In addition to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile chip for flagship Android phones and the new Snapdragon G3x chip for Android-based handhelds, Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, a new ARM-based chip for Windows laptops.
The 5nm chip vastly improves upon the previous generation by a considerable margin with 85 percent faster CPU performance and 60 percent faster GPU speed. But everyone wants to know how it compares to Apple’s M1 chip. Will 8cx-powered Windows laptops be able to compete with Apple silicon-powered MacBooks in terms of performance and power?
Earlier this month at an investor event, Qualcomm’s CTO, Dr. James Thompson, said the next generation of Qualcomm laptop chips would be a competitive solution to Apple’s M-series chips. The chip is being developed by Nuvia, the chip startup comprised of ex-Apple engineers, that Qualcomm purchased earlier this year for $1.4 billion.
With hardware partners not expected to get samples until next year, it won’t be until 2023 when consumers will be able to see how 8xc Gen 3 chips fare against M1 MacBooks. And by then, Apple will likely have leapfrogged ahead with even more powerful and more power-efficient chips.
Better than before — With no side-by-side comparisons with similar Intel or AMD-powered hardware, it’s hard to say where the 8cx Gen 3 chip ranks on the whole. However, the 8cx Gen 3 is better than the previous 8xc Gen 2 chip. In addition to improved performance, Qualcomm’s pumped up the chip’s AI processing, wireless connectivity, and power efficiency.
With support for Microsoft’s DirectX 12 API, the chip is able to play PC games, which can run up to 120 fps at full HD, according to Qualcomm. The new 8cx Gen 3 chip is three times faster at processing AI tasks.
Qualcomm also claims the 8cx Gen 3’s chip efficiency is rated for 25 hours of use. Actual usage hours will likely be lower based on what tasks you’re doing.
Remote work-ready — Qualcomm has also made improvements that could prove very useful to those who work remotely. Like with the new 8 Gen 1 smartphone chip and G3x gaming handheld chip, the 8cx Gen 3 supports Qualcomm’s latest 5G with a max download speed of 10 Gbps on mmWave or sub-6; Wi-Fi 6 and 6E are also supported.
To take advantage of the fast, stable connections, the chip supports up to a 4K webcam at 30 fps for videoconferencing, with the option for HDR. On top of that, the 8cx Gen 3 can handle webcams with 24-megapixel resolutions or “up to 4 concurrent cameras,” though I’m not sure how many laptop makers will make full use of that.
ARM-based future — With Microsoft partnering with AMD to develop its own ARM-based chips for Windows devices, all signs are pointing to ARM being the go-to choice for laptops in the future. Apple’s M-series chips are proof of how potent laptops can be without x86 architecture.
Qualcomm at least has an upper hand in the 5G connectivity department, but with Apple opting to develop its own 5G modem, it’s not hard to see future Apple laptops with built-in 5G, too. Nevertheless, whether Qualcomm can develop a Windows chip that can keep up with the M1, is still to be seen. Hopefully, by 2023 we’ll know if Qualcomm can set itself apart in the laptop world as it has in the smartphone world.