Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 modem will bring 5G to Always Connected PCs

As Mobile World Congress 2019 (MWC 2019) prepares to kick off in Barcelona, Qualcomm is heating things up early. The chipmaker today took the wraps off of the new Snapdragon X55, a 5G modem built for everything from smartphones to hotspots and, for the Windows crowd, Always-Connected PCs (ACPS), laptops, and tablets.

According to Qualcomm, the seven-nanometer single-chip modem can support download speeds of up to 7Gbps and upload speeds of 3Gbps over 5G. The modem supports "all major frequency bands," including both mmWave and sub-6GHz, as well as spectrum sharing between 4G and 5G, which allows carriers to use their existing 4G spectrum to support dynamic 4G and 5G services.

"Qualcomm Technologies is spearheading the first wave of 5G launches with our first generation 5G mobile platform," said Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm Inc., in a press release. "With significant evolution in capabilities and performance, our second generation commercial 5G modem is a true testament to the maturity and leadership of our 5G technology. We expect our 5G platform to accelerate 5G commercial momentum and power virtually all 5G launches in 2019 while significantly expanding the global 5G rollout footprint."

Snapdragon X55 is expected to make its way to commercial devices by late 2019, Qualcomm says.

What Snapdragon X55 means for you

Lenovo Yoga C630

Both 5G and ACPCs are in their relative infancies. While 4G has made an appearance on a number of laptops as part of the ACPC push – including those powered by Qualcomm's own ARM processors, like the HP Envy x2 and the Lenovo Yoga C630 – the category hasn't exactly taken off just yet. Meanwhile, it's still early days for 5G, which has quite a road ahead of it, in terms of carrier support (no, 5GE doesn't count) and device adoption, before it's as prevalent as LTE is today.

The success of 5G won't rely on its implementation in ACPCs; it's a natural evolution of mobile internet, and there's a whole smartphone market that will assure its saturation over the next several years. ACPCs, however, could benefit greatly from the blistering speeds that 5G promises to deliver.

For Windows 10 on ARM PCs leveraging Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform, in particular, being early to adopt 5G could increase their draw with consumers. As Qualcomm prepares to pepper its "extreme" 8cx processor across the market, in addition to the Snapdragon 850 PCs out there, it already has multi-day battery life and enough computing power for most needs on lock. But even LTE connectivity on the current crop of PCs can remain a pain point, depending on how congested the network in your area is, and 5G's speed potential.

Of course, all of this depends on how eager PC makers are to push 5G connectivity across their lineups. Pricing remains another concern, as some of the early ACPCs to hit the market drew criticism for their price-to-performance ratio.

Still, if you keep an eye on the PC world, the end of this year and going into 2020 could prove to be an interesting time for new devices.

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