UL’s Wild Life benchmark invites misleading PC vs. iPhone comparisons

Now that Apple has announced a new iPhone, and the company is apparently planning to show off its Arm-based MacBooks mid-November, you can expect to see these clickbait headlines soon:

“iPhone 12 is faster than Intel-based MacBook.”

“Newest iPhone faster than fastest Windows ultrabook.”

“Arm-based MacBook twice as fast as x86-MacBook”

Of course, phone and laptop performance matter—but context matters, too. That’s why it’s important to understand how UL Futuremark’s new 3DMark Wild Life Benchmark works. Touted as cross-platform test, Wild Life can be run on Android, iOS and Windows. You can download it now to run on your phone or tablet for free. Windows users who have the Advanced Edition will get it as a free update from UL, Steam or the Green Man Gaming store.

To its credit, UL is quite open about what 3DMark Wild Life does, publishing details on the test and how to run it. It’s meant as a graphics test for “lightweight notebooks and tablets” on Windows, and it uses the Vulkan API. On Android it also runs on the Vulkan API, while the iOS version uses Apple’s Metal API.

3dmark wild life screenshot 5 UL

The test has a standard mode that renders the game at 2560×1440 internally and then scales it to the display resolution. When looking at the whole device, UL recommends the standard run.

For comparing actual graphics chips, UL recommends using the Unlimited mode. That mode renders the same exact number of frames so the display scaling, vertical sync and operating system don’t pollute the score.

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