As the competition in the PC processor market intensifies between Intel and AMD, Qualcomm has unveiled the Snapdragon 8cx, its first PC processor. Aimed mostly at ultraportable laptop market, Qualcomm claims that the 8cx is the first 7nm chip in a PC platform, though AMD is not far behind with the imminent release of its Zen 2 desktop chips. This new technology brings with it unrivaled efficiency improvements, and Qualcomm claims that the 8cx can perform as well as Intel’s 15-watt U-series processors, which are found on most ultrabooks, all while consuming just 7-watts.
The 8cx should also be able to support more memory. While the Snapdragon 850 laptops released earlier this year only had 4GB of RAM, the 8cx should be able to support up to 16GB of DDR4, offering greater memory speeds and bandwidth. It also offers support for PCI-E lanes, making it compatible with NVMe drives that should offer greater storage speeds.
On the graphics side of things, the 8cx carries an Adreno 680 GPU, which Qualcomm says is twice as fast as the current Adreno 630 found on Snapdragon 850 chips. This, combined with other improvements, means that the 8cx makes for a relatively competitive laptop processor, especially in the class of Apple’s MacBook Air or Microsoft’s Surface Pro.
However, we might not see devices based on the 8cx in the consumer market anytime soon. This is because Qualcomm has aimed the 8cx at the enterprise market, with the first devices expected in the third quarter of 2019. As the first Snapdragon platform “ready for Windows 10 enterprise customers,” Qualcomm has outfitted the 8cx with its X24 LTE modem, a common feature among business-grade laptops. Already, Qualcomm’s X16 modem is on many of these business devices, such as the Surface Pro series. The X24 is expected to bring to the 8cx greater LTE speeds, although it will not compatible with up and coming 5G networks.
As the first serious new entrant to a PC processor market traditionally dominated by Intel, we are all excited to see how the 8cx will perform in the real world. Being built on ARM technology, we can expect to see great efficiency improvements over current processors. However, compatibility with current apps might be an issue, as many current desktop applications these days are designed for an x86-based and not an ARM-based platform. For Qualcomm’s 8cx to gain widespread adoption and market share, we would need to see more apps made compatible for ARM processors. Only time will tell if this will be the case.