At Computex 2019, Qualcomm and Lenovo have demonstrated “Project Limitless” the world’s first 5G PC, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx platform and a discrete Qualcomm X55 5G modem.

We have explained what Snapdragon 8cx and the X55 modem are, but we’ll go over what the combination of both in a laptop means for apps and communications in upcoming always-connected PCs.

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Computing speed and battery life

When the Snapdragon 8cx processor was announced in December 2018, it looked extremely strong on paper, but in Taipei, we were able to observe PC benchmarks like PCMark10 running on this platform, and the scores reveal much about what to expect from the user experience.

UL, the company behind PCMark 10, has just launched a new “app” benchmark that tries to measure the speed and productivity of real apps such as Microsoft Office, and the results for this new Qualcomm-powered Lenovo laptop are stunning.

The DX12 graphics performance in the PCMark 10 Night Raid test shows a significant performance leap from Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU over Intel’s HD graphics (i5-8250U) and a native support from engines such as Unity will help a lot of developers transit to ARM support.

Unity Engine, running natively on ARM

Essentially, the absolute performance of Snapdragon 8Cx is often higher than an Intel Core i5-8250U, but with a much better power-efficiency, that not only limits performance throttling (which contributes to higher scores) but also yields a huge battery-life advantage over Intel, sometimes topping 100% longer battery life.

Qualcomm’s power-efficiency has always been better than legacy PC processors, and that’s already true for the current Snapdragon 850 SoC present in today’s on laptops such as the Lenovo C630 WoS we previously reviewed.

But while we found Snapdragon 850’s performance is comparable to a 4.5W “Y-series” Intel processor, Snapdragon 8cx behaves like a 15W TDP Intel processor, especially when it comes to running common office applications.

5G Communications

Snapdragon 8cx has an integrated 4G LTE modem, but in this case, its functionality is completely disabled, leaving the new X55 modem to handle both 4G and 5G communications with higher performance.

There are no commercial 5G networks in Taipei for now, but from the early 5G test conducted in the USA (in sub-6 frequencies), we already know that 5G networks can be substantially faster than their 4G counterparts, even without support for mmWave, the fastest implementation of 5G.

Streaming 4K videos over 5G is easy

Such real-world speeds go from ~600Mbps to nearly 1Gbps in download speeds, depending on the location, and network conditions. That’s well above anything we’ve experienced on 4G LTE devices, and offer a mobile user experience that is superior to most WiFi networks.

As 5G networks become denser and get support for mmWave, we expect the speed to increase, and the latency to decrease. Eventually, mobile broadband will feel no different than home or office networks.

Even if you don’t have 5G coverage right now, the good news is that Snapdragon 8cx and the X55 modem are a platform that is future-proof when it comes to 5G.

Unprecedented battery life

The battery life score results of PCMark 10 are particularly impressive. Using a loop of three use cases (Office, Video Playback and Idle state) the new PCMark 10 is much more realistic than other tests often used by OEMs.

We previously estimated that the PCMark 8 battery test was the most consistent and representative, at least until today.

Battery life is the stronghold of Qualcomm’s always-connected platform as it objectively performs without competition. No other PC platform can claim multiple days of battery life, and Snapdragon has a fundamental advantage here, due to its mobile-first design.

Conclusion

Lenovo and Qualcomm have introduced what is going to become the template for Always-On, Always-Connected 5G PCs for the next 12 months.

The Qualcomm PC platform has evolved unbelievably fast over the past couple of years, improving on all aspects: functionality, performance, connectivity, battery life.

From a hardware standpoint, this platform is a very strong foundation for ultra-light and ultra-enduring productivity laptops.

The next question is whether software support will improve as much. The ARM-native versions of browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and Edge have contributed greatly to closing the gap with a legacy PC experience.

When hardware becomes available for review, we’ll take a second look at the complete state of the Always-On, Always-Connected PC, and how it might make your digital life better.

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