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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is its latest attempt to hit a Windows on Arm home run

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is its latest attempt to hit a Windows on Arm home run


Third time’s the charm?

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Qualcomm has announced its latest flagship chip for PCs: the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, which, as the name implies, succeeds last year’s 8cx Gen 2 model and offers some substantial jumps in performance.

The 8cx Gen 3 is the first chip for Windows computers built on a 5nm process and promises up to 85 percent better CPU performance and up to 60 percent faster GPU performance compared to the 8cx Gen 2. Additionally, Qualcomm boasts that its new chip offers “60 percent greater performance per watt over the competitive x86 platform” — although the company is notably quiet on which x86 platform its comparing things to. Qualcomm also touts that the chip supports “multi-day battery life,” although again, it didn’t provide too many details.

As one might expect for a major Qualcomm laptop chip, a major feature on the 8cx is connectivity, with Qualcomm offering support for its Snapdragon X55, X62, or X65 5G modems (depending on what kind of 5G capabilities manufacturers want to offer). Additionally, the 8cx Gen 3 will support Wi-Fi 6 and 6E for when you’re not out and about.

The usual AI improvements are here, too: there’s Qualcomm’s Spectra ISP, which promises better autofocus, auto-white balance, and auto-exposure for videoconferencing, as well as noise and echo cancellation features for better audio.

Additionally, Qualcomm has been touting the power and battery life of its laptop chips since it first announced the original 8cx back in 2018; the chips haven’t really taken off, outside of modified versions appearing in Microsoft’s Surface Pro X laptops.

And those computers that have shipped with Qualcomm’s silicon haven’t made much of a dent on the Intel and AMD x86 hegemony for Windows, with slow developer support and none of the revolutionary advances that Apple’s own Arm-based M1-series chips have brought to its computers.

Maybe the 8cx Gen 3 will change that. But it’s hard not to feel like the 8cx Gen 3 isn’t anything but a stopgap when Qualcomm is already teasing its next next-generation Windows PC chips for 2023. Those chips, designed by the Nuvia team that Qualcomm bought for $1.4 billion earlier this year, are “designed to set the performance benchmark for Windows PCs” with leadership in “sustained performance and battery life,” in addition to offering a competitive processor to Apple’s excellent M-series chips.

In addition to the 8cx Gen 3, Qualcomm also announced a new Snapdragon 7c Plus Gen 3 platform. Unlike its flagship cousin, the 7c Plus Gen 3 is still built on a 6nm process but promises up to 60 percent better multi-threaded CPU performance and 70 percent better graphics than the 7c Gen 2. Like the 7c Gen 2, the 7c Plus Gen 3 is meant for entry-level Windows PCs and Chromebooks, so it’s not quite as powerful as the new 8cx Gen 3. In addition to the performance boosts, though, Qualcomm is also adding an integrated Snapdragon X53 modem, enabling 5G on Qualcomm’s entry-level laptop chips for the first time.