Benchmarking the iPhone 5

Apple's latest iPhone outperforms its 4S predecessor by a significant margin, but is matched in most areas by Samsung's Android flagship, the Galaxy S III.
Written by Kai Schmerer, Contributor

ZDNet (in Germany) has examined the iPhone 5's performance using multiple benchmark tests. By way of comparison, we've included the leading Android-based competitor, Samsung's quad-core Galaxy S III (which has just received an update to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean), along with the previous-generation iPhone 4S and the iPad 3 tablet.

On test (from left): iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad 3, Samsung Galaxy S III.

When you buy a new smartphone, the first hint as to its performance will be the device's start time, although it's barely relevant in general use. Still, comparing a device's start time to its predecessors can indicate how a manufacturer's product line is improving. The iPhone 5 starts in 20 seconds — noticeably faster than the 4S, which takes 35 seconds. The iPad 3 takes 44 seconds to start up, while Samsung's Galaxy S III, at 23 seconds, is comparable to the iPhone 5:


Geekbench bases its overall performance score on four tests: two determine the speed of the processor when handling integers and floating-point numbers (Integer, FPU) and two assess memory speed and bandwidth (Memory, Stream).

This cross-platform benchmark is well suited to analysing the performance of iOS devices, but caution is required when comparing the results on other platforms. For example, in the past, the Windows version differed from the Mac version by not using all CPU extensions, with the result that Mac OS systems delivered significantly higher scores than comparable Windows systems.

The overall Geekbench results show that the iPhone 5 is more than twice as fast as its 4S predecessor:


PassMark Software's PerformanceTest Mobile also uses four tests, but unlike Geekbench includes 2D and 3D graphics benchmarks. It also examines the I/O performance of the disk subsystem. The iPhone 5 delivers very good results in Passmark's suite, with nearly twice the overall performance of the iPhone 4S:


At first glance, the iPad 3's results appear particularly poor. However, this is due to the fact that the 3D graphics tests are performed at the device's native resolution, and the iPad 3 has to move over four times as many pixels (2,048 by 1,536) than the iPhone 5 (1,136 by 640). Since both devices' GPUs have similar capabilities, the iPad delivers a worse result thanks to its higher resolution — in the individual 3D Graphics test (below), the iPad 3 scored 587 points to the iPhone 5 's 1,752. On the other hand, this does reflect the performance that's actually experienced.


A different picture emerges if 3D performance is assessed at a predefined resolution (see GLBenchmark result, below). In this case, the iPad 3 delivers comparable performance to the iPhone 5. However, this finding is of little relevance in practice, as most 3D applications run with the device's native resolution. In this respect, the iPad 3 is 'suffering' for its high-resolution Retina display.


Modern websites regularly use JavaScript to present content, so this needs testing in any balanced performance analysis. It should be noted that the results obtained can be influenced not only by the device hardware, but also depending on the operating system. OS developers usually work hard to improve their built-in JavaScript engines. The iPhone 4S is a case in point: under iOS 5 the iPhone 4S delivered a BrowserMark of just under 90,000, a score that rose to over 100,000 under iOS 6:


SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark and Futuremark Peacekeeper, another JavaScript test, show the iPhone 5 delivering approximately twice the performance of the iPhone 4S. Note that the Android flagship, Samsung's Galaxy S III, cannot quite match the performance of the iPhone 5 in these tests:


Apple's iPhone 5 offers excellent performance across the board, and is significantly faster than its iPhone 4S predecessor. The Android-based Samsung Galaxy S III delivers comparable performance in all areas except 3D games. Having said that, it beats the iPhone 5 in PassMark's PerformanceTest Mobile 2D Graphics test by some distance (see graph on page 2).

Version 4.1 of Google's operating system is largely responsible for the excellent performance of the Android smartphones: Jelly Bean has put an end to the screen freezes of the past — even on far less powerful devices than the Samsung Galaxy S III used for these tests. Unfortunately for Android users, few manufacturers have so far released Jelly Bean for their devices. The update process for the Android platform is too long and device support is restricted. By contrast, the latest iOS version is available for the three-year-old iPhone 3GS. Technically savvy Android fans can, of course, use Jelly Bean images from the developer community. If you're wary of an Android version that isn't from your phone's manufacturer, you should purchase a Google phone, for which the latest OS updates are quickly available.

This article originally appeared on ZDNet Germany as iPhone 5 im Benchmarktest.

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