Qualcomm is making a hard push into traditional laptop territory through the Windows on ARM initiative that it and Microsoft kicked off a couple of years ago. The company's latest effort on the hardware side is its new Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform. We were able to see the new platform in action at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii on a couple of pre-production laptops.
You may recall that the first Windows on ARM devices ran on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, followed by its Snapdragon 850 SoC. The Snapdragon 8cx represents a new naming convention to help differentiate Qualcomm's computing and smartphone products, the latter of which the company pretty much dominates.
To quickly recap, the Snapdragon 8cx features a new Kyro 495 CPU, which is a 64-bit octa-core part (four performance cores and four power cores). It also boasts Adreno 680 graphics and, importantly, a 2Gbps Snapdragon X24 LTE modem.
One of the laptops we saw in action, a reference device for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform, was powering a pair of 4K displays over Type-C to HDMI. At the same time, the laptop was driving its own Full HD display. It was running multiple applications, including PowerPoint, Excel, and Microsoft's Edge browser.
The whole shebang was connected via LTE on Verizon's network. At the same time, the laptop was logged into a Norton VPN with an IP address based in San Francisco. On top of it all, the laptop was also running a Horizon Cloud client that's been ported to Windows on ARM. At the 2m15s mark in the video above, you can see the laptop running a VM in the cloud over Verizon LTE at a resort in Maui, through a VPN with an IP based in San Francisco. Impressive stuff.
In a separate demo on a different reference laptop, we saw the Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform powering Mozilla's Firefox browser with 10 tabs open, and also Chrome with a handful of tabs. It was able to seamlessly cycle through them without any lag. That's not groundbreaking stuff, of course, but the point is that these Windows on ARM systems can function like an Intel x86 system in certain situations.
The system was also running Adobe Lightroom with 122 photographs loaded. Midway through the demo, Qualcomm opened up Photoshop. Both Lightroom and Photoshop run in 32-bit emulation on the platform, though at a glance, it's hard to tell that they're not running natively.
It's too early to make any kind of determination about the new platform, though from what we saw, the Snapdragon 8cx is a worthy successor. It's also the first 7-nanometer platform in a PC, a bragging point that Qualcomm is quick to point out.
"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.
It won't be too terribly long before laptops built around the new platform will be available, though there is a bit of a wait—Qualcomm is already sampling its Snapdragon 8cx chips to OEMs, and says to expect shipping systems by the third quarter of next year.