Meet the Snapdragon 8cx: Qualcomm's most powerful SoC, coming to PCs

Julio Franco

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

During the last day of the Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8cx, the company's third compute chipset and the first 7nm platform built for PCs. Qualcomm's pitch is about "always on, always connected" PCs (we touched on this subject this week, see Bob's column) or laptops that act more like smartphones: fanless, instant on, with continuous connectivity via LTE, and multi-day battery life.

The 8cx is the largest processor the company has ever made, with eight custom processing cores that make up the Kryo 495 CPU: four high performance Cortex-A76 cores and four low-power Cortex-A55 cores that are higher clocked than the previously announced Snapdragon 850. The Snapdragon 8cx is equipped with 10 MB of combined cache with support for up to 16GB RAM, NVMe and UFS3.0 storage.

Qualcomm's presentation was loose on details about peak performance throughput. Not surprising, since their chips are not known for throttling as fast as Intel's. However the comparison was centered around performance when sustaining 7W of power. In that scenario Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 8cx is four times as fast as Intel's low-power fanless Y-series processors, and twice as fast as Intel U-series CPUs, again, at sustained non-peak performance.

The Snapdragon 8cx remains an SoC, so it integrates other components like the Adreno 680 GPU, Hexagon 690 DSP, advanced image processing, I/O, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the Snapdragon X24 modem, a flagship Qualcomm component that is the first to support Category 20 2 Gbps LTE.

On the graphics side, the integrated Adreno 680 GPU is said to be 3.5 times faster than the Snapdragon 835 and twice as fast as the GPU in their newest mobile Snapdragon 855 SoC thanks to twice the transistors and twice the memory bandwidth. It also brings support for up to two 4K displays at 60 Hz.

In other words, Qualcomm isn’t slowing down in their pursuit of challenging Intel. A few months back we tested their first major attempt at a Snapdragon-based laptop, but the result was not great. Windows on ARM running on a Snapdragon 835, the same system-on-a-chip used by many of 2017’s flagship Android smartphones, posed an interesting discussion with some benefits, but the performance of emulating the x86 engine was disappointing to say the least.

Remember that Windows on ARM only runs UWP apps and the Edge browser natively. The rest of x86 programs (most regular software) rely on a x86 emulation engine that can use further refinements for improved performance and 64-bit compatibility. The improvements can also come from much faster silicon, and that's where the Snapdragon 8cx comes in. Also on the software front, with Edge soon becoming a Google Chrome equivalent, it does present a more interesting proposition.

The first Snapdragon 8cx machines are expected to hit the market on Q3/2019.

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toooooot

TS Evangelist
Running x86 emulation on ARM neutralizes most of its advantages unless we're only talking about small, light programs.
^_-
Why not build x86 CPU using their equipment capable of producing 7nm transistors instead of emulating?

They should take a good look into emulation history and companies trying to push it. It aint the future. Steams attempt to Linux the gaming was not a success. Windows attempt to do windows on arm, where is that now? Qualcom has the power to challenge pc world. But emulation is a dead end. A temporary patch to buy time till a permanent native solution.
 

EEatGDL

TS Evangelist
Running x86 emulation on ARM neutralizes most of its advantages unless we're only talking about small, light programs.
^_-
Why not build x86 CPU using their equipment capable of producing 7nm transistors instead of emulating?

They should take a good look into emulation history and companies trying to push it. It aint the future. Steams attempt to Linux the gaming was not a success. Windows attempt to do windows on arm, where is that now? Qualcom has the power to challenge pc world. But emulation is a dead end. A temporary patch to buy time till a permanent native solution.
x86 architecture is Intel's property, that's why not any company can simply do x86 chips.
 

incessanthought

TS Rookie
Hi, this is really an amazing article. I have seen that snapdragon takes out some of the best products for its consumers and perhaps this is one quality which makes it stand out from its contemporary rivals.
 

toooooot

TS Evangelist
x86 architecture is Intel's property, that's why not any company can simply do x86 chips.
Then how is AMD using it?
In any case, it would be best if intel died or was torn apart by anti-monopoly agency and give place for new players, new technology and advances. Intel is done, nothing exciting for a long time.
 
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EEatGDL

TS Evangelist
Then how is AMD using it?
In any case, it would be best if intel died or was torn apart by anti-monopoly agency and give place for new players, new technology and advances. Intel is done, nothing exciting for a long time.
You should be investigating first, replying later. Intel has a limited license of x86 architecture to AMD and VIA. The AMD story goes way back when Intel was supplying chips for IBM's first PCs and IBM required a second supplier of x86-compatible chips as a safeguard. AMD and Intel have a long history and the mutual dependency increased when AMD extended x86 architecture to support 64-bit computing. Don't ask me, do your homework first or else you look bad writing uninformed comments.

If Intel dies for real, let it be because it was absolutely surpassed by innovating competition and market follow-up, not because of some random person's tantrum. I'm not defending Intel and its historical bad practices; but I understand the infrastructure they've built, the research and careers they have developed. Is it a necessary evil? Probably. Just let companies rise and fall organically or adapt and survive.
 

ET3D

TechSpot Paladin
I'm looking forward to seeing how it performs, both in emulation and natively, which I think is more interesting. I hope that some known benchmarks and games get ARM64 versions to make this testing possible.
 

hahahanoobs

TS Evangelist
Same here, and also INTEL and their soon to be "successful" GPU lol. I'm in my 30's and there are things you remember or what companies promise but never happen.
Took 5 years after spending $5b to aquire ATi to build Fusion...
4-5 years ago Intel IGP was top GPU on Steam. AMD still isn't.
 

Dimitrios

TS Guru
Took 5 years after spending $5b to aquire ATi to build Fusion...
4-5 years ago Intel IGP was top GPU on Steam. AMD still isn't.
Of course INTEL was top GPU on Steam, their crappy GPU's are on the CPU die and recently Intel used AMD's GPU on a few processors. Funny STEAM didn't survey me the last 3-5 years and I went through a few AMD cards on my rig and family's. Do you work for INTEL or something? Weird comment you made in response to what I wrote.