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Apple iPhone 5 Review: CPU, GPU, Battery, Wi-Fi, And Display Testing

Something New, But No Longer Revolutionary

I think we can all agree that the iPhone 4S was a fairly modest update to a recipe that hasn't changed significantly in quite a while. The iPhone 5 does a number of things both differently and better, but it continues that trend of slow, steady improvement. 

Thin, light, armed with LTE support, a better screen, and a high-performance SoC. That's the iPhone 5. But nowadays we could be talking about any number of phones, right? It's hard not to be impressed. Apple does have to answer for this phone's faults, though, particularly when there's so much compelling competition.

First, there's the rear-facing camera and its purple flare. We like that Apple is using sapphire crystal for its lens. That's the same stuff used for luxury watch faces, and it's very scratch-resistant. But the resulting artifact from strong light sources looks terrible, regardless of whether Apple calls it expected behavior. Then there's the paint-chipping issues that especially affected the earliest iPhone 5s. A purported trade-off for the aluminum body, we have a hard time accepting the ease with which the surface of our launch-day phone is marred. Finally, the Lightning connector. We get it; Apple needed to adopt a new interface. But that leaves us with more than a few accessories that simply aren't worth much in an iPhone 5/iPad Mini/fourth-gen iPad world. And we're not looking forward to buying adapters, either.

But then there are the phone's more appealing attributes. One of the most compelling is 4G LTE support, which opens the door to truly useful Personal Hotspot functionality. The performance of Apple's A6 is pretty stellar as well. Although today's games aren't able to fully utilize its more powerful graphics engine, we can see that there's plenty of headroom available for developers to exploit. How about the iPhone 5's screen? Our benchmarks show just how much better its color is than the iPhone 4S' (though really, this only catches Apple up to what some of its competition is doing). Battery life is better, recharge time improves, and the addition of 5 GHz 802.11n support supercharges Wi-Fi performance. And then there's Apple's lingering advantage: the fact that so many people with iPhones also have tablets and computers operating within the same ecosystem. If you want to peel those folks away, you need another comprehensive package...like what Microsoft's trying to achieve with Windows 8.

If we were only taking hardware into consideration, there are certainly formidable alternatives to Apple's latest. For example, Samsung's Galaxy S III has been on the market for a while, and its AMOLED display is a market leader. We hear it's selling pretty well, too. 

Right now, we're in a holding pattern, waiting for new hardware (Nvidia's next-gen Tegra and more cool stuff from Qualcomm) and software (Android 5.0). Until then, we're happy to see Apple with yet another attractive piece of hardware sporting several features that improve on what came before. The iPhone just doesn't have the magical hold on the smartphone market that it once did.

  • mayankleoboy1
    Great GPU performance. Apple/PowerVR consistently beat the competition in this.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Why can't everyone - Apple included - agree on a standardized power adapter like mini USB?? It would make not only our lives easier but the manufacturers who make these accessories able to have one device and on cord that works with everything.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    The LCD tests puzzle me a little. Most other reviews said that the SGS3 has a poorer display and the iphone5 has a better display , with much better contrast ratio and sRGB compliance.

    Maybe i am reading it wrong ?
    Reply
  • reprotected
    There needs to be more explanation in the quality of the screens. We all know Galaxy SIII covers a larger colour gamut, but does it beat the iPhone 5 in terms of accuracy is one big thing we want to know based on your eyes, not numbers and graphs.
    Reply
  • kensingtron
    Great article ^_^

    Second to last paragraph:
    "For example, Samsung's Galaxy S III has been on the market for a while, and its LCD is a market leader"

    LCD = AMOLED
    Reply
  • acku
    kensingtronGreat article ^_^Second to last paragraph:"For example, Samsung's Galaxy S III has been on the market for a while, and its LCD is a market leader"LCD = AMOLED
    My apologies. On page 6 we mentioned that S3 uses AMOLED. I'll make a correction. Thanks for the shout out.
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl
    Excellent article as usual, very comprehensive. Hopefully this helps to dispel some of the performance myths about the iPhone that seem to circulate here on Tom's.
    Reply
  • acku
    mayankleoboy1The LCD tests puzzle me a little. Most other reviews said that the SGS3 has a poorer display and the iphone5 has a better display , with much better contrast ratio and sRGB compliance.Maybe i am reading it wrong ?
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57524291-37/color-me-prettier-galaxy-s3-display-outdoes-iphone-5s/ Check that one out. :)

    I'd still like to add an accuracy test at some point. I need to think about how to approach that problem. The way people normally talk about color accuracy (besides deltae and gamma) are sometimes too abstract with color terms that professionals use. I'd like to find a way to present the information in a more intuitive manner.
    Reply
  • ojas
    g-unit1111Why can't everyone - Apple included - agree on a standardized power adapter like mini USB?? It would make not only our lives easier but the manufacturers who make these accessories able to have one device and on cord that works with everything.Agreed...though don't most smartphones today use the microUSB B-type connector?
    Reply
  • dare2blink
    Seems apple has not inovated for a couple of years now. I´m shocked that the most inovative and arguably the best phone of the year is not even mentioned in this article. Nokia Lumia 920 is definitely the most inovative na the most complete phone reseased so far. It has much better build quality, a better screen and camera than the iphone 5, not to mention a much more inovative OS.
    Reply