Apple usually doesn’t talk much about its upcoming processors, preferring to announce them alongside the new product. For example, we didn’t know the details of the M1 until Apple introduced the new MacBooks that included it, and we learned very little about the A14 before it launched on the iPad Air.
So, it is highly likely that he will not say anything about the A15, the first in a new generation of systems on a chip (SoC) from Apple until Apple introduces the iPhone 13 later this year. .
However, we can imagine what that future will look like. By looking at the trends in previous A-series processors and what we know about making breakthrough chips, along with some assumptions, we can get a good idea of what to expect from the A15.
Still 5nm, but improved
With the A14, Apple has moved from a 7nm manufacturing process to TSMC’s new 5nm process. In fact, it was the first mainstream chip to be made like this (Qualcomm’s 5nm Snapdragon 888 came two months later).
The next step for smaller, more energy efficient chipmaking technology is 3nm. This is an important step, as it will practically double the logic density of the chip and reduce the power by 25-30% with the same performance or improve performance by 10-15% with the same power.
But the 3nm technology is not yet ready. Apple is spending money to be the first to use TSMC’s most advanced manufacturing techniques, but TSMC won’t be able to manufacture tens of millions of 3nm chips for Apple until next year’s A16.
Meanwhile, Apple is expected to use a refined version of the 5nm manufacturing process for the A15, which will improve performance and power consumption somewhat.
Bigger, more transistors
The A14 is estimated to be around 90mm2 (10% smaller than the A13), but the bigger iPhone SoCs so far have just over 100mm2. Without a breakthrough in the A15’s manufacturing process technology, the performance and power improvements will have to be architectural improvements and come from making a larger chip, as was the case with the A13 versus to the A12.
So we think the A15 will be at most 15-20% larger, with a budget for transistors to go along with it. No iPhone SoC has ever been bigger than this.
This brings the A15’s supposed budget for transistors to around $ 14 billion. This is only an estimate, and Apple will have to decide whether to prioritize chip size or cost and performance.
But overall, I think the company has 15-20% more transistors to work with and will base my performance and performance forecast on that value.
The single-core processor performance improvements on Apple’s A-Series SoCs have been incredibly consistent over the past few years. I think this will continue to be the case which would put the A15 result on Geekbench (single core) at close to 1800, maybe a little higher.
It’s a lot. At this point, Apple is bypassing all Android phones. The 1800 result is 75% faster than the Galaxy S21’s Snapdragon 888. In fact, the late 2018 A12 is slightly faster than the Samsung Galaxy S21 (scoring 1076 in our tests). Apple plays in another league.
There is no reason that Apple should increase the number of cores from the current configuration: two high-performance cores and four high-performance cores. Multi-core performance improves like single-core performance, but often to a lesser extent (due to cache conflicts, resource allocation, thermal limitations, etc.)
A result of 4800 on Geekbench (multiple cores) wouldn’t be unusual, but my prediction is that it will be around 4600.
Again, this would make Android mobiles look ridiculous, which only now manages to exceed 3000.
Apple has its own quad-core GPU in the A14, and it’s only slightly faster than the quad-core GPU in the A13. But the A13 was much faster than the A12 with a quad-core GPU. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many cores the A15’s GPU has. Graphics performance is dependent on other things, such as available memory bandwidth.
Following the trend, I think he’ll score around 7,200 on 3DMark Sling Shot Unlimited. It’s fine, but not much different from the A14.
Now the Sling Shot test is a bit dated. The new 3DMark Wild Live test is much more modern and better represents how modern GPUs handle the latest 3D games. The frames per second in this test can reach 50 frames per second, even reaching the magic number of 60 frames per second.
We don’t just have to look at 3D graphics performance. Increasingly, Apple seems keen to improve the computing capabilities of its GPUs. This means using the GPU to process things like image and video manipulation, AI and machine learning, and science work.
Geekbench 5 has tested this computational capability of GPUs using the Metal API, and Apple’s A-series chips are getting faster and faster. The score of the A15 could reach 12,000, the same as that of the iPad Pro with A12Z. This is comparable to the performance of a GeForce GTX 980M.
However, if the current 3D graphics performance is mostly based on memory bandwidth and Apple manages to improve it significantly (with better caches or by switching to an LPDDR5), we could have a much higher GPU performance improvement. .
¿LPDDR5 RAM at last?
Last year, I speculated that Apple would switch from LPDDR4X (found in the last three generations of A-series chips) to LPDDR5 (the RAM used in the Galaxy S21 and other top Android phones. range). But it wasn’t like that and the A14, or even the M1 it’s based on, uses LPDDR4X.
That must change this year. In doing so, we would have up to 50% more memory bandwidth with the same power. This would allow the CPU and GPU cores to receive data more easily, which improves performance consistency. It could also reduce the power consumption, thus extending the battery life.
Regarding the landmarks, the tests usually include it in the processor cache and not in the bandwidth. It is generally more beneficial to have more bandwidth in the real world than in the landmarks synthetic.
Modern 3D graphics often benefit from higher bandwidth. Switching to an LPDDR5 would improve memory issues, but will have a more obvious impact when using next-gen graphics.
Image processing and neural motor
We don’t usually get a lot of detailed information about the parts of the Apple SoC beyond the cores. Apple’s chip includes encoders and decoders, image processing, audio DSP, and more to speed up specific tasks.
They are important, but difficult to isolate to calculate performance. Will this be the first Apple chip to include a decoder for Equipment for the AV1 video codec? I hope so!
However, a very specific accelerator is mentioned: the Neural Engine, which processes machine learning. The A14 had a Neural Engine with 16 cores, double that of the A13. In addition to other improvements, this improved performance up to 11 TOPS (trillions of operations per second).
Apple puts a lot of emphasis on machine learning, and you’ll want to improve its performance. Again, I think there will be a combination of architectural upgrades and additional cores, although the latter are limited by chip size and transistor budget.
I estimate a performance between 15-20 TOPS, but this is only a guess.
An update on the modem
The current iPhone 12 lineup uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 modem. Although the company has already announced the X65, it won’t be ready when this year’s iPhones arrive. Qualcomm announces these modems months before production begins, then it takes a few more months for mobile manufacturers to integrate them.
This means that the A15 is most likely to ship with a Snapdragon X60 modem. The X60 is compatible with the same speeds as the X55 (far more than any operator can offer), but it should offer more consistent high speeds.
The big improvement will probably be the battery life. The X60 used the 5nm process, while the X55 used a 7nm process. This means a smaller chip and less power consumption, and it will likely allow less battery drain when using 5G.
As for other wireless features, it is expected that it will continue to be compatible with Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, NFC, and super broadband (UWB). Maybe we see the new Wi-Fi 6E. Not all routers they’re still compatible with the 6 GHz spectrum, but that will be more common in the fall with the arrival of the iPhone 13 and even more so in the years to come.
Original article published in igamesnews US.