Peek Performance: Apple takes giant leap with iPhone SE, assorted hardware

Apple revealed the latest M1 Ultra chip alongside its most affordable iPhone yet, powered by its A15 Bionic.
24 March 2022

Peek Performance: Apple just made a giant leap with its silicon, Mac and iPhone SE . (Photo by Brooks Kraft / Apple, Inc. / AFP)

  • M1 Ultra is a new addition to Apple Silicon lineup, two M1 Max chips put together and is 8x faster than the prior M1 chip
  • The most affordable Apple iPhone SE features the A15 Bionic, 5G, better battery life, improved durability, and new camera system
  • Even the new iPad Air has the M1 chip, delivering a massive leap in performance

A while ago, we wrote about the possibility of Apple launching a new and more powerful iPhone SE, iPad and potentially an upgraded Mac too. Aptly, the tech giant unveiled exactly those, among other upgrades, during its Peek Performance event in early March. The iPhone maker even unveiled a new addition to the Apple Silicon lineup — its most powerful ARM-based custom processor yet — the M1 Ultra.

Apple claims that the M1 Ultra is “the next giant leap for Apple silicon and the Mac”. The M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips put together with a new interconnected architecture that Apple calls UltraFusion. “Featuring UltraFusion — Apple’s innovative packaging architecture that interconnects the die of two M1 Max chips to create a system on a chip (SoC) with unprecedented levels of performance and capabilities,” it said.

The M1 Ultra will give more computing juice to the new Mac Studio, also announced last night, while still maintaining an industry-leading performance per watt. Notably, the new SoC consists of 114 billion transistors, the most ever in a personal computer chip. Since it essentially doubles the resources of the M1 Max, the M1 Ultra features a 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine, all of which is twice that of the M1 Max.

Apple at the end of 2020 unveiled its M1 chip, the first “Apple Silicon” hardware that turned the MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and other devices into portable powerhouses. Then in 2021, Apple released its M1 Pro and M1 Max, which delivered even more powerful performance for the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. 

M1 Ultra: “The most powerful chip for personal computer”

In the words of Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, Johny Srouji: “With its powerful CPU, massive GPU, incredible Neural Engine, ProRes hardware acceleration, and huge amount of unified memory, M1 Ultra completes the M1 family as the world’s most powerful and capable chip for a personal computer.” 

Srouji reckons “M1 Ultra is another game-changer for Apple silicon that once again will shock the PC industry. By connecting two M1 Max die with our UltraFusion packaging architecture, we’re able to scale Apple silicon to unprecedented new heights.”

All in all, Apple has introduced its in-house silicon — M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and now M1 Ultra —  to nearly every Mac in the current lineup. The M1 Ultra will power the new Mac Studio, “a high-performance desktop system with a reimagined compact design made possible by the industry-leading performance per watt of Apple silicon,” the company said.

Apple also unveiled its latest iPad Air that is built with its M1 chip — delivering a massive leap in performance. Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak noted that “With the breakthrough M1 chip, Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage, and ultra-fast 5G, iPad Air is now more powerful, more capable, and simply more fun than ever.”

Apple introduces iPhone SE with the “ultimate smartphone chip”

The latest iPhone SE is Apple’s first revamp of its budget handset in two years and as prior reports anticipated, the low-cost iPhone is indeed powered by Apple’s own A15 processor — the same chip that went into last year’s premium iPhones.

Basically, the new iPhone SE is stocked with performance upgrades, such as the A15 Bionic SoCwhich powers advanced camera capabilities and improves upon the digital experience from the previous iteration. “Along with 5G, longer battery life, and improved durability,” Apple continued in its statement.

Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing, Kaiann Drance, believes that delivering the latest generation of innovation and performance at the price of its latest iPhone SE, is something only Apple can do. “And with 5G, iPhone SE gives users faster downloads and uploads, higher quality video streaming, real-time interactivity in apps, and much more.”

The A15 Bionic packs a powerful 6-core CPU, the fastest CPU in a smartphone, with two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, making iPhone SE up to 1.8x faster than iPhone 8, and even faster compared to older models

To top it off, the 16-core Neural Engine is capable of 15.8 trillion operations per second, enabling faster machine learning computations for third-party applications. The A15 Bionic, according to Apple, works in conjunction with the latest-generation battery chemistry as well as tight integration with iOS 15, in order to enable better battery life on iPhone SE.