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Apple’s iPhone 5S benchmarked: How fast is the new A7 CPU?

Given their outward appearance, you'd be hard pressed to find any differences between the Apple iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5. They share the same physical dimensions and weight, but below that brushed aluminium finish are a few new pieces that keep Apple's smartphone line moving forward.

Chief among those is Apple's newly minted A7 SoC. The iPhone, unlike some of its Android competitors, has never been about pure specs. But is this new processor enough to keep the iPhone competitive? Let's look at a few numbers to see just how the 5S stacks up against some of the competition.

Apple released the A6 with the iPhone 5, the A6X with the last iPad, and now brings us its new crown jewel, the A7. It's not just about more cores or faster clock speeds here – Apple is making a bet on the future of mobile computing. The A7 is the first mobile processor capable of 64-bit operation, which is already the standard for laptop and desktop computers. For an in-depth take on Apple's mobile strategy here, check out Sascha Segan's analysis. But now, let’s get onto some numbers.

We use a number of benchmarks to test overall system performance, graphical prowess, and web browsing speed across all of our mobile devices. Here we'll focus on the cross-platform tests that are available on Android and iOS: Geekbench for overall system performance, GLBench for graphics performance, and Browsermark and Sunspider for web browsing speeds.

To put the iPhone 5S into perspective, we pit it against the iPhone 5 and two top Android devices.

Apple claimed that the A7 would double system and graphics performance over last year's A6 chip, and our tests were consistent with that claim. The iPhone 5S scored a 2557 on Geekbench, which was about double the iPhone 5's 1296 in the same test. On GLBench, the 5S scored 53 and 56 frames per second in the on-screen and off-screen tests, while the 5 managed 36 and 30 frames per second.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-powered LG G2 reeled in the top marks for Android smartphones, scoring a 2154 on Geekbench, and it churned out 58 and 50 frames per second in the GLBench on-screen and off-screen tests. The Samsung Galaxy S4, which uses a Snapdragon 600 chip, was able to come close to the G2 with a 1964 on Geekbench, but it wasn't quite up to snuff on the graphics side with 41 frames per second both on and off-screen on GLBench.

The area the A7 really excelled was in our web performance tests. It scored the highest Browsermark score by a wide margin: 3764 to the S4's 2498 and the G2's 2493. It also dusted some of its competitors in the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, taking only 418 milliseconds to complete, versus the S4's 1431 and G2's 1134.

Of course, all of these results should be taken with a grain of salt – mobile benchmarks are far from perfect, but they do help us quantify real-world performance. Apple doesn't deal in clock speeds and core counts, but it's clear that it has a serious contender on its hands with the A7-powered iPhone 5S.

For more, check out our hands-on with the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C, as well as our review of iOS 7. We’ll have full reviews of the 5S and 5C up very shortly, so stay tuned for them.