Apple A12 Bionic: All you need to know about the iPhone XS and iPhone XR CPU

Apple’s announced the A12 Bionic, the latest A-series processor which sits inside the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max – and the iPhone XR.

The A12 Bionic is a complex CPU which comprises a six-core CPU and a quad-core GPU, with a separate eight-core processor dedicated to monitoring machine learning processes.

Dubbed the ‘Neural Engine’, this machine learning-centric processors main job is to keep track of which resources on the new iPhones, whether that’s parts of the CPU or GPU, are best suited to actioning your commands, as well as lend additional processing power where needed.

Clock speeds of each of the cores is currently unknown, but two of the six CPU cores were described as ‘performance cores’ while the remaining four were called ‘efficiency cores’, which brings to mind ARM’s big.LITTLE philosophy.

In terms of raw figures, Apple says that this means apps will launch apps launch up to 30% faster than they would on an A11-powered iPhone, and overall performance is 50% faster.

Related: iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR

Apple A12 Bionic key features

  • CPU: Six cores
  • GPU: Four cores
  • Neural engine: Eight cores
  • Storage support: Up to 512GB addressable storage
  • Fabrication node: 7nm

As well as giving you a significant boost in overall performance Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said that the new chip allows for “a trillion operations on every photo you take,” and enables key features like Smart HDR.

This sees you “shooting a four frame buffer to capture a critical moment” as well as “secondary interframes at the same time at different exposure to bring out highlight details”. So not radically different to existing HDR modes like the one on the Pixel 2, but useful all the same.

The A12 Bionic’s machine learning prowess will also add rocket fuel to more common camera modes like portrait mode and portrait lighting, allowing for clearer live FaceTime calls, apparently thanks to  the Neural Engine allowing for better detection of faces and bodies when taking pictures and video. This will also see fun things like Animoji look more cartoonish.

Apple’s A12 Bionic chip follows the 7nm fabrication process. The previous A11 Bionic and Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon 845 CPUs both use 10nm processes. Generally speaking, smaller nodes means you can fit more components onto the same physical space, allowing for faster, more powerful processors.

Recently, Huawei unveiled its first 7nm mobile CPU, the Huawei Kirin 980, at IFA in Berlin earlier in September. Huawei quoted an equivalent 20% speed and 40% efficiency boost on its previous generation 970. Qualcomm’s rumoured Snapdragon 855 CPU is also expected to be 7nm.

Related: iPhone XS vs Galaxy S9

Apple A12 benchmarks

Apple has yet to reveal any benchmarking scores for the A12 Bionic – and it may never.

That said, a number of ‘leaked’ A12 benchmarks have been doing the rounds on the internet.

The latest came from French site iGeneration. The leak showed the A12 running in with 4673 single-core and 10912 multi-core scores in the popular CPU-focused Geekbench 4 benchmark.

Related: Apple Watch 4

The scores put the CPU above the A11 which ran in with 4087 single-core and 9037 multi-core scores in Geekbench 4 in our tests.

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