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Qualcomm outs Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, the first 5nm Windows PC platform

By Vijay Anand - on 2 Dec 2021, 7:00am

Qualcomm outs Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, the first 5nm Windows PC platform

(Image source: Qualcomm)

Building on Qualcomm’s launch of its flagship mobile processor for 2022 – Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – the mobile and communications platform giant has also unveiled a massively powerful compute processor for mainstream notebooks at the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2021.

Dubbed the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform, this new processor is a massive leap over the previous 8cx compute platform with up to 60% faster GPU performance, 85% faster CPU performance for great multi-tasking and three times the AI processing prowess over its predecessor at 29+ trillion operations per second (TOPS). All this means the Snapdragon 8cx compute platform that we know of can only be even more capable, buttery smooth, and equipped to handle the next era of always-on, ever ready, always connected systems.

(Image source: Qualcomm)

Built to deliver exceptional experiences in a premium ultra-slim and fan-less configuration, Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 equipped machines will deliver breakthrough performance per watt, impressive camera and audio processing with on-chip AI acceleration, lightning-fast 5G connectivity through various 5G modem-RF system options and chip-to-cloud enterprise-grade security thanks to Qualcomm’s Secure Processing Unit (SPU) that initiates layered secure boot on the new Microsoft Pluton TPM architecture help ensure your device starts securely while Windows Hello and biometrics login enables you to log in securely.

The core subsystems of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chip -- you'll notice most of the components are identical to its predecessors except that they no longer have a specific model number for each component like the ISP, DSP, CPU, etc. Also, a 5G modem is now a default.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 gains this massive boost in capabilities partly because it’s manufactured on a ‘5nm’ Samsung 5nm Low-Power Early (5LPE) process technology. As such, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is the World’s first 5nm part for the Windows compute platform. Now, the ‘5nm’ naming is debatable because Samsung set out to offer 25% more density, 15% more performance and 20% less power over its 7nm 7LPP process, TSMC’s N5 for its 5nm process achieved a 1.8x transistor density ahead of its older 7nm process. Naming technicality aside, the memory subsystem has also been boosted to support speedier memory than its predecessors, so memory throughput gets a big upswing.

Snapdragon 8c series Compute Platforms compared
  Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 Snapdragon 8cx Snapdragon 8c
Launch Year 2022 2020 2018 2019
Process technology 5nm
(Samsung 5LPE)
7nm 7nm 7nm
CPU 64-bit Kyro Kyro 495
Kyro 495
Kyro 490
GPU Adreno Adreno 680 Adreno 680 Adreno 675
ISP Spectra Spectra 390 Spectra 390 Spectra 390
DSP (AI) Hexagon
(29+ TOPS)
Hexagon 690 DSP
(9 TOPS)
Hexagon 690 DSP (6+ TOPS) Hexagon 690 DSP (6+ TOPS)
Modem 1) Snapdragon X62
2) Snapdragon X55
3) Snapdragon X65
Qualcomm X24 LTE Qualcomm X24 LTE Qualcomm X24 LTE
5G support Yes Yes, optional (Snapdragon X55) Yes, optional
(Snapdragon X55)
Yes, optional
Connectivity FastConnect 6900 FastConnect 6800 FastConnect 6200 FastConnect 6200
Wi-Fi support Wi-Fi 6 / 6E Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 5 Wi-Fi 5
Bluetooth support Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Memory support LPDDR4x, 4266MHz,
LPDDR4x, 2133MHz,
LPDDR4x, 2133MHz,
LPDDR4x, 2133MHz,
Storage support UFS 3.1 & NVMe UFS 3.0 & NVMe UFS 3.0 & NVMe UFS 3.0 & NVMe

Interestingly, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 will be offered with three different 5G cellular modem-RF system configurations or SKUs:-

  • Snapdragon X62 for peak downloads up to 4.4Gbps
  • Snapdragon X55 for peak downloads up to 7.5Gbps
  • Snapdragon X65 for peak downloads up to 10Gbps (on par with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1)

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E support is also available, courtesy of the built-in Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 system which also supports a cool 4-stream Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS). This feature harnesses multiple Wi-Fi bands (such as 2.4GHz, 5GHz or even 6GHz for Wi-FI 6E) and multiple antennas concurrently to outperform single-band connections. Effectively this helps eliminate latencies quickly and boosts throughput to deliver wired-networking grade network performance for great untethered gaming performance. The net result is multi-gig speeds at up to 3.6Gbps.

While HardwareZone has only covered the original Snapdragon 8cx in 2018, there was a very minor update in 2020 which resulted in a name change to Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2. However, very little separate Gen 1 versus Gen 2 apart from connectivity matters and a bump in clock speeds owing to the more matured process technology.

A summary of all the highlights of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform. Click to view a larger image.

Technicalities aside, just know that Qualcomm has a noteworthy new processor that is leaps ahead of the previous Snapdragon 8cx with excellent AI acceleration and robust connectivity.

Microsoft and Qualcomm Technologies have delivered on innovative computing experiences to empower customers in our collaboration over the years, from our recently announced Windows 11 to the new Surface Pro X. -- Panos Panay, EVP, CPO, Microsoft.

I'm excited to see the launch of the Snapdragon compute platforms and can't wait to see them running in Lenovo and Motorola devices. I share Cristiano's vision of everyone and everything being connected, and Snapdragon platforms play a critical role in that connectivity -- Yuanqing Yang, Chairman and CEO, Lenovo.

Delivering a new level of entry-tier compute performance – The Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3

A snapshot of what's improved on the Snapdragon 7cx+ Gen 3 over its predecessor for the entry segment.

At the Tech Summit, Qualcomm also announced a new entry-level compute processor even though it just launched the Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 just six months earlier. The new Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 also boasts big gains such as 60% faster CPU and 70% better GPU performance thanks to its new 6nm process node among other optimisations to the new chip. Needless to say, AI performance too gets a boost from 5 TOPS on the previous model to 6.5 TOPS on the new processor. It’s also the first in this class to offer integrated 5G modem by means of a Snapdragon X53 5G Modem-RF system with sub-6GHz and mmWave support that supports download speeds up to 3.7Gpbs. Even Wi-Fi gets a big boost through Qualcomm’s FastConnect 6700 that supports Wi-Fi 6 and 6E at speeds up to 2.9Gbps.

Snapdragon 7c series Compute Platforms compared
  Snapdragon 7c+
Gen 3
Snapdragon 7c
Gen 2
Snapdragon 7c
Launch Year 2022 2021 2019
Process technology 6nm 8nm 8nm
CPU Kyro
Kyro 468 (octa-core)
up to 2.55GHz
Kyro 468 (octa-core)
up to 2.4GHz
GPU Adreno Adreno 618 Adreno 618
ISP Spectra Spectra 255 Spectra 255
DSP (AI) Hexagon
(6.5+ TOPS)
Hexagon 692 DSP
(5 TOPS)
Hexagon 692 DSP
(5 TOPS)
Modem Snapdragon X53 5G Qualcomm X15 LTE Qualcomm X15 LTE
5G support Yes No No
Connectivity FastConnect 6700 (Unnamed) (Unnamed)
Wi-Fi support Wi-Fi 6 / 6E Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth support Bluetooth 5.2 Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Memory support LPDDR4x-4266,
Storage support UFS 2.1, eMMC 5.1, SD 3.0, NVMe UFS 2.1 & eMMC 5.1 UFS 2.1 & eMMC 5.1

Targeted at the Windows PC and Chromebook ecosystem, Qualcomm is committed to making connectivity ever more accessible and enabling fast, advanced, efficient, always-connected laptops for a new level of entry-tier systems with the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3.

Devices powered by Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 are expected to launch sometime in the first half of 2022, so look out for our future reporting on this turf.

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