Qualcomm announces new Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G Compute Platform, ships 'late 2020'

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5g Compute Platform Chip Image
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5g Compute Platform Chip Image (Image credit: Qualcomm)

What you need to know

  • The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G is coming late 2020.
  • Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 brings improved performance, 5G, and Wi-Fi 6.
  • Acer is the first to launch with 8cx Gen 2 with its new Spin 7 laptop with 5G.

Berlin, Germany – September 3, 2020 – Qualcomm is not resting on its Windows on ARM ambitions as the company has announced its revised Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G Compute Platform. The chip is a sequel of sorts to the Snapdragon 8cx found currently in Lenovo Flex 5G, Samsung Galaxy Book S, and modified in Surface Pro X.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G is not a wild alteration that obsoletes the current Snapdragon 8cx, but it does push the platform further with newer technologies, specifically:

  • 5G connectivity: Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 brings both Sub-6 GHz and 5G mmWave, enabling blazing fast, multi-gigabit speed, and stability.
  • Wi-Fi 6: This Gen 2 compute platform will offer users the leading connectivity critical to work from virtually anywhere and help alleviate home networks congested by multiple connected devices.
  • Improved performance: Snapdragon 8cx Gen brings "more performance" and "higher efficiency" than the previous generation.
  • Audio: Qualcomm Aqstic echo cancellation and noise suppression (ECNS) technology to intelligently focus on the sounds coming from the PC and the user's environment.

There is also the usual line about "AI", specifically how Qualcomm's AI Engine lets users "experience stronger video conferencing interactions through tools such as accelerated eye contact and expressive avatars." Such a technology recently came to Surface Pro X through its "Eye Contact" feature, which adjusts your eyes, so it looks as if you're are looking into the camera and not your display.

Wi-Fi 6 was sorely missing from recent Windows on ARM PCs, so that is a great feature to see.

Although 5G is a lot of hype right now and hard to find, when you can, it is a very fast experience. Lenovo's Flex 5G already had 5G (but no Wi-Fi 6), and it is currently offered through Verizon in the United States. That device was an exception to Snapdragon 8cx, whereas 8cx Gen 2 has 5G readily available to all PC makers. However, 5G is an option, so OEMs can still build non-5G laptops to keep costs down and satisfy current markets.

Qualcomm 8cx Gen2slide

Source: Qualcomm (Image credit: Source: Qualcomm)

The big question is what, if any, is the increased performance with Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2. Qualcomm is doing some handwaving with "more performance and higher efficiency compared to the previous generation," and the company claims "Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G delivers over 50 percent greater systemwide performance and battery life versus competing solutions", which is doing a lot of heavy lifting. In the chart above, Qualcomm does put it against Intel's 10th Gen Core i5 (15W), which seems promising. It is probably safe to expect a very modest speed boost in Gen 2, but we'll need to find out more later this fall.

Qualcomm is citing "late 2020" as the launch window for Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, a faster turnaround than usual. Indeed, the first PC that ships is Acer's new Spin 7 - a standard convertible laptop with a siloed active stylus and both flavors of 5G. HP is also expected to have a new Qualcomm PC, although details are currently scarce.

Recent rumors have also suggested Microsoft may use this chip to revise its "SQ1" custom processor for a Surface Pro X refresh later this year. If that speculation is accurate, it could lead to the first 5G Surface, which would be exciting.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Sounds cool but I'm still not sold on WOA. There are still so many unanswered questions. When outperforming 10th Gen 15W i5, is that sustained over time, or does the 8cx eventually throttle harder (is it just comparing peaks)? And is that in a configuration that gives the insane battery life we've seen in WoA devices, or is there a large power/battery tradeoff (like there seems to be on the SPX)? And when can we expect the software issues we've been reading about to be solved? As a 2-in-1 user WoA sounds like it's for me (sans Covid anyway), but not without all this being cleared up - and also maybe not with Intel making such big strides in their 10th and 11th generations.
  • Throttling has a lot to do with the heat mitigation of the laptop design, so we can't just compare SoCs.
  • We're comparing ultra-thin ultrabooks.
  • WoA major advantages aren't raw power. If this is your focus stick with x86.
  • That's not the point. There's a power/battery life tradeoff. SPX has decent power but battery life is no better than a comparable U-series processor from Intel. (This is putting aside compatibility and emulation issues.) I suppose my question is, is this going to keep being true when we compare this new 8cx to Intel 11th Gen? If I can get the real world power of an i5-U with massive battery life and 5G, that's very appealing even with lingering compatibility issues. But if Intel is no worse (without 5G admittedly) then there's no point going with ARM for my use cases. I can see how there's a market for low-performance + crazy-good battery life. But there's also the somewhat batter performance + way better battery life market. That's the one I care about.
  • You just have to compare the Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7, the X is thinner, has a bigger display but it still has better battery life. ARM looks to be better for most people, most people only use web browsing, e-mail and office, an ARM PC will do that just as well while being cooler, lighter, thinner, with longer battery, always connected and always on. Looking this way an ARM PC is a no brainer for most.
  • The Surface Pro 7 far outperforms the Surface Pro X even if the performance per watt is higher on the Surface Pro X.
  • Wish they would work on the x64 emulation or at least port some gaming/streaming apps to the pro x before coming out with a pro x 2
  • x86 emulation is poor, x64 will just be worse. 64-Bit uses more memory. Just so you can run Adobe CS but poorly doesn't add much value
  • I know x86 emulation is poor.. I tested a bunch of games on the pro x for a month and then returned it to save my mental state haha
  • Going to need to find a way to match Apple's bionic chip in there upcoming laptops. Hopefully Microsoft keeps pushing for better performance. And yes, need that x64 compatibility too.
  • Yes, we all know low-end MacBook buyers care so much about performance. (That was sarcasm.)
  • There's a reason they're still stuck owning a mac. (That was not sarcasm.)
  • x86 emulation is poor, x64 will just be worse. 64-Bit uses more memory. Just so you can run Adobe CS but poorly doesn't add much value.
  • Apple is not relying on Qualcomm
  • Oh good, just what we needed, Qualcomm's 5G tax to make these devices even more expensive.
  • Qualcomm & Microsoft should have pushed the 7C & 8C more 😕 another missed opportunity.
  • That would be a bad idea, it would give the perception Windows on ARM is a weak platform. When it isn't. ARM would get foothold in the premium sector if it had more more Apps.
  • The 7C is not great but the 8C is only slightly slower than the 8CX
  • Horse Power isn't the issue with the 8CX or SQ1 though. x86 emulation is. I'd expect the 8cx Gen. 2 to only be modestly different running x86 32-bit apps.
  • It seems that we're getting these SoCs closer to the generation of the phone's SoCs, that's great but I still want it to be closer. The 8CX is based on the 855 architecture
    The 8CX Gen 2 looks to be based on the 865 architecture. However the 8CX Gen 3 is when it will get serious, but why? Because ARM announced recently the the new tier of cores, the Cortex X1, this new tier is more focused on raw power and would be ideal for PCs, it's kinda like Apple with their SoCs, the iPhones have 2 SUPER powerful cores and 4 weak, while on Android it usually is 4 powerfull cores and 4 weak, the main benefit of using SUPER powerfull cores is that if you want to use that architecture on a larger device you can just double the cores instead of just increasing the clockspeed (like we see with the 8CX). The 875 on phones is probably going to use 1 SUPER powerful Cortex X1 core, 3 powerful cores and 4 weak cores, the 8CX Gen 3 then will be based on that design but will most likely ditch the 3 powerful cores and replace them with 3 SUPER powerful Cortex X1 cores, this way we will have 4 Super powerful Cortex X1 and truly see a massive uplift in performance.