Apple has been at the top of the mobile silicone game for a while now. Everyone knows iPhones are the fastest smartphones around and the iPad essentially has no competition. Now, with the release of the M1 chip, Apple’s mobile domination has come full-circle where they make their own chips for everything to benefit from unparalleled performance and efficiency.
Both iPhones and iPads, except the M1 iPad Pro, ship with Apple’s in-house Bionic SoCs. The A14 is the most recent Bionic chip from Apple that we saw in the iPhone 12 lineup last year, along with the iPad Air 4th gen. Apple is about to refresh their smartphone range with the upcoming iPhone 13 very soon, which is set to debut the company’s latest A15 Bionic processor.
The Benchmark Leak
Today, benchmark details for A15’s GPU were leaked and it shows just how ahead of the competition Apple really is. I mean, the A14 Bionic was already a beast and the best in its class, but Apple wants to build even further upon their lead with the A15. With the Google’s own in-house Pixel Tensor chip just on the horizon, this fall is bound to be an interesting one. But, I think it’s safe to say it won’t be beating the A15 Bionic at launch.
Apple A15 GPU peak benchmark test
Manhattan 3.1: 198 FPS (July unit sample)
However, after second round of test, throttling kicks in and drops to 140~150FPS.
— Tron ❂ (@FrontTron) September 6, 2021
While we’re not sure yet, it’s likely that Apple A15 Bionic will carry a six-core GPU, similar to its contemporary. Despite being limited to only six-cores, it still outpaces the A14 by a long shot, cementing its lead over the competitors. A15 Bionic was able to achieve an average of 198 FPS in Manhattan 3.1 benchmark inside GFXBench. That’s more than every other chip in this segment including Samsung Exynos 2200.
That being said, the A15 Bionic falls succumb in the second round to the deadliest of enemies, heat. It takes a sizeable dip in performance due to to thermal throttling. From 198 FPS to just 140-150 FPS. That’s a nearly 25% decrease in performance. Still, the A15 steers clear of the competition even in the second round as thermal throttling isn’t exclusive to Apple.
Almost every single modern smartphone processor on the market suffers from thermal throttling because the manufacturers try to push the chip to its absolute limits in a chassis that is thermally limited. To keep things under control, Apple, like others, intentionally hinder the performance of the chip so that it doesn’t literally melt in your hands. Even after thermal throttling, the GPU in the A15 Bionic is much faster than A14’s.
Speaking of which, both the A14 Bionic and the Exynos 2200 are somewhat on the same level as they both achieve an average frame rate of 170 FPS in the same Manhattan 3.1 Benchmark run. And that’s on top of the mRDNA GPU architecture powering the Exynos 2200. If we compare the numbers, we can see that the A15 Bionic is about 13% faster than its competition, even though the SKU tested was a sample unit from July.
Efficiency and Power concerns
As I mentioned before, this is especially impressive considering that the A15’s GPU is still a six-core configuration which means Apple has done some real engineering magic here, unsurprisingly. The A15 will be manufactured on TSMC’s updated 5nm node, N5P. This will offer slight efficiency improvements over the standard 5nm node and, trust me, Apple is going to need it.
With such a performant chip at core, the phone can easily chew through the battery so it’ll be interesting to see how well Apple is able to pull that off. An updated 5nm fabrication process can certainly give Apple the extra wiggle room they need to optimize the efficiency and make this all work. Even without the proper cooling needed to tame this beast, the A15 Bionic is beating records, so just imagine what it could do if Apple ought to optimize it to perfection.