Windows on Arm has been slow to take off, Windows doesn't naturally play nice with Arm microarchitecture, so things have to be rewritten or emulated.
I reviewed the HP Envy X2 back in 2018 and generally had mixed feelings towards it. The always-on always-connected feature was a revelation, the battery life was phenomenal, and it was a perfect size and weight for working while travelling. It was however bogged down with performance issues. A lot of these were software related, and the laptop has improved over time, enough that I still use it today for light tasks.
That laptop used the Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform, since then we have had the Snapdragon 850, and now the Snapdragon 8cx.
The previous two chipsets were based of their mobile equivalents, so not perfectly optimised for the laptop environment.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Specification
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx is something very different, made specifically for laptops, without the thermal constraints of mobile chips.
Fabricated on TSMC's 7nm process, the 8cx features four Kryo 495 Silver high-efficiency cores along with four high-performance Kryo 495 Gold. The Snapdragon 8cx integrates the Adreno 680 GPU and features an X24 LTE modem supporting Cat 20 uplink and Cat 20 downlink. This chip supports up to ? GiB of octa-channel LPDDR4X-4266 memory.
Qualcomm is a little coy about the exact specification, but the Kryo 495 Gold & Silver should be superior to the CPUs you find int he Snapdragon 855 which uses Kryo 485. The Kryo 485 is a derivative of the Arm Coretex A76 which is also used on the Kirin 980, Helio G90T and Samsung Exynos 9820.
What laptops have been announced?
Lenovo is the first company to jump in with official support for the 8cx, and the new Samsung Galaxy Book S is perhaps one of the most impressive looking laptops featuring it.
Intel Core i5-8250u
Qualcomm has been claiming that the Snapdragon 8cx cna provide Core i5-8250u performance, while also giving you all the benefits of Arm, such as the battery life and always-on connectivity.
The Intel Core i5-8250u isn't exactly the pinnacle of Intel's line-up, but it is a solid CPU more than adequate for most tasks. This is a quad-core, eight-thread CPU running at 1.60 GHz with a turbo of 3.40 GHz.
Critically, the main selling point of the Qualcomm over Intel is that the Snapdragon 8cx has a TDP of 7W versus the 25W of the Intel.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx vs Intel Core i5-8250u
Recent benchmarks have been leaked which indicate that the Snapdragon 8cx doesn't quite meet the standards claimed by Qualcomm.
According to Snapdragon 8cx benchmarks via Geekbench, the SoC titled ‘Qualcomm CLS’ obtained 3352 points in the single-core tests, and accumulated 11048 points in the multi-core results.
When compared to the Core i5 8250u, Intel’s chip scored 3659 and 11192 points in both categories,
Those scores are pretty close, and Qualcomm's claims may not be totally inaccurate. Windows on Arm will still suffer from the same issues it always did, most apps are not designed for Arm. So it will always have a disadvantage compared to a CPU that is compatible with X86 architecture.
Does the performance difference matter?
Yes and no.
No, because that is some tremendous performance for an Arm chip and you should comfortably be able to do any work on the move without performance issues.
Yes, because you can get lightweight Core i5 8250u laptops for well under £700, while I would expect the Samsung Galaxy Book S to cost north of £1000.
It is a bit odd to compare the Core i5-8250u with the Snapdragon 8cx in the first place, as intel have the Y series CPUs that are their ultra-low voltage. In these scenarios, I would imagine the Qualcomm would compare more favourably in terms of performance. However, it could be that Qualcomm don't want to compare these as they both have the same TDP of 7W, so the Snapdragon 8cx would lose some of the impressive stats for its stand out feature.
However, neither the Snapdragon 8cx or Y series Intel chips are about the best bang for your buck. These are all about portability and battery life, and the Snapdragon 8cx looks like it could make a fantastic laptop chipset in the coming year.