Yesterday, 5G connectivity powerhouse Qualcomm announced its new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform technology at its Tech Summit event in Hawaii, which will usher in a new breed of flagship Android phones with significant performance uplift claims, as well as unrivaled computational photography and wireless connectivity advancements. Today, the company is following-up with a 1-2 punch of sorts for mobile PCs and gaming, with a new trio of Snapdragon chips for laptops, Chromebooks and even handheld Android gaming devices. There’s a lot to digest here, though Qualcomm is obviously on an execution tear of late in these ever-evolving markets, so let’s break them down one at a time.
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 To Empower Next Wave Of Premium Always-Connected Windows On Arm PCs
Qualcomm’s first gen Snapdragon 8cx platform debuted 3 years ago, back in December 2018. Today the company is announcing its 3rd generation product for thin-and-light or fanless Windows laptops, aptly dubbed Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. Beyond its ultra-low power hybrid architecture that can deliver multi-day battery life, Snapdragon on Windows devices have a core strength of what I would call native wireless connectivity, with integrated LTE or 5G modems and the latest Wi-Fi technologies. Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 continues this evolution of the “always-on, always-connected” Windows PC (as Qualcomm likes to call it), but built on a cutting-edge 5nm process technology, with a myriad of enhancements and the company is laying claim to a major performance-per-watt uplift on a number of levels.
Specifically, though the QCOM hasn’t detailed the architecture fully yet, it notes, with a new prime core (performance core) architecture and a 5nm process shrink, that Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 will deliver up to a whopping 85% generational lift in compute performance, and up to 60 percent better performance-per-watt metrics, versus what it claims are competitive X86 platforms.
In terms of graphics and gaming, Qualcomm notes Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 will deliver up to 60 percent better performance, and support full HD gaming up to 120 FPS. However, beyond just CPU and GPU grunt, Qualcomm was also keenly focused on videoconferencing chops, with 8cx Gen 3’s Spectra Image Signal Processor (ISP) delivering faster web cam start-up times, along with improved auto-focus, white balance and exposure response for better Teams and Zoom video call quality. For audio, noise suppression and echo-cancellation technology is a part of the Qualcomm Voice Suite, and these work-from-home targeted features are all enhanced by on-board AI acceleration to remove unwanted background sounds and isolate the user’s voice. 8cx Gen 3’s camera subsystem also supports up to 4K HDR camera quality as well as full Windows Hello IR compatibility with presence detect. In short, the system will not only login with facial recognition, but also realize when you leave, and lock the machine, which is particularly useful in both corporate and home environments. Also on the security front, Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 now supports Microsoft’s Secure-core and Pluton Security Solutions for Windows 11, which stores credentials and other sensitive user data in hardware, encrypted directly on the Snapdragon chip.
Finally, in terms of connectivity, 8cx Gen3 will support Qualcomm’s 5G modem-RF systems, from its Snapdragon X55 on up to the most current-gen Snapdragon X65, for up to 10Gbps bandwidth over mmWave or Sub-6 networks. For Wi-Fi, Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 handset platform, will come equipped with Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 WiFi-6/6E connectivity that also supports Wi-Fi Dual Station in Windows 11 for wired Ethernet-like latency and throughput, utilizing Qualcomm 4-stream Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) technology. Qualcomm DBS technology can harness up to two bands simultaneously, utilizing up to two 2.4GHz channels, as well as up to two 5GHz or 6GHz channels, for example, for a dramatic latency reduction and effective bandwidth uplift.
Snapdragon 7cx+ Gen 3 To Drive New Performance Levels For Low Cost PCs And Chromebooks
While Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is targeted for more premium ultralight and fanless designs, Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 7cx+ Gen 3 will power entry level devices with what the company claims is up to 60% faster CPU throughput and 70% faster graphics, versus its previous generation Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 product, which my firm found particularly compelling in our analysis of the $299 Chromebook product segment. If these performance gains pan out in testing, Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 will likely garner a slightly more premium price point (think closer to the $500 mark), but with the platform Qualcomm is also delivering native 5G connectivity in the form of its fully integrated Snapdragon X53 5G Modem-RF system that supports both mmWave and Sub-6 connectivity. This would be a first for Chromebooks and, along with its FastConnect 6700 Wi-Fi 6/6E radio, should really make the platform come alive with the always-connected support that’s frankly a must-have I believe with the plethora of web apps utilized on the platform.
Qualcomm expects to have Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3-based products in market in the first half of 2022 with multiple OEMs, and has already stepped forward today with Lenovo as one of its key launch partners.
But Wait, There’s More – Surprise Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform Unveiled
Admittedly, this one was a bit of a shocker to us in the analyst/press community but Qualcomm also announced a new handheld gaming platform collaboration with Razer, showcasing a development vehicle powered by the new Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform. Details are sparse on the silicon engines, speeds and feeds here, but G3x Gen 1 appears to be an actively-cooled Snapdragon Mobile Platform variant (likely similar to Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, though not confirmed) and with a powerful Adreno GPU that Qualcomm claims drives games at up to 144 frames per second with HDR color support. Also on board is Qualcomm mmWave and Sub-6 5G connectivity and the company’s FastConnect Wi-Fi 6/6E connectivity, in support of cloud gaming workloads on platforms like Xbox Cloud Gaming or Stream Remote Play.
The dev kit showcases a rather full-sized device with a large 6.65-inch 1080p FHD OLED display with 10-bit HDR color support at up to 120Hz refresh rates. Also on board is a 5MP 1080p60 webcam that will allow gamers to capture themselves on screen in a picture-in-picture view with the game, for what could be a very cool game streaming on-the-go feature. Also on board is a traditional thumbstick and button key layout, along with quad array of speakers in support of Qualcomm’s full Snapdragon Sound technology that the company claims will offer positional audio features while gaming, when paired with compatible Snapdragon Sound enabled Bluetooth earbuds.
We’re still waiting to hear more on OEMs that may productize the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 gaming platform, but for now Qualcomm suggests staying tuned to Razer’s Developer site for more details in the months ahead. On a side note, we’ve heard rumblings from other OEMs that may point to similar device aspirations for Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, though nothing has been confirmed as of yet.
All told, Qualcomm has really stepped out guns blazing at this year’s Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii. And with newly appointed CEO Cristiano Amon’s aggressive plans for a 7X TAM (Total Addressable Market) expansion, I’m not surprised to see these announcements continuing to stream out from this tropically-infused event. Whether you consider the company’s aggressive plans to advance the Windows on Arm ecosystem, or this latest foray into dedicated gaming devices, it’s obvious that Qualcomm is making significant investments and placing bets for deeper penetration in both its core and adjacent markets.