Qualcomm has long been the market leader when it comes to smartphone processors, but the US company is only beginning to establish itself when it comes to PCs. Since first announcing its intention to power Windows 10 machines back in 2017, Qualcomm has tirelessly promoted the benefits of its ARM-based CPUs. The company's 'always on, always connected' vision for the future of portable PC has typically meant compromising slightly on performance, but Snapdragon chipsets are getting better all the time.
The latest iteration, known as the 8cx Gen 2 compute platform, added 5G support to provide the most complete Windows on Snapdragon experience yet.
However, the personal computer market is proving a tough nut to crack. Intel has led the way for many years in this area, while AMD is fast proving it's a force to be reckoned with. Qualcomm is also far from the only company to be developing ARM-based chips for PCs, with Apple and its M1 chip expected to be joined by AMD, Microsoft and even Samsung in the relatively near future.
It's clear Qualcomm needs to keep innovating, and it looks like the company is doing just that. Here's everything you need to know about its next laptop CPU, which we assume will be known as the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3.
When will the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 be released?
Qualcomm is yet to confirm the existence of the 8cx Gen 3, let alone when it might be released. With no concrete leaks regarding release date so far, our best guess come from the launch of of the previous two Snapdragon chips:
- Snapdragon 8cx - December 2019
- Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 - September 2020
The latter was announced at IFA 2020 last September, so that seems like the most likely timing for the Gen 3. However, Qualcomm may launch it earlier in the year to maintain a regular nine-month update cycle.
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 devices
The reveal of specific 8cx Gen 3-powered devices feels a long way away, but we do have a fairly good idea of the PC manufacturers Qualcomm usually works with. These would be the most likely candidates when it comes to future Snapdragon chips.
Acer's Spin 7 was announced alongside the 8cx Gen 2 back in September, while Samsung's Galaxy Book S is one of the most high-profile Snapdragon-powered PCs. Lenovo's Yoga 5G was the first 5G laptop thanks to the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, while Microsoft's Surface Pro X has used a custom ARM-based CPU across two generations of 2-in-1.
We'd expect these four manufacturers to work to use Qualcomm's next chipset in some capacity, although there may be many more as Windows on Snapdragon continues to grow in popularity.
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 spec rumours
Despite it likely being many months before the 8cx Gen 3 launches, we already have a few concrete rumours on what to expect.
The first came via Windows Latest in early March 2021, which confirmed Qualcomm was working on a new flagship chipset for Windows 10 PCs. Author Mayank Parmar goes on to say that the new processor, codenamed 'SC8280XP', will focus heavily on performance. That's typically an area where Qualcomm silicon is typically weaker when compared to Intel or AMD, although benchmarks suggest it also falls short of Apple's ARM-based M1 chip.
According to the article, a shift in design means the chips will come without any dedicated power saving cores. The eight cores will therefore include four 'Gold+' cores (max clock speed 2.7GHz) and four 'Gold' cores (max clock speed 2.43GHz). The inclusion of power efficiency cores is one of the reasons Snapdragon chips offer such excellent battery life, so it will be interesting to see if Qualcomm can improve performance without compromising in this area.
Later in the same month, a processor appearing to be the upcoming 8cx Gen 3 was listed on the Geekbench 5 benchmarking site. The app usually uploads results to the website upon completion of a test, so this may be internal testing:
Notebookcheck and others remark how the multi-core score is significantly lower than Apple's M1 chip (around 64%), which is already being used as the benchmark among ARM-based processors. However, it's a closer run thing when compared to Intel's latest Tiger Lake chips, where the 8cx Gen 3 is down between 5 and 9%. However, it's worth taking these figures with a pinch of salt - engineering samples typically report lower performance scores than the final version.
This same listing also appears to confirm other key spacs for the 8cx Gen 3. It will supposedly come with eight cores and a base frequency of 2.69GHz, although the motherboard it'll use remains blank. Again, we can't be sure of the validity of this information, but it sounds fairly believable.
We'll update this article as soon as we know more about Qualcomm's new flagship laptop chipset. Meanwhile, the company is also rumoured to be working on a new 7cx chip, which could make ARM-based Windows 10 PCs more affordable.
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