Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx smashes Intel Core i5 in new PCMark10 benchmarks

What you need to know

  • The Snapdragon 8cx got benchmarked against the Intel Core i5-8250U.
  • The 8cx chip often beats a Core i5 in performance, nearly doubles battery life.
  • Press were invited to run the benchmarks themselves to validate.
  • Electron and Unity game engine are going native ARM too.

The forthcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor built for Windows 10 is getting a little more real. Today at Computex 2019 in Taipei, Taiwan the ARM chip manufacturer put its latest Windows 10 custom 8cx processor up against an Intel Core i5 demonstrating just how powerful it is while also delivering nearly double the battery life.

Qualcomm teamed up with UL (formerly known as Futuremark) for a new PCMark10 benchmark that lets reviewers compare an ARM chip like the Snapdragon 8cx with a traditional x86 Intel platform under equal environments. The test was released a few months ago in PCMark10 along with the new Night Raid graphics test, but up until now, we have not seen the 8cx matched up against an Intel Core i5.

Additionally, UL announced a new app-test that more closely reflects how people use computers daily. UL described the new tests as real-world and not synthetic in that test runs apps from the Microsoft Store, including Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) to simulate "common scenarios and workloads."

There's also a new battery test that that uses the same apps from the performance test as well as looping full HD video playback and idle screen time to give a robust picture of how battery performance can hold up on laptops.

Press who attended the private Qualcomm event were invited to run the benchmarks themselves to test out the Snapdragon 8cx, which is expected to be released in the coming months in new laptops and convertible PCs.

Positioned against the 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U with a max turbo frequency of 3.40 GHz the Snapdragon 8cx did quite well, often beating the Core i5 in PowerPoint, Word, and Edge browser usage.

Interestingly, Microsoft Office is not natively compiled for ARM and technically runs emulated, meaning the Snapdragon 8cx was actually at a disadvantage.

Similar results were found with the PCMark10 Night Raid graphics test with the Snapdragon 8cx edging out frames-per-second - 37.10 FPS versus 29.47 FPS.

Battery tests comparing app usage with the Snapdragon 8cx to the Core i5-8250U resulted in the ARM chip lasting 17 hours at the upper limit with the Intel processor behind at just 10 hours and 21 minutes. That said, the Snapdragon laptop was running at full HD while the Intel one was 2K, which is a bit unfair though it would not explain the nearly 7-hour difference either.

Lets game on ARM

Electron, Unity go ARM too

Electron - the cross-platform app development system - is also going to support Windows on ARM sometime in June. That's good news for those who run popular apps like Slack, Discord, Microsoft Teams, and Spotify as it means their performance will be significantly better than the current emulated method for non-ARM apps. Those apps will have to be recompiled for ARM, but the process is expected to be trivial. When those app developers feel confident, they will update those apps in the Microsoft Store for users to download.

Likewise, Unity, the widely used game engine, is also being recompiled for ARM. A working version of Unity's test demo was shown to press with framerates averaging 50 frames-per-second. Once Unity is native people using Windows 10 on ARM should be able to get many more games that run similar to Intel-based PCs.

We also got our first peek at Microsoft's new Edge browser based on Chromium compiled for ARM. While no date was revealed for its release, we were told that by the end of the year is likely for people to begin testing in the Canary ring.

The ecosystem is growing

Windows on ARM takeaway

Overall, the 7nm Snapdragon 8cx looks to be quite a jump from the current Snapdragon 850. That said, the 8cx is not replacing the Snapdragon 850, but rather is a new, higher-tier processor for presumably more expensive laptops. Qualcomm though, seems to have the advantage for battery life while also beating out what is one of the most commonly found Intel processors in modern Ultrabook PCs.

No new devices with the Snapdragon 8cx were revealed yet at Computex meaning we could still be a few months from such a launch. However, Lenovo and Qualcomm did show a working prototype 5G laptop using the Snapdragon 8cx and X55 modem under the name "Project Limitless" that is due in early 2020.

In the meantime, Intel is expected to finally jump from 14nm to 10nm for its U-series processors this year meaning Intel could still get the upper advantage. Regardless, competition in microprocessors is always a good thing for consumers including AMD, and Qualcomm seems to be providing the right kick to Intel's long overdue transition to 10nm.

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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.

  • looking good. im still not sure I need one of these devices. I have a phone it can do anything. I have a tablet for around the house or days I want a bigger screen. I have a desktop for gameing and pc commenting ;) and an xbox. maybe a student might use this. but Im not one of these .. I just worry when I think of windows on arm I think of windows rt days. and it wasn't that long ago but they were quite slow but did the trick for what I needed then. maybe if it ran android apps in windows it would be useful. we need snapchat on windows 10 tablets. lol its going to start again.
  • I'm thinking to build a "portable Xbox" using LattePanda, joycons and sim card slot... (XPA is already here and xvc, xCloud are on their way).
    ARM CPU seems like a good fit for these small computers. Phone OSes are just too boring right now...
  • If they end up cheaper and can run Win 32 apps I'd be keen. As an aside, how does one benchmark Word? I am genuinely curious.
  • Launches the app, types things, cycles through macros/inserts graphics, scrolls, etc.
  • "expected scores"
    yeah right...
  • If you read closely you would have noticed (1) This is part of PCMark10 now, meaning all of us with PCMark10 (which is all PC media, basically) can test this ourselves when we get 8cx laptops (2) We were allowed to run the benchmarks ourselves here at Computex on the 8cx to verify, so your comment seems...weird. Were Qualcomm to fake these it's going to be very, very easy to prove.
  • Hey Daniel. Just to clarify, you indicate that the press was allowed to run the benchmark on the devices but I guess it was only PCMark10, wasn’t it ? I would be curious to have benchmark run with Geekbench because I read that they can test in native ARM and also x86 emulation : it would be interesting as it would give a better idea of the performance penalty when running a x86 app in emulation mode...
  • PCMark10 is testing emulation, but yes, we'll test with Geekbench as we have with previous ARM PCs.
  • Thanks Dan for that : Looking forward to it :). Qualcomm 8cx looks promising but l suspect that Geekbench benchmarks in native ARM and X86 emulation may not (yet) be as favorable to Qualcomm as otherwise, they would likely already have show those results to the press... Basically, Qualcomm marketing is likely omitting less favorable results...
  • OEMs & Qualcomm selling an inferior performing product running win32 apps @ equal price (835/850) was guaranteed to be DOA. Parity with an i5 (the bulk of the 2in1/laptop market) "in emulation" was critical at the very least to get past the tech media bias against these devices. So now performance in emulation will be a non issue & chrome performance with the new edge compiled for arm will also be a non issue. The only issue left will be 64 bit apps. Give me an ultra light device with thin bezels, 8 gb, USB-C, 17 hours battery life running Core OS with win32 support and I'm there with the wallet. The Surface Go 2 seems like a natural fit for the 8cx, but it's not a cheap chip like Pentium Gold. The 8cx would likely hike the price to $600-700 levels. Intel is already battling a reinvigorated AMD on the high end desktop & server market. It will get really interesting for Intel in 2020 when the 8cx is significantly discounted and replaced by the next SOC with +20-30% performance.
  • Why thoses différences between both setups ? Display (FHD vs 2K) & windows version (1903 vs 1809). Also, the i5-8250U is not the latest gen, it's almost 2 years old, I guess you can always find an old cpu that is less powerfull than a new one… I'm not compalining about having more choice, but the comparison shown here makes no sense
  • Luckily for us, it's NBD as we can benchmark the 8cx (and SD850) against literally any other x86 CPU on the market. I'm sure we'll be doing just that in a few months and we'll see exactly where the 8cx falls. Reason for i5-8250U if I had to guess? It's one of the most common consumer CPUs on the market right now that people are actually using.
  • Doesn't Intel already have one U series with 10nm? The i3 with discrete graphics that's in the NUC range?
  • Yeah they do. It's the i3-8121U, which comes with Radeon 540, 2GB GDDR5 GPU in the NUC8i3CYSM crimson canyon. Interestingly it does not appear to have integrated graphics. So there may be a move to have discreet graphics with at least one version of each of the i5, i7 etc of the new mobile series
  • Intel what are you doing?
  • Bringing the processing power, whilst ARM brings the power-sipping.
  • Did anyone note the Cortex A77 presentation? If so did you notice relevance to WOA? Continuum and Mobile baked into Windows Core OS anyone? This is full on from ARM and M$ and these devices, from 8cx to Cortex A77 (phones with near decent desktop performance) etc are going to hit Intel very hard indeed!
  • I am REALLY looking forward since a while of the convergence between the smartphone and a low-power computer. I REALLY dream of a smartphone that could be wirelessly dock through low latency 802.11ay WIGIG to a display, mouse , keyboard,... and be used as a computer: It would be a key enabler of plenty of new use case scenarii. You could imagine arriving in an hotel room, and that your smartphone automatically wirelessly dock to the « IT system » of your room. You could then voice control through your phone smart assistant, in your preferred language, any device connected to this dock. Ex: Hey Google. Open the blinds, turn on the TV, and increase the temperature to 20C... It may begin to be technically possible around 2025...
  • I don't know I think it's kinda weird that the i5 was 1809.
  • I'm still fine with my Pentium with mmx.
  • Looks promising, but are these short bursts or sustained workloads? The thing with mobile processors isn't their short-term power - they've got lots - it's that they can't keep going or they'll overheat. This is true for Intel 15 W fanless processors too, but less so. Can we really see a 7 W ARM chip perform like a 15 W Intel mobile platform in every way? That's what I want to know and I'm not sure the benchmarks show that. Is the 8cx going to be run at higher wattage?
  • Only Intel will throttle under heavy load, ARM never throttles.
  • No ARM just shuts down lol. Throttling would be smart.
  • So there's no tradeoff at all here? I'm no engineer, but... really? If that's the case, Intel is screwed. But I'd be happy.
  • if REALLY the emulation performance is no longer feeling like a stone dropping AT ALL, well , then we are ... THERE !
  • People. Look at the actual testing. A.) It's a pile of crap mobile i5. A pretty low spec i5. Second, the i5 is running TWICE THE SCREEN RES, and third, IT'S A MASSIVELY DIFFERENT BUILD OF WINDOWS. They might as well have run the second PC on Linux, and said "HEY LOOK, OUR CHIP IS BETTER!"
  • Massively different? It's a one freaking build difference! Although I agree that they should have made everything equal for a true test. Also, I think the point was to put it against the chips that it's trying to compete against, a mobile core i5. Let's just put it against a core i9 desktop and call it a failure why don't we?
  • Well, you're correct that it's a lower end mobile i5 chip. But, it still proves that we can run a more complex windows operating system and use less power. This could really effect the type of future devices creating more unique stuff.
  • It's not running twice the screen res, "2K" is only a fraction higher than 1920x1080. Remember, if there's a K in the res they are talking about the horizontal, not the vertical.
  • There's no evidence that 1809 was worse for Intel, or that 1903 improved Intel speeds. However, 1903 did a lot for ARM doing x86 emulation layer, which is what this using/testing (not native ARM, which would be even faster for Qualcomm). Finally, none of this really matters as everyone can use the same PCMark10 benches to redo these tests with whatever testing environment. "A pile of crap mobile i5" is also the dumbest thing I've read today, so thanks.
  • "However, 1903 did a lot for ARM doing x86 emulation layer, which is what this using/testing (not native ARM, which would be even faster for Qualcomm)." I am pleased to see Qualcomm engaged in the PC space and I am reassured to hear about the work that has been put into the emulation layer for 1903. I will be taking a close at the Snapdragon 8cx equipped Lenovo laptop when it ships but I have high hopes that there will be performance parity with the 8th gen U series Intel part but with vastly improved energy efficiency. I must ask you this though. Are you sure that the Microsoft Office based application benchmark results weren't based on a native ARM build of the Office applications used in the UL benchmark? The listed benchmark results shown in the article are already very good. It would be big surprise and possibly too good to be true if, by use of a bona fide ARM build of Office, even more performance than this could be extracted from the 8cx chip. Yet, we must naturally expect additional performance when using a native ARM build of Office. But, that would mean that besides the superior energy efficiency of the ARM based 8cx the Qualcomm chip would be unmistakably the performance leader as well. Such a strange surplus of good news would be at odds with what Qualcomm had previously said about its 8cx chip. It was supposed to offer performance that was comparable with that attainable from the i5-8250U. It was not expected to roundly outperform the Intel chip. So, was the build of Office optimised for ARM or not? And, if these benchmark results were non-optimal with all of the overhead of the emulation layer dragging results down just how much performance does the 8cx offer when running software built for ARM?
  • That i5 is significantly faster (something like 40% under certain conditions, according to what I read) than the 7th Gen i5 in my Surface Pro. If the ARM is faster than that, and all my Win32 apps work at least as well as on my Surface Pro, then this ARM chip is a real winner.
  • I personally feel that the 835 processor in the Miix 630 is fast enough, even in emulation. I also own 8th gen i7s in everything else. Obviously it's not made for heavy lifting, but the lag with emulation is tolerable.
  • Octane (JavaScript) benchmarks matter the most of anything at all. Nobody really uses Microsoft office products running locally anymore. Qualcomm is always about ten years behind in software tech so they think that these benchmarks mean something but they don't.
  • Whos is no one? I, and many others, use installed office products all the time along with the online versions of 360 in an Enterprise setting. Stop making generalizations about everyone's usage.
  • "Qualcomm is always about ten years behind in software tech so they think that these benchmarks mean something but they don't."
    UL aka Futuremark, not Qualcomm makes the PCMark10 test, so not sure what you're on about here. You have a problem with the bench testing take it up with the largest PC benchmarking software in the biz, not Qualcomm. Also, and to be honest, I trust UL and their benchmarking technology/reasoning much more than people here in comments who do not work in that industry. If you're that good/smart about this stuff, why are you not working for UL?
  • OK, first off. It doesn't matter where the best processors come from it only matter what can be made from it.
    This is great for the future of computers. Wearables (better halolens and other devices) will get better because of things like this. Lots of thin and light PCs (all kinds of 2 in 1s) will be able to be created with all kinds of designs, be lighter and more unique.
    What about Intel? Well, this doesn't mean these other processors are going away. Certain processors are good for certain things. AMD and Intel have their market and this will push them to also create less power thirsty chips. But no one can beat their power as of now. This is just great news.
  • Looks like WOA isn't dead, like the troll Bleached says it is. 🤔🤔🤔
  • "Intel is expected to finally jump from 14nm to 10nm". What does this mean?
  • Making their chips smaller. Moving from 14 nanometers to 10.
  • To elaborate further; it is the distance, in nanometers, between transistors on the chipset. A lower number means you can put an equal number of transistors in a smaller package, thus reducing power wastage, or increase the transistor number and maintain the size for improved performance. Here's a quote: "Often when shopping for a processor, you come across numbers called lithography figures, or manufacturing process indices, like 28nm, 14nm or so. The lithography figures tell you how tightly packed transistors are inside your processor, i.e how close they are. The lower the distance between two individual transistors, the faster electrons can travel between them, and the lesser energy that's wasted in transit. This means a lower thermal output across the board and more efficiency which translates to more speed with lesser power consumption."
  • Why is all of this a big deal? What's the difference for me as a consumer between Qualcomm and Intel?
  • The big deal is battery life. No fans needed. Intel has competition. These are all Good Things. Plus, if it runs Windows this well, imagine how fast an Android phone/tablet will run.
  • A good question - I think it's primarily about battery life and mobile-like features like always being connected to the carrier network and instant on. So best of mobile and PC in one package. That's why I'm so interested. Imagine a Surface Pro, just as powerful as one today, but with at least twice the battery life (think iPad or Android tablet battery life), instant on, cellular data always connected even when asleep so you never miss a notification, and fanless (though the last one Intel chips can do these days).
  • @Andrew G1: I am dreaming of this kind of the device, and on personal basis, I don’t even need that the performance to be equal to a Microsoft Surface Pro 6. However I need the performance to be good enough that I don’t feel any latency / lag / stutter issues when launching apps : it MUST be flawless with good enough performance (Microsoft Surface Pro 5 or so performance in X86 emulation would likely be a good start)
  • I'm pretty sure I posted this before but I am so excited about this.