Conclusion & End Remarks

Today’s investigation into the new A15 is just scratching the tip of the iceberg of what Apple has to offer in the new generation iPhone 13 series devices. As we’re still working on the full device review, we got a good glimpse of what the new silicon is able to achieve, and what to expect from the new devices in terms of performance.

On the CPU side of things, Apple’s initial vague presentation of the new A15 improvements could either have resulted in disappointment, or simply a more hidden shift towards power efficiency rather than pure performance. In our extensive testing, we’re elated to see that it was actually mostly an efficiency focus this year, with the new performance cores showcasing adequate performance improvements, while at the same time reducing power consumption, as well as significantly improving energy efficiency.

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% absolute 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 very large part into the vastly longer longevity of the new devices.

In the GPU side, Apple’s peak performance improvements are off the charts, with a combination of a new larger GPU, new architecture, and the larger system cache that helps both performance as well as efficiency.

Apple’s iPhone component design seems to be limiting the SoC from achieving even better results, especially the newer Pro models, however even with that being said and done, Apple remains far above the competition in terms of performance and efficiency.

Overall, while the A15 isn’t the brute force iteration we’ve become used to from Apple in recent years, it very much comes with substantial generational gains that allow it to be a notably better SoC than the A14. In the end, it seems like Apple’s SoC team has executed well after all.

GPU Performance - Great GPU, So-So Thermals Designs
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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    I didn't see much difference on the Max. The issue is chip to body dissipation, not total body to ambient dissipation.
  • cha0z_ - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    Yeah, guessed that much, but still had hopes. Basically the sustained GPU performance is just a tad higher vs my 11 pro max and I am kinda sad about it even with all the other improvements. :(

    There are super good, but GPU demanding games like x-com 2 WOTC, not to mention for the 120Hz scenario, but even if more efficient the FPS number when you play for more than 10m will be indistinguishable if no FPS counter is visible.

    Correct me if I am wrong and if not a big hassle given I really respect your opinion and work + you have experience with 11 pro max also - do you think it's a decent overall upgrade (simple yes/no will do. I am power user + got 2233rz 120Hz at launch :) ). Especially by feel how do you compare them in gaming?

    Also cheers for your great articles and deep dives! Love them all!
  • repoman27 - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    Not arguing one way or the other as to the merits of Apple's thermal solution, but the side of the A15 package which faces the interior of the PCB sandwich is a PoP with 4 SDRAM dies in it. The business side of the SoC is attached to a very thin PCB via InFO. The opposite side of the PCB in the region where the SoC is located has very little active circuitry other than the audio chips and secure element. However, it does have a can with thermal pads to help transfer the heat from the SoC upwards through the screen.

    In other words, I believe most of the heat from the SoC is radiated upwards through the screen / top of the device, while the heat from the modem / RF transceiver chips is radiated through the back glass / bottom of the device.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    We can theorize, but at the end of the day it's got far lower sustained power than any other phone and there are thermal issues that Apple has encountered several times now, some not addressed in articles.
  • repoman27 - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    I have no idea if Apple made good decisions regarding thermals in this case or not, and I'm glad you're investigating / reporting on the topic. However, by constantly pushing density further than everyone else and using technologies like InFO and substrate-like PCBs, Apple may be solving for a slightly different set of problems than their competitors.
  • teldar - Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - link

    It's not really Apple pushing density. It's the processor manufacturer. That's a little misleading.
  • Ppietra - Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - link

    teldar, it’s both! It is up to Apple to decide which node it wants to use.
  • Spunjji - Friday, October 8, 2021 - link

    @Ppietra & teldar - I think repoman27 meant "pushing density" in terms of PCB layout and design, rather than the node the CPU is manufactured on.
  • unclevagz - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    How does the Spec 2017 performance here compare against x86 (Zen 3/RKL)?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, October 4, 2021 - link

    Comparative subsets would 5950X 7.29 int / 9.79 fp, 11900K 6.61 int / 9.58 fp. versus 7.28 / 10.15 on A15.

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