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Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx First Impressions: ‘Extreme’ portable computing gets serious

With the new Snapdragon 8cx, Qualcomm is taking Intel Core i5 heads on.

snapdragon 8cx reference design


  • The Snapdragon 8cx is made on 7nm process.

  • The chipset is designed for Windows 10 Always Connected PCs.

  • It is capable of offering multi-day battery life.

Over the past few years, the PC and tablet market has been on a steady decline, while smartphone shipments are growing. Smartphones offer the mobility, high-speed connectivity and battery life, and while tablets are pitched as laptop replacement, they actually aren’t. Qualcomm and Microsoft partnered for Windows 10 Always Connected PCs last year, and we have seen a handful of devices in select markets.

While Always Connected PCs powered by Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 850 run Windows 10 OS, they still aren’t convincing enough to be able to replace Intel chipset powered laptops. Qualcomm wants to change that perception with its newly announced Snapdragon 8cx chipset that is specially designed for Windows 10 Always Connected PCs.

Watch: Microsoft Surface Book 2 First Look

Snapdragon 8cx is the world’s first chipset for compute platform to made on 7nm process, something that Intel and AMD will possibly take time to catch-up with. Qualcomm demonstrated the chipset capabilities on a reference design machine at the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 in Maui, Hawaii, which just got concluded today. I spent some time using the reference device and here’s a look at the capabilities of the Snapdragon 8cx chipset.

Talking about performance, Qualcomm says that the new compute platform is two times faster than the Snapdragon 850 SoC, and about 3.5 times faster than the Snapdragon 835 chipset that was designed for Windows 10 Always Connected PCs. The new chipset features a Kryo495 octa-core CPU where four are high-frequency Cortex A76 cores, like prime cores on the Snapdragon 855, and the remaining are Cortex-A55 efficiency cores.

The compute platform can run both ARM-based apps that you download from the Windows App Store, and the legacy X86 programs as well. In the demo, Qualcomm had Photoshop and Lightroom running at the same time, and the photo editing was pretty smooth. It may not be ideal for heavy duty photo and video editing, but the chipset seemed as powerful as the Intel Core i5 laptops.

Even with Firefox running 8 tabs, including one YouTube video at full HD, some websites and Gmail, switching between apps was effortless, something that my Intel Core i5 powered PC with 8GB RAM cannot do swiftly.

The chipset also comes with an Adreno 680 GPU which is two times faster than the one on the previous chipset. Qualcomm has also enabled HDR playback and the GPU supports two 4K HDR external monitors via USB Type-C, and screen refresh rate of 60Hz.

There were a couple of demos that Qualcomm had shown where a video was being played on one screen and a PowerPoint presentation on the other. The output was glitch-free, even for the reference design model.

Qualcomm is also claiming that the chipset is designed to offer multi-day battery life on a single charge. Basically, it can last for an entire working day, or more, depending on your usage. This would be good for those who often travel for work, and need a powerful laptop, that also delivers on battery life. It also supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+, which means would be able to fully charge the battery in under two hours.

Lastly, talking about connectivity, it comes integrated with Qualcomm X24 LTE modem, with peak LTE speeds up to 2Gbps. OEMs can either add a physical SIM card capability or have an eSIM, completely up to them. And if you are thinking whether or not the Snapdragon 8cx will support X50 5G modem, that is a bit of mystery for now. The company said they are working on a 5G Always Connected PC as well, but the will talk more about it sometime next year.

Sure, the Windows 10 Always Connected PCs powered by Snapdragon 8cx look promising ever than before. If priced properly, they can give mainstream laptops a run for their money. And the Snapdragon 8cx powered laptops can be in a regular form factor, or convertibles, which is an added advantage. I will be eagerly waiting to get my hands on a laptop powered by the new chipset to see if it can replace my existing laptop. Laptops powered by Snapdragon 8cx are expected in the second half of 2019.

Disclaimer – The writer is in Hawaii, attending the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 on Qualcomm’s invite. Qualcomm took care of his travel and stay.

  • Published Date: December 7, 2018 10:45 AM IST