Apple's Neural Engine (ANE) is the marketing name for a group of specialized cores functioning as a neural processing unit (NPU) dedicated to the acceleration of artificial intelligence operations and machine learning tasks.
The first Neural Engine was introduced in September 2017 as part of the Apple A11 "Bionic" chip. It consisted of two cores that could perform up to 600 billion operations per second for real-time processing of machine learning algorithms dedicated to features such as Animoji and Face ID. However, an API was not yet available for 3rd-party developers. The Neural Engine in the Apple A12 (also called "Bionic") was expanded to eight cores that could process up to 5 trillion operations per second. An API named Core ML was released in 2018 to allow developers to take advantage of the Neural Engine, which ran up to nine times faster on the A12 while using one-tenth of the power of the version in the A11. The 8-core Neural Engine within the Apple A13 that was released in September 2019 was 20% faster while using 15% less power. The Apple A14 was released in October 2020 with the number of Neural Engine cores doubled to 16, providing the ability to perform up to 11 trillion operations per second. The Apple M1 was released in November 2020 with improved overall performance and power efficiency, but a Neural Engine that was largely unchanged from the A14. The Apple A15 was announced in September 2021 with 16 Neural Engine cores like earlier models, but with the ability to perform up to 15.8 trillion operations per second.
Neural Engine version history
|SoC||Introduced||Process||Neural cores||Peak ops/sec.||Note|
|Apple A11||September 2017||10 nm||2||600 billion|
|Apple A12||September 2018||7 nm||8||5 trillion||90% lower power consumption.|
|Apple A13||September 2019||7 nm||8||6 trillion||15% lower power consumption.|
|Apple A14||October 2020||5 nm||16||11 trillion|
|Apple M1||November 2020||5 nm||16||11 trillion|
|Apple A15||September 2021||5 nm||16||15.8 trillion|
|Apple M1 Pro
Apple M1 Max
|October 2021||5 nm||16|
- Apple’s ‘Neural Engine’ Infuses the iPhone With AI Smarts by Tom Simonite, Wired. 2017-09-13.
- Apple says its new A13 Bionic chip brings hours of extra battery life to new iPhones by Sean Hollister, The Verge. 2019-09-10.
- All-new iPad Air with advanced A14 Bionic chip available to order starting today, Apple Inc. 2020-10-16.
- Apple unleashes M1, Apple Inc. 2020-11-10.
- Apple Event — September 14 by Apple, YouTube. 2021-09-14.
- The Neural Engine — what do we know about it? by Matthijs Hollemans at GitHub
- What is Apple’s neural engine? at Quora
- Neural processor at Wikichip
- Apple A11: Neural Engine at Wikipedia
- The iPhone X’s new neural engine exemplifies Apple’s approach to AI by James Vincent at The Verge (2017-09-13)
- Here’s why Apple believes it’s an AI leader—and why it says critics have it all wrong by Samuel Azon at Ars Technica (2020-08-06)
- Apple Reveals a Multi-Mode Planar Engine for a Neural Processor that could be used in A-Series & screamingly fast M1 Processors by Jack Purcher at Patently Apple (2021-04-08)