Qualcomm flexes latest Arm chipset for laptops: Snappy performance and battery life if you can put off your upgrade long enough

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G will first appear on the Acer Spin 7

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Two years after entering the PC market, Qualcomm has updated its Snapdragon 8cx platform.

The new chip, dubbed the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G, promises modest performance improvements over its predecessor, particularly when it comes to power consumption.

The US mobile chipmaker reckons its homegrown silicon has an 18 per cent performance advantage over a 10th generation Core i5 Chip. The firm further claimed that it "delivers over 50 per cent greater system-wide performance and battery life versus competing solutions", although curiously neglected to say what those are, other than "commercial competitive devices".

Qualcomm's slides show a Hybrid Core i5 chip losing heavily to the 8xc Gen 2 in the performance sweepstakes.

Sweeping claims about performance should be regarded with a healthy air of scepticism because the reality is almost always much more granular. There isn't a single barometer for performance. Is Qualcomm talking about multi-core performance? Single-core performance? The time it takes to render something?

On the battery front, Qualcomm uses the same "performance-to-energy consumption" ratio Apple used in justifying its switches from PowerPC to Intel, and then Intel to Apple Silicon. In this scenario, Qualcomm showed its own reference design surpassing a 10th-generation Core i5 chip by 39 per cent, and a hybrid i5 chip by 58 per cent.

Qualcomm reckons this translates into 25 hours of continuous usage, which means it'd be tenable for people to use their machine over several days without having to plug it into the mains, assuming several standard eight-hour workdays. Of course, real-life performance will vary tremendously, particularly when you consider the disparities in display and battery size between machines.

Separately, the 8cx Gen 2 5G supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, as well as Qualcomm's Aqstic signal-processing tech, which can improve microphone noise cancellation. It can also output to two 4K monitors at 60FPS, while OEMs have the choice to add a 5G or LTE modem.

The inaugural device to carry the 8cx will be the Acer Spin 7, which will be out later this year. Whether other manufacturers will leave the safety of Intel for Arm's shores is largely contingent upon developer support for the Arm flavour of Windows, which has been fairly tepid. Microsoft faced a similar uphill struggle back in 2012 with the launch of Windows 8 RT, a prior effort to putting Windows on Arm chips.

Apple, on the other hand, has focused on cross compatibility from the get-go, seeding developers with loaner "transition kits" and offering a compatibility layer that will allow old Intel code to run on machines shipped with Apple Silicon. As such, it appears better positioned to ride out those awkward intermediary years. ®

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