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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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


    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.
  • 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
  • Tetracycloide - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - link

    The nexus 5x has been super solid. Reply

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