Qualcomm Unveils the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 for PCs

Posted on December 2, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 11 Comments

While the world waits for Qualcomm’s NUVIA acquisition to bear fruit, the chipset maker will foist another minor upgrade on PC users to buy some time. It’s called the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 Compute Platform.

“Our Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform has powered [our] vision of premium mobile computing for two generations in Windows laptops,” the Qualcomm announcement notes (ignoring all of the generations of PC processors it released before that). “Now, we’re taking the experience of Always On, Always Connected PCs even further for the premium tier. Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 delivers extreme system-level performance, speed, and efficiency with support for multi-day battery life, AI-accelerated features, and lightning-fast 5G connectivity for truly mobile, light, and fanless Windows laptops.”

If you care about Windows on ARM and have been paying attention, none of that will sound any different than the previous several years of Snapdragon processor releases for PCs. But here are some hard numbers: The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is built on 5 nm technology, a first for any PC chipset, and Qualcomm claims that it delivers up to 85 percent faster CPU performance and up to 60 percent faster GPU performance than the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2.

What this translates into in the real world remains to be seen, of course: previous-generation Qualcomm chipsets for PCs have universally underwhelmed, and they have never come close to the promise of matching “Core i5” speeds. So 85 percent/60 percent faster whatever … is whatever.

What’s perhaps more interesting is that they’re even bothering. Earlier this year, Qualcomm announced that it would acquire NUVIA specifically to advance its PC chipsets. And we’ve learned more recently that those new chipsets won’t even ship in new PCs until 2023. Perhaps Qualcomm’s exclusivity arrangement with Microsoft requires it to meet certain chipset milestones.

All this said, I am of course interested in seeing what Qualcomm was able to accomplish with the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. I’m just being realistic about its chances.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Qualcomm Unveils the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 for PCs”

  1. spiderman2

    Good but not good enough, looks like it's still based on a old gen 888, instead of a new gen (8 gen 1) mobile cpu. Once again Qualcomm doesn't focus on PC CPUs enough, good that the exclusivity deal is coming to an end.

  2. wright_is

    Technically, the Macs are personal computers, so the M1 was, technically, the first 5nm PC chipset. ;-)

  3. crunchyfrog

    I forgot, which Core i% generation were these supposed to compete with? I doubt it's the 12th gen ones.

  4. anoldamigauser

    Will any manufacturer use this chip? How will it be priced?

    There is no point in spending equivalent money to the Intel alternative for performance and compatibility that is simply not there.


  5. jaredthegeek

    Packing the performance of a Core2Duo in an always on PC.

  6. geoff

    The criticism here seems a little harsh to me. Especially for a product that no one has used yet.


    If Paul, or anyone else, had a wish-list of what they wanted in a new ARM chip, delivered immediately, it would read something like:


    5nm fabrication. (A first for the Windows world).

    Latest wireless (latest and fastest 5G, latest and fastest WiFi 6E).

    Much faster single core and multi core performance (claimed 40% and 85% increases, based on actual measured benchmarks). Par performance with recent i5 processors (claimed par with i5 10th gen, again based on actual benchmarks). Benchmark scores are always highly dubious numbers, I accept that, but within that caveat, we wanted 'more', and we got it.

    Great battery life (again, claimed details are always dubious, but 'more' is always better, and 'more' is the claim).

    Fanless and silent, as the current gen is.

    x86 32-bit and x86 64-bit support in Windows (as well as 'native' ARM 64-bit OS builds of Windows and ARM 64-bit App support). That's up to Microsoft, not ARM, sure - but at least it's delivered now and will be there for new chips like this one as well.


    It seems that's exactly what this announcement delivers. All of it.


    Sometime good news is exactly that.

    (Written on an Intel-powered PC by someone who does not have a dog in this fight.)


    • wright_is

      As long as ARM support remains a hobby or a goad for Intel, it doesn't really matter how good the native performance of the processor is, because most software is still x86/x64 and unless there is a big incentive, developers won't waste time building for ARM64.


      As long as most of the software remains Intel based, few users will switch to ARM and suffer the performance loss over their current PCs - especially if they currently provide all day battery life. Multi-day battery life is all well and good, but how many users actually work all day away from power and don't have access to a power outlet at night to recharge the laptop?


      I have a ThinkPad, but it has probably done less than 30 hours of battery usage in the over 3 years I've had it. And that goes for most of our fleet. We have laptops because we travel between sites or between home office and the office, the laptops are plugged in at both ends.

      • solomonrex

        No, I'm not giving you that. Apple made ARM chips that run x86 software faster than the x86 chips. Microsoft needs to get its act together. They've been working on this nearly 10 years now, they should be able to show real progress by now. And instead it feels like they've decided to just keep cranking up their greatest hits until everyone leaves the show.


        By now, it has all the makings of a calamity and still the band is playing on. Why are there new versions of old MS Office after 10 years of O365? How is that part of any coherent plan?

      • geoff

        You don't really need much laptop battery life, and neither do I.

        I *always* work at a desk, and there is *always* a power socket nearby. Yes, I sometimes move from place to place (between the office and my house, generally), but I very, VERY, rarely work while not at a desk.


        Others, such as students, certainly do. They carry their laptops all day, and don't plug in again until they get back 'home'. ARM can go after that market if they want it. Intel has vacated the arena, so anyone who wants to take over that market is free to do so.

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