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In context: During Apple's Wonderlust event, it seemed eager to hype the iPhone 15 Pro's ability to handle AAA games, calling the device the "next generation of mobile gaming." Cupertino claims the phone can natively run big, high-fidelity games like Assassin's Creed Mirage, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and even Death Stranding, with hardware-accelerated ray tracing.
All these titles and more are getting native iOS ports, but can the iPhone 15 truly handle such taxing games? The answer is not a simple yes. Wccftech notes that in leaked pre-release Geekbench 6 tests, the iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro only held a single-digit advantage over the A16 Bionic. More recent benchmarks show the A17 with a considerably better 20-percent improvement over the A16. That seems like a modest gain, but it might be enough extra juice to drive a triple-A game.
As it turns out, it is enough horsepower to play a game like Resident Evil Village, but not without some "beefy" exterior cooling solution. Chinese hardware reviewer Geekerwan performed extensive tests with the iPhone 15 Pro Max and revealed that it experiences extreme thermal throttling with surface temperatures reaching 48C (118F) during benchmarking.
Apple claimed that the A17 Pro was four times faster than the A16 Bionic when performing ray-tracing tasks. This brag might be valid for a short run, but for a gaming session of more than a few minutes, the device gets so hot that thermal throttling kicks in, dropping frames per second from the mid-40s to around 30fps while running Resident Evil Village.
While this news is somewhat disappointing, it's too early to say that the iPhone 15 pro won't run AAA games well. The primary reason is that the RE Village game Geekerwan used was not the official iOS version, which doesn't even have a solid launch date yet. He sideloaded it to the device, probably running on an emulator, which is not a one-to-one comparison.
Capcom will presumably (hopefully?) do quite a bit of optimization for the official iOS release. As we know, optimization is a crucial part of game design on any platform, including high-end PCs. It is the difference between a game struggling to run like crap or cruising along buttery smooth. For example, the highly optimized Genshin Impact ran on the A17 Pro at a smooth 59.1fps. Unfortunately, that was only marginally better than the A16 Bionic which could run it at 56.5fps.
While it's wise to hold our expectations in check, it seems premature to write off the iPhone 15 as a gaming device, sight unseen. Let's see how it performs while running the official port.