Amongst a plethora of new mobile platform technologies announced today, including the AI-strapped Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that will power a new breed of premium smartphones, Qualcomm has finally lifted the veil on the much-anticipated first fruits of its Nuvia acquisition and a big entrance into the PC platform computing arena, known as Snapdragon X Elite. This new always-connected, 5G-ready Qualcomm Snapdragon PC platform marks what could be a major disruptor in the market, with the company laying claim to significant performance-per-watt advantages over current gen Intel and AMD-powered Windows PCs and Apple Silicon powered Macs. Qualcomm also reports this new mobile PC platform is purpose-built for AI workloads, with a powerful Neural Processing Unit (NPU) and robust integrated graphics performance that could deliver up to 2X the performance of current X86 rival platforms.
Snapdragon X Elite Ushers In All-New Oryon CPU And Amped Adreno GPU Architecture
“Snapdragon X Elite represents a dramatic leap in innovation for computing as we deliver our new, custom Qualcomm Oryon CPU for super-charged performance that will delight consumers with incredible power efficiency and take their creativity and productivity to the next level,” notes Kedar Kondap, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Compute & Gaming, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
To achieve this the company architected a 12-core, single-threaded core CPU complex that can hit an all-core boost of 3.8GHz, and dual or single core boosts up to 4.3GHz. These are custom Arm64-based CPU cores mind you, not an off-the-shelf Arm design, with 136GB/s of aggregate memory bandwidth and support of fast LPDDR5x memory at up to 8533 MT/s.
In addition, this is a balanced all “big” performance core architecture, rather than a hybrid design like Intel’s recent generation of CPUs, where both big Performance cores and little Efficiency cores are at play. No, Qualcomm apparently went in all big and has no intention of going home, since this CPU architecture is set to fuel generations of PC and mobile device platforms for years to come. The new Snapdragon X Elite SoC is also built upon a bleeding-edge 4nm process node, presumably TSMC.
Snapdragon X Elite: Bold CPU Performance Claims And A Huge Lift Over The Previous Gen
There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and ironically enough, in his Snapdragon Summit keynote speech today, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon suggested the audience “take a picture” of the slides he was showing, several times in fact, with respect to Qualcomm’s seriously bold performance claims. Amon proclaimed “there’s a new Sherriff in town,” with respect to the PC.
That’s what you call making no bones about it. So, let’s let the pictures do the talking here, as Qualcomm is apparently putting its money where its mouth is for this new PC platform…
Boiling things down, Qualcomm is making the following high-level claims, based partially on some lighter duty benchmarks like Geekbench but in general overall as well, for both single-threaded and multithreaded workloads versus the competition:
- Beats Apple’s M2 Max and Intel’s Core i9-13980HX in single-threaded performance
- Reaches Apple’s M2 Max’s peak multi-threaded performance with 30% lower power consumption
- Reaches Intel Core i9-13980HX peak multi-threaded performance with 70% lower power consumption
In practice, if we take these performance claims at face value, this should result in significantly better general performance in everyday mainstream workloads, especially when you consider the tight thermal constraints of laptops, coupled with class-leading battery life. Time will tell, once I have one of these machines in hand for my own test routines, but my business partner Marco Chiappetta is out in beautiful Maui right now, and I’m hearing he’ll get hands-on himself this week, so stay tuned.
And when it comes to graphics performance, apparently Qualcomm isn’t pulling any punches here either…
Generally speaking, AMD has had an edge over Intel, in terms of integrated graphics (IGP) performance for Ryzen CPUs, so for Qualcomm to make these bold claims of up to 80% faster at similar power metrics versus a new Ryzen 9 7940HS, once again, color me impressed and I’m itching to prove this out.
Generative AI And Snapdragon X Elite’s On-Board NPU
And of course, chip leadership these days is almost synonymous with AI performance leadership, and client devices are the new frontier for enabling richer, AI-assisted experiences on the PC. To that end, Qualcomm is claiming that Snapdragon X Elite is a “Generative AI powerhouse,” with 45 TOPS of throughput and support for new, ultra-efficient INT4 precision math. The Hexagon NPU on board Snapdragon X Elite is said to be capable of running AI models of over 13 billion parameters for workloads like stable diffusion and others.
And once again, you guessed it, Qualcomm is claiming it’s going to smoke the PC laptop competition with over a 100X increase in AI performance versus current-gen devices. I should note that we should keep these claims in perspective, with respect to what Qualcomm has access to at this point in time for relative benchmark comparisons. For example, we can’t assume this level of performance lead for Qualcomm will be the same once Intel’s Meteor Lake platform arrives, but regardless again, one can’t help but be impressed with what Qualcomm is claiming it will deliver when Snapdragon X Elite devices arrive next year. 100X over current devices? Yup, take a picture.
Snapdragon X Elite Arrives Mid-2024
Both Microsoft and Lenovo spoke in support of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite platform at Snapdragon Summit today, with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, sitting down with Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon, to talk about the benefits of Snapdragon X Elite and the new modern AI-infused PC.
I’d say it’s pretty safe to say that many of the usual suspects will have devices in-market in mid-2024, when Qualcomm notes product will be available. Though not specifically mentioned, we’ve seen Snapdragon powered laptops from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Samsung and others, based on Qualcomm’s previous generation Snapdragon 8cx platform. I would wager we’ll see an even higher level of uptake and design wins when Snapdragon X Elite arrives next year. I just wish it were sooner, because I’m itching to take this new Snapdragon beastie for a spin myself.