- Apple’s Pro iPhone models for 2023—iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max—are powered by the all-new A17 Pro.
- With its newest chip, Apple drops “Bionic” from its nomenclature and replaces it with the “Pro” moniker, indicating “pro-level performance and capabilities” on its latest Pro iPhones.
- Based on the 3nm manufacturing process, the Apple A17 Pro boasts significant performance improvements in CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine processing and features hardware-based ray tracing, a new USB controller, and a dedicated AV1 decoder, among other meaningful upgrades over last year’s A16 Bionic.
The all-new iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are official. And just like the previous year, Apple is following a two-tier approach for upgrades this year, too, wherein it brings its latest piece of silicon to the Pro iPhone models, while the non-Pro iPhones (iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus) get the processing unit that powered last year’s Pro models.
Apple is calling its latest piece of silicon A17 Pro this year. It has dropped “Bionic” from the name and replaced it with “Pro,” indicating “pro-level performance and capabilities” coming to the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
However, this name change isn’t just symbolic. But it echoes some incredible changes that Apple has introduced on its latest silicon and truly justifies the change in nomenclature.
Here’s a closer look at the all-new Apple A17 Pro.
Table of Contents
A Smaller Node — An Industry First for Apple
Apple’s all-new A17 Pro chip is the first from the company based on TSMC’s 3nm semiconductor manufacturing process. To jog your memory, the previous chip from the company—the A16 Bionic—was built using the 5nm process, and the jump to 3nm this year is really substantial.
This is so because, with chipsets, smaller is almost always better. A smaller fabrication process allows more transistors to fit on a silicon die and, in turn, ensures the chipset performs faster, is more efficient, and runs cooler.
In case you’re interested in numbers, the A17 Pro has 19 billion transistors. This is a significant increase from last year’s A16 Bionic, which had 16 billion transistors and should translate into better efficiency at handling more complex tasks.
Faster CPU With Improved Core Performance
When it comes to cores, the A17 Pro uses the same six-core CPU configuration as previous chipsets. The configuration includes two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.
According to Apple, the high-performance cores are now up to 10% faster, bring in improved branch prediction, and include support for wider decode and execution engines. The company also said that the A17 Pro’s performance cores offer three times more performance per watt compared to its rivals.
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t share the core speeds, so we have to believe Apple’s performance improvement claims.
Two Times Faster Neural Engine
Apple’s Neural Engine, which shoulders the responsibilities of AI and ML workloads, is two times faster on the all-new A17 Pro chip. Apple says it can clock 35 trillion operations per second — double that of last year’s A16 Bionic, which could do 17 TOPS.
A two-fold increase in one year is a really impressive feat for Apple, and some of the areas that can benefit from this increase in speed include portraiture, autocorrect, on-device voice recognition, and high-resolution graphics rendering. Since this opens the ability to use machine learning on devices, the new iPhones no longer need to send your personal data to the cloud for different operations, thus ensuring better privacy.
A Pro Class GPU
Alongside improvements to the CPU, the A17 Pro also brings significant advancements in GPU performance. For one, the GPU now uses a six-core configuration instead of five from the previous year. Apple says this change allows for 20% faster performance on the A17 Pro over its predecessor. To put this into perspective, the jump in GPU performance from A15 Bionic to A16 Bionic last year was just 5%.
As if that isn’t a significant feat, Apple also adds support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing on the A17 Pro. For those unaware, ray tracing is a rendering technique used to produce realistic lighting effects. It’s commonly used in games to emulate realistic light behavior and give players a more immersive experience of the virtual world.
According to the company’s claims, the ray tracing on the new GPU in A17 Pro is four times faster than the A16 Bionic, which employed a software-based graphics rendering process. What’s more, the faster GPU, combined with the improved Neural Engine, also aids with upscaling. MetaFX, which is Apple’s graphics performance booster, can now take advantage of these two improved characteristics on the A17 Pro to produce high‑resolution graphics while using much less power.
For those interested in mobile gaming, this means you can now finally play console-quality games on the latest iPhone 15 Pro models. These include popular titles like Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, Death Stranding, which will be available later this year, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage, slated for release in the first half of 2024.
Apple A17 Pro: Other Meaningful Upgrades
All of the upgrades discussed so far are far-reaching and promise to introduce noticeable improvements in performance on the newly launched iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models. But the count doesn’t end there, as the latest A17 Pro includes a bunch of other meaningful upgrades that affect the capabilities of the new iPhones in many ways.
First up, the A17 Pro comes with a dedicated AV1 decoder, which enables it to deliver high-quality video experiences on streaming services. Then, there’s the new USB controller onboard that facilitates USB 3 transfer speeds (up to 10Gbps) via the USB-C port on the Pro 15 models for the first time.
Similarly, the A17 Pro also gets support for Wi-Fi 6E, which is an upgraded version of Wi-Fi 6 and extends the standard into the 6GHz RF band. As a result, you can expect faster wireless speeds and lower latency than the Wi-Fi 6 standard.
Pro Chipset for Pro Models
Apple’s decision to drop “Bionic” from the nomenclature and go with the “Pro” moniker begins to make a lot of sense when you take into account all the upgrades the all-new A17 Pro brings to the table.
Everything from a new node and improved CPU performance to a faster Neural Engine and pro-class GPU, the Apple A17 Pro truly is pro in more ways than one. And that totally makes it worthy of the Pro moniker and explains its use on the Pro iPhone models.
Apple’s A17 Pro is available on the all-new iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. In the US, the phones start at $999 and $1199, respectively. Meanwhile, if you live in India, the base models of these phones start at Rs 1,34,900 and Rs 1,59,900, respectively.