16 November 2018 00:00:00 AM Breaking News

A12 Bionic: World first 7nm smartphone chip

APPLE'S IPHONE XS comes rocking Cupertino's new A12 Bionic chip, which promises a performance boost over its predecessor as well as a suite of smart tech.

At first glance, it looks like it'll be another powerful slice of silicon from the folks at One Infinite Loop. But first a minor history lesson.

Apple ARM-ed
Apple's A-series chips have for some time offered a proper dose of smartphone processor performance, which combined with the optimisation of iOS, has ensured using iPhones feels super smooth and slick.

Based on ARM instruction sets and, in the early days, architectures like many of the processors in smartphone SoCs, Apple has previously lagged behind in terms of core count and top clockspeeds. Yet in benchmarks its chips always prove they can compete with the best from Qualcomm and Samsung, which is a good indication of how full control over hardware design can yield fruit.

Each generation of A-series chip offered decent hikes in performance over their predecessors and allowed Apple to put fancier features into iOS

However, it was with really the A10 Fusion SoC that Apple really stepped up its game. The chip came with a quad-core processor split into two high-performance cores and a brace of cores dedicated to efficiency; basically, a design set up by ARM's big.LITTLE architecture.

The following A10X Fusion added a six core design based on a 10-nanometre FinFET fabrication process provided by chip manufacturer TSMC, offering some proper performance for the likes of the ipod pro

But things got particularity interesting with the A11 Bionic, the chipset that underpinned the iPhone X. The 10nm chipset sported six cores - two for high-performance and four to take care of day-to-day iOS work - and a custom GPU handled polishing the pixels of the X's OLED displays

The standout feature, however, was the "Neural Engine" built into the SoC which powered the iPhone X's smartest feature like Face ID and, er, Animoji. It also rocked an improved signal processor to improve the iPhone X's camera performance, as well as better support augmented reality.

Core capabilities

While Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 sits at 10nm, the A12 Bionic seems to have stolen the lead in squeezing more transistors onto a silicon die.

The A11 Bionic already offered more performance than the Snapdragon 845, which is due a refresh, so the A12 Bionic is set to utterly trounce Qualcomm's finest given Apple's claims that it's 15 per cent faster than the A11 Bionic.

Leaked performance benchmarks in Geekbench show the A12 Bionic gets a single-core score of 4,813 and a multi-core score of 10,266, which is a good step up from its predecessor, despite essentially rocking the same six-core pseudo big.LITTLE configuration.

But anyone who's uses an iPhone 8 or iPhone X will not likely have thought the thing it needs is extra power, so the processor performance hike the A12 Bionic offers is arguably a tad moot. What isn't though it the GPU performance.

Chip crown

Overall, the A12 Bionic looks to be a proper powerhouse SoC in terms of processing and graphical power. And it's improved smarts look to be very promising for iPhone photography as well as pave the way for smart apps.

In real-world terms, you're not likely to notice a vast difference in terms of everyday performance between an iPhone XS with its A12 Bionic and the OG iPhone X with the A11 Bionic. That's probably true if you compare it side-by-side in tasks like browsing and video rendering to say a Snapdragon 845 equipped Pixel 2 or OnePlus 6, both of which have nicely optimised versions of Android.

Now the A12 Bionic has made its debut, ushering in the first 7nm smartphone chip - yes, we know Huawei's Kirin 980 is a 7nm part but it won't hit the market before Apple's efforts, so no need to comment.