by Jason Snell
A15, fast and slow
AppleInsider reports that Geekbench users are uploading scores for the iPhone 13 that show a 10 percent increase over the iPhone 12 in single-core performance, and a 21 percent increase in multi-core tests.
If accurate, this would place the A14 to A15 performance boost in line with recent updates. What makes this a question at all is that Apple hasn’t directly compared the two chips, instead opting to compare the iPhone to “the competition.”
The only Apple-to-Apple comparison the company has made is in comparing the iPad mini to the previous-generation mini, making it theoretically possible to derive the speed of the A15 by comparing it to the speed of the older A12-based iPad mini. And those numbers didn’t look impressive—in fact, they looked slower than the A14.
It’s hard to reconcile those two facts, unless the A15 chip in the iPad mini is somehow slower than the A15 chip in the iPhone. And according to Joe Rossignol of MacRumors, that’s exactly what’s happening:
Both the iPhone 13 and the new iPad mini are equipped with Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chip, but benchmark results reveal that the chip is downclocked to 2.9GHz in the iPad mini, compared to 3.2GHz in all iPhone 13 models.
Story checks out. But why the downclocking? My first guess is that it might be a form of binning. Apple’s already selling the iPhone 13 with four GPU cores compared to the iPhone 13 Pro’s five.
In any event, the story of the A15—which might not have needed to be so mysterious if Apple actually made its own direct comparisons between the A14 and A15—might be coming into sharper focus as we approach the ship dates of the iPad mini and the iPhone 13.