GPU Performance & Power

We covered the CPUs of the A13 in detail, but there’s also the GPU we have to consider. Apple’s performance improvement claims for this year have been a little more conservative, with the company promising a 20% performance increase or a 40% decrease in power at the same performance as the A12. Last year’s jump was a rather large one, and we don’t expect Apple (or any vendor for that matter) to repeat it any time soon, especially as we saw both major microarchitectural changes as well as the adoption of the new 7nm manufacturing node at the same time.

Beyond the raw performance of the chipset and the GPU, what’s important for gaming is the actual device’s thermal characteristics and how it’s able to dissipate and sustain the high heat generation of the SoC. For the A12 I did criticize Apple in terms of being extremely aggressive on the peak power that the phones were allowed to start off with in 3D workloads. This resulted in the phones not really able to sustain these performance levels more than 2-3 minutes before having to throttle down.

This year beyond the promised efficiency gains, Apple has said they’ve improved the device’s SoC cooling capabilities, being able to better spread the heat from the SoC to the body of the phone and as such allow the silicon to retain higher performance states.

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Physics

Starting off with the physics test in 3DMark, this is actually more of a CPU workload when power constrained during a GPU workload. In this scenario, the iPhone 11’s fare a bit better in terms of peak performance compared to last year’s iPhones, however they weren’t quite able to maintain the same sustained performance as we saw on the A12 iPhones.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max showcased the better scores than its siblings, and that’s not too much of a surprise given that the phone has the biggest form-factor and thermal envelope to be able to dissipate larger amounts of heat.

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Graphics

Switching over to the graphics workload which puts a maximum amount of stress on the GPU, we here now see major changes in the scores and rankings. First of all, the new iPhone 11s and the A13 now showcase significant performance increases compared to the A12 devices last year. I’ve noted that Apple was oddly weak in 3DMark when we analyzed the chip, and it looks like Apple was able to resolve whatever the bottleneck was this generation, showcasing a 38% increase in performance. I’ve actually gone back and quickly retested the iPhone XS on iOS13 and did see a 20% increase in performance compared to what we see in the graphs here; I’ll be updating those device’s scores as soon as I have more time.

The iPhone 11 Pros are doing much better than the regular iPhone 11 when it comes to the sustained performance results. I’m actually a bit surprised here given that these are the phones which have the SoC sandwiched between two stacked PCBs, but it seems Apple is able to cool off that whole assembly decently enough. The iPhone 11's scores here are a bit disappointing as it represents an almost 50% degradation in performance.

The new iPhones don’t score quite as well as some Snapdragon 855(+) devices, but this is rather because Apple does not allow the iPhones to get nearly as hot as some of these other devices. I wasn’t able to measure skin temperatures above 41°C on any of the new iPhones.

GFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen

In the GFXBench Aztec High test, Apple’s microarchitecture is better able to flex its muscles and more clearly takes the lead in terms of both peak and sustained performance. Comparing the iPhone 11 Pro to the iPhone XS, we see a 23% increase in peak performance, and most importantly a much more impressive 50% increase in sustained performance.

GFXBench Aztec High Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm 7FFP 26.14 3.83 6.82 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak 7FFP 34.00 6.21 5.47 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm 7FF 19.32 3.81 5.07 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak 7FF 26.59 5.56 4.78 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) 7FF 16.17 4.69 3.44 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 15.59 4.80 3.24 fps/W

Measuring the power consumption, we again see that the A13 devices are extremely aggressive in their peak power, exceeding 6.2W. What is interesting here is even at this peak power-hungry performance state, the A13 is more efficient than the A12, and massively more efficient than the competition.

As usual, running a workload for a few minutes until the phone gets lukewarm (not to be mistaken with the longer sustained performance states in the benchmark graphs) will lower the performance and power to more reasonable levels. We’re able to make almost apples-to-apples comparisons here between the A13 and A12 iPhones: at roughly the same 3.8W power usage, the new A13 based device is able to showcase a 35% increase in performance. This performance state of the A13 actually corresponds to the peak performance of the A12, so that’s really nice as we’re able to do the same comparison but for the performance axis: At the same performance of the A12, the A13 is able to use 32% lower power. Not quite the 40% that Apple promised, but that could vary depending on workloads (Or it could be that Apple is quoting GPU power only, while we’re measuring whole system active power here).

GFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen

GFXBench Aztec Normal Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm 7FFP 73.27 4.07 18.00 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak 7FFP 91.62 6.08 15.06 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm 7FF 55.70 3.88 14.35 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak 7FF 76.00 5.59 13.59 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) 7FF 40.63 4.14 9.81 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 40.18 4.62 8.69 fps/W

The “Normal” Aztec benchmark, which uses a lower resolution and has less workload complexity, actually fares even better for the iPhone 11s. Peak performance has improved by 21%. At roughly the same power, the A13 is 31% faster, while at almost the same performance, it’s again 32% more efficient.

GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen

GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm 7FFP 100.58 4.21 23.89 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak 7FFP 123.54 6.04 20.45 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm 7FF 76.51 3.79 20.18 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak 7FF 103.83 5.98 17.36 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) 7FF 70.67 4.88 14.46 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 68.87 5.10 13.48 fps/W
Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon 845) 10LPP 61.16 5.01 11.99 fps/W
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Kirin 980) 7FF 54.54 4.57 11.93 fps/W
Galaxy S9 (Exynos 9810) 10LPP 46.04 4.08 11.28 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Snapdragon 835) 10LPE 38.90 3.79 10.26 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Exynos 8895) 10LPE 42.49 7.35 5.78 fps/W

Manhattan 3.1 largely showcases similar results to the Aztec Normal scores.

GFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

Finally, the older T-Rex benchmark has the new iPhone 11’s showcase significant improvements in terms of the sustained performance scores around 59% compared to last year’s XS devices.

GFXBench T-Rex Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm 7FFP 289.03 4.78 60.46 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak 7FFP 328.90 5.93 55.46 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm 7FF 197.80 3.95 50.07 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak 7FF 271.86 6.10 44.56 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) 7FF 167.16 4.10 40.70 fps/W
Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon 845) 10LPP 150.40 4.42 34.00 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 166.00 4.96 33.40fps/W
Galaxy S9 (Exynos 9810) 10LPP 141.91 4.34 32.67 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Snapdragon 835) 10LPE 108.20 3.45 31.31 fps/W
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Kirin 980) 7FF 135.75 4.64 29.25 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Exynos 8895) 10LPE 121.00 5.86 20.65 fps/W

We see the warmed up power draw for the phone here as being quite a bit higher than the other tests. It’s possible that the difference in here is the more CPU load due to the very high FPS figures we’re running the test at nowadays.

GPU Performance: Best In Class

Last year the A12 had some extremely impressive GPU improvements and it was the first time that Apple had been able to very clearly jump ahead of Qualcomm in terms of performance and efficiency. I didn't have as large expectations for the A13 this year as a follow-up, but Apple was very much able to impress and improve by greater margins than their marketing materials led me to believe.

First of all, the peak performance of the of the A13 is indeed improved by roughly ~20%. However this is not the metric that people should be paying most attention to. Apple’s sustained performance score improvements are a lot more significant and reach 50 to 60% when compared to last year’s iPhones. As things would seem, Apple’s claims to have improved thermal dissipation for the SoC have worked out extremely well.

The regular iPhone 11 does lag a bit behind the Pro models, as it seems it hasn’t been able to profit from the same design changes. Sustained performance here takes a little hit, but given the phone’s very low resolution I have to wonder if that really even matters in real workloads.

Most of all, Apple’s new GPU microarchitecture on the A13 is extremely impressive. Given the meager process node advancements, I had not expected the company to be able to push for such large performance and power efficiency gains. We’ll need to see some major paradigm shifts from the competition in order for them to be able to catch up in the next generation of devices.

Last year I did complain about the phones getting quite hot during the initial load periods at peak performance, and it looks like Apple has resolved this as I wasn’t able to measure skin temperatures above 41°C on any of the new phones. While I still question Apple’s need to drive the power draw near the limits of the power delivery of the phone, at least this time around it doesn’t create any negative drawback for the user experience.

System & ML Performance Display Measurement & Power


View All Comments

  • Zerrohero - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    Just get the battery replaced at authorized repair after three years or whenever it starts to go bad.

    And as you very well know, the throttling (if it kicks in) can be toggled on/off in the settings.

    I have a two year old iPhone X and the battery capacity is at 91%.
  • michael2k - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    You're asking that the phone under report it's battery reserve and shut the phone down at 40% battery to preserve battery longevity?

    Because that would be the effect. So instead of a battery that lasts 14 hours for the first year and then 10 hours the second, it would 'shut down' after 11 hours the first year, and 'shut down' after 11 hours the second year, and 'shut down' after 11 hours the third year, before the degradation actually causes the battery life to actually be 10 hours in year four.
  • melgross - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    Wow! That makes no sense. All phones slow down over time, and all batteries hold less charge. Apple’s are t worse, if anything, they’re better. My Max, from last year still reads 100% on battery health after more than 11 months of fairly heavy daily use. I’d like to see other phones that do better. Reply
  • shompa - Thursday, October 17, 2019 - link

    Look at intel /AMD / Qualcomm. They list a "turbo speed" that is not guaranteed. But customers believe it is. That's why they don't need to downclock stuff because they never need to hit their speeds. Apple is the last vendor having a real CPU speed and holds it. I have had a multitude of Intel CPUs that under-deliver in speed and as a customer you can't do anything. The service centers simply don't understand the problem since they only do a CPID check and says "it works". Take any intel laptop and fire up an H265 encode and watch the CPU speed go down. A CPU labeled 2.9ghz /3.9ghz turbo suddenly is a 2ghz part and you can't do anything about it. At least with Apple: get a good battery and it works. Reply
  • Total Meltdowner - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    All for the low low price of $1300. Pass. Reply
  • Zerrohero - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    $999 actually.

    This is a device that you can use for five years, or more, always with the latest software. Just get the battery replaced once.

    Amazing value, as iPhones always are.
  • Total Meltdowner - Thursday, October 17, 2019 - link

    Nice troll brother. But a full loaded iPhone 11 Pro is $1299.

    iPhones are trash.
  • Total Meltdowner - Thursday, October 17, 2019 - link

    Sorry, it's $1450! LOL!

    Almost $1800 with applecare!

  • Irish910 - Friday, October 18, 2019 - link

    You can get an iPhone 11 with 128 gigs for $749, which pretty much mops the competition with battery life, CPU, GPU, longevity and value.

    I know your troll self will say something like “BR0 it’s only GoT a 720P scr33n, my 2015 GaLaXy HaS h1gher Res0lution!

    Fact is, most people don’t care about that. That’s why the XR was the most popular phone last year and that trend will continue.

    The pro starts at $999. Stop trolling. This site is for adults only. If you only post your lame hate comments, please go to YouTube. There’s plenty of room for your kind there.

    Shoo shoo now.
  • Quantumz0d - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    This analysis is great but the Whiteknighting is insane.

    The design the primary aspect of a device, the display itself is notched no matter what calibration it has it's destroying the proper nature of how we perceive through our eyes and mind. Dead pixel zone for $999

    No expandable storage, No Filesystem access - Must use iTunes. This means for every basic work you must rely on your computer and the iCloud, mega ecosystem lockdown.

    No 3.5mm jack. Its really a shame how this company made billions by buying up Beats (Sub par garbage audio) and AirPods ($179 of Sub 320kbps audio with limited life due to Li Ion) and making a dongle business out of an Analog standard and whole industry reeks of this greed by dongles snd their own BT products which are massively inferior in sound snd usage and also wear down the only port it has.

    Sealed battery, Strong adhesive with new 4m depth rating. $600 for back glass repair if no Apple care and they are forcing you to buy because its $300 only and 70USD per repair. More profit for Apple for $100 battery services. Unfortunate that Apple has brick and mortar rest do not but they want to siphon off. Also did author note how iPhone XS got the new battery throttling with latest iOS update ? Yeah bonus package to wreck all that performance, inherent overdrawing of Voltage and planned obsolescence.

    Too much of this price hike and offering measly 64GB base. Next year another $50-100 due to new design or whatever they want to call.

    Desktop performance. I want to see, can this A series chip run an Adobe CS6 or Blender or do a H264 Conversion faster or on par with a desktop chip ? Or play high refresh rate gaming or can it execute x86 instructions with ease and replace my PC with this BGA pile of junk ? (It cannot, I think it's too much of blowing into this hot balloon of Apple for mega limelight) same for 9900K or 3950X they can't be fit in a pocket.

    Finally the corporation of American back, has no backbone when it comes to China. The $$$$ speaks. Censorship and aiding the Orwellian draconian principles for cash is more than the American culture that spawned the company and its people. A big shame.

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