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iPhone 6 deep-dive review: A major new step in design and performance

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 2, 2014
Apple's latest smartphone offers great hardware, but like all current iPhones, has been hurt by annoying iOS 8 glitches.

Improved photography
The camera located at the rear of the iPhone no longer sits flush with the case, but instead protrudes a few millimeters (which I didn't find a problem, even though I always put my iPhone down with the screen facing up). The camera was the one feature that I was looking forward to on my recent hike up Pikes Peak -- and it didn't disappoint. The iPhone 6 still features a rear-facing 8MP iSight camera with 1.5-micron pixels and an f/2.2 aperture, but this year's models include an Apple-designed image signal processor, enabling a feature called Focus Pixels that provides much faster auto-focus than before.

The camera includes several improvements to video as well. First, the iPhone 6 can finally shoot 1080p video at 60fps. This helps reduce motion stutter and also produces better slow motion than what can be achieved at 30fps.

And speaking of slow motion, the iPhone 6 can now shoot 720p video at 240 frames per second. Frankly, I love this feature; it's like getting a brand new perspective on everyday occurrences. The only problem with slow-motion video is that it requires a well-lit source to get proper results.

Surprisingly, the digital stabilization really helps in achieving great results. I'm not a fan of digital modifications like zoom or stabilization in general -- I prefer optical zooms or optical stabilization options when given a choice. (Actually, I feel so strongly about this that I was initially leaning towards the iPhone 6 Plus just for the optical stabilization.) But after shooting different subjects at different locations, I have to admit that the cinematic video stabilization feature compensated very well for slight camera shakes.

I was disappointed that, due to the rounded shape of the phone, you can no longer use the flat edges to keep it propped. This is too bad, especially when you consider that a self-timer is one of the feature additions in iOS 8.

The front-facing camera has been improved, too. It now features a ten-shot-per-second burst mode, timer, high-dynamic-range video, and improved face detection. FaceTime calls between iPhone 6 devices now use the more efficient h.265 codec for better performance.

Other new features
Performance-wise, this phone is no slouch. With both new iPhones, Apple ships its second-generation 64-bit chipset coupled with a custom-designed A8 processor. The new chip uses a 20nm process, making it 18% smaller and more energy-efficient than the previous A7, but with over 1 billion more transistors (for a total of 2 billion). In real-world performance, that means slightly shorter loading times for browsing the operating system and launching applications.

The speed increase is much more noticeable when using processor-intensive apps -- for example, when rendering video from Action Movie FX or Super Power FX.

 

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