Apple A12 chip brings huge gains to performance and battery life

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A tweaked image of the A11 suggests what the improved Apple 12 princessor could look like.
A tweaked image of the A11 suggests what the improved Apple 12 processor could look like.
Photo: IFIXIT

The A11 Bionic chip from last year makes the iPhone X run faster than the new Samsung Galaxy Note 9. And now Apple is about to release the A12, a replacement with even quicker performance. 

A switch to a better manufacturing process will bring some of those performance increases, while at the same time using less power. And other improvements are expected to further boost the speed.

Apple designs its processors, but the A12 is being manufactured exclusively by TSMC. This Taiwanese company’s breakthrough this year is chips with a 7nm process, down from 10nm. This is a measurement of the distance between components of the processor. Packing these more tightly  means better performance and less waste heat, saving power.

As a result of this change alone, the A12 should be 20 percent faster, while using 40 percent less power.

Extrapolating Apple A12 specs

The A11 Bionic has six processor cores, two fast cores for when top performance is needed and the rest for other times. The A12 is expected to follow this same design. But that doesn’t mean Apple won’t find ways to boost the speed of these processor cores.

Working together, Apple and TSMC have significantly improved the A series over the years. For example, the  Geekbench multi-core score for the A9 is 78 percent better than A8. And the A11 score is 70 percent faster than its predecessor. 

That said, the gains aren’t always so huge. The A10 is only 36 percent faster than the A9.

Still, this bodes well for the Apple A12. The utter minimum speed increase to be expected is 30 percent, while extrapolating from the past shows it could be as high as 70 percent. And don’t forget that this is expected to be accompanied by a 40 percent decrease in power used by the processor. 

We won’t know exactly how much better the Apple A12 processor is until next month, when the 2018 iPhone models are unveiled.