On social media, known leaker Ice Universe leaked what appear to be some tidbits about the A11 Fusion processor that is slated to power Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone models slated for launch this fall.
Per the leaker, here are some tidbits about the upcoming chip:
- 3 GHz CPU operating frequency.
- Heterogeneous multi-processing capability.
- Single-core Geekbench 4 score of between 4300 and 4600; multi-core Geekbench 4 score of between 7000 and 8500.
Although this information, if true, doesn't seem like a lot, it tells us quite a lot about the innovations that Apple plans to bring to the new chip -- at least with respect to the CPU portion of the chip (the CPU is a critical part of the user experience).
Let's assume this information is true and then go over what it means for the new iPhone models and how it compares to last year's A10 Fusion chip.
Higher frequencies driving better performance
The Apple A10 Fusion chip runs its "high-performance cores" at a frequency of 2.34GHz. At that speed, the A10 Fusion achieves a single-core Geekbench 4 score of roughly 3500 -- making it best in class among smartphones today, and even putting it in direct competition with modern notebook and desktop personal computers.
If the A11 Fusion chip runs its high-performance cores at 3GHz, then this would imply a frequency uplift of about 28%. The single-core Geekbench 4 score that Ice Universe claims the A11 Fusion can achieve in the best case is 4600, or about 31% better than what the A10 Fusion could achieve.
It would seem to me, then, that in terms of the "high-performance cores," the bulk of the performance gain comes from the cores achieving a significantly higher operating frequency than the previous generation design rather than in boosting the amount of work the CPU cores do per clock speed.
Such a dramatic increase in frequency likely comes partly from the transition to a new, higher performance manufacturing technology, and partly from circuit-level enhancements.
In other words, Apple's chip team has been working hard.
The leaker also claims that the A11 Fusion chip will support a feature known as "heterogeneous multi-processing."
At first, I was inclined to think the leaker was merely referring to Apple's "Fusion" scheme whereby it uses two "high-performance" cores to run processor-intensive tasks (e.g., games) while using two "high-efficiency" cores to handle less intensive/mundane tasks (e.g., email).
However, heterogeneous multi-processing is a term that's used to refer to a processor setup whereby both the "high-performance" cores as well as the "high-efficiency" cores can be used in tandem to increase performance (albeit at the cost of additional power consumption).
If Apple is indeed implementing such a scheme, that could help boost the peak multi-core performance of the A11 Fusion chip relative to what it'd be able to do under the prior scheme used by the A10 Fusion and A10X Fusion.
The multi-core Geekbench 4 score implies...
And, finally, while I talked about the single-core Geekbench 4 score, the multi-core scores that Ice Universe posted seems to imply that there will only be two high-performance cores present on the chip.
Apple's A10X Fusion, which showed up in the company's recently launched iPad Pro 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch tablets, includes three high-performance cores and three high-efficiency cores. However, by the larger device surface area and battery capacity of the iPad Pro tablets relative to the upcoming iPhone models, the A10X Fusion can consume more power and dissipate more heat than the A11 Fusion will be allowed to.
Therefore, it only makes sense that Apple would stick with two high-performance cores and try to wring more performance out of them for the A11 Fusion rather than try to stuff three of each in there, only to have the device overheat or battery life severely shortened.