On the second day of the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii, Qualcomm launched several new hardware platforms for computers, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Snapdragon 7cx +. 8cx Gen 3 is the front edge of the whole “c” series, and if you don’t already know, x stands for “extreme”.
Photos credit: Eliane Fiolet, co-founder, Ubergism.
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 has architectural similarities to the newly announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip for smartphones. However, its size and thermal requirements vary drastically as it runs on a laptop.
Over the past few years, Qualcomm has steadily gained increasing appeal with its “always connected” PC platforms, especially as Microsoft continues to improve Windows for ARM and more software vendors such as Adobe provide optimized applications for 8c / 7c chips.
As an “always on, always connected” platform, the new Snapdragon 8cx gets flawless WI-FI 6E and Bluetooth, along with great 5G broadband options with Qualcomm X55, X62 or X65 5G modems.
Different modem options correspond to different 5G availability and prices in specific countries or market segments. As a reminder, the X55 modem runs phones like the American version of the Galaxy S21. The X65 is a leader in Qualcomm’s line of 5G modems, with support for all global 5G networks and the simultaneous use of dual mmWave and sub-6 bands.
But I don’t think anyone was worried about Qualcomm’s connectivity performance, so the next topic is computer performance. On that front, Qualcomm’s updated Snapdragon 8cx architecture and new 5nm manufacturing process represent one-two performance over the competition.
According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 gives an advantage 85% better CPU i 60% faster graphics than 8cx Gen 2. This is a very impressive advancement that you don’t see often in the PC world.
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 AI processor also got a big performance boost of 3X. Qualcomm uses it for many things such as noise removal, face recognition and other things related to user experience and security. The AI unit is used at the system / driver level instead of being directly accessed by applications.
The integrated image signal processor (ISP) has no equivalent in the world of computers and can control up to four high-resolution cameras simultaneously. This is an area where OEMs using the Qualcomm platform may differ from their X86 counterparts as demand for high-quality videos has risen sharply.
To this day, the situation with a webcam on a laptop is pretty desperate, and even medium-range selfie cameras are noticeably better.
Qualcomm started the ARM revolution on Windows laptops in many ways, and today even Intel has adopted ARM’s BIG.little mantra using a heterogeneous CPU cluster. Since the launch of the original Snapdragon 8cx, Apple has successfully entered the ARM laptop with its huge M1 series of processors.
We haven’t done any gauges yet, but I guess the connection and ultra long battery life are still on all the time main value proposition Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. Additional performance will be highly appreciated and it will be interesting to see where the new platforms are compared to competitors.
Qualcomm says it is significantly faster and more energy efficient than Intel, but has not said which platform it compares to.
We can certainly believe the claims about energy efficiency because Intel has yet to launch its new Core 12th generation processors in laptops. We recently reviewed the Intel Core Gen 12 CPU Desktop, and Intel is back with outstanding performance with good potential for greater efficiency. Can Intel outperform Qualcomm’s energy efficiency? Maybe not, but I expect things to look much better for Intel in that regard.
We also recently reviewed ultra-light computers with very long battery life, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 nano, but none would get a “multi-day” battery life as Qualcomm says it has, nor an equivalent broadband connection.
Another thing to consider is the value of the Snapdragon laptop. Suppose you use metrics such as build quality, battery life, and productivity for price. In that case, a $ 999 design of a laptop like the Samsung Galaxy Book S offers great value and a user experience.
Despite all the talk of “absolute performance”, pure speed is not the ultimate game for millions of users who use Windows computers for communication, “office work” and relaxed gaming. This is what the current (niche) market is for the always included laptop, and the Snapdragon 8cx is tailored for delivery. Find your audience and make them VERY happy. It grows from there.
In my opinion, the relative lack of native ARM software remains the primary point of friction for the Snapdragon computing platform, and it’s really up to Microsoft and software developers to make ARM applications first-class citizens.
Meanwhile, X86 compatibility exists with Snapdragon laptops, but some users are reluctant to use any “CPU translation” mechanism that could remotely harm performance, even so little. In any case, Qualcomm must constantly convince potential customers of this.
Second, the cost of 5G data plans should be considered. Depending on the situation, it can be included in people’s existing plans or it can become an additional monthly expense. The value of Snapdragon laptops relies heavily on their world-class connectivity.
In the end, the new Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is objectively a terrible technological update, but its place within the larger PC ecosystem is subject to factors that Qualcomm does not fully control. At the Snapdragon Summit, Microsoft looked optimistic about Windows for ARM, and it should because there is pressure from ARM-based hardware on Chrome OS and Mac.
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