The Snapdragon 8cx leverages some work done for Snapdragon 855 but it is designed for a laptop power and thermal environment. As a result, it is a lot more powerful than smartphones, hence the ‘x’ that stands for eXtreme. It’s true, 8cx is the most extreme Snapdragon ever built.
Unlike its predecessors, Snapdragon 8cx isn’t a re-purposed smartphone processor / SoC. Instead, it has been created in parallel and is designed to enter a new, higher, level of computing as the first 7nm processor for Windows. It can use a larger die size and therefore more compute units, cache memory and everything else that is typically employed to scale performance higher.
Its general architecture resembles the new Snapdragon 855 which was announced yesterday, so you should definitely read our Snapdragon 855 overview. However, its co-processors are even more powerful.
The Adreno 680 Extreme graphics processor specifications say that it has 2X the transistor count, and 2X the bandwidth of Snapdragon 850, the previous generation of always-connected processor, launched earlier this year.
There’s no doubt that a lot of the new transistors have done to the shading units, which is a sure way to scale performance dramatically. Graphics is computationally unbounded, and the more shader units can you throw at it, the better.
It supports the DirectX 12 API and can decode VP9 and H.265 videos in hardware, and HDR10+ (along with Dolby vision) is supported.
The internal screen can reach a resolution of 4K, but it’s also possible to connect two additional 4K displays (3 total) via USB-C Thunderbolt.
The cluster of Kryo 495 CPU cores has 10MB of internal cache (L3+system) and is designed to match the performance of a 15W Intel processor, but using only 20% of the power. It should, therefore, beat the performance of a 7W Intel processor, even from a “performance per Watt” point of view – that’s what Qualcomm is announcing.
Snapdragon 8cx computers will be able to have up to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM and use NVME SSD drives. This should provide a lift in storage performance since previously, Snapdragon 850 supported only UFS, which is the traditional storage protocol for mobiles. UFS 3.0 will be supported if the OEM wants it (for Android tablets, perhaps).
The Hexagon 690 DSP (digital signal processor) and the Spectra 390 ISP (image signal processor) are also beefed-up versions of Snapdragon 855’s internal co-processors, and should be used by Qualcomm drivers for various tasks, even though they are not units that are present in traditional PCs.
The “always-on, always-connected PC” chip has an integrated Qualcomm X24 4G LTE modem capable of peak speeds of 2 Gbps. Every Qualcomm-powered PC will have native connectivity from day one which beats current PC LTE options by a mile.
Because of the higher power-efficiency, Qualcomm expects the battery to last “several days,” and when it’s time to charge, the Quick Charge 4+ fast-charge protocol will be supported if the OEM chooses it.
The Always-On Always-Connected computer architecture has evolved extremely fast: in ~18 months, it went from Snapdragon 835 to Snapdragon 850, and now to Snapdragon 8cx which is even more powerful than 855.
Snapdragon 850 will co-exist with the new 8cx architecture, to cover two different tiers of mobile laptop computing.