Apple A12 Bionic: 7 happy nanometer

Huawei announced the release of a smartphone with the chip produced by technology 7 nm in August, but the iPhone XS/XS Max was on sale already on September 21, becoming the first in the world 7 nm smartphone in the world. As usual, the previous system-on-chip was still in the lead in the tests, but her replacement was even more magic crystal, whose purpose was to “break all”, as simple-minded Phil Schiller, with a good-natured smile, sort of hinted. And jinxed.

Qualcomm made the Apple a nasty surprise. But so far, 12 September 2018, in the hall of theatre of a name of Steve jobs, nothing in the world could not overshadow the triumph of another creation of the “Apple” Mikroelektronika. At that time nothing comparable to the Apple A12 Bionic in the world was not. Some, whom I will not name, is tightly stuck on the transition to 10 nm, but just a few years ago, these are some bathed in beams of the deserved glory. Alas, nothing is eternal under the Moon.

At the end of November 2018, Qualcomm presented a system-on-chip Snapdragon 8150, and on 4 December of the same year it appeared on the market. In some tests, the first time in many years, Apple A12 Bionic, the latest SoCs from Apple, lost. If you believe the headlines in the media, Snapdragon “broke” A12. The audience willingly believed, and even reading the articles themselves spread the good news and blew it to epic proportions. In tests Snapdragon 8150 A12 Bionic and Apple were nearly equal in the test AnTuTu Snapdragon ahead of the A12 as much as 2.5%. At Qualcomm was a reason to rejoice – are still to tie the game with a new SoC from Apple no one could. Buying smart phones the same audience. Because of this, or not, but the holiday quarter of 2018 was not a holiday for Apple.

For nearly ten years, the main source of income for Apple was the iPhone. Almost all the time, whatever’s going on in the industry, its sales grew. iPhone XS/XS Max were masterpieces of engineering art, best iPhone for their long and glorious history, but due to several serious mistakes of the company in assessing the market sold this masterpiece is worse than deserved. Snapdragon 8150 “broke” Apple A12 Bionic in early December, before the peak sales when the buying frenzy reaches a maximum, and sales are breaking records, perhaps to the failure of Apple Snapdragon also had an attitude. the iPhone was not cheap, but the processors in them were the best – and now they are “broke”, and no reason to overpay anymore. The more that cost iPhone XS/XS Max, as if to say it mildly, not too cheap.

In any case, the next round in the war of the crystals promises to be interesting. Apple needs to make another move next month. To leave call Qualcomm (in 2019 is also something that happened) without an answer they can’t. Rumors about Apple A13 already circulating, but we’re not going to kill my appetite.

Bionic and PoP

A12 Bionic Apple is TSMC’s technology to 7 nm FinFET. iPhone XS/XS Max, which used the chip made him the world’s first 7 nm chip available to regular buyers. Phil Schiller revealed some of its mysteries: in A12 CPU was 6 core, two of these nuclei were “productive”, four “energy-saving”, as in A11 nuclei of different nature could work at the same time. In addition to the CPU on the A12 was a 4-core GPU, from beginning to end developed by Apple. The CPU and GPU, of course, was more productive than A11, but also more economical. In addition to the CPU and GPU on a chip was a neural processing unit (NPU), 8-core performance 5 trillion 8-bit operations per second. In A11 NPU was much more modest – 2 core, only 600 billion 8-bit operations per second.

Apple A12 Bionic

In the picture, in the case of durable plastic, PoP (TSMC InFO), consisting of system-on-chip A12 and LPDDR4X 4 Gigabytes (in iPhone XS iPhone XS Max). A12 was used in some other devices where RAM size was different. For chip area equal to 83,27 mm2, A12 was 5% less than A11. While in the A12 was 6.9 billion transistors (in A11 – 4.3 billion). Phil didn’t say anything about the motion coprocessor (Apple M12), nor about the enclave security, posted on the crystal – there was nothing exciting new.


6-core CPU occupied at the crystal 11,90 mm2 (in A11 – 14,48 mm2), and consisted of two “power” cores Vortex (vortex), with a maximum clock frequency 2.49 GHz and two cores of energy-saving Tempest (the storm), with a clock frequency of approximately 2.0 GHz. The core of the Vortex took of 2.07 mm2 (Hurricane A11 took of 2.68 mm2), the kernel, Tempest and 0.43 mm2 (Zephyr in A11 – 0,53 mm2). The second level cache of 8 Megabytes, the cache of the first level was also increased, with 128 kilobytes (64 KB data cache + 64 KB instruction cache) 256 Kbytes (128 Kbytes for instructions and data).

Apple A12 Bionic “c skinned”

Please note: the elements on the chip are located a lot uporyadochennye than Apple A11 Bionic. Like in the group of microelectronics introduced its own designer, but in fact it is evidence of systematic work on the chip, without any corrections made at the last moment.


4-core graphics processor occupied at the crystal 14,88 mm2 (in A11 – 15,28 mm2), were optimized for Metal 2, and was significantly inferior competitors in performance in OpenGL. Performance GPU A12 surpassed its predecessor by 50%, but more details about it there. NPU in A12 was much larger than A11 of 5.79 mm2 instead of 1.83. Still 8 cores instead of 2. I have not still the head does not fit: by 5.79 square millimeters per second performed 5 trillion operations.

This continuation of the series about the chips designed by Apple. Previous part — Apple A11 Bionic: is It magic?.

To be continued

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