iPhone 5 Review: Apple's Best iPhone Yet

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Performance is always a delicate topic when it comes to Apple. Comparing the iPhone 5 to Android phones and Windows Phone is can be like comparing apples to oranges. However, there are few benchmarks you can look at across platforms, where equal conclusions can be drawn.

On the surface, it would appear Apple is behind the times with the A6 processor powering the iPhone 5. The 1.02GHz dual-core A6 (ARMv7) processor is slower in terms of clock speed, and many Android phones are already shipping with 1.5GHz chips. 1GB of RAM is included in the iPhone 5, which is half of what many flagship Android phones possess. But here's the thing: Apple is vertically integrated and they can hand-tuned their SoC architecture and OS to take excellent advantage of each other. You will not find a more optimized CPU/OS pair in the market today, than the A6 and iOS 6.

Looking at Geekbench, we netted an overall score of 1638. That breaks down to an integer score of 1254, a floating point score of 2090, a memory score of 1865 and a stream score of 949. For the sake of comparison, we also ran an in-house iPhone 4S through the Geekbench gauntlet. As a refresher, that device has an 800MHz A5 CPU and only 512MB of RAM. The score? A paltry 611, breaking down as such: integer (517), floating point (724), memory (743), stream (289).

Android phones use an OS from Google and a processor from any number of companies. They work together, but there are inefficiencies that Apple can more efficiently deal with. In other words, Apple makes the absolute most of its SoC. Apple can squeeze every drop of performance out of it, and also design future SoCs to better alleviate what Apple considers bottlenecks in iOS.  You could also argue that the A6's lower clock speeds help when it comes to battery life.

The simple fact of the matter is that the iPhone 5 is much faster than the iPhone 4 and 4S. In average use, browsing the web and flipping through the usual complement of apps, the speed increase feels about like that between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Page flips are slightly quicker, apps load slightly faster. But there's additional graphical horsepower in here too, so games that are updated to make use of the extra pixels won't see any slowdowns.

iPhone 5 SunSpider Benchmark Results

Web browsing on the iPhone 5 is very quick. And our SunSpider test rings up at a staggering score of 941ms, which is over twice as fast as the iPhone 4S (which sported scores of around 2,200 in our testing) and even quicker than two of the newest Android rivals: the Galaxy S III and HTC One X, which ranged between ~1,600 and 1,800.

The other browser-based benchmark we ran was Browsermark, which netted a score of 182435. That smokes the 108304 score from the Galaxy S III: and even on the tablet side, it beats out the Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 (106275) and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (89673). We also ran our iPhone 4S through Browsermark, and it scored 103286.

GLBenchmark specifically focuses on the graphics performance of the graphics core in a given mobile test device.  This benchmark measures OpenGL graphics performance across a number of rendering workloads. "The benchmark contains high-level 3D animations and low-level graphic measurements. GLBenchmark Egypt HD is the upgraded version of the old Egypt 2.1 test: it is more complex, uses more and higher resolution textures and is optimized for 1080p."

It's another impressive showing for the A6 SoC in the iPhone 5.  Here the A6 clearly demonstrates a massive fillrate advantage, a traditional strong suit for Apple since the iPhone 4S.  The Egypt HD Offscreen test shows the A6's graphics engine offering over two times the frame rate of some of the fastest competitive Android smartphones on the market, in this test.

Make no mistake: the iPhone 5 is no marginal improvement over the iPhone 4S in terms of raw speed. It more than doubles the speed in practically every test we threw at it, and it will surely show off its muscle as more and more apps are built to take advantage of the extra oomph provided by the A6 and its healthier allotment of 1GB of system RAM.  Beyond elegant functional and mechanical design, the new Apple A6 processor clearly demonstrates Apple's design prowess when it comes to base silicon technologies as well.

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sackyhack 2 years ago

Can't wait for my contract to run out so I can get one for a discount! I was hoping to switch to Verizon, but they still can't do voice and data at the same time, which is a deal breaker for me. This time around it seems like it was a hardware decision by Apple, since they didn't want to include an extra antenna for Verizon and Sprint's network type. Oh well, I'll put up with AT&T for a little longer. It's not too bad where I'm living right now.

Marco C 2 years ago

Hey SackyHack. The Verizon version of the phone is actually unlocked and works on AT&T's network. And when connected to AT&T, it will do voice and data.  Not sure if that's going to be the case with all iPhone 5s (there's conflicting info at the moment), but I know of multiple people that have confirmed it.

LBowen 2 years ago

It would be great if they had an expansion slot. Sure with 64GB of memory you don't really need it; but having the option is good especially with the music, games, and apps I enjoy on my touch.

MCaddick 2 years ago

Ray, the SunSpider graph has 'iPhone 4' misspelt. I think calling it an iPhoen 4 actually looks/sounds kinda cool though. Scandinavian perhaps :)

Dave_HH 2 years ago

MCaddick, arggh... good catch. Corrected! :)

karanm 2 years ago

Great review by Ray but honestly benchmarks aside, I'm not too excited by this phone. The lack of NFC may be a smart choice from Apples pov but it puts the iphone 5 behind other handsets that are ready for the technology now. Google wallet may not be mainstream at this point but the ability to transfer files and other media with a simple touch is VERY convenient when you find someone with the same capability. The iphone is used as an mp3 player by almost anyone who has one and having the ability to transfer playlists to someone else would be a godsend. The only problem I see is that they may have issues with copyrighted music from itunes. As noted in the review the phone takes good pictures as well, imagine just being able to send the pics around effortlessly without having to share them on some social media website for everybody to see.

The battery life is excellent on the iphone 5 and I have to disagree with Ray on the decision to make the phone lighter and perhaps reduce battery life. I've had a dozen or so iphone users comment on the thinness and weight of my HTC phone, Apple made a great design choice by making the phone slimmer and lighter.

mhenriday 2 years ago

Not being an iPhone user, I'll refrain from commenting on the review as a whole, but one thing certainly did strike me - the comment to the effect that «... the iPhone 5 has been precisely crafted, down to nanometer tolerances». Nanometre tolerances - one nanometre is about 10 hydrogen atoms lined up in a row - does anyone really believe that Apple - or rather, Foxconn workers - can machine this device «down to nanomet[re] tolerances» ?!! Hyperbole is an accepted literary trope, but beware of crossing the line to fanboiism !...


antc777 2 years ago

Best iPhone 5 review I have read. What I wanted was a phone that let me do things I do with a phone easier and faster and the author has focussed on those.

I got the phone since my contract ended few weeks ago and had the phone for a week now. Once you get used to this there is no going back. 4S feels fat and heavy now and it is like going from a MacBook Pro to a Macbook Air. Extra screen space is also great and 4S screen now feels small. I will not go into everything here but for most of things I use the phone for, this has been a very worthy upgrade. Some areas that matter to me are wifi hotspot speed, web browsing speed, call quality, resiliency against drops and the camera. Video and Games are a plus too although not used everyday.

Maps certainly can be better but for my usage, it still works and will hopefully improve. For music, getting a good pair of headphones is a must. I have not had any wifi issue but I use an Apple router. Changed dock connector is a bit of a hassle since I need a couple of cables for car etc., but I can understand the reasons why it was changed.

Overall, I got this upgrade since I have now invested a lot in apps/accessories and wanted to stick to the iPhone and also that my contract had expired. It has exceeded my expectations.

molanjames 2 years ago

Currently iPhone 5 on the second hand market is very hot because of high demand. According to Movaluate analysis, AT&T iPhone 5 16G Black is the most popular among other variants which is about $800.Read iPhone 5 Sales Behavior on the Second-Hand Market here http://blog.movaluate.com/2012/11/05/iphone-5-sales-behavior-on-the-second-hand-market/

I hope the factory unlocked iPhone will be available soon to stabilize the second hand market.

ToniPaneto one year ago

3 Months with my new iPhone 5 and i always enjoy the sound quality when I capture videos or sound.

The only problem is that everyone walking around with the same iPhone after 3GS.. I purchased a carbon sticker from http://www.coolcasing.com

and i don't get bored from the same exactly design over and over.

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