Apple A11 vs A12 vs A13

Apple A11 vs A12 vs A13 features differences & Specifications Comparison

Before we compare the Apple A11 vs A12 vs A13, we still need to wait for a couple of months. Why? It is because we are still a long way from September when Apple usually releases its flagship mobile devices. Still, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to achieve these deadlines. While Apple made a transition from 10nm to 7nm using TSMC’s advanced chip manufacturing technology, there is still progress to be made to make the 5nm transition.

TSMC’s EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) 7nm+ lithography process should allow 20% denser and 10% better thermal levels and lesser power consumption. While it is still not clear whether the A13 will use the new 7nm+ N7 Pro architecture, Apple typically uses the latest features on their future chips, so there is a high chance.

Since TSMC is a vendor for other major phone manufacturers as well, Apple will not be the first to use this technology. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, Apple’s current A12 Bionic SOCs, Huawei’s Kirin 980 all use the current generation 7nm process. The upcoming Huawei Mate 30 Pro which is expected to come with Kirin 985 will also be using the TSMC’s 7nm+ EUV technology.

Rumors suggest that Apple will be using the advanced version of the N7 EUV architecture named N7 Pro. We would need to wait for a little more time to have a confirmation on this. However, the good news is that TSMC is expected to be ready for mass production of the 7nm+ chips in the second quarter of 2019. By then, the new iPhones should be prepared with the final designs as well.

The 5-nanometer process should be ready for any future phone designs from the top manufacturers in 2020. Till then, we will have to be patient and watch for what’s coming in the future.

Now, if we look at the historical progression of Apple’s SOC, you will see that Apple usually sticks around for the same lithography process for two generations. See below:

Apple A11 vs A10X vs A12x
SoCA11 Bionic ChipA10X FusionA12x
CPU Architecture64-bit ARMv8 64-bit ARMv864 bit ARMv8-A
CPU CoresHexa-core (2× Monsoon + 4× Mistral) Max up to 2.34 GHz Hexa-core (3× Hurricane + 3× Zephyr) Max up to 2.38 GHz8 Cores (4 (Vortex & 4 Tempest) performance and efficiency respectively
GPU Apple designed custom 3 core(s) GPU Apple customized “PowerVR Series” Hex-Core 7XT GT7600 Plus7-Core GPU (proprietary )
RAM 3 GB of LPDDR4 4 GB of LPRRD4LPDDR4x
Manufacturing Technology 10 nm FinFET 10 nm FinFET 7-nm FinFET Process (TSMC)
CameraDual rear camera 12 MP, 7 MP front camera 12 MP rear camera and 7 MP front cameraProprietary (ISP) Image Signal Processor (More depth and details)

Now, if we look at the current A12 and A12x lineup, you will see that these chips have jumped from 10nm to 7nm. We expect the A13 to stay on an optimized node using the newer TSMCs 7nm+ process. See our earlier comparison below:

Features / ParticularsApple A11

Apple A12

A12x

Manufacturing Process10-nm FinFET Process7-nm FinFET Process

Silicon Size: 83-mm2

7-nm FinFET Process

Silicon Size: 120-mm2

Architecture64 bit64 bit64 bit ARMv8-A
CPU6-core processor (2x Monsoon + 4x Mistral) up to 2.53GHz6-core processor (2x Monsoon (2.5GHz) + 4x Mistral) up to 2.53GHz8 Cores (4 (Vortex & 4 Tempest) performance and efficiency respectively
GPUApple-Designed 3-core GPUApple-Designed -core GPU7-Core GPU (proprietary )
RAM TypeLPDDR4xLPDDR4xDual-Channel LPDDR4x
CameraApple’s ISP for faster auto-focus in low-light scenariosApple’s ISP for faster auto-focus in low-light scenariosProprietary (ISP) Image Signal Processor (More depth and details)
Number of transistors4.3 billion6.9 billion10 Billion
Security featuresNeural engine with face IDNeural engine with face IDAnimoji, FaceID, AR
Neural engine cores (NPU)2 Core NPU @ 600 billion Ops/sec8

8 Cores @5,000 billion ops/sec

8

2nd Gen NPU (Neural Engine)

8 Cores @5,000 billion ops/sec

To summarize, the A12 packs in 6.9 billion transistors two Vortex cores running at 2.4 GHz and four energy efficient Tempest cores. The A12 is 15% faster and 40% more efficient than its predecessor, the A11. The custom GPU cores is outputs 50% more performance than the A11. The dedicated neural engine delivers 5 TOPS (int8) and is meant for deep learning workloads such as FaceID, face detection amongst others.

These are microprocessors that are also known as Tensor cores, neural network processors and so forth. It specializes in the acceleration of machine learning (ML) algorithms, typically by working on predictive models such as artificial neural networks (ANNs), clustering or random forests (RFs).

Here is a comparison with the Snapdragon 845 SOC, which was the flagship offering from Qualcomm in 2018. The Snapdragon 855 has closed the performance gap even further with the current A12 SOC from Apple. See the table below:

Features / ParticularsApple A11Apple A12Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Manufacturing Process10-nm FinFET Process7-nm FinFET Process10-nm FinFET Process
Architecture64 bit64 bit64 bit
CPU6-core processor (2x Monsoon + 4x Mistral) up to 2.53GHz6-core processor (2x Monsoon + 4x Mistral) up to 2.53GHz8 x Kryo 385 CPU up to 2.8GHz
GPUApple-Designed 3-core GPUApple-Designed -core GPUQualcomm Adreno 630 Visual Processing Subsystem
RAM TypeLPDDR4xLPDDR4xDual-Channel LPDDR4x
CameraApple’s ISP for faster auto-focus in low-light scenariosApple’s ISP for faster auto-focus in low-light scenariosDual 14-bit ISP up to 32MP (single) and 16MP (dual)
Number of transistors4.3 billion6.9 billionNA
Security featuresNeural engine with face IDNeural engine with face IDFingerprint, Iris, Voice, Face
Neural engine coresTwoEightNA

Conclusion

We expect to get some more details coming in the next few months once the launch dates for the upcoming iPhones are near. Till then this is all we have.

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