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New data shows TSMC A9 chip slightly outpaces Samsung version in most battery tests


With the recent revelation that Apple had (not unexpectedly) sourced the A9 processor in the iPhone 6s from two different suppliers came the discovery that the model manufactured by Samsung is 10% smaller than the one built by TSMC.

Along with the size difference comes a difference in the power efficiency of each model, with many reports indicating—and Apple eventually confirming—that phones with the Samsung chip will likely see 2-3% lower battery life.

Today Ars Technica has published its own findings based on the results of a set of battery tests on each processor, showing that the TSMC hardware outpaces Samsung’s in most test categories, but not all.

ars battery test

For this test, Ars set each iPhone’s display to exactly 200 nits, removed the SIM card from each handset to ensure identical cellular activity, and ran a series of different tests to see how each processor fared.

As you can see in the chart above the TSMC chip has a slight edge in nearly every test, with just one exception: WebGL. In that test, the Samsung A9 actually saw a slight lead over TSMC’s, but for the most part the differences (including Samsung’s lead in the WebGL test) were negligible.

The Wi-Fi browsing test featured the second biggest gap between the two CPUs, and the total difference in that test was only 14 minutes. The GFXBench benchmark showed a 9-minute difference.

The largest gap came from the Geekbench benchmark, which showed a gap of one full hour between the handsets. That outlier aside, the results all line up with Apple’s claim of only 2-3% difference.

With most tests run over the past few days reaffirming Apple’s statement, it seems safe to say that the battery life between the two models is roughly the same, and probably not a big enough difference to cause any great concern. It’s unlikely you’ll see any significant hits to your battery if you happened to get a Samsung unit.

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  1. 89p13 - 7 years ago

    2 TSMC Units over here! :)

    Not that it really matters . . . ;)

    • migsimoes (@migsimoes) - 7 years ago

      and which app can we use to know it?

      • 89p13 - 7 years ago

        App Store and download Lirum Lite (free version) and the search these threads to find the processor code.

  2. haxxo - 7 years ago

    The tests accidentally don’t include cpu intensive tasks like video playback, gaming and shooting video. Of course battery is the same while browsing in safari because the cpu is barely used. This article is just playing to apple’s statement, they didn’t even try to show us a complete picture. I suspect gaming will show significant battery life differences.

    • prashyboby - 7 years ago

      I’m not sure how video playback is CPU intensive and web browsing is not…FYI browsing is CPU intensive if not you won’t have 10 hours battery life while playing videos and 5 hours while browsing.. in case of gaming, GPU is the one that consumes most of the power and weGL and GFXBench don’t seem to have much differences. So, i guess the claim of 2-3% variation in battery seems to be fair enough….

  3. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    “removed the SIM card from each handset to ensure identical cellular activity…”

    Huh? What cellular activity would there be without a SIM? Searching for a tower?

    Whatever. Talk about a non issue. But I guess there should be a *-gate after a new phone has left the gate.

    • WebGL is almost the same as a game as it uses OpenGL underneath the covers (just as a game uses OpenGL). GFXBench pegs both the CPU and GPU at 100% for long periods of time, this as about as intensive as you get.

      You are also very incorrect about web rendering not being CPU intensive, checkout AnandTechs analysis on CPU load when using Chrome ( Now I’m sure you will say “This is Android blah blah blah” but go ahead and check out and read about how WebKit does rendering of content works, you will see it is almost identical and Blink Chrome’s rendering engine is based on WebKit (in case you don’t know Safari is built on top of WebKit). If you were to run the rendering engines in a loop and not stop you would put the phone though heavy workload. Now I have no idea what this test means by “WiFi-Browsing” they could mean loading a page and stopping for a minute or the could mean loop, but there isn’t enough info here to support a claim of “the cpu is barely used.”.

      At any rate my point is I think you need to do some fact checking before you post half cocked assumptions.

  4. mechanic50 - 7 years ago

    My 6s Plus is phenomenal on battery who cares lol, and yes mine is a samsung A9. I am absolutely happy with my new iPhone 6s Plus. I came from a 5s. My 5s would be at 20 to 30% at the end of my work day, the 6s Plus is at 85 to 90% at the end of the same work day. I even go 2 days now without charging which is something I have never been able to do. This is a fact for me. This whole thing is much to do about NOTHING.

    • modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

      How do you know if your iPhone uses a Samsung A9 as opposed to a TSMC one?

      • twelve01 - 7 years ago

        There’s several apps that can determine that for you. See above.

  5. Gregory Wright - 7 years ago

    Don’t forget we are talking two manufacturers here. It should be expected that there would be difference +/- based on that fact alone.

  6. Jake Becker - 7 years ago

    I’ve got the good chip, 128 gb Space Grey 6S. Upgraded from 32 gb 5S. I can tell you that in my experience 9.0.2 thirsts for battery. 9.0 did NOT eat the way 9.0.2 does. 9 overall is now more rock solid but it just demolishes battery if you aren’t careful.

  7. Peter Evans (@evanspw) - 7 years ago

    Apple multi-source a few components, and have done for years. For instance, the wifi module, while using a Broadcom radio (included baseband on the same die) uses up to 3 different power amplifier vendors, and you have no idea which. The PA is a big determinant of power usage with wifi. Apple is notoriously tough on vendors and drives their road-maps, and is super-strict on test plans and overall performance. This whole TSMC/Samsung thing is a classic case of tech journalists wading in on an industry (semiconductors) they are completely clueless about.

  8. squpix (@squpix) - 7 years ago

    Strange, a few days ago Cam Burton did write an article about Jonathan Morrisons test scenario, where the difference wasn’t just 2-3% (afaik it was more like 10%). I also havn’t seen a test that does gaming & navigation, also CPU intensive tasks. There is a difference and some power users will suffer from Samsung’s A9 chip. So why try to neglect the issue? Because Apple said so?