Apple frustrated most of us with wacky comparisons and opaque speed benchmarks when it unveiled the iPhone 13 and its A15 Bionic chip. It looks like the company could have made some big claims, and the fact that it’s not a Mac story.
A spark in the dark
Think back to the announcement and you might recall that Apple chose not to provide us with solid comparison data with the A14 Bionic chip, instead offering comparisons to a previous model of the device. So we had to try to guess what the real performance improvements might be.
I don’t know why it chose to do this, given the strategic importance of the design of its processors. As usual with such a lack of information, Apple critics quickly began to share weird stories claiming that the silicon design teams were suffering from a brain drain.
Maybe they are. Maybe they are not.
But Apple has a lot of engineers, so you have to expect staff turnover. Misinformation grows in the dark, so it’s business as usual for me.
What we have learned
Apple at launch called the A15 Bionic up to 50% faster than its competition. The quad-core GPU in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini (five-core GPU on both Pro models) offers 40% (50% on Pro) better graphics performance, he said.
That was not true. In fact, the truth is more impressive.
New benchmarks AnandTech show that the A15 Bionic is 62% faster than competing chips. While its processors seem to need more power, they are more energy efficient, with 32MB of on-chip cache. This makes processors more efficient by keeping much of the routine operations on the processor, rather than having them go through memory.
The report also identified a 50% improvement in L2 cache on performance cores and notes that the 12MB L2 cache on the chip matches that of the M1 processor on Mac.
What about Macs?
Since Apple’s A-series processors are siblings of its M-series Mac chips, what’s good for one is good for both. And that suggests some of the iterative improvements we’re about to see appear in the M1X-powered MacBook Pros that we’re expecting Apple to introduce soon.
(While the potential introduction of these new Mac pros has been an intermittent rumor all year round, diviners seem to be firmly behind the idea that they will appear this month.)
Of course, translating the performance gains we’ve seen in Apple’s iPhone 13 chip into relative potential gains for the M-series Macs is deeply speculative, uncertain, and uncertain. So with this caveat, let’s speculate:
- If Apple was able to generate a 60% improvement over competing mobile processors, it should be able to tweak additional performance on the Mac variant thanks to the larger heat sink.
- Noting that the focus in this chip seems to be on energy efficiency, AnandTech observes a 17% energy efficiency gain in the A15 chip compared to the A14 chip. This should translate into a significant battery life increases on newer Macs.
The report also claims that the A15 offers a performance improvement of 28%. Considering the performance observed with the Mac M1 – best embodied by Adobe Photoshop which operates at 1.5 times the speed on them – it is reasonable to expect similar gains on the M1X Macs. This matters because Macs are used to getting things done, and a 28% increase over the 50% (1.5x) increase Photoshop sees on an M1 means we can speculate (and that’s really from speculation) that Apple’s Mac pro M1Xs will provide much, much better performance than the Intel systems they are replacing.
Mac M1 Announcement, Apple said:
- 3D titles are rendered 6.6 times faster in Final Cut Pro.
- Project building is 3.6 times faster in Xcode.
- Machine learning is 15 times faster.
I suspect that Apple’s main partners will already be working with these new Macs in their labs. We know that Adobe was able to work closely with Apple to optimize Photoshop for the M1 chip. This work too bleeds in iPads, which already share the Mac chip.
AnandTech also states, “On the GPU side, Apple’s peak performance improvements are out of the ordinary, with a combination of a new larger GPU, new architecture, and larger system cache that improves upon both performance and efficiency.
Mac users in professional markets will be curious to see if this kind of graphics performance boost also applies to the next-gen M-series chips. If so, it translates into real productivity gains and opens the door to other creative opportunities.
Since current Mac M1s offer 17 hours of battery life, the possibilities for mobile work are limitless. Maybe we’re looking at a Mac that you can use for days without a power supply.
Given that Apple’s silicon teams are already designing processors for product integration in 2025, all of this bodes well for Apple’s platforms. “When we design our chips, which are three or four years ahead, Craig and I sit in the same room defining what we want to deliver, and then we work hand in hand,” Johny Srouji, senior vice president from Apple. for hardware technologies, said Om Malik.
Now I’m not sure how satisfied any of these speculations will be, but with a Mac event expected later this month, we won’t have long to find out.
NB: We’ve all gotten into the habit of calling the next-gen M-series chips “M1X,” but don’t be surprised if Apple calls them something else – M1 +, for example.
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