A14 Bionic FAQ: What you need to know about Apple’s 5nm processor

As it revealed the new iPad Air during its Time Flies event, Apple took the wraps off its latest mobile system-on-chip, the A14 Bionic. Built with a bleeding-edge 5-nanometer manufacturing process, it is Apple’s most advanced SoC ever and likely the fastest mobile chip on the planet.

Earlier this year, we took some educated guesses about what we might expect from the A14. Now that Apple has revealed a few details, this FAQ can tell you what this fantastic SoC is going to do for the Apple products in which it appears. As we get more information, we’ll update it.

The first 5nm chip

As expected, Apple claims to be the “first in the industry” to make use of the 5nm process technology to manufacture chips. That means smaller chip features and more transistors in a given amount of area. It also typically means lower power consumption for a given amount of work.

The process allows Apple to stuff 11.8 billion transistors into the A14. That’s about 40 percent more than the 8.5 billion in the A13.

All of this means more cores, more cache, and more advanced features.

Still a six-core CPU, but faster

Just as in the A11, A12, and A13, you’ll find six CPU cores in the A14; two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. Apple says the CPU has been given a “big update” in the A14, and that it runs more instructions in parallel.

Without further explanation of what that means, it seems safe to expect that that A14 has a wider superscalar design that can issue and process more instructions per core at once. That means more instructions per clock (IPC), which tends to offer better performance at lower clock speeds.

Apple says the A14 has “large high-performance caches” that are “sized to meet the needs of the most demanding applications.” That probably means an increase in L2 cache over the 8MB in the A13, or perhaps even the introduction of L3 cache, which hasn’t been seen in an Apple SoC yet.