After announcing the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC for smartphones on Day 1 at the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2021, Qualcomm on Day 2, has announced the next-gen mobile compute platforms for Windows 11 laptops. First is the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 platform designed for entry-level laptops. The second is a more powerful and premium Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, which is also the world’s first 5nm compute platform for Windows 11 laptops.
Designed for always-on, always-connected laptops, significant upgrades on the compute platforms include faster AI and 5G connectivity, enhanced security, audio and camera improvements. Devices powered by the new chipsets are expected in H1 2022.
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3: Key Specifications and Features
Powerful CPU and GPU
As mentioned above, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is made on a 5nm node, a first for Windows 11 powered ARM laptops, and also a major upgrade over the previous generation. It features an 8-core CPU that has four high-performance prime cores clocked at 3GHz, and four efficiency cores clocked at 2.4GHz. Though Qualcomm did not mention specifics of the ARM Cortex cores. Qualcomm says the new platform offers up to 85% faster CPU performance and up to 60% faster GPU performance.
Qualcomm is working with developers like Adobe to help them optimize Photoshop and Lightroom apps for content creators on the go. It is also working with Microsoft for optimizing productivity apps like Office 365, and Teams. It also supports variable refresh rates up to 120fps, making the laptops ready for smooth cloud gaming via Microsoft’s XCloud platform. All this while offering a longer battery life.
29 TOPS AI Acceleration
As AI has become so important for various tasks, the 3x boost in AI acceleration to 29 TOPS (trillion operations per second) is a significant improvement. With this work and learn from home scenario, there are quite a few challenges that most of us face in our daily lives. Just the other day I met my colleagues for the first time in months, and we were working from a meeting room in a shared office space. While I was on a call, the recipient could hear the typing noise of my colleagues’ keyboard.
The other day while on a Teams call, I could hear my colleague’s dog barking in the background, while another colleague had his kid running around and shouting. These are the distractions all of us face, and Qualcomm is using AI to help fix these issues with AI noise suppression and echo cancellation. Qualcomm even offered a live demonstration of the feature in Hawaii, and it worked pretty well.
The other feature includes face detection when on a video call, which can then separate the background and add a nice DSLR-like blur. This feature will help in keeping the background distractions away and focusing on your face.
Support for Multiple, Higher-resolution Cameras
We always talk about smartphone photography and how high-res sensors and multiple cameras are unlocking versatile photography experiences. But when you look at the laptops, they still come with low-resolution HD cameras. This could change next year as the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 platform supports up to four cameras front and back, and up to 24MP resolution.
But that’s not all, the compute platform will also support other features like auto-white balance, auto-exposure, and auto-focus features for laptop cameras. The camera ISP will also support recording videos at 4K UHD resolution.
Blazing Fast 5G, Enhanced Security
Just like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile platform, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform also gets the Snapdragon X65 modem-RF system. With support for both Sub-6GHz and mmWave, it can offer peak download speeds up to 10Gbps. However, peak upload speeds can max 316Mbps. Qualcomm will also offer other configurations, one with Snapdragon X55 modem and up to 7.5Gbps speed peak download speed, and other with Snapdragon X65 modem offering up to 4.4Gbps peak download speeds.
The platform also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E along with Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity. Qualcomm also touched upon the platform offering chip to cloud security and support for Windows Hello face recognition.
Snapdragon 7cx+ Gen 3: Specifications and Features
While Qualcomm didn’t dive deep into the details of the Snapdragon 7cx+ platform, it did mention that it is built on a 6nm node. This will offer up to 60% faster CPU performance and 70 percent better graphics performance over the previous gen, which is noteworthy. The AI acceleration can reach 6.5 TOPS.
But besides CPU and GPU performance, the other big improvement is adding 5G support for this entry-tier compute platform, compared to predecessor which had only 4G LTE support. With Snapdragon X53 5G modem-RF system, Sub-6GHz, and mmWave support, it can offer peak download speeds of up to 3.7Gbps and up to 2.9Gbps upload speeds. It also brings support for Wi-Fi 6, and multiple cameras up to 64MP resolution.
Key Takeaways: ARM-based Windows 11 Laptops get Big Performance Boost with the new Compute Platforms
- With the new Snapdragon 8cx and 7c+ gen 3 platforms, Qualcomm now has a very broad and highly differentiated portfolio of Windows on Snapdragon (ARM) chipsets easily addressing the majority of the laptops market and with unique features.
- Qualcomm is addressing user pain points with capabilities such as AI/ML across the SoC sub-systems to boost performance and UX with support for high-resolution multiple cameras, advanced graphics performance and noise suppression and echo cancellation features among many.
- The new Snapdragon Gen 3 compute platforms also brings high-performance and blazing fast connectivity (5G, Wi-Fi 6E) via X65 modem and FastConnect 6900 system to ARM-based Windows laptops which remains elusive in Intel or AMD based laptops. It also offers great monetization opportunities for operators.
- Further, with Microsoft’s support for 64-bit apps emulation in Windows 11 will catalyze applications support on the platform which had been one of the inhibitors so far.
- We believe based on the configuration and target geography, the 8cx based laptops could span from $500 to $1200 laptop segments and 7c+ from $300 to $800 segments.
- Most of the traditional PC laptop OEMs have committed to expanding their portfolio with the latest Snapdragon-based solution and with current awareness created by Arm-based MacBooks will further push these OEMs to dedicate more resources in marketing and channels to see the adoption of Snapdragon-based ACPCs.
- Another big opportunity is where Qualcomm’s existing key customers the smartphone OEMs and operators which are racing to launch connected devices such as laptops can adopt these 3rd generation Qualcomm-based Windows laptops. This move should drive an inflection point for Qualcomm in this multi-billion-dollar segment in the near- to mid-term.