- Apple introduced the A14 Bionic as a chip for the iPad Air.
- It’s the first 5-nanometer silicon in the industry and it promises to make significant profits.
- It should also be the key to the iPhone 12 and possibly power the first ARM Macs.
When Apple introduced the new iPad Air, it also introduced the A14 Bionic chip, which powers the tablet – and will most likely be the heart of the iPhone 12. But what is that? And what does that mean for the competition? By all means, this is a significant improvement over previous Apple computing power and may be key to advancing the first generation of Macs with internal silicon.
Like its A13 predecessor from the iPhone 11 series, the A14 Bionic Chip from Apple has two high-performance cores for demanding tasks and four high-performance cores to improve battery life. However, the company says all cores are new and should deliver a dramatic 40% performance improvement over the A12 over the previous iPad Air (under unspecified conditions). The increase compared to the A13 will not be quite as big (AnandTech calculated 16%), but should still represent significant progress.
This does not represent a significant improvement in graphics performance. There is a new quad-core GPU that is said to achieve a performance increase of 30% over the A12, but a performance increase of a little more than 8% over the A13. If you expect the A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12 to offer more immersive mobile gaming than its predecessor, you may be disappointed.
AI-driven tasks like photography can be a different story. According to Apple, the A14 Bionic chip has a next-generation 16-core neural engine that delivers 11 trillion operations per second, more than twice as many as the A12 (5 trillion) and 83% more than the A13 (6th Gen) Trillion). There are new mobile accelerators that are reported to offer up to ten times better machine learning performance. This only matters in apps that rely heavily on AI. However, there is a good chance you will notice the difference.
Continue reading: The arms race of the smartphone CPU is heating up again
Apple also mentioned the new image signal processing, although it didn’t go into detail.
The biggest change can be simply how the silicon is made. The A14 Bionic is the first commercially available chip to be manufactured using the 5 nanometer process. That should make it considerably denser than 7nm chips like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus and theoretically improve energy efficiency. Apple hasn’t talked about adding extra battery life to the A14 Bionic, but longevity isn’t usually an issue for tablets like the iPad Air – you’ll know if there are any benefits when the iPhone 12 arrives.
While we’ll have to wait for benchmarks to know exactly how the A14 performs outside of Apple-controlled tests, history suggests the system-on-chip compares again to the current generation of chips in Android phones like the one the Snapdragon 865 Plus or Samsung Exynos 990 will gain a performance edge. Many chips in Android phones contain more high-speed cores and may offer better performance in apps that can use them, but this has usually not resulted in any real benefits.
Apple’s comparisons with conventional computers could be more meaningful. The company claims the A14 Bionic offers twice the graphics performance of a Windows laptop for its price. Apple is clearly hoping you will buy an iPad Air instead of a low-end PC, but it is also setting expectations for the first Mac built on internal silicon. They want you to see the A14 as the future of computing, and its appearances on the iPad and iPhone 12 might just be the beginning.