Wednesday, September 15th 2021

Apple's New iPhones Get Faster A15 Bionic SoC

Say what you want about Apple's ARM based SoC's, but the company has been pushing the envelope almost every time they've released a new chip. However, this year it would seem that even Apple isn't particularly excited about its new SoC, as the A15 Bionic is only described as 50 percent faster than the nearest competitor, which doesn't really say much about the actual performance.

Likewise, the improved GPU in the A15 Bionic is being touted as offering 30 percent faster graphics than leading competition, which says nothing about how much of an improvement it is over the previous generation from Apple. This time around, Apple is also binning its chips based on working GPU cores, as the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini only get four GPU cores, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max and the iPad mini gets five GPU cores.It's possible that the cost of manufacturing 5 nm chips has something to do with this.
So what about the devices? Well, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have both been upgraded to 128 GB for the base SKU, which should please a lot of people. The iPhone 13 carries over the displays from the iPhone 12 and as such gets a 6.1-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2532x1170 pixels and 460 ppi, whereas the iPhone 13 mini gets a 5.4-inch OLED display with a slightly lower resolution of 2340x1080 and 476 ppi. However, Apple has upped the max brightness from 625 nits to 800 nits, although both models still top out at 1200 nits in HDR mode.

With the iPhone 13, Apple went from a stacked camera lens placement to a vertical one, although we're still looking at a pair of 12MP cameras, but Apple claims to be using improved sensors in both cameras, even though that's not really reflected in the specs. The main camera sports sensor shift stabilisation, which should reduce shaky video and blurry pictures.

As with the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 supports 5G, but Apple has added support for more 5G bands and more carriers around the world. Apple also claims to have improved battery life by 2.5 and 1.5 hours respectively for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, all of which is attributed to the A15 Bionic being more efficient. The iPhone 13 mini starts at US$699, with the iPhone 13 starting at US$799.

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have been given a slightly bigger overhaul and beyond the new SoC mentioned above, we're looking at what Apple calls "ProMotion" technology, which is adaptive screen refresh rates of 10-120 Hz. The screens of both models have also had the max brightness improved from 800 nits to 1,000 nits.
As for the cameras, Apple has once again incorporated improved sensors and this time around the "telephoto" camera has been given 3x optical zoom. The wide and ultra wide cameras have had their aperture improved slightly as well. Apple has also added its proprietary ProRes video codec to the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, although it's "limited" to 4K30p.

As with the iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have gained 1.5 and 2.5 hours of extra battery life over their predecessors. Price wise, you're looking at a base price of US$999 for the iPhone 13 Pro, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max starting at US$1,099. Both models now also come in a 1 TB SKU, which in the case of the iPhone 13 Pro Max would set you back US$1,599.
Source: Apple
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22 Comments on Apple's New iPhones Get Faster A15 Bionic SoC

#1
Richards
They got 134/mm out of 171/mm of tsmc's 5nm... wonder how much rdna 3 will get for a large chip
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#2
BorisDG
From leaked tests its only ~6% more powerful than A14. No wonder they just compared it with the competition and not their own silicon like in the past.
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#3
Ferd
BorisDGFrom leaked tests its only ~6% more powerful than A14. No wonder they just compared it with the competition and not their own silicon like in the past.
I didn’t check on the performance difference yet , but if that’s true , it’s disappointing
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#4
BorisDG
FerdI didn’t check on the performance difference yet , but if that’s true , it’s disappointing
From Anandtech:
Here, they’re claiming that the new A15 will be +50% better than the next-best competitor. The next-best competitor is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 – if we look up our benchmark result set, we can see that the A14 is +41% more performant than the Snapdragon 888 in SPECint2017 – for the A15 to grow that gap to 50% it really would only need to be roughly 6% faster than the A14, which is indeed not a very large upgrade. Apple also didn’t comment on any new ISA features such as Armv9/SVE2, so it seems that the CPU doesn’t feature it?

-----

For the lower performance 4-core GPU model, Apple again was weird with their performance predictions as they focused on the competition, and not the generational gains. The improvements here over the currently best performing competitor is said to be +30%. Taking GFXBench Aztec as a baseline, we see the A14 was around +18% faster than the Snapdragon 888. The slower A15 would need to be +10% faster than the A14 to get to that margin.

The faster 5-core A15 is advertised as being +50% faster than the competition, this would actually be a more sizeable +28% performance improvement over the A14 and would be more in line with Apple’s generational gains over the last few years.
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#5
Vya Domus
I kept pointing out over the years that Appel's technology is not magic and they will eventually rear their head into the same limitations everyone else had already reached. Well, for the last three generations there have been no notable improvements, that time has come.
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#6
BorisDG
It's 5nm optimizations after all. A16 should be a beast with it's 3nm,
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#7
DeathtoGnomes
as 50 percent faster than the nearest competitor, which doesn't really say much about the actual performance.
50% faster of 1ghz doesnt even add up to 2.
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#8
Darmok N Jalad
Vya DomusI kept pointing out over the years that Appel's technology is not magic and they will eventually rear their head into the same limitations everyone else had already reached. Well, for the last three generations there have been no notable improvements, that time has come.
That could be true, but if you’re already 50% faster than your closest competitor, why would you push your performance any harder than you need to in order to get the best chip yields? They’ll sell a ton of iPhones, and they have a luxury of not needing to advance performance substantially each generation, so I bet their design target allows them to harvest as many SOCs as they can while still providing more generational performance. I owned a 12 Mini, and I never found it lacking in performance, and that’s basically been true of the last few Apple-powered devices I used.

That said, they do need to open up more RAM to apps on iPadOS, at least for Pro models that have all that RAM. I have work software that crashes because it hits the memory limit (it uses GIS layers), so it’s a “Pro” app and needs those “Pro“ resources. Apple really needs to catch up there. If we don’t see much improvement over whatever replaces M1, then yes, we’re definitely seeing them run out of ideas, but I think they still have some easy places to gain more ground. M1 was likely a fairly conservative design considering how many devices they‘ve stuck it in. It’s often employed in fanless chassis, and it performs about the same as if it had active cooling. I’m curious how much more clockspeed headroom they have in their designs, as right now there are no M1 products that appear to consume more than 25W peak. Could even the current design be capable of much higher clocks at 65W?
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#9
ManofGod
Oh good, that way Apple can spy on it's users that much faster. :D:banghead:
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#12
timta2
ManofGodOh good, that way Apple can spy on it's users that much faster. :D:banghead:
If you're not into child porn, there's really not much to worry about. Our government is still spying on everything you do anyway.
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#13
claes
/thread is stupid
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#14
Prima.Vera
Shouldn't this be iPhone 12S ?? Just wondering...
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#15
BorisDG
Darmok N JaladHow did they bench the A15? You can’t even start ordering the iPhones until Friday.
How you are getting benchmarks of GPUs or CPUs before official release?:wtf:
Prima.VeraShouldn't this be iPhone 12S ?? Just wondering...
I think they have stopped since the X. Now we have Mini(s), Pro(s) and Pro Max. Imagine next year: iPhone 13S Pro Max. :D
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#16
Vya Domus
Darmok N JaladHow did they bench the A15? You can’t even start ordering the iPhones until Friday.
They didn't, they just inferred how fast the chip must be from their claims.
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#17
Darmok N Jalad
BorisDGHow you are getting benchmarks of GPUs or CPUs before official release?:wtf:
I realize that there are leaks—it’s just a lot less reliable on Apple devices since they can keep things under wraps more tightly. AMD, Intel and NVIDIA send ES samples out to multiple partners, which means more potential for leaks. That gives me a bit more confidence, but still, final products are best. For example, I’ve also seen claims that the A15 GPU is 15% (4 core) to 55% (5 core) faster than the A14, and the CPU is 10-18% faster. Somebody has to be right. According to the below, the comparison is actually more in line with A15 vs A14, though Apple really confused things by saying faster than the previous fastest. Maybe they were trying to boast that they are 1 and 2 in performance, but it certainly didn’t seem all that clear.

www.macrumors.com/2021/09/15/a15-geekbench-cpu-gpu/
www.macrumors.com/2021/09/15/iphone-13-pro-gpu-performance-geekbench/
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#18
Vya Domus
Darmok N JaladMaybe they were trying to boast that they are 1 and 2 in performance, but it certainly didn’t seem all that clear.
Absolutely not, the A15 is simply not that much faster than A14, that's why they avoided comparing it directly. AnandTech is most likely right about the numbers, single digit improvements in CPU and maybe 25% extra performance for the 5 core GPU.

The A14 already had a decent amount of throttling with 4 cores, since this is still on 5nm there is simply no thermal and power headroom left for significant improvements.
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#19
Darmok N Jalad
Vya DomusAbsolutely not, the A15 is simply not that much faster than A14, that's why they avoided comparing it directly. AnandTech is most likely right about the numbers, single digit improvements in CPU and maybe 25% extra performance for the 5 core GPU.

The A14 already had a decent amount of throttling with 4 cores, since this is still on 5nm there is simply no thermal and power headroom left for significant improvements.
Yeah, I had a 14 mini, and performance was great, but the thing would get really hot sometimes.
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#20
Vya Domus
Darmok N JaladYeah, I had a 14 mini, and performance was great, but the thing would get really hot sometimes.
I have a 12 and even though I don't notice the throttling performance wise, it gets insanely hot around the area of the buttons on the left, clearly a lot of power and battery is wasted. I wish Apple would be more conservative and throttle the SoC sooner.
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#21
Slizzo
BorisDGFrom leaked tests its only ~6% more powerful than A14. No wonder they just compared it with the competition and not their own silicon like in the past.
Been saying since their announcement, since they're only comparing it loosely to "leading competition", then it's in the realm of 5%-10% faster overall, max, compared to the previous gen chip. When you don't compare it at all to your previous gen chip, it's because you weren't able to make that much of a leap in performance, and are trying to obfuscate.
Darmok N JaladThat could be true, but if you’re already 50% faster than your closest competitor, why would you push your performance any harder than you need to in order to get the best chip yields? They’ll sell a ton of iPhones, and they have a luxury of not needing to advance performance substantially each generation, so I bet their design target allows them to harvest as many SOCs as they can while still providing more generational performance. I owned a 12 Mini, and I never found it lacking in performance, and that’s basically been true of the last few Apple-powered devices I used.

That said, they do need to open up more RAM to apps on iPadOS, at least for Pro models that have all that RAM. I have work software that crashes because it hits the memory limit (it uses GIS layers), so it’s a “Pro” app and needs those “Pro“ resources. Apple really needs to catch up there. If we don’t see much improvement over whatever replaces M1, then yes, we’re definitely seeing them run out of ideas, but I think they still have some easy places to gain more ground. M1 was likely a fairly conservative design considering how many devices they‘ve stuck it in. It’s often employed in fanless chassis, and it performs about the same as if it had active cooling. I’m curious how much more clockspeed headroom they have in their designs, as right now there are no M1 products that appear to consume more than 25W peak. Could even the current design be capable of much higher clocks at 65W?
50% faster than whom? I really doubt that Apple SoCs are truly that much faster than any competitor. And what do they mean by leading? They're probably not talking about other fastest phones from competitors, they're probably talking about leaders in sales on the other side of the aisle. I'm willing to bet the best selling Android phone also isn't the fastest Android phone.

(I am a current and long time iPhone buyer/daily driver. I can just see through their smoke and mirrors and realize that 85% of what they say is pure, grade A, bullshit)
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#22
ManofGod
timta2If you're not into child porn, there's really not much to worry about. Our government is still spying on everything you do anyway.
Our government is already spying on us and if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about? :banghead::slap: Have phone with your iSpy device then.
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