Qualcomm Unleashes Snapdragon 8cx A Dramatically More Powerful Platform To Take On Intel In ACPCs

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The final day of the Qualcomm Snapdragon Technology Summit is wrapping up, which means that the chip company is saving the best for last. Well, that is if you've been following the whole Windows on ARM initiative that Microsoft and Qualcomm have been pushing for the past two years. Qualcomm just unveiled the latest product in a series that started off with the Snapdragon 835 and was then succeeded by the Snapdragon 850. Meet the new Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform.

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This represents a new naming convention for Qualcomm, and should help to differentiate its PC computing efforts from its other solutions in the smartphone market where the company has a much stronger foothold. Like the Snapdragon 855 for flagship Android smartphones that was announced earlier this week, the Snapdragon 8cx is built on 7nm process tech. However, Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon 8cx features the most powerful CPU and GPU that it has ever created, while still operating within a 7-watt TDP.

With respect to the CPU, Qualcomm is employing its new Kryo 495 architecture, which is a 64-bit octa-core design. Although Qualcomm isn't providing any deep dives into the architectural choices made with the Kryo 495 just yet, it does say that it is equipped with a larger cache than its predecessors while being able to better handle multitasking duties (which was often a soft spot with its previous gen Snapdragon 835 ACPC platform). However, as before, the ARM-based design allows for fanless systems that consume a fraction of the power of competing x86-based platforms from Intel and AMD. This is claimed to allow thin-and-light machines based on Snapdragon 8cx to offer "multi-day” battery life that is unmatched in the PC realm.

8cx battery
As for the GPU, Qualcomm has upgraded that engine to the new Adreno 680, which doubles the memory interface from 64 bits to 128 bits to further fuel the graphics needs of this mobile platform. At this early stage in the game, Qualcomm isn't quite ready to provide generational performance comparisons for the Snapdragon 8xc’s compute performance versus its most immediate predecessor, the Snapdragon 850. However, the company did note that its new Adreno 680 GPU doubles the performance of its predecessor while offering an impressive 60 percent power savings.

Snapdragon 8cx Block Diagram

As important as the CPU and GPU are, connectivity options are also important to Windows on ARM customers. In this case, the Snapdragon 8cx incorporates a 2Gbps Snapdragon X24 LTE modem in keeping with Qualcomm's "Always Connected" mantra, while 802.11ac/802.11ad Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 are also supported. USB 3.1 Type-C support is included, along with PCIe Gen 3 connectivity, NVMe SSDs and UFS3.0 storage. The Snapdragon 8xc also supports Quick Charge 4+ technology, which hastens the charging process (although that is less of a concern given the efficiency of this PC-centric Snapdragon Compute platform). Qualcomm also notes that you can now drive up to two 4K HDR monitors with Snapdragon 8cx-equipped machines.

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Other items of note include a fourth-generation AI engine (Hexagon 685 DSP) with on board Tensor cores, support for Alexa and Cortana voice assistants, Qualcomm's Spectra 390 ISP (with support for 4K30 HDR recording), and support for 8-channel LPDDR4x memory.

Snapdragon 8cx Reference Design 1
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Reference Design

“As the fastest Snapdragon platform ever, the Snapdragon 8cx will allow our customers to offer a powerful computing experience of multi-day battery life and multi-gigabit connectivity, in new thin, light and fanless design for consumers and the enterprise,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager of mobile for Qualcomm Technologies. 

According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8cx is currently sampling to its OEM partners, and will be available in shipping systems during the third quarter of 2019. And we should mention that the Snapdragon 8cx won't actually fully supplant the Snapdragon 850; it will instead sit above it in Qualcomm's Windows on ARM hierarchy. That means that devices using this SoC will likely have a price premium  associated with them, over their Snapdragon 850-based counterparts. Hopefully we'll see more details of the new Snapdragon 8cx and machines powered by it, at CES 2019 in January. 

Update, 12/7/2018: Be sure to check out our hands-on demos of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx prototype laptops, live from Snapdragon Summit in Maui.