Apple A13 Bionic: closer look at the world's most powerful smartphone chip

Apple A13 Bionic: closer look at the world's most powerful smartphone chip
At the heart of an iPhone is a special chip, one made entirely by Apple, and so far, in the last few years, those chips have been competing only with themselves in the race for the fastest processor on a phone.

So it comes as no surprise that this year, with the new Apple A13 Bionic, Apple has once again extended its lead over the ubiquitous Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 found on most Android phones. Not a tough task considering that last year's Apple A12 already had faster performance than the Snapdragon 855, but still worth mentioning.

What Apple has achieved this year is another significant leap not only in performance, but also in efficiency as the A13 is at the core of why the iPhone 11 series are the longest-lasting iPhones ever made.

So before going into the details, let's quickly take a look at just how fast exactly the A13 is:

The chart comes courtesy of Apple and summarizes the performance of the A13. Notice the Snapdragon 855, the Kirin 980, and the Snapdragon 845 trailing way behind. In fact, the Snapdragon 845 performance is nearly half that of the new A13.

Apple A13 Bionic Highlights

Let's take a look at the Apple A13 Bionic highlights:

  • It has 8.5 billion transistors
  • Uses advanced, second-generation 7nm process
  • It features 4-efficiency CPU cores, used most of the time to get great battery life
  • Hundreds of voltage domains, turning only select parts of the chip to achieve great efficiency
  • Lower Power efficiency: most efficient chip today, up to 20% better efficiency than A12
  • CPU and GPU up to 20% faster performance
  • Best sustained performance ever on an Apple chip
  • Machine learning, capable of 1 trillion operations per second

Power Efficiency

The big focus with the A13 is on power efficiency.

The new chip uses second-generation, advanced 7 nanometer process to achieve that, but it is not just the process and the transistors, but the way Apple has optimized the architecture by using 4 efficiency (low-power) CPU cores for many daily tasks.

Another interesting technique that the company uses is that it can turn up only specific parts of the chip for a specific task (it uses hundreds of voltage domains for this), again achieving higher efficiency.

Everything combined, the new A13 achieves the following in terms of numbers:

  • 2 performance CPU cores are 20% faster, use 30% less power compared to A12
  • 4 efficiency CPU cores are 20% faster, use 40% less power
  • GPU has 4 cores and is 20% faster, uses 40% less power
  • Neural Engine has 8 cores and is 20% faster, uses 15% less power 

Machine Learning

Then, there is machine learning.

Apple claims the A13 is the best machine learning platform in any smartphone thanks to a number of improvements. The major one is new dedicated accelerators in the CPU that allow the phone to carry out one of the most common machine learning tasks (matrix multiplication) 6 times faster. Overall, the CPU alone has a capacity of 1 trillion operations per second.

It comes with a Machine Learning Controller, which allows ML models to be scheduled across the CPU, GPU and the Neural Engine, making this a fully integrated platform that can balance efficiency and performance. It can be used for on-device natural language processing, image classification in photos and videos, character animation in AR apps, and a ton more.

Final Words

Apple has the unique advantage of what it calls "owning the entire vertical stack", meaning that it is the one making the software, the one making the system hardware and the one making the chip design, so it can optimize everything from the tiny transistor to the little bits of code.

We should also say that the above numbers are the official ones provided by Apple. There is no reason to doubt them: previous fact-checking has shown that they are even a bit conservative, but we are looking forward to testing the Apple A13 Bionic ourselves in benchmarks and real-world use.



1. AnTuTu

Posts: 1620; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

Victor once again praising his beloved fruit company like anything lol.

4. cheetah2k

Posts: 2271; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Most powerful?? cough thats a hard call Victor

6. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

No, victor is right in this regard. U should try searching up CPU benchmarks of A12 vs 855+ before questioning someone's statements. Makes you look like a joke to be honest!

19. AnTuTu

Posts: 1620; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

@AmashAziz: How can he drive the conclusion that A13 is the most powerful chip in the world? From Apple's Powerpoint? Who is looking like a fool now?

25. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

U r the real fool here. Try reading my statement above again to understand why. Done reading? If u being the genius u r still didn't understand why u r the real fool, it's bcoz I clearly told him to compare benchmarks of A12 vs 855+ on the internet. And if u both geniuses did the same, it would be apparent that the A12 wins hands down in CPU performance. Which means the A13 will destroy the 855+ too. And people say idiots are difficult to find! By the way, who the heck mentioned Apple's slides anyway??

61. Josupuxi

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 11, 2019

Okey I do agree with you but still don't compare a decade old sd855 , just wait for that sd865 coming up in this December its gonna be a beast and is gonna kick apples a13 in its butt..

72. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Shut up dude! So ignorant u r. Firstly, go get your brain washed and educate yourself a little with benchmarks, etc. The 845 didn't beat the A11, 855+ doesn't beat the A12. And you think the 865 will beat A13 (in single-core CPU performance)....really?? Secondly, as you just noticed, I was talking about the 855+ and not the regular 855. U must not know that the former came out only about 2 months ago.

82. sgodsell

Posts: 7437; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

iPhones single task, no split screen multitasking, even with the lastest A13. Keep it. Fast my @$$. Single tasking Palm pilots in the 90's were fast back then as well.

68. Titirez

Posts: 4; Member since: Sep 11, 2019

A11, A12, A13, and 14, 15 ...etc, they are all jokes. The price of these iPhones, is not more than 350$. Really. All services from the world are full of iPhones. Why? These iPhones was made for kids (4 to 10 years old) and for other people of 2-3 neurons, in their head. I'll buy iPhone only for 200$, for my kid.

73. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

While I do agree iPhones are heavily overpriced, I also do think your brain doesn't even have 1 neuron. Coz the parts and labour cost for the XS Max alone started at $450 last year. How the heck you thought Apple would sell it at a $100 loss? I wanna know what you smoking!

77. oldskool50 unregistered

Yes the A12/13 are faster than the 855+. Faster doesn't mean its more powerful though. When you consider the Galaxy S10 and Note 10 models and the features they have, I can bet you ANY amount of money, if you could hack and put the Note 10 firmware on the iPhone X/XS/11, they would benchmark considerably lower, and if you could take iOS and but it on the S10 and Note 10 models, they would benchmark higher. Gary on YT explained the fact that because Apple's iOS does less background tasks, has less features, means the CPU is free to be faster because its not being weighted down with tasks. Which Android fans already know this. he stated Android has to be more optimized vs iOS because Android devices, especially Samsung devices have 100's of background tasks, plus full multi-tasking capabilities, more features to push, higher resolutions with larger displays and more. This weights down the SoC and what tasks are gonna get priority. This is why Android devices have more RAM, because the SoC will offload repetitive tasks into RAM, leaving the SoC free to prioritize other tasks. Which is why as bogged down as the S and Note are, they still launch apps as fast or faster than the iPhone. The camera launches in just 2 secs, which is faster because it is give priority and it services in the background. You reaching for straws bruh. Go for it. I read your other posts and you just have nothing to talk about. You simply hanging on speed because that's all you got. Speed means nothign to me as all phones are certainly fast enough.

79. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Your post is mostly very well written and I agree with much of it. No joke. But ur first sentence: the thing is, the A12/13 are faster AND more powerful than the 855+. Both words essentially mean the same thing when concerning chips. However, when it comes to phones, both words have different meanings. iPhone 11 is likely more powerful than Note 10. But not necessarily faster. See the difference? Plus I never said that iPhones are always faster than Android phones. Coz that's not true. The only thing I said is that A13 has now the fastest mobile CPU in the market, PERIOD. And if u put A13 in an S10, it will perform slightly worse than the iPhone 11 due to heavier Android system as u mentioned. But that doesn't negate the fact that A13 will still be more powerful than 855+. And speed means nothing to you but it means a lot to me. So why you trying to impose ur opinion upon me....?

84. wickedwilly

Posts: 723; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

Why does speed in the context of a chip mean a lot to you? The only reason I can think so you can brag about something that on its own means nothing. On its own the chip is nothing, it needs to be connected to be something. On a phone, what matters is how the chip contributes its overall performance. Yes the "A" chips excel in certain benchmarks, but that means nothing if the phone overall is slower for the use it is intended.

92. KhaoticShot

Posts: 5; Member since: Sep 10, 2019

Apple sucks my guy, Just accept it, They claim 4x zoom when it doesn't have it, They claim the best PPI of any iPhone ever (even though it's the same as the original iPhone X +) and it is still a clunky 6 core in a world where 8 cores is a standard across everything tech. The resolution of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is crap in comparison to other phones, the battery life is terrible, no software customization, and worst of all it is legit made out of a single piece of machined glass, which means one drop and it's dead.

93. ssallen

Posts: 200; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Except you wouldn't even notice the difference between a high end Android device and the iPhone 11. They are both fast enough its imperceptible for daily usage. Unless you are rendering video or baking 3d models the speed difference is really meaningless.

80. sgodsell

Posts: 7437; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

So powerful that the A12 on iPhones, and now the A13 cannot offer, or do any real multitasking with split screen multitasking. Yeah, what is also true, and please don't forget that Apple controls all aspects of everything about their chips, iOS, and the blind media.

103. whatev

Posts: 2327; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Ms. Sgodsell are you aware that the iPad 6th gen and the new one unveiled this week are using the A10 which is the same as in the iPhone 7, and the iPad Air is using the A12 in the XS/Max? Do you know that iPads do the f€&@€ng Split screen and other multitask that you are claiming iPhones can’t do and with the same chips on iPhones? Now stfu and go back crawling to your cave where you sleep and have intimacy with your beloved note 10, bye

96. Husain

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 12, 2019

Bad news. Huawei kirin 990 was released a week ago. Ask Apple representatives why they mentioned kirin 980 not 990.

104. jcsmithf22

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 13, 2019

See the thing is, its not all about CPU benchmarks. In real testing, the 855 in the Galaxy s10+ proved to be actually faster than the XS Max. Not to mention must better battery life and design.

18. Phullofphil

Posts: 1822; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

No it’s not. It’s black and white obvious.

98. Charbel

Posts: 7; Member since: Jan 19, 2016

Idk man, the numbers are literally out there. The A11 from 2 years ago still gives the SD855 a hard time staying ahead in benchmarks.

17. Phullofphil

Posts: 1822; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

How could it not be the best. It just came out and snapdragons a year old. iOS is used for one manufacturer of corse it will be better at using the chip.

26. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

The A13 and 855+ both are 7nm+ chips and came out within 2 months of each other if I remember correctly. Yet the A13 wins.

38. Alcyone

Posts: 484; Member since: May 10, 2018

Development timeframe for both chips was not the same. Ponder that one.

46. cheetah2k

Posts: 2271; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

The A13 wins "according to Apple benchmarks".... The hard truth, is that the A13 wins in an Apple IOS ecosystem - because there is NO ONE ELSE! (you know, its the nigel no friends sitting in the corner by itself).. Put an A13 in an android ecosystem and see how it goes. No one can really compare either. So to claim its the fastest in a phone is absolute crock of sh1t and we all know it.

78. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

While I did mistakenly mention that the 855+ is built on 7nm+, Gary from Gary Explains on Youtube has already explained that the A12 has the most powerful CPU in the world, so the A13 is the fastest now too. And he's a renowned, authentic professor who also works for Android Authority. U cannot deny his words if you think I am a liar. And A13 is the most powerful only bcoz of iOS....what a truckload of trash! Gary needs to properly educate u.

55. vincelongman

Posts: 5723; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The 855+ isn't a new chip lol It's just better bins of the 855, which is almots 1 year old The A13 is N7P (2nd gen 7nm), the 855 is N7 (1st gen 7nm)

62. Josupuxi

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 11, 2019

Brother Wait for that sd865 coming up in December with 5nm ( if the rumours are true ) and then ponder this s**t its gonna beat a13s ass

74. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

The 865 will be 7nm+. 5nm production won't even start before 2nd half of 2020! See how big of a joke u r?

76. AmashAziz

Posts: 2933; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Yep, I made a mistake. Sorry.

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