Qualcomm Announces 8cx Gen 2 ARM Chip for Laptops
Slowly but surely, ARM-based processors are finding their way into laptops. Qualcomm announced its 8cx chip for Windows laptops in 2018, but only a few devices have used it. Apple recently confirmed it would design its own ARM-based silicon for upcoming MacBooks, which might push the latest Qualcomm laptop chip forward on the Windows side. Qualcomm’s new chip is the 8cx Gen 2 5G. As the name implies, it’s very similar to the last-gen 8cx.
Qualcomm hasn’t changed much about the core design here, so it has chosen not to discuss the performance gains in detail. Instead, all it’s said is that the 8cx Gen 2 will offer “generational performance and efficiency gains” compared with the last 8cx. It’s still an eight-core system-on-a-chip based on the Kryo 495, which is an ARM A76 derivative. The GPU has gotten a slight bump from Adreno 680 to 690 with support for 4K external monitors. You also get integrated Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 with the new chip.
ARM-based chips are usually more power-efficient than Intel’s traditional x86 designs, and the performance gap is no more, according to Qualcomm. The company is keeping specific performance metrics to itself right now, but it’s very interested in talking about how the 8cx stacks up against Intel’s offerings. The 8cx Gen 2 has a 7W TDP like Intel’s Lakefield hybrid chips, and Qualcomm claims the 8cx is up to 51 percent more powerful. It’s also allegedly 18 percent faster than the 10th Gen Core i5 at 15W.
Because the 8cx does all this with less power, Qualcomm says its battery life will put most other platforms to shame. It’s quoting over 25 hours of continuous use, which would be incredible if it holds up in actual devices.
Qualcomm tacked on “5G” to the chip name because it’s 2020, and Qualcomm is going to make this the year of 5G even if it kills us. The 8cx Gen 2 has the same x24 LTE modem in the SoC package, and it’ll support the separate x55 5G modem just like the original 8cx. This provides a simpler way for laptop makers to build in 5G connectivity compared with the situation with Intel or AMD chips.
App support will continue to be a pain for ARM on Windows until we get enough devices to reach critical mass. So far, there’s just one confirmed device with the new chip, the Acer Spin 7. That device should appear later this year, hopefully alongside more 8cx-powered laptops.