System Performance

System performance of the new iPhones should be again excellent given the hardware advancements on the part of the new A14 chip. Alongside iOS14, we should really see no problem with everyday tasks on the phone.

Unfortunately, our benchmark suite for iOS here is still relatively barren, and we have to mostly rely on web browser benchmarks – which isn’t all too much of an issue given that’s the heaviest and most demanding every-day workload for mobile devices.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView

In Speedometer 2, the new A14 showcases a large performance boost of 30% for the new iPhone generation. This is likely both due to the clock frequency increase of the new CPUs as well as the fact that the new microarchitecture has in particular a larger amount of FP/SIMD resources available to itself.

Usually at this point we would point out that it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison to other devices in the chart, and that Apple’s Nitro JavaScript engine could simply be much superior to Google’s V8 engine, but the new release of the Apple Silicon Macs where we could finally compare Safari versus Chrome has shown very little performance discrepancy, meaning the performance here is actually due to the CPUs themselves.

Having that in mind, it means that Apple’s performance advantage over Android devices has grown even bigger this generation, with little hope for upcoming Cortex cores to catch up with such a gap.

JetStream 2 - OS Webview

JetStream 2 has heavier workloads and also make uses of WebAssembly, averaging out a smaller performance increase for the new A14 chip, but still showcasing class-leading performance amongst the competition.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

WebXPRT is a browser workload that tries to mimic real-world interactions and workloads. The new iPhone 12s here actually show very little progress in terms of performance.

This small progress in WebXPRT is actually quite representative of my overall impression of responsiveness of the new iPhones: The A13 and iPhone 11 devices were already so performant and responsive that the actual speed limit for user interactions nowadays are just OS animations and just general SoC DVFS, the latter which Apple has already optimised to an ideal operation a few years back.

I would be lying if I were to say that I noticed that the new iPhone 12s are any faster than the iPhone 11 in everyday usage, but that’s simply because these are already are outstandingly fast devices.

The Apple A14 SoC: Firestorm & Icestorm GPU Performance & Power
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  • PickUrPoison - Saturday, December 12, 2020 - link

    5s and 6 are like $25-50 used, they’re 5+ years old.
  • TelstarTOS - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    yet another skip year with notch.
  • PickUrPoison - Saturday, December 12, 2020 - link

    Get used to it. Apple’s ok with it. Eventually it’ll get smaller and occupy minimal bezel space. Think 7-10 years and be happy if it’s faster.
  • anonomouse - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    Is there a pending Mate 40 Pro / Kirin 9000 review where all of the numbers for that are coming from? The GPU in particular for that looks very.... not great.
  • tk.icepick - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    Great review Andrei!

    A small error: On the GPU Performance & Power page, the performance drop from 11 Pro to 12 Pro is 64.78 fps to 56.06 fps. The following paragraph lists a 45% performance regression, but that would be comparing the peak performance of 11 Pro to the sustained performance of 12 Pro.
    56.06/64.78 = 86.53%. Still a regression, but only ~14%, not 45.
  • dudedud - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    Speaking of the throttling, do the 12 series employ the same graphene layer to disperse the heat as last year iPhones?
    I haven't seen any indication of using it this time (iFixit didn't mention it), and maybe that's the reason for the lower sustained performance even when the efficiency is better?
  • flyingpants265 - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    $799 is high, but it's more reasonable than $1300.

    Always remember that the Realme X 4GB is $145 USD on AliExpress, that should be the price for all budget phones going forward.
  • Amandtec - Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - link

    Unless you work in an industry where China engages in industrial espionage. Then the extra $600 is easily worth it.
  • flyingpants265 - Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - link

    No, that doesn't matter at all. The point is that phones are cheap to make, and we should seek an option between $145-300 USD. Not an artificially gimped or overpriced option, or "midrange plus" Samsung phones sold to clueless consumers for $600 or more with inferior specifications. $300 is a good price for a Nexus 5 type phone.
  • FunBunny2 - Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - link

    "The point is that phones are cheap to make"

    depends on why that is.

    1 - they're still made with a high level of labor input (not so much automation), both the final assembly that most consider 'making the phone' and the same for all the constituent parts all the way down the BoM

    2 - they're made with a high level of automation (not so much labor), ditto the rest

    in the 1) case, all producers from final assembly down the BoM, can maintain minimum average cost for most levels of output simply by expanding or contracting the labor force, and thus preserve profit

    in the 2) case, there's less flexibility to maintain minimum average cost at any level of output, since all that automation has to be paid for no matter the level of output. in fact, the only way to maximize profit is to run that automation 24/7/365, thus spreading capital cost as thinly as possible over maximum output. moving production to still more 'business friendly, labor antagonistic' jurisdictions means there's less and less money to be had by exploiting labor; just not enough in the BoM to exploit.

    so, if the BoM for smartphones is closer to 2), it's in the companies interest to maximize output level at all times, thus increasing supply, thus competition for consumers, and thus a lowering of actual sale price.

    perhaps one of the AT mavens could look into this?

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