What just happened? We've heard for a few years now that the Snapdragon-powered Windows on Arm platform will be challenging Intel and AMD in the laptop market, but that scenario's failed to materialize. Qualcomm, however, isn't giving up. At IFA 2020, the company announced the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G, which offers several improvements over its Snapdragon 8cx predecessor.
While the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 doesn't appear to be faster than the original 8cx (the x stands for "extreme" power), Qualcomm says its AI abilities have been improved, and the chip supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 standards. Gen 2 also features "generational performance and efficiency gains."
Qualcomm went out of its way to compare the 8cx Gen 2 5G to rival Intel's laptop chips, boasting that it offers more than 50 percent greater "systemwide performance and battery life versus competing solutions" while using "a fraction of the power."
Compared to a 10th-gen Core i5 (15 TDP), the 8cx Gen 2 boasts 18% more total system performance and 39% more productivity performance/watt. Going up against Intel's Lakefield chips, which also use a hybrid core architecture, performance is up 51% and productivity performance/watt is 58%.
Battery life has always been one of Windows on Arm's best features, and the 8cx Gen 2 pushes this even further, offering 25 hours of continuous use, which is enough to last for "multiple days."
Elsewhere, there's support for dual 4K external monitors at 60fps via a single cable, along with Qualcomm's Aqstic audio technology for echo-cancellation and noise suppression to improve voice calls. The Spectre image signal processor, meanwhile, supports sensors up to 32-megapixels and 4K HDR recording
Like the first Snapdragon 8cx, Gen 2 doesn't have an integrated 5G radio; it's up to laptop manufacturers whether to offer the X24 LTE modem or X55 5G modem, or neither.
While Windows on Arm machines might be challenging Intel laptops in terms of performance while offering amazing battery life, app compatibility remains a problem. It's something Microsoft has been addressing recently, but there's still some way to go.
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G devices will start arriving later this year, the first of which will be the Acer Spin 7—Acer's first 5G PC.