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Monday, September 24, 2012, 07:04 am PT (10:04 am ET)

Review: Apple's iPhone 5 running iOS 6


5 is for 5peed



Last year Apple introduced the iPhone 4S with its A5 processor a full nine months or so after the rest of the industry had launched their own dual core designs. The difference was that Apple put its top chip in the phone it was selling to the mass market. As a result, Apple sold so many millions of iPhone 4S that it more than made up for the added expense of putting an expensive, custom chip in its mainstream phone.

This year, Apple has again produced an industry leading chip, bounding ahead of everything else on the market but doing so with its mainstream global offering. According to a report by TechInsights, the iPhone 5 A6 is estimated to cost Apple a third more than the iPhone 4S A5 and twice as much as the iPhone 4 A4. These parts-cost estimates don't detail the hundreds of millions Apple has invested in developing new A-series chips.



A year ago AppleInsider noted, "you can expect the initial crop of smartphones to debut quad core chips, 2GHz speeds and Cortex-A15 chips not to come from Apple, but you'd be crazy to think Apple would be that far behind with a model more people would actually buy."

Sure enough, while Samsung and Intel have retained bragging rights for most cores and most GHz, iPhone 5 has a lead out of the starting gate in both graphics and general computational power.

Apple's new A6



Apple's A6 incorporates a custom dual core ARM design that maintains the efficiency of the Cortex-A8 with elements of the server-optimized Cortex-A15, paired with triple core PowerVR SGX543MP3 graphics processing units and 1GB of LPDDR2 system RAM.

A6 internal design


In benchmarks, the iPhone 5 scores well more than twice as fast ("100 percent faster") as iPhone 4S in integer (123 percent faster) and floating point (187 percent faster) performance, and nearly three times (171-232 percent) faster in memory performance. This is a much bigger jump than the iPhone 4S compared to iPhone 4, and the iPhone 4 over iPhone 3GS.



Faster Web pages, better looking games



Rightware's BrowserMark test indicates that iPhone 5 similarly renders HTML and JavaScript 121 percent faster than iPhone 4S, while the iPhone 4S was just 67 percent faster than iPhone 4.



In video games and other graphically intensive apps, GLBenchmark 2.1 scores paint a picture of faster, smoother graphics. The onscreen scores don't show much improvement because last year's iPhone 4S was already maximizing 60fps full screen video. When you look at raw graphics rendering capabilities, the iPhone 5's new triple core graphics are blazing fast, on par with the four core A5X graphics in the new iPad, but tasked with far fewer pixels to manage.

To take full advantage of the improved graphics horsepower of iPhone 5, developers will have to tweak their games the same way they did to fully exploit the new iPad earlier this year. Being destined to become the most popular iPhone yet means that developers are likely to actually do this.

On page 4 of 6: Network speed via 4G DC-HSPA, LTE