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.