AnandTech Calls A12 Bionic in iPhone XS 'Just Margins Off' Best Desktop CPUs in New Review

AnandTech, known for in-depth reviews of new Apple products, today published a lengthy review of the iPhone XS and XS Max, Apple's newest flagship iPhones.

AnandTech's review takes a deep dive into the A12 chip in the two smartphones, which is the first commercially available 7nm silicon.

Image of A12 SoC via TechInsights with labeling by AnandTech

According to AnandTech, the A12 chip features a major revamp of the neural accelerator, a redesigned system cache that features the "biggest change since its introduction in the A7," significant changes to the CPU core, and memory compression for the GPU, all of which has led to impressive performance improvements.

Based on SPECint2006 benchmarking, the A12 performed an average of 24 percent better than the A11 in the previous-generation devices. When it comes to power efficiency, the A12 improved by 12 percent, but with memory heavy workloads, power consumption was up, for an average power usage of ~3.36W on the A11 to 3.64W on the A12.


SPECfp benchmarking saw average performance gains of 28 percent, and again, workloads with major improvements also resulted in increased power consumption.

AnandTech's benchmarking tests suggest that the A12's Vortex cores and architectural improvements offer a "much higher performance advantage than Apple's marketing materials promote." Apple's A12 beat the best Android SoCs both in performance and power efficiency.

The contrast to the best Android SoCs have to offer is extremely stark - both in terms of performance as well as in power efficiency. Apple's SoCs have better energy efficiency than all recent Android SoCs while having a nearly 2x performance advantage. I wouldn't be surprised that if we were to normalise for energy used, Apple would have a 3x performance efficiency lead.

AnandTech says that it's "quite astonishing" how close the A12 and the previous-generation A11 are to desktop CPUs, with "very small margins until Apple’s mobile SoCs outperform the fastest desktop CPUs in terms of ST performance."

As part of the review, AnandTech also offered a look at how Apple has improved performance in older devices by tweaking scaling performance. The A9 in the iPhone 6s, for example, took 435ms for the CPU to reach maximum frequency, but that time was cut to 80ms in iOS 12 for a "great boost to performance in shorter interactive workloads."

Similar improvements were made to the A10 (going from a 400ms ramp up time to 210ms), but there was little change to the A11.


All in all, AnandTech said the iPhone XS and XS Max are a "big shift" for Apple's lineup with a "beast of an SoC" that's offering performance improvements of up to 40 percent.

Apple's marketing department was really underselling the improvements here by just quoting 15% - a lot of workloads will be seeing performance improvements I estimate to be around 40%, with even greater improvements in some corner-cases. Apple's CPU have gotten so performant now, that we're just margins off the best desktop CPUs; it will be interesting to see how the coming years evolve, and what this means for Apple's non-mobile products.

The full iPhone XS and XS Max review from AnandTech is well worth checking out for those who would like to get a deeper technical look at the components inside the two new devices. It goes into much greater detail on the CPU and GPU in the iPhone XS and XS Max, while also taking a look at the camera, battery, display, and other components.

Related Roundup: iPhone XS

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
27 months ago
Their continued progress with these chips might be the most impressive thing Apple has done post-Jobs. It is absolutely incredible, blowing away all competition like this.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
27 months ago
Apple's iOS processors are technological marvels. I can't wait for Apple to start putting them into Macs.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
27 months ago
Not surprising to me at all. Apple's chip team has been probably the most innovative part of the company and overall tech industry in recent years. I have no doubt that Apple will be moving to their own chip designs for their desktop and laptops. As someone who uses iOS only for work and personal, I am excited to see what they keep coming up with. This type of power coupled with pretty big software changes in iOS 13, a great platform should get even better. Google and other Android OEM's have to be looking at this in envy considering none of them control of their own fate the way Apple does. Google holds the cards on that end though, should be an interesting 3-5 years.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
27 months ago

Apple's iOS processors are technological marvels. I can't wait for Apple to start putting them into Macs.

I hope this won't happen any time soon as HW without SW is kind of useless. I really don't want anything like iOS on Mac
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
27 months ago
Maybe not underselling the improvements but you know people LOVE to jump all over them if they even slightly overstate a thing. Why risk it. Pure performance has never been a focus of the iPhone.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
27 months ago
Two A12 processors in the new iPad Pro! I can only dream of what I can do!
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Photographer Austin Mann Tests the iPhone 12 Pro's Camera

Wednesday October 21, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
Travel photographer Austin Mann usually performs an in-depth review of new iPhone models to test their camera performance in real-world scenarios. To test Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro, Mann traveled to Glacier National Park, Montana. Mann focused on some of the biggest camera upgrades with the iPhone 12 Pro, including the upgraded Wide lens, Ultra Wide Night mode, and LiDAR autofocus, across a...

iPhone 12 Pro Max Has Smaller 3,687 mAh Battery According to Regulatory Filing

Tuesday October 20, 2020 8:48 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with a 3,687 mAh battery, which is around 7% less capacity than the 3,969 mAh battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, according to a regulatory filing published by TENAA, the Chinese equivalent of the FCC. The regulatory filing, spotted by MacRumors, also lists the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 6GB of RAM as seen in benchmark results last week. Apple has filed ...

5G Drains iPhone 12 Battery 20% Faster Than 4G in Benchmark

Wednesday October 21, 2020 3:17 am PDT by
After the first reviews for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro emerged yesterday, a new report by Tom's Guide reveals the extent of battery life reductions when using 5G. The report outlines a test wherein the iPhone surfs the web continuously at 150 nits of screen brightness, launching a new site every 30 seconds until the battery drains. Interestingly, the test was run on an iPhone 12 and...

Teardown Video Confirms iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Use Same 2,815mAh Battery

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:47 am PDT by
With the iPhone 12 launching on Friday and in just a few hours to Australia and New Zealand, hands-on videos, teardowns, reviews, and other iPhone-related content has been coming out. A new teardown video delves into both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro, confirming battery life for both models and giving us a closer look at their internals. The video from Io Technology is in Chinese, but ...

French iPhone Boxes Come Packed in an Outer Box With Separate EarPods

Wednesday October 21, 2020 6:52 am PDT by
After the news that France would be the only territory to continue to include EarPods with the iPhone, it seems that Apple is not packing the earbuds within the iPhone's box (via iGeneration). Screenshot from TheiCollection's review video The French iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro does not have a different retail box to accommodate EarPods, meaning that all iPhone boxes are consistent...

Some Defective Apple iPhone 12 Cases Shipping Without Speaker Holes

Wednesday October 21, 2020 12:54 pm PDT by
At least two customers who have purchased iPhone 12 cases have received defective cases that do not have speaker holes, which obscures the sound. Photo by Reddit user zarnold16 There have been two separate threads on Reddit from iPhone 12 customers who purchased a case and received one without speaker holes. One customer was told by an Apple advisor that the case wasn't meant to have...

Watch: New iPad Air Unboxing Videos and First Impressions

Wednesday October 21, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's embargo has lifted on reviews for the new iPad Air ahead of its launch on Friday. In addition to our more detailed review roundup, we've shared a handful of unboxing videos and first impressions of the device below. The new iPad Air via Karl Conrad The new iPad Air features a larger 10.9-inch edge-to-edge display, a faster A14 Bionic chip, and a USB-C port instead of Lightning. It is...

Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:13 am PDT by
Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple). The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an...