Apple finally unveiled the iPhone 15 Pro series and released its fastest mobile processor yet, the A17 Pro. It has done away with the “Bionic” moniker to better complement the Pro series. The A17 Pro packs a redesigned GPU, efficient CPU, powerful Neural engine, and much more. But how does it fare against the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor? To find out, we compare the Apple A17 Pro and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in a detailed manner. On that note, let’s go ahead and learn about their differences and similarities.
A17 Pro vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: Specifications
Take a look at the specs comparison between the Apple A17 Pro and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. It will give you a good overview of both mobile processors.
Specs Apple A17 Pro Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU Six-core CPU, 19 billion transistors Octa-core, Kryo CPU CPU Cores 2x High-performance cores
4x High-efficiency cores
1x 3.2GHz (Cortex-X3)
2x 2.8GHz (Cortex-A715)
2x 2.8GHz (Cortex-A710)
3x 2.0GHz (Cortex-A510)
Process Technology TSMC’s 3nm process TSMC’s 4nm process GPU Apple Pro-class 6-core GPU
Hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing
Adreno 740 GPU; Hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing Memory Support LPDDR5 LPDDR5X Machine Learning and AI 16-core Neural Engine; 35 TOPS New AI Engine, Hexagon Processor ISP Apple-designed Image Signal Processor Triple 18-Bit Spectra ISP; Cognitive ISP, Snapdragon Sight Camera Capability ProRAW photos at 48MP
Capture photos up to 200MP, 36MP triple shots with ZSL Video Capability 4K60 ProRes videos
Spatial video recording
4K HDR Dolby Vision @ 60FPS
8K HDR, Bokeh Engine 2 Modem Snapdragon X70 5G modem
Up to 10 Gbps Peak Download
Up to 3.5 Gbps Peak Upload
Snapdragon X70 5G modem
Up to 10 Gbps Peak Download
Up to 3.5 Gbps Peak Upload
WiFi Support Wi-Fi 6E Wi-Fi 7 Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.3 Bluetooth 5.3, LE Audio, Dual Bluetooth Antenna, aptX Lossless Others AV1 Decoder
Pro display engine
AV1 Codec Support
A17 Pro vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: CPU
In this comparison between Apple’s A17 Pro and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, let’s begin with the CPU first. In terms of architecture, Apple has gone with its traditional six-core setup. Most notably, A17 Pro is the first volume-produced chip to be manufactured on TSMC’s 3nm node — most likely on TSMC’s first-generation N3B process. This has resulted in 19 billion transistors on a single die.
The CPU includes two high-performance cores, which are said to be clocked at 3.70 GHz. It offers a 10% performance improvement over the earlier Everest cores. Besides that, Apple has packed four power-efficient CPU cores, which is the most efficient mobile CPU core, according to Apple. It offers 3x performance per watt against the competition, most likely referring to the A510 core. So in terms of both CPU performance and efficiency, Apple has done a solid job on the A17 Pro, thanks to TSMC’s latest 3nm process node.
Coming to the year-old Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it is built on TSMC’s 4nm node (N4 process) and has an octa-core CPU design. It comes with a 1+(2+2)+3 CPU cluster design with a single powerful Cortex-X3 core clocked at 3.2GHz, 2x Cortex-A715 cores clocked at 2.8GHz, 2x Cortex-A710 cores clocked at 2.8GHz, and 3x Cortex-A510 cores clocked at 2.0GHz.
As you can see, the max clock speed of the prime core on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is 3.2GHz, which is far below A17 Pro’s 3.70GHz frequency. It seems obvious that the A17 Pro is going to make a significant lead in single-threaded tasks. Even if we take into account the leaked CPU details of the upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip into account, Qualcomm doesn’t seem to be in a position to beat Apple this year. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is purported to come with a (1+3+2+2) CPU design and pack a prime Cortex-X4 core that is clocked at 3.39GHz which is still below 3.70GHz.
To give you a better understanding, here are the Geekbench 6 scores of all three chips. Take the leaked scores of Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 with a pinch of salt as OEMs are still tuning the chip to draw the best performance out of the processor.
Single-core (Geekbench 6) Multi-core (Geekbench 6) Apple A17 Pro (Leaked) 3269 7666 Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 1867 4949 Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 (Leaked) 2233 6661
A17 Pro vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: GPU
Moving to GPU, and things get pretty exciting this year. We know how Qualcomm beat Apple’s 5-core GPU with its Adreno 740 last year, both in performance and efficiency. So this year, Apple has gone all-in to take the GPU crown back from Qualcomm. Apple has designed a new Pro-class GPU on shader architecture for unparalleled performance and efficiency. The new GPU on the A17 Pro features 6 cores instead of 5. This results in 20% faster performance over its predecessor.
Note that, last year, the GPU performance difference between A15 Bionic and A16 Bionic was merely 5%. So, with Apple A17 Pro, the 20% YoY improvement does feel significant. Not only that, Apple has finally brought hardware-accelerated Ray tracing support with the Pro-class GPU on the A17 Pro.
Apple says that ray tracing on the new GPU is 4x faster than software-based graphics rendering available on the A16 Bionic. In addition, a new feature called MetalFX Upscaling utilizes both GPU and Neural Engine to deliver high-quality graphics while using less power.
Finally, you will be able to play console-quality games like Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, Death Stranding, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, and others, on the iPhone 15 Pro series. For gamers, the new Pro-class GPU on the A17 Pro really makes a case for itself. While the older Adreno 740 GPU on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has done a remarkable job and supports features like HW-accelerated ray tracing, the new 6-core GPU looks like a winner.
Of course, we will be comparing it with the upcoming Adreno 750 GPU on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, but for now, Apple has managed to pull ahead again.
A17 Pro vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: ISP
Apple didn’t talk much about the ISP (Image Signal Processor) on the A17 Pro at the event, but its Photonic engine now powers most of the camera capabilities, including Night mode, and portraits. In addition, Apple says Spatial video recording is coming to the iPhone 15 Pro series early next year. This will allow you to relive the memories with incredible depth on Apple Vision Pro. Besides that, you can already take 48MP ProRAW images and shoot 4K60 ProRes videos, thanks to its capable ISP.
Coming to Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it features an 18-bit triple ISP architecture with support for 8K HDR videos, the ability to take photos up to 200MP, and much more. So in terms of raw image processing prowess, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 looks better. However, from practical experience, we have seen that videos shot on iPhones are much better than flagship Android smartphones. So we can’t judge the ISP of both of these processors based on the specs sheet.
A17 Pro vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: AI and ML
The A17 Pro has made a multi-fold improvement in the AI and ML department. The new 16-core Neural Engine on the A17 Pro now offers 2x better performance than the A16 Bionic. Effectively, it can now perform 35 trillion operations per second (TOPS). That’s absolutely bonkers, right? To give you a rough idea, last year, the A16 Bionic scored only 17 TOPS and within a year, Apple has managed to double the performance.
On the other hand, Qualcomm has always done great work around its AI engine. The much older Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC was already performing 27 TOPS and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 made the AI engine even more efficient. Now, we need to see if Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 manages to pull ahead of Apple in the AI race.
A17 Pro vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: 5G Modem & Wireless
Apple didn’t spend much time on 5G connectivity, but yes the Apple A17 Pro includes a discrete 5G modem from Qualcomm. It’s likely the Snapdragon X70 5G modem that’s also integrated into Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Just recently, Apple extended its 5G chips agreement with Qualcomm to provide modems till 2026.
So as far as 5G connectivity is concerned, the A17 Pro packs a very capable modem that can deliver speeds up to 10Gbps and supports both mmWave and sub-6 GHz bands. Other than that, the A17 Pro brings Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 support.
As for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it packs the X70 5G modem and comes with all the latest radio advancements. On the local connectivity front, it features Bluetooth 5.3, LE, and Wi-Fi 7. Do note that this year Apple has added NavIC support with A17 Pro so both flagship chips now support India’s navigation satellite system.
Apple A17 Pro Races Ahead of Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
In many ways, the comparison between the Apple A17 Pro and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is unfair since the latter is almost a year-old chipset. However, it does give a peek into how far Apple has made improvements against the competition over a year. It also leaves a prescription for the incoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 as to what it needs to do to close the gap once again. From the comparison, it’s clear that Apple has again taken a significant lead in CPU, GPU, and AI departments. Now, all eyes are on Qualcomm whether it would pull ahead of Apple or not. Only time will tell.