When Apple announced the new iPad Air, the main takeaway is it has the new A14 Bionic processor which simply has more performance than the previous processor and is most probably the new chip in the upcoming iPhones.
What I didn’t say in the article, because of the geekery it entails, is that the A14 is designed using a 5nm process. This is a big deal because Intel, the most popular chip maker, is struggling downsizing their processor to 10nm from 14. AMD which is having a strong momentum lately, has their new processors designed with 7nm; same with the mobile chip maker Qualcomm with their Snapdragon processors. But what does it all mean?
Inside every processor are tiny transistors that do the computing so that your device can work. The size of these transistors are what’s measured in nanometers. The smaller they are, the more you can put in your processor giving you more power and performance. The decrease in size also means less heat, and when your processor generates less heat, the longer it can perform at its peak.
Apple’s previous A13 chip is built on a 7nm process, packing in 8.5 billion transistors inside. With the A14’s 5nm process on the same sized processor, Apple was able to put in 11.8 billion transistors so despite having the same 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU in the processor, it leads to 40% and 30% better performance respectively.
With Apple achieving the 5nm process while the Snapdragons (and other mobile processors perhaps) are still in 7nm, does that mean the A14 is above all of them? Well, one leaker says no. In a tweet, Ice Universe said that the A14 chip in the upcoming iPhone 12 scored 572,333 which is significantly lower than the Snapdragon 865+ in the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra (646,730) or in the Asus ROG Phone 3 (629,245).
However, Antutu itself said the scores between iOS and Android should not be compared. According to their post, the software for the iOS and Android version of their benchmark app is significantly different and that’s why testing methods for both platforms are also different. This is important because time and time again, you’ll see iPhones with lower benchmark scores and fewer RAM, yet they perform just as good as competing Android phones. Why is that?
Software optimization. The harmony of the Apple Ecosystem doesn’t only involve between their devices, it’s in each device itself. The hardware is tuned to the software and vice-versa leading to great performance despite having meager specs on paper.
With Apple unlocking the 5nm process in the A14 and poised to launch the first Mac with an Apple processor (after years with Intel), it will be interesting how this changes the landscape of computing in general and how far it can take new Apple devices.