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Qualcomm's Nuvia-based advanced ARM chip for PC to rival Apple by 2023

Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 Compute Platform
Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 Compute Platform (Image credit: Qualcomm)

What you need to know

  • Qualcomm expects to have a next-gen ARM processor to rival Apple's M-series ready in 2022, and ship in 2023.
  • Qualcomm purchased Nuvia, whose members lead the development of Apple's chips, in January 2021.
  • The news comes from Qualcomm's investor day event.

Earlier this year, Qualcomm dropped $1.4 billion to purchase Nuvia, which designed mobile processors based on ARM architecture. What made the acquisition so meaningful is the founders of Nuvia are the same people who led the development of Apple's famed A-processors leading to the powerful M1 for laptops.

Now, Qualcomm is starting to flex a bit at its investor event, where the company touted it was on track to release its "next-generation Arm-compatible CPU designed by Nuvia team," according to PCMag.

Source: PCMag (Image credit: Source: PCMag)

The newly designed chips are set to hit hardware customers (aka PC OEMs) sometime in 2022 (in nine months, to be specific) to set them up for a 2023 commercial launch in new Windows PCs. Qualcomm notes these chips are "designed to set the performance benchmark for Windows PCs" and will be an "M-series competitive solution for the PC."

This isn't the first time Qualcomm has touted its Nuvia talent. The company boasted back in July it could beat the M1 chip from Apple.

The Nuvia-designed chip from Qualcomm will depart from the Arm licensed architectures used currently for the Snapdragon series. However, Qualcomm gets the best of both worlds, too. As noted in Reuters, if Arm Ltd. designs an even better chip, Qualcomm can still license it (as it has in the past) and go that route as well.

While the current Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 is a decent offering for the Windows world, it pales compared to Apple's M1 for power and performance. Qualcomm, however, seems ready to take it to the next level with actual devices in consumers' hands by 2023, assuming there are no delays.

Qualcomm is expected to have newer processors coming to Windows PCs for 2022, in the meantime, as the company is gearing up for its annual December Snapdragon Summer event. However, it is unclear whether these will be minor refreshes or a shift to a more powerful Cortex-A78c.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

30 Comments
  • So a full 3 years after the M1 launch Qualcomm claims it will have something to "beat" it? LOL not impressive. Does Qualcomm think Apple will just call it a day and not improve their architecture in the next 1.5 years? Consumers dont want something in 1.5+ years from now, they want something now.
  • "Consumers dont want something in 1.5+ years from now, they want something now."
    You seem to miss the point of competition and how this market works. Sure, you want it now. I'm sure Apple fans wanted the M1 back in 2017, too. They had to wait for 10 years from the first A chip to get to M1. Is that impressive? AMD took 5 years to become a major threat to Intel. NVIDIA is about to finish its acquisition of Arm (where it'll leverage RTX). Samsung is teaming up with AMD to merge Exynos with their GPUs. This is the problem with consumers: You can only think 6 months out and see nothing beyond that. Missing the forest for the trees. But that's not how tech works. That's not how companies think. That's not how tech evolves. As a side note, I love how even when we post positive news, it's met with cynicism, scorn, and just negativity. Apple fans don't hate themselves this much. In our recent AskWindowsCentral ep we were asked: "Should Windows have an inferiority complex in the context of M1 Macs?" The answer is not that they should, but clearly, they do.
  • Apart from what you said, people don't seem to know that it takes months to years to develop, engineer, test and ship out these products. I mean, the time-line Qualcomm stated is, I assume, them going full speed ahead doing 7-day work weeks and 12-hour shifts to catch hp to Apple. A lot of insane work goes into makings these magical chips.
  • Correct. And Apple is suing the head of Nuvia (and he's suing back). Considering the purchase was only in January, they're making considerable progress. It does take years to develop and bring to market a processor. And, up until now, Qualcomm never really designed an ARM chip, it just modified licenses from Arm.
  • I am a process engineer with wafer fab company. we have multi-fabs all over the world. i takes an average of 12 - 18 months to completed transfer an established process from one fab to another for the receiving fab to be able to submit samples for full testing. Imagine the timing for the design, modelling, steps and which process node to use and then the fabrication. Then the initial yield and how long it takes to understand the fix for yield improvement. (Shortage of PS5 SoC is not just silicon shortages, it is almost 35% driven by yield losses not yet fully fixed) I will give Apple kudos for one thing, they kept at it and delivered, and the question is why did it QC this long to start such custom design that could challenge Intel/AMD. everybody knew Apple was working on ARM SoC to rival Intel/AMD that was no secret. The only saving grace was that NUVIA was available for purchase.
  • First I'm not a "consumer" in the sense you talk about so please dont label me without knowing.
    I know very well how technology evolves as its my job. I dont just report it, I work in it. I may not develop hardware but I do architect, develop, maintain systems for a fortune 500 company and have been working in Microsoft technologies for over 15 years. Second, Qualcomm has been around for quite a few years so dont give me the "you only see 6 months out" line.
    Qualcomm is going on a decade of being generations behind Apple and has not really made much progress in catching up. There is no inferiority complex to Apple but the desire to have the efficiency is there and its more than reasonable. I've noticed a pattern in all of your replies. You like to talk down to people like they lack the understanding and experience to know what they are talking about.
    It would be wise to know who you are attempting to belittle.
  • How is Qualcomm "going on a decade of being generations behind Apple" when Apple released the M1 chip last year? As a side note: Two things can be simultaneously true. You can be a consumer and an engineer at the same time. Are you suggesting you don't use computers? Not sure why you take offense to being called a consumer. We are all consumers.
  • Qualcomm has been competing with Apple SoCs in phones for over a decade now.
  • "Qualcomm is going on a decade of being generations behind Apple and has not really made much progress in catching up."
    How so? How has it mattered in the slightest when Android is still 72% of the smartphone market (and has been that, roughly, for years now)? Put a Snapdragon 888 Android phone up against iPhone 13 - how is one significantly better? They're both fast, they both get great battery life. Are people switching away from Qualcomm because their smartphone chips are bad? Where's the evidence? Re: PCs, Qualcomm has only been "at it" for the last 3.5 years; Apple 1.5 years. I'm not sure where the decade bit is coming from. This race has barely begun. This is the start of a computing transformation. You said you work in tech, you should then know these kinds of shifts are not determined in a couple of years, or months, they span 5, 10, 15 years. Just like the shift from 32-bit to 64-bit took a very long time.
    "but the desire to have the efficiency is there and its more than reasonable."
    Literally, no one has suggested otherwise. No one contends differently, we all want that. Yes, it's true, there has never been a processor that is too fast, or too power efficient. What people want, I think it is safe to assume, is an answer from Qualcomm on how and plans to counter Apple, and maybe a timeline. Something akin to what was announced today 🤷‍♂️ I'm struggling here to find how today's news is bad or negative. Macbooks are about 10% of the PC market, always have been, always will be. Mac revenue is up 1.6% year-over-year (last earnings call). That's nice. Not exactly a groundswell or revolution, either. It's not like this is game over for anyone, not even close. And with Samsung, NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm all competing, this is nothing but great news for the industry. Qualcomm's stock is even up 7.89% on today's news.
  • My decade comment was in reference to Qualcomm and Apple producing ARM based SoCs.
    Yes those SoCs were for smartphones and tablets but they are foundation the pc versions are built on.
    In 10 years Qualcomm has made very little of any progress in catching up to Apple much less beating them.
    Today's news was in no way bad news but talk is easy and results are hard.
    I guess I'm just hoping for market leadership from Qualcomm and others instead of reacting to whatever Apple does.
  • Today news is not bad or negative, it is sensationalist at the least because presents as a fact what is a Qualcomm claim. A question mark at the end of the phrase would have properly characterised the difference.
  • Speaking of which, when are we getting that Mac 2-in-1? Consumers want something now.
  • They called it the iPad Pro. It has been available for a while.
  • Cknobman... C-knobnan... Snobman... I get it now. That's actually pretty genius
  • Problem with the M1 chip is that it is only in Macs. Aka, the vast majority people don't care about it. When a ARM chip shows up for Windows devices and MS supports these and really pushes these, more people will care.
  • Qualcomm says they'll be competitive with the M-series, not that they'll "beat M1". And there's not much guesswork involved. You see, Qualcomm bought Nuvia. Nuvia was founded by Apple's old head chip designer. New chips have to be planned out years in advance. Qualcomm *knows Apple's next architectures* and made their announcement with that in mind.
  • Well, I'll believe it when it SHIPS IN AN ACTUAL PRODUCT you can purchase. Remember the 3 Tools of Marketing: "Lies, Statistics, and Benchmarks." Also, Apple is not going to rest on their laurels and do nothing for the next 2 years, so Qualcomm has it's work cut out for it (and Apple has a BIG advantage due to their Vertical Integration of hardware and software.) I think that Samsung will actually ship a product like this first with their Exynos 2200 which integrates advanced ARM CPU cores with AMD RDNA2 GPU cores. Things are definitely going to get "interesting" (and Intel is not standing still either.)
  • I'm sure Tim Cook is losing sleep after this announcement.
  • One thing to keep in mind for those who feel Qualcomm's statement may be presumptive and shortsighted; arguing that Apple is not going to stay still for the nextcouple of years, is that Qualcomm's statement actually takes Apple's current and future progress with its M-series processors into consideration. QUALCOMM:
    "designed to set the performance benchmark for Windows PCs" and will be an "M-series competitive solution for the PC." Note Qualcomm is stating its chips will be a competative solution to Apple's *M-series* processors. Now anyone watching (likely anyone reading this) is seeing leaks and expectations of what is likely coming down line for Apple's M-series processors. If we "armchair analysts" are cognizant of what Apple is and potentially bringing to the table in the near term and within two years with increased core counts, GPU performance, integrated memory benefits etc, certainly Qualcomm, a company responsible for much of the tech that powers mobile tech, is watching closely at what Apple is doing. Also within the context of their statement: "and will be an "M-series competitive solution for the PC." they are projecting based on Apple's current M-series implementation, the time required to evolve the tech and where they expect (though nothing is certain and no one knows the future but God) Apple to be in 2023 with M-series silicon and are therefore anticipating to have a competitive solution for *that* expected future iteration of M-series (not current M1, Pro or Max) silicon. Whether they succeed in doing it or not, as we hope they will, remains to be seen. But I think it's important to note, like someone shooting at a moving target, Qualcomm is aiming toward where they expect Apple's M-series to be in 2023, not where it is in 2021.
  • Lets wait until the first product ships before we praise it. Native software is just as important as the hardware. Windows on ARM has been a joke up until this point with weak hardware and a lack of dev support. Qualcomm and Microsoft have been working on this for over 4 years and have almost nothing to show for it (compared to the x64 market).
  • Microsoft is the most dominant tech company, in aggregate, over the last 50 years. Full Stop. They have demonstrated they know how to play the long game. As a customer, I wish they were a little more bleeding edge ...but that's never really been in their DNA. ...and when they try to be cutting edge, that often seems to be their biggest failures.
  • They're not projecting based on Apple's current chips. Nuvia was founded by Apple's head chip designer so they're projecting from Apple's internal plans and designs. Unless Apple has much shorter lead times than other chipmakers Qualcomm has a REALLY good idea where Apple's going in the next couple of years.
  • It's disappointing that we are only getting it in 2023. It's not that bad though, the PC market still has x86 and the current CPU performance per watt of x86 CPUs is not that different from the M1, Alder Lake for example is expected to beat it in that regard, so it's not like Apple as something magical that no one can compete with, what Apple has taht makes great is an SoC that integrates a great CPU and GPU (well only on the Max and it's just a 3060 competitor), reducing substantially the power consumption when both are utilized. At this point what I want is the best SoC with a great CPU and GPU, whoever brings that, being either Qualcoom, Intel or AMD doesn't matter to me.
  • Apple also has the major advantage of TSMC's 5nm node. We won't get to compare M1 to x86 chips on an even playing field until Zen 4 and Meteor Lake. If Apple can't keep up without a process handicap they'll have serious trouble when Samsung and Intel's fabs catch up to TSMC.
  • Unless they involve Microsoft, it might come out to be disappointment.
    M1 works great because of optimization with macos than windows.
  • That means 1 more year of stagnation for windows on arm hardware & no new surface Pro x because there is no capable processor available for it right now. Because If Microsoft use existing arm cores to build new chip then it will fall short of iPad m1 performance by big margin. So that means intel alder lake sub 7w and sub 15w chips which are designed specifically for ultrathins and tablets will win some oem designs in 2022. 2023 will be finally the year of windows on arm and surface pro x if Qualcomm delivers solid chips that beats intel and amd solutions in 7w to 25w segment.
  • Will Microsoft have the software ready to go when this is released or will they continue to massively over-price ARM devices? They need to make current devices cheap AF to drive adoption and be prepared when the actual high end hardware is available. Drop the current SPX to $299 and sell every single one they can. Invest in the platform for the future instead of leaving it on a shelf to be laughed at. SPX currently starts at 3x the price of a iPad that outperforms it in nearly every way.
  • lol, iPad and SPX are not comparable products. SPX is not a tablet. As such, SPX outperforms an iPad in getting actual work done.
  • Maybe, depending on what your work is. As iPad has a robust app ecosystem, you may have the opposed experience. Either way, they are similar hardware with similar use cases. Why is Microsoft’s version 3x the price? Why does Microsoft sell a minuscule number of SPX compared to iPad?
  • This is the way it always is, each leap frogging one another, back and forth. Frankly its most the Mac users and tech reporters that seem to care about the M1 as far as PCs since the vast majority of us look at it and say... "but it only runs Mac OS".