Apple A17 Pro performance review: How fast is Apple’s new 3nm chip?
Note: This feature was first published on 19 September 2023.
Every year, Apple announces new iPhones and then a new chip to go along with it. Previously, this new chip would find its way into the entire lineup, but Apple changed that practice last year with the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus, when, instead of getting the latest chip, it got a chip that was a generation older. This year's newest chip is called the A17 Pro and it's exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max.
This is the first time Apple is calling any of its smartphone "Pro" and one can only wonder what that means for the future. Will we see a non-Pro version? Only time will tell, but we do know is that it's built on a new 3nm manufacturing process, which makes this the industry's first 3nm chip.
The A17 Pro still has a 6-core CPU configuration with two high-performance cores and four efficiency cores. However, these cores can all deliver performance at every power level. Apple says we can expect significant improvements in CPU performance, up to 10% when compared to last year’s A16 Bionic chip.
That aside, the A17 Pro also has a couple of other notable features, including dedicated video engines for ProRes and AV1, and a USB controller that enables USB3 support and data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps. The Neural Engine still has 16 cores, but it’s now twice as fast and can now process up to 35 trillion operations per second, so it can run machine-learning tasks such as analysing and indexing your photos more quickly.
The GPU has been improved as well. It gains an additional core and now has a six-core design with added support for hardware-accelerated ray-tracing. Apple also says that peak graphics performance has been improved by up to 20% compared to last year’s A16 Bionic chip.
To put their claims to the test, we’ll be putting the A17 Pro through our usual benchmarks. Here are the results.
The “Pro” moniker is well-deserved because Apple's performance claims were spot on and the A17 Pro is a beast. Before we delve into the analysis, the short story is this: it's the fastest smartphone chip we've ever tested.
Looking at the CPU scores on Geekbench 6, the A17 Pro’s overall performance was about 10% better than the A16 Bionic, and about 22% faster than the A15 Bionic. What’s remarkable is that its single-core scores were greater than even the newest iPad Prowhich has a desktop-class M2 chip.
And it wasn’t even a contest if we compare the A17 Pro to Qualcomm’s latest and greatest – the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. The A17 Pro’s single-core and multi-core performance was at least 47% and 38% better respectively. In fact, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s performance is actually comparable only to the A14 Bionic, a chip from three years ago.
On Geekbench 6’s GPU benchmark, the A17 Pro’s graphics performance was about 20% better than the A16 Bionic, and about 33% greater than the A15 Bionic. The M1 and M2 chips perform significantly better because they have 8 and 10-core GPUs respectively.
The A17 Pro recorded significant gains on Jetstream 2. Here, its scores were about 17% greater than the A16 Bionic and 41% better than the A15 Bionic. What’s incredible is that it managed to outperform even the M2 chip. Android devices have typically fared badly on this benchmark. Here, even Qualcomm’s latest isn’t a match for Apple’s A13 Bionic, which is a chip from four years ago.
On 3DMark, the A17 Pro was about 23% faster than the A16 Bionic, which once again corroborates Apple’s claims. What’s interesting is that it’s only about 15% slower than the M1 chip. Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chips offer much improved graphics performance and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5’s score was only about 5% less than the A17 Pro’s. That said, a lot clearly depends on implementation because the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which is also powered by the same chip (albeit with lower clock speeds), was a whopping 28% slower than the A17 Pro.
We now know that the A17 Pro is a supremely capable, but what about the rest of the phone? Stay tuned right here for the full review of the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max.
In the meantime, for more on Apple's latest iPhones, be sure to check out the following articles.
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