Adapting to change: a review of Apple’s larger 4.7-inch iPhone 6

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The iPhone 6 has an increased 4.7-inch display, a similar screen size as last year’s Moto X. It’s big for Apple phones, but still on the smaller side for Android phones, which have moved, lately, to the 5-inch territory.

iPhones have always had phenomenal displays, in terms of brightness and color quality both: David Katzmaier here at CNET has tested the last few, and they’ve been among the tops in smartphones.

We haven’t done full display testing on these new iPhones yet — stay tuned for that — but the iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch IPS display looks vivid, rich, and as good as that on the iPhone 5 or 5S, just bigger. But not that much bigger. The display’s 1,344×750-pixel resolution is higher than the iPhone 5/5C/5S’ 1,136×640, but it has the same 326ppi pixel density. It’s a good step up, and a big help for nearly anything you’d use your phone’s screen for.

A grid of six-by-four apps now fits on each page plus the four in the dock below, for 28 total: on the 5’s 4-inch display, it’s 24. There are more pixels horizontally and vertically, unlike the merely vertical lengthening of the iPhone 5. That also means the aspect ratio’s the same, and videos and Web pages scale similarly.

How fast do we need our phones to be? The potential of last year’s crazily-fast-on-paper A7 processor still hasn’t been fully tapped. The new A8 processor on the iPhone 6 isn’t quite the quantum leap the A7 was. It’s a 64-bit dual-core processor just like the A7, but Apple claims a 25 percent boost in speed and 50 percent graphics boost over last year’s iPhone 5S.

In our tests (see the benchmarks below), we found that the A8, while faster, is a decent bump rather than a giant vault. Depending on which benchmark test you look at, the new processor was either above other phones (SunSpider 1.0.2, Linpack) or more in the middle of the pack (Geekbench 3, 3DMark).

These don’t necessarily tell the whole story, but the A8 isn’t a leap over the competition; it’s more of a step forward year-over-year from the A7, while mobile processors keep getting faster all around. But really, what you want to know is, how do apps feel? The UI and app-launching speed of the new iPhone is zippy as always.

What will really prove how things feel are apps optimized for the new display. Those aren’t really here yet in time for this early review, but stay tuned for future impressions with iPhone 6-tweaked games and apps. Also, keep in mind that Apple’s new Metal coding tool for gaming could help iOS games perform even better with the A8 than what these initial benchmarks suggest.

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