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Qualcomm Gets Serious About PCs

January 8, 2019

Author: Linley Gwennap

The supercharged Snapdragon 8cx is Qualcomm’s first PC processor that features a unique silicon design, emphasizing the company’s growing investment in and commitment to mobile PCs. The chip reuses many elements of the new Snapdragon 855 smartphone platform but boosts CPU and particularly GPU performance to better suit the needs of larger devices.

To save power and die area in the 855, just one of the four Cortex-A76 CPUs, designated the “prime” core, is optimized for maximum clock speed and performance. The Snapdragon 8cx instead features four prime cores, enhancing performance. The 8cx also includes four low-power Cortex-A55 CPUs to increase efficiency on less demanding tasks. It doubles the L3 cache to 4MB and the system cache to 6MB, boosting performance for large applications.

The older Snapdragon 850 features a dual-core Adreno 630 GPU, but the 8cx shifts to a quad-core design based on the same microarchitecture. The remaining 8cx features are similar to those of the 855. They include the same Hexagon 690 DSP, with its new tensor engine for AI acceleration; the same image processor (ISP), audio, and video engines; the same Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; and the same LTE modem, rated at an industry-leading 2.0Gbps.

The company expects the first 8cx PCs to ship in 3Q19. In the meantime, it’ll continue to offer the 850, which recently began shipping in a pair of 2-in-1 Windows devices: the Lenovo Yoga C630 WOS ($699) and the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 ($999). These systems provide longer battery life than Intel-based 2-in-1s and include an LTE modem for always-connected capability, should the customer choose to pay for monthly service. The downside, according to PC reviewers, is limited performance, particularly for apps that haven’t been ported to Arm.

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