During the Wonderlust event, Apple tickled the curiosity of technophiles with the announcement of its A17 Pro, touted as “a huge step forward in terms of performance”. Beyond the tech giant’s statements, initial data provides part of the answer.
Every year, Apple launches a new chip for its smartphones. And this year we’re moving from the Apple A16 Bionic to the Apple A17 Pro. The latter notably marks the transition to TSMC’s 3nm manufacturing process. In addition to being the first chip in the history of the semiconductor industry to be engraved in the 3nm manufacturing process, it allows the iPhone to boast unprecedented capabilities.
To put that into perspective, this breakthrough made it possible to fit 19 billion transistors into a phone-sized SoC, three billion more than its predecessor.
|Model||iPhone 13 Pro||iPhone 14 Pro||iPhone 15 Pro|
|SoC||A15 Bionic||A16 Bionic||A17 Pro|
|Production||N5P (TSMC)||N4 (TSMC)||3nm (TSMC)|
However, Apple has maintained the configuration of two large high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. Although the performance difference of high-performance cores is only 10%, high-efficiency cores have been improved in terms of efficiency rather than speed.
As for the GPU, the addition of ray tracing hardware-accelerated brings the iPhone into the big leagues, putting it on equal footing with giants such as Nvidia GeForce, AMD Radeon and Intel Arc. The adoption of hardware acceleration for the AV1 video codec also demonstrates Apple’s commitment to supporting more open standards, particularly for streaming services. Another notable addition is the new USB controller, allowing the iPhone to benefit from USB 3.1 gen 2 or 3.2 gen 2 transfer speeds for the first time.
What the first tests say
Beyond the technical characteristics, what really matters is how these developments translate into real-world performance. As such, preliminary benchmarks have already surfaced.
Early results from the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max show a notable improvement over the previous model. On Geekbench 6’s single-core test, the iPhone 15 Pro outperforms the A16 Bionic by almost 10%, confirming Apple’s claims. As for the multi-core test, the increase is around 11%.
Still, given the transition to the 3nm process, some might have expected an even more dramatic improvement in performance. One plausible hypothesis is that Apple has decided to prioritize battery life. Indeed, despite technological advances, the autonomy of the iPhone 15 Pro remains, a priori, identical to that of its predecessors.
The Apple A17 Pro is undeniably a step forward. However, while awaiting more in-depth testing, particularly on GPU performance, it appears that Apple has decided to prioritize the balance between performance and battery life. That said, with its technological advancements and improved performance, the A17 Pro shows promise for the iPhone 15 Pro. We are especially impatiently awaiting the results on the GPU side of the new devices. Historically, it is often in the graphics field that the greatest technological revolutions see the light of day.
The focus is on the GPU
During its conference, Apple focused on the GPU of the A17 Pro. This new mobile graphics chip for iPhone 15 Pro now has six cores, compared to five previously, and is touted by Apple as a “ Professional-class GPU“. It promises 20% better performance for traditional 3D rendering and integrates advanced technologies such as ray tracing .
Thanks to the capabilities of the GPU and NPU, the iPhone offers, as explained above, a ray tracing hardware four times more powerful than a software version. Using a technique similar to Nvidia’s DLSS, Apple optimizes rendering to enable a higher frame rate in games withray tracingactivated. With the A17 Pro, the iPhone 15 Pro could provide a graphics experience comparable to that of consoles.
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