not a high end devices. The high end iteration of android as in galaxy s6/note 5 with skins feel fragmented and does not really in line with what google intended (material design). Sure they add features with that but it felt like they (high end oem) trying too hard to compete. I always feel the best android devices must come from nexus line but then it does not quite there at least just yet. Every innovation in android OS always feel like it is in beta because the implementation more for marketing rather than useful. For example, nexus 5 has OIS since 2013 but does not feel it has advantage over other phone that has EIS. Furthermore, decision google made to ditch OIS (nexus 6p/5x) further clarify it. I personally never have android phone for more than a year without feeling outdated in term of hardware. So if you think you buy $500 android phone thinking it can compete with iphone, its going to be disappointing. Android is at its best being a midranger. Reply
  • hans_ober - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    at last! Reply
  • vFunct - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    I wish he took proper photo tests.

    Tip: when testing cameras, do make sure to take photos of people. Don't take photos of brick walls.

    You're going to find that most people take photos of people with their phones - at parties, selfies, etc..

    A good camera test always includes people shots.
    Reply
  • vFunct - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    Basically you're looking for skin-tone reproduction quality. Reply
  • Klug4Pres - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    I wonder if next year the Home button will disappear, which would help a lot with the bezeltastic design. Reply
  • zeeBomb - Monday, November 2, 2015 - link

    That username...lol.

    I dunno man, the home button is the staple of iPhone Design since the very original. Might be pretty controversial if you'd ask me.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - link

    The fingerprint reader is another big reason. If they can get it to be as fast and accurate as it is right now while reducing home button size then I can see them reducing the bottom bezel.

    Otherwise you're looking at making their fingerprint reader as flaky and undependable as Samsung or everyone else's
    Reply
  • Tetracycloide - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - link

    The nexus 5x has been super solid. Reply

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