Are You excited about Apple’s A15 chip? The new iPhone 13 series features its latest A15 Bionic processor, which the company says is 50% faster than the competition.
That vague claim was the entry point for AnandTech’s investigation into the chip’s performance, efficiency, and graphics core improvements, and the review’s conclusions easily back it up.
What do you think about Apple’s A15 Chip?
Apple found the A15 chip from Apple to be 62% faster than the competition as per an independent test that measured parameters like performance, efficiency, and graphics core improvements. This is a 12% gain over Apple’s own claim of the A15 being 50% faster.
The review, performed by AnandTech (via MacRumors), revealed that while Apple’s larger cores are more power-hungry, they’re still a lot more energy-efficient. Energy efficiency was found to be improved by 17% in the peak performance states versus the A14.
Apple’s vague presentation this year turns out to be a result of the efficiency focus for the A15. This doesn’t mean that the chip is not faster (as we already saw) but that more effort has gone into making the SoC less energy-hungry and improving one key area – battery life. As a result, according to Anandtech, Apple has managed to score “massive” gains in efficiency with the new A15 chip.
“The efficiency cores of the A15 have also seen massive gains, this time around with Apple mostly investing them back into performance, with the new cores showcasing +23-28% definite performance improvements, something that isn’t easily identified by popular benchmarking. This large performance increase further helps the SoC improve energy efficiency, and our initial battery life figures of the new 13 series showcase that the chip has a huge part in the vastly longer longevity of the new devices.“
The few concrete factoids about the A15 were that Apple is using new designs for their CPUs, a faster Neural engine, a further 4- or 5-core GPU depending on the iPhone variant, and a whole new display pipeline and media hardware block for video encoding and decoding, alongside new ISP improvements for camera quality advancements.
On the CPU side of things, improvements were very vague. The official quoted Apple to be 50% faster than the competition. The GPU performance metrics were also made in such a manner, describing the 4-core GPU A15 being +30% more quickly than the competition. Likewise, the 5-core variant being +50% faster.
We’ve put the SoC through its initial paces, and in today’s article, we’ll be focusing on the new chip’s actual performance and efficiency metrics.
Apples vs. Apples
Apple’s A15 chip is based on the same 5nm process as the previous A14. In addition, Apple says it has all-new CPU cores, a new ISP, more cache, and a faster ML engine.
Apple might be crushing Qualcomm, but it’s plateaued a little in terms of its performance this year. Looking at the iPhone XR (with the A12 processor) versus the iPhone 11 (A13), the iPhone 12 (A14), and the iPhone 13 (A15), you see consistent improvement between the first three phones, and then a natural dip in advance from the A14 to the A15.
Of course, Apple may have just focused intensely on power efficiency this year. While the A15 isn’t much faster than the A14, the iPhone 13 series has a much better battery life than the iPhone 12 series.
The real shocker, for me, is the spike in speed improvement between the iPhone 13 and the 13 Pro, specifically on GPU compute. The iPhone 13 Pro adds a fifth GPU core to the iPhone 13’s four, but there’s nothing about that which would, in my mind, create the 35% jump (!) in GPU benchmark performance I’ve been consistently seeing. I’m hoping some of the deeper-dive chipset folks like the crew at AnandTech can puzzle this one out.
The Bottom Line
The results from Anandtech aren’t surprising in the slightest. You can check our detailed reviews and see how iPhone 13 devices fared in the performance tests. And going for efficiency in the A15 is the right call, we think. The A14 Bionic was and still is plenty fast; what people want is better battery life. So kudos to Apple for addressing that in the new iPhone 13 line. The battery life is better indeed.
What does this all mean for you? Not a lot, honestly. iPhones have always run their apps very well and very smoothly. If you’re upgrading from a much older iPhone, you’ll see the much better performance here—that’s always been the case. On the other hand, if you’re thinking about upgrading from the iPhone 12, you won’t see much of a difference.
Apple says Cinematic Mode in the camera requires the A15, but I have to wonder if that’s an artificial limit—between the iPhone 12 and 13 especially, I don’t see the huge jump that would warrant it.
The additional GPU core in the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, I suspect, is mainly to make sure the 120Hz ProMotion display functions smoothly, and it does.
Overall, the processor improvements here are much less critical for buyers than other factors such as battery life and 5G performance. But they’ll play into those elements of the iPhone experience, of course. Apple builds it all to work together.