iPhone 4S Benchmarked: Almost as Fast as iPad 2

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The iPhone 4S may be packing the iPad 2’s speedy hardware under its iPhone 4 hood, but it’s not quite as fast as Apple’s bestselling tablet. AnandTech gathered up a bunch of benchmarks from around the web and put together a summary that concludes the 4S is “slight slower…than iPad 2″ though “still very fast.”

Like the iPad 2, the 4S includes Apple’s dual-core A5 all-in-one processor, but parsing integer and floating point metrics, AnandTech concludes that it’s actually clocked lower than the version shipping in Apple’s flagship tablet. Why? Battery life, for starters. Apple has to cram a much smaller battery into the iPhone 4’s casing, which means compromises in other areas to wring extra minutes out of the lithium-ion technology. And don’t forget thermal dissipation—there’s probably that to think about, too.

(MORE: At Least One Million People Want Apple’s iPhone 4S)

According to the charts, the iPhone 4S’s Javascript performance is on par with Tegra 2-based Android OS devices running Honeycomb, thus the 4S is neck and neck with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 8.9, which employs a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor and has 1GB of RAM (versus the 4S’s 512MB). The iPhone 4, by comparison, is over 1500 milliseconds slower, on par with phones like the Motorola Droid Bionic and Samsung Galaxy S II.

The 4S’s stock browser performance was impressive as well, edging out the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and nearly doubling the performance of the iPhone 4.

But the Geekbench scores tell the tablet versus phone tale: The iPad 2, with its A5 processor clocked at 1GHz, pulls off 751 points overall, where the iPhones 4S, its A5 processor clocked at about 800MHz, weighs in at a notably slower 623. Contrast with the iPhone 4, whose 800MHz A4 processor scores a much lower 360, or the iPhone 3GS, whose 600MHz S5PC100 CPU’s only manages to pull 266. Those relationships hold in discrete integer and GPU tests as well.

Reasons AnandTech:

A lower clock not only means higher yields from the factory, but likely a lower operating voltage as well. Dropping a CPU’s core voltage, yields a greater-than-linear decrease in power consumption, making the marginal loss in clock speed a good choice. At a lower operating frequency than its Android competitors, Apple does have to exploit its strengths in software to avoid any tangible performance penalties. Apple has traditionally done this very well in the past, so I don’t expect the loss of frequency to be a huge deal to the few who do cross-shop iOS and Android.

And lest there be any doubts of the iPhone 4S’s graphics-crunching prowess, for those of you expecting it to hold its own against future stuff like Sony’s upcoming PS Vita, AnandTech says “The GPU power in the 4S should be more than enough to run any well written, current generation title at well north of 30 fps on its display.”

That’ll be welcome news to anyone angling to play a visual powerhouse game like Infinity Blade II, due out for the iPhone and iPad on December 1.

MORE: Apple’s Absent iPhone 5: Whose Fault Is It Really?

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.