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Apple Introduces Pro-Grade 3nm Chipset to Empower the Latest iPhone 15 Premium Models

Introducing the New A17 Pro Chipset for iPhone 15 Pro Series

Every year Apple designs a new A-series chipset for the iPhone. Up until last year, all new iPhone models would share the same chip but starting with the iPhone 14 series, Apple decided to differentiate the Pro and non-Pro phones by giving only the Pro models the latest application processor (AP). The non-Pro units are powered by the silicon used to power the previous year’s Pro models.

What’s new about the 3nm A17 Pro chipset?

Simply put, as process node numbers drop, the feature size of a chip, including transistors, gets smaller. Smaller transistors mean that more can fit inside a chip raising the component’s transistor count. The higher a chip’s transistor count, the more powerful and/or energy-efficient it is.

A-series chip Process node iPhone model Transistor count
A17 Pro 3nm iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max 19 billion
A16 Bionic 4nm iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max, iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus 16 billion
A15 Bionic 5nm iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max 15 billion
A14 Bionic 5nm iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max 11.8 billion

The A17 Pro continues to use a 2+4 configuration with the two high-performance CPU cores running up to 10% faster with a maximum clock speed of 3.78GHz compared to the maximum P-core clock speed of 3.46GHz on the A16 Bionic. The four high-efficiency cores have a clock speed of 2.11GHz and Apple claims its E-cores are three times more efficient than the competition.

Apple has improved the six-core GPU calling it “Pro-Class.” The GPU runs 20% faster but remains energy-efficient. The A17 Pro features “Hardware-accelerated ray tracing” which is up to four times faster than software-based ray tracing, making video games look more realistic. The GPU also supports Mesh shading which improves the visual appearance of games. Apple is taking the GPU used on a mobile device like the iPhone to desktop levels.

The A17 Pro includes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X70 5G modem which offers AI capabilities not found on the A16 Bionic’s Snapdragon X65 5G modem. The X70 5G modem supports all commercial 5G bands from 600MHz low-band spectrum to 41GHz mmWave. The iPhone 15 Pro line features 8GB of RAM for the first time in iPhone history.

The A17 Pro’s neural engine has doubled the number of operations it can handle per second from the A16 Bionic to 35 trillion operations per second. This should improve the speed of machine learning and AI tasks on the iPhone.

How did the A17 Pro fare in benchmark tests?

The A17 Pro, powering an iPhone 15 Pro Max, scored well on the Geekbench 6 benchmark tests with a single-core score of 2958 and a multi-core score of 7288. That was higher than the single and multi-core scores tallied by the A16 Bionic used to drive an iPhone 14 Pro Max by 22% and 16% respectively. The A17 Pro also scored 50% higher than the single-core score achieved by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy running a Galaxy S23 Ultra, and 42% higher on the multi-core test.

The 3D Mark benchmark measures how well the GPU performs and the iPhone 15 Pro Max ranged from a high of 3103 to a low of 2394. The iPhone 14 Pro Max had a higher high of 3382 but also had a lower low of 2327. And while the Galaxy S23 Ultra had the highest high score at 3828, it also had the lowest low at 1951. The A17 Pro is delivering “pro-grade” graphics that can match or come very close to what you’ll see on dedicated game consoles.

The improved GPU allows the iPhone 15 Pro line to support AAA video games

With the A17 Pro delivering “pro-grade” graphics, expectations are high from gamers expecting console quality game-play from the iPhone 15 Pro line. AAA games, which are those titles that have been heavily promoted by mid-sized and major publishers, are coming to smartphones for the first time. Apple confirmed this by previously stating that the “iPhone 15 Pro brings true-to-life gaming to the palm of users’ hands with console titles never before seen on a smartphone, like Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, Death Stranding, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage.” Game developer Capcom announced that Resident Evil Village will be available for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max on October 30th priced at $39.99. The Winters’ Expansion DLC pack will also be available for $19.99.

Thanks to the hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing, the Mesh shading, and the improved GPU, the graphics on these AAA games can match or come very close to what you’ll see on dedicated game consoles. The improvement in battery life from last year’s Pro models might be disappointing, but overall, the A17 Pro chipset offers significant advancements and sets the stage for future developments in smartphone gaming.

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