A15 Bionic Chip Vs M1 [Performance & Benchmarks]

A15 Bionic Chip Vs M1, what’s the difference? As we all know by now, Apple’s M1 powered Macbooks and Mac Mini use ARM processors. This move made a major impact on the world of computing and showed that ARM is more than just a low power, efficiency-oriented instruction set. 

Apple has another new processor called the A15 bionic. On the surface, when comparing the two chips, they can look pretty similar. So, a lot of people are wondering what kind of performance difference there is between the two processors. After all, they are both ARM designs based on a similar architecture.

While the A15 Bionic and the M1 are based on the same instruction set, they are not the same type of processor and serve two different use-cases. The M1 is much more performance oriented and is made for getting the most work done above all else. In contrast, the A15 Bionic is made for more casual and consumptive computing tasks and is designed to be able to do that for as long as possible. As you would expect, this means that most of the time, you will find the M1 in desktops and laptops, and the A15 Bionic in smartphones and tablets.    

In this article, we will talk about all the major differences in the A15 Bionic chip vs M1. We will also explain what they have in common, and how they are fundamentally different from traditional desktop and laptop CPUs 

A15 Bionic Chip Vs M1

It had already been the case for many years that Apple had been using ARM processors in its phones and tablets, but the M1 is fundamentally different from the processors found in iPhones. 

The M1 processor was specifically designed for desktop and laptop work loads. The A15 Bionic, on the other hand, was designed for tablets and smartphones. Just because they are both ARM designs from the same company doesn’t mean that they will be of a similar performance level.  

Apple has, however, somewhat blurred the line between what we consider mobile and personal computers. I say this because they equipped the iPad Pro and iPad Air 5 with the M1 processor. The iPad Pro having an M1 makes more sense to me, but when I think of a small, light tablet with the power of a desktop, I can’t decide if its absolute genius or complete overkill. 

How Many Types Of M1 And A15 Bionic Are There?

Device Chip Active CPUs Active GPUs
2020 Macbook Pro M1 8 8
2020 Macbook Air M1 8 7
2020 iPhone 13 A15 6 4
2020 iPhone 13 Pro A15 6 5
2020 iPad Mini A15 6 4

Even though they are both based on the ARM instruction set, the A15 Bionic and the M1 are totally different animals. I would say it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but apples and oranges are both fruit and can indeed be compared.

Before we go into the details regarding how the A15 Bionic and M1 are different, we must first cover how they are the same. The A15 Bionic and M1 are both built on a 5nm fabrication process. They do, however, have a different transistor count.

The A15 Bionic has only 15 billion transistors, while the M1 has 16 billion. More transistors generally makes for a more powerful processor and more complicated design.

Out With The Old, In With The New

The real magic in both processors lies in its adoption of the ARM instruction set. To put things in simple terms, an instruction set is the base level of how a computer operates.

You can either design an instruction set to be either extremely efficient or provide perfect backwards compatibility. You cannot have both. In the example of traditional desktop and laptop computers that use x86 chips, every new x86 chip has to support the complete instruction set of all of the chips that came before it.

This means that if you buy the latest AMD Ryzen or Intel Core processor, it will still support software written for the very first x86 chip, the intel 8086. While it is true that this level of backward compatibility is what enabled computer technology to flourish in the first place, it has now become a hindrance.

The world is a much different place than it was back then, as mobile computers make up the overwhelming majority of the market share. Also, 30 years of backward compatibility has become cumbersome to deal with at this point.

The ARM Instruction Set Takes A Different Approach

ARM processors don’t have to include backward compatibility with dozens of generations of microprocessors. Instead, ARM has developed new, high efficiency instructions. These new instructions don’t rely on or have to worry about interfering with old, outdated instructions.

This makes generating 3d graphics, displaying and creating video, and storing files in memory much easier. When you don’t have to consider 30 or more years of previous computing history in order to make the next big thing, everything is a lot easier.

For this reason, ARM processors are called RISC (Reduced Instructions Set Computers) and x86 processors are called CISC (Complex Induction Set Computer). This is why ARM processors are used in phones and tablets, even if they are not produced by Apple.

Almost every mobile device on earth uses ARM technology. This is because even though x86 technology can scale up really well, it has a real hard time scaling down. When it comes to battery life, a RISC processor will always use dramatically less power than a CISC processor given the same task.

What Does This Mean For The Future Of Computing?

Quite a bit. The fact that Apple is making this move to the ARM instruction set is a big deal. It shows that computer companies don’t have to rely on specialized processor design houses like Intel to make the latest and greatest thing.

ARM’s licensing model makes it so there are 2 paths to designing an ARM-based processor. You can either license one of their ready-made Cortex cores or design your own. If you choose to license a core, all you have to do is specify your parameters and ARM will give you papers that you can provide to a fabrication facility to provide your very own CPU.

That is the cheaper, easier, faster way of making an ARM processor. That is not what Apple did. Apple did it the hard way. Instead of simply licensing a complete core, Apple chose to license just the instruction set.

Apple then used that instruction set to design their own totally custom CPU. In doing that, Apple has showed what kind of power ARM processors can provide on the desktop. It’s just a matter of time before more and more manufacturers either choose to license ARM cores for their products, or license the ARM instruction set to make custom CPUs for their products.

Where Have We Seen This Before?

Apple! This is what they do. When Apple sees a promising technology, they wait until is at a particular stage of development, then they pounce on it. Because the company has such a keen sense on when the timing is right, and have such great engineers to further develop the technology, it seems like they were the first ones to do it.

This was the case with the GUI and Mouse, the touch-screen phone, and the digital music player. In those cases and more, Apple took an already existing technology and made it something really great that every could instantly understand that they needed.

How Powerful is a15 bionic?

The A15 Bionic is all about doing the most amount of computing while using the least amount of power. While the M1 is indeed a very power efficient processor, power efficiency is not the primary focus of the M1.

When it comes to the number of cores and their configuration, you can begin to see some of the major differences between the A15 Bionic vs M1. The A15 has just 6 CPU cores. The core configuration in the A15 Bionic is 2 high-performance ones and 4 energy-efficient cores. 

This does not mean the A15 Bionic is slow. In fact, the A15 Bionic is an extremely powerful mobile processor. This makes sense because the M1 is designed for performance but is still extremely power-efficient.  When it comes to the A15 Bionic Chip vs M1, they are just two different CPUs that are focused on two different market sectors that have totally different use cases. The flexibility of the ARM architecture makes such things possible.

The M1 Is More Performance Oriented

In contrast, the Apple M1 has 8 CPU core, with a configuration of 4 high-performance cores and 4 energy-efficient cores. Knowing that, you can clearly see that the A15 Bionic is engineered to be power efficient, while the M1 is engineered to be powerful.

Even though the 2020 M1 Macbook Pro has excellent battery life, its not designed with efficiency as the primary aspect. The 2020 M1 Macbook is an absolute performance monster.

The reviews are in, and the 2020 Macbook Pro absolutely flies. The Macbook pro is considerably faster and runs for much longer on a charge compared to just anything in its price bracket. So, if you are looking for the most powerful laptop you can get that can run for as long as possible, its a no brainer to go with the Macbook Pro.

A15 Bionic vs M1 nano review

Its not just the number of cores, either. When it comes to the A15 Bionic Chip vs M1, they use completely different versions of the ARM architecture. The M1 is designed to work with performance intensive tasks. The A15, on the other hand, is designed for casual workloads.

Remember, ARM is a very specific, but very adaptable instruction set. This makes processor design extremely flexible. The ARM instruction set makes allows a company to design two different processors that perform totally differently.

Even though the M1 and A15 Bionic are both ARM-based processors, their architectures are fundamentally different.

The M1 Has Much More Powerful Graphics 

The M1 has 8 graphics cores and is capable of 2.6 teraflops (trillions of floating point operations per second)! As you would expect, its because it has more graphics cores than the A15 bionic. Also, those graphics cores are much more powerful than the ones found in the A15 bionic. 

The M1 has more powerful CPUs than the A15, which means it will make better use of the better graphics.

The M1 is not the only one with a crippled version. The A15 Bionic also has a variant that has a graphics core disabled to meet certain requirements. So remember, even though the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPad Mini, and iPhone 13 Mini all have the A15 Bionic, only the iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Mini have the full graphics horsepower of the A15 Bionic enabled. 

What Devices Use The M1?

Apple’s M1 SoC is in the 2020 MacBook Air and 2020 Mac Mini. You can also find it in the 2020 MacBook Pro. The M1 SoC is also used in the 2021 24-inch iMac. In addition to those devices, you can also find an M1 at the heart of the 3rd generation 11-inch iPad Pro and 5th generation iPad Air.

What Devices Use The A15 Bionic?

The A15 Bionic is used in the standard iPhone 13, and the iPhone 13 mini. Its also the chip running the iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. It’s also powering the 6th generation iPad Mini and the 3rd generation iPhone SE.

Keep in mind that Apple only equips iPhone SE devices with lower-end processors. This means that Apple either considered the A15 to be low end, or has something really big coming soon.

A15 Bionic Chip Vs M1 – Conclusion

When it comes to A15 Bionic Chip Vs M1 SoC, there are some major differences, but they are both extremely powerful processors.

The A15 Bionic and the M1 are both ARM processors by Apple. These processor are, however, made designed for two totally different use-cases. The A15 Bionic is designed for content consumption and communication. The A15 is designed to be able to do that for as long as possible on a single charge. The M1, on the other hand, is designed for getting the most work done as fast as possible. So, A15 devices will have a longer running time and M1 devices will be more powerful. 

We hope this article helped you learn more about the difference between the A15 Bionic and M1. Thanks for reading.