One of the great protagonists of the “keynote” that the Cupertino giant celebrated yesterday was the SoC Apple A14, a chip of new generation that will give life to the new iPad Air, and that we will also see in the new iPhone 12, whose presentation is expected in late September or early October.
The expectations were very high, especially for the possibilities that the jump to the process of 5 nm of TSMC raised, but in the end the presentation of the SoC Apple A14 left us conflicting feelings. We had seen rumors that pointed to the jump to a configuration of 8 cores divided into a big.LITTLE structure, that is, in a block of four high-performance cores and another block of high-efficiency cores, but in the end this has not been fulfilled .
Apple has chosen to keep the same configuration that we have been seeing since the launch of the Apple A11 SoC, six cores divided into a high-performance two-core block and a high-efficiency quad-core block. In this sense there are no changes, although as expected the apple company has introduced improvements at the architecture level to boost the performance of its new chip.
Apple A14 SoC: CPU 40% more powerful than Apple A12, but how does it perform against the A13?
It was, without a doubt, one of the strangest moments of the entire event yesterday. For some reason that I can’t understand, the apple company decided compare the CPU-level performance of the Apple A14 SoC to the A12 SoC, used in the iPhone Xr and iPhone Xs, and not with the A13 SoC, which is what the iPhone 11 mounts.
On the other hand, the apple company did not specify if this performance increase applies at the single-thread level (one active core) or multi-thread (all active cores). It may be an average value of both, but I am inclined to think that it most likely refers increased multithreading performance.
In any case, the important thing is that Apple has compared a new generation SoC not with the immediately previous model, but with another that is two generations behind. The interesting thing is not to compare a new chip with a much older one, but with the immediately preceding one, And in this case it should have performed the performance comparison with the Apple A13 SoC.
If we put into context the information that Apple has given, and the one we had from when the Apple A13 SoC was presented, we can make it clear that the difference in performance at the CPU level between this and the new Apple A14 SoC would be around between 15% and 20%, in the best case. Disappointed? Well you shouldn’t, the apple company has been the first to complete a viable 5nm process design, an important leap that will allow notable improvements in terms of energy efficiency (performance per watt consumed).
I know what you are thinking, that not all the credit goes to Apple in this sense, since in the end it is TSMC who «cooks the chips», but the Taiwanese giant I would have nothing to do if the design of the apple firm was not viable when it comes to being transferred to the silicon wafer, so keep that in mind.
Other major improvements: 30% more powerful GPU and more AI performance
The Apple A14 SoC integrates a new Apple GPU with four graphics cores that performs 30% more than the solution integrated in the Apple A12. The apple company once again left in the air the increase in performance that said GPU would offer compared to the one that mounts the Apple A13 SoC, but calm, I will not leave you with doubt. Starting from the average values that we have, the difference would be between 8% and 10%.
If we talk about artificial intelligence, the Apple A14 SoC has a next-generation neural processing unit that adds 16 cores and has a peak performance of 11 TOPs, which leaves us a huge generational leap compared to the Apple A13 SoC, which reaches the 6 TOPs. This latest data suggests that Apple has focused its shot on improving the performance of the Apple A14 SoC in artificial intelligence tasks.
Regarding efficiency, we do not yet have official values, so we cannot make a reliable comparison. With everything, there are two great possibilities on the table: that Apple has adjusted the performance to the maximum while maintaining (or raising slightly) consumption, or that the apple company has tuned the performance to offer a lower consumption. Personally, I am inclined towards the first option, but we still do not have official confirmation.
Apple A14X: a version for MacBook computers?
It is very likely that the apple company is preparing a version of the Apple A14 SoC much more powerful that would be aimed at boosting the transition from x86 architecture to ARM architecture on its line of Mac and MacBook computers.
In this sense, the first step that Apple will take, according to the main analysts, will be to launch an “affordable” MacBook based on the Apple A14X chip, a silicon that will keep the Apple A14 base and 5nm process, but that will come, in theory, with two important novelties: one 8-core CPU (four high-performance cores + four high-efficiency cores) and one Much more powerful GPU.
If all goes according to plan, that new “budget” MacBook with Apple A14X SoC will be unveiled taking advantage of the event dedicated to the iPhone 12, which means we will have more information between the end of this month and the beginning of next month.
The sale price has not yet transpired, obviously, but it is rumored that this new Apple laptop could reach the market with an approximate cost of 799 dollars.