As part of yesterdays Surface event, where Microsoft launched their first foldable devices, the Surface Pro X was launched featuring a custom ARM-powered chipset co-engineered with Qualcomm called the SQ1.

So what is the SQ1 and how does it differ from the Snapdragon 8cx which is Qualcomm's current top of the range Windows and Arm chipset.

First up, if you are not aware of Windows on Arm, it has been around for a few years now, I reviewed the HP Envy X2 with the Snapdragon 835 back in 2018, and it had a bit of a rocky start. Arm chipsets are what you find in your phone, they offer exceptional battery life and can provide always-on connectivity, so perfect for an ultra-portable laptop. Unfortunately, Windows does not run natively on Arm, so Microsoft has had to work extensively with Arm to develop this. At first, most of it was done via virtualisation, which has a knock-on performance, combined with a chipset not designed specifically for laptops, the results meant so so performance.

Since then, Qualcomm has designed the Snapdragon 8cx from the ground up, it is far more powerful (and power hungry) than your phone equivalent. Microsoft have also continued to optimise Windows on Arm and have made it easy for developers to compile applications natively for Arm. Over the past year the performance of the HP Envy X2 has improved, so I would expect Snapdragon 8cx to be superb.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx is made on the 7nm fabrication process and features eight Kryo 495 cores.

The 4 Kryo 495 Gold cores are based on the ARM Cortex-A76 architecture (for performance) and clocked at 2.84 GHz under load (no single core Turbo). The 4 Kryo 495 Silver cores are small ARM Cortex-A55 cores for power efficiency and clocked at 1.9 GHz under load.

It is then combined with Qualcomm Adreno 680 Extreme GPU which is a more powerful version of the  Adreno 640 in the Snapdragon 855 and should be twice as fast as the old Adreno 630 (in Windows laptops) and offer a 60% higher efficiency.

Microsoft Surface Pro X SQ1

The SQ1 is essentially the same technology as the Snapdragon 8cx but just tweaked.

The SQ1’s Kryo CPU is claimed to be clocked at 3GHz, and the SQ1’s GPU has a 2.1 teraflop output, which is quite impressive. In comparison, the Snapdragon 8cx’s Adreno GPU achieves a 1.8 teraflop output, though we are not sure how Microsoft achieved the improvement, likely just an increase in clocks.

Microsoft’s platform has a base 7W TDP which can be scaled up to 15 Watts depending on need. 

Currently, the only device running Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx is the Samsung Galaxy Book S which has only just launched, though there does not appear to be availability just yet.