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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  • flyingfiddle - Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - link

    Truly amazed and convinced that Apple has the best SoC of any phones, and their investment on the SoC paid off. So does their investment on refined iOS experience. I am Android guy but I have to admit I really wish SoC on Android could catch up one day, sooner the better.

    On the other hand, just because Apple is great in some areas does not mean they should get away with other things that's not as great. The raw power of a high end phone has become more than sufficient for many general users, such that making it more powerful is starting to generate diminished return. I could think of many things that I wish iPhone has, such as longer battery life (i know it's great, relatively, but why not push the boundary?), better screen/body ratio, external memory, more setting and better UI in the camera app, etc.
    Well, still not my cup of tea but truly wish Android SoC could catch up one day. That's assuming Android platform survive that long (they have the largest market share but really don't make much money). I hope my money helps supporting them a bit longer..
    Reply
  • tytung - Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - link

    Can anyone comment on the iPhone 6s Plus frame rate dropping issue ? Animations looks choppy and the frame rate looks like only about 30 fps, unlike 60 fps on the 6s. If the GPU on the phone is so powerful this should not be an issue. In fact, for a phone this expensive UI frame rate drop is really a shameful problem. Reply
  • polmes - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    Got tired of iOS and moved to Android (Galaxy S6) earlier this year, but Apple definitely deserves an applause for being basically the only one to keep innovating in the mobile space. kudos Reply
  • Socius - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    Hmmmm...any idea why your iPhone 6s Plus scored just 15800 in Google octane when mine scored over 18,000? That's a pretty big discrepancy at 15%. Does your phone have a Samsung CPU? Mine is TSMC. Reply
  • zeeBomb - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    Both units are TSMC. Reply
  • Socius - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    Then there's something off as there is no way the 6s plus should be scoring just 15,800 on octane. Reply
  • mortimerr - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    I've never actually owned an Apple product in my life. All the way back to the original iPod classic. But I will probably finally be changing my stupid principle of 'No Apple Products'.

    The Android landscape recently has been going back instead of forward. Android 5-6 showcase minor improvements over 4.4.4 (Personally I also prefer Halo. Marshmallow and Lollipop looks slightly cartoony), battery life isn't that much of a leap (a lot of devices are experiencing the mobile radio active bug), and due to the fact that the high end market in the East is so saturated, most OEMs are cutting costs and putting out mid tier phones that lack top end hardware.

    A lot of recent releases for Android have a great price point but either have a terrible camera (sensor, pixel size, post processing etc) or the IPS display leaves something to be desired, or it's this or it's that. The only OEM pushing the platform forward is Samsung. But, to be quite frank, I find those devices ugly to look at in every way from the bezel, UI skin, back, front, etc.

    Where as Apple continues to simply improve with every iteration. Dual source fab at 14nm! What? 3D touch, increasing the ppi, maintaining solid battery life, great low light camera performance. Offering a big size and a small size with the same internals.
    Sony also did this but I don't see the 810 as a very good chip going forward. Especially when it's already pretty far behind in performance to the Exynos and A#. I'll look forward to see if Sony updates the Z line.

    I want to wait for Q2'16 for when devices with the 820 start being released, but what's the point when every device will inevitably have some drawback or large flaw or straight up just not be released in N. America.
    Reply
  • JTRCK - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Where do you want phones to go? There's not much else they can do. A phone being imperfect is "always" the case. There is always something lacking in all these devices, including the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. One of the first mentions in this review is that the author is still using an HTC One M7 from years ago. Because quite honestly, that was the pinnacle of smartphone design plus an excellent combination of fluid software, excellent performance, and an excellent night performance for a camera (though everything else about that camera was a downgrade). That 3 year old phone is still a very good performer today.

    Increasing processor/RAM/Storage speed is all excellent and it's expected, but the benefits from such increases are hardly felt by the user on day to day usage. Especially if the software is done properly. Example: I have an old iPhone 4s at home that I use for music streaming that consistently beat out my previous note 4 on application opening, multitasking, sound output quality, web surfing speed, etc. Which phone is superior? Which phone is better? Did AnandTech give that iPhone 4s the BEST award? In my view Apple has always been the king of software and hardware performance. They can get a device with 512mb of ram to outperform a Note 4 with a multicore processor and with 3GB of ram. They should always get the BEST award. But is the BEST (100%) really worth $1,200.00 when the second BEST (99%) is half the price?

    I'm not talking about Samsung here. Their phones are expensive with crappy performance. I'm talking about the Moto X Pure, HTC One M9/10, Nexus 6P, etc. I used an iPhone 6S Plus for 2 weeks (and an iPhone 6 Plus for 4 months before that) and returned it for the Nexus 6P. I find the 6P to be a much better phone than the iPhone 6S plus in almost every aspect. It charges faster, it opens applications just as fast, I can multitask faster with the 6P with a side launcher without ever having to see a home screen. I can transition within an app at a faster pace due to dedicated back buttons. A simple thing as not having a "button" to go back a task annoyed me to no end with the iPhone. Not to mention all the limitations of iOS. The only benefit of iPhone for me were the integrations with my Macbook, but other than that. I disliked both iPhones.

    The iPhone has all this amazing technology at its core, but my grandmother would never know when using her new 6S. And that's how it should be. I'm more amazed that a Nexus 6P costs half what an iPhone costs while still managing to do just as much, if not more. I honestly found nothing revolutionary about the 6S Plus while using it. In fact, I found it to be quite similar to the 6 Plus. Which I found to be quite similar to the iPhone 4s. Just much larger. And in terms of OS performance, vanilla android at this point is quite simply just as visually pleasing, power efficient, responsive and performant as iOS.
    Reply
  • FL777 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Amusingly, there is a YouTube real world speed test between the Nexus 6P and the iPhone 6S and the Nexus 6P BEATS THE IPHONE 6S!!!!!

    http://www.frequency.com/video/nexus-6p-vs-iphone-...

    So much for the iPhone 6S SoC being unbeatable LOL.
    Reply
  • Blark64 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Umm, did you watch the video? The difference was milliseconds, and with a "hand-done" test like this the phones were well within the margin of error, and essentially tied. Also, that was possibly the least informative benchmark I've ever seen, since repeatedly launching apps in a tight cycle is something that essentially no one actually does in the real world. That's why benchmarks that are either: more reflective of the real world, or synthetic and scientifically repeatable (like Geekbench and the various browser benchmarks), are probably a better guide. Reply

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