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Qualcomm's First 5nm PC Chip, 8cx Gen 3, Is Coming Next Year

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm is taking its next stab at the PC space with two new SoCs. At its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii, the company announced its flagship Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 for PCs and budget-oriented Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 for laptops and Chromebooks. 

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is based on a 5 nm process (the first in a PC, Qualcomm claims), with a Qualcomm Kryo CPU and Adreno GPU. Qualcomm hasn't listed specific core counts or clock speeds as of this writing, but the company says that the 8cx Gen 3 offers an 85% CPU performance improvement over the 8cx Gen 2 and 60% faster GPU performance, Additionally, it claims 60% better performance per watt over "the competitive x86 platform," as measured running Geekbench 5.

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3
CPUQualcomm Kryo CPUQualcomm Kryo octa-core CPU
GPUQualcomm Adreno GPUQualcomm Adreno GPU
Memory8 x16 channel LPDDR4x-42662-channel LPDDR4x4-266, LPDDR5-6400
StorageNVMe over PCIe, UFS 3.1PCIe NVMe SSD, eMMC 5.1, SD 3.0, UFS 2.1
Display Support4K UHD on device, two 4K displays externalFHD+ on device
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1Up to Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
5G Modem SupportSnapdragon X65, Snapdragon X55. Snapdragon X62Snapdragon X53
CameraQualcomm Spectra ISP, up to 24 megapixelsQualcomm Spectra ISP

Like previous PC chips, Qualcomm is continuing to tout the idea of an "always on, always connected" PC, with support for 5G, 4G LTE, and Wi-Fi 6/6E. 5G modem support tops out with the Snapdragon X65, with 10 Gbps peak download speed and support for both sub-6 and mmWave technologies.

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The on-board Qualcomm AI engine allows the 8cx Gen 3 to deliver over 29 TOPS (tera operations per second, measured in trillions), which is three times greater than the Gen 2. Qualcomm also continues to suggest its chips enable multi-day battery life (at least 25 hours) on a single charge.

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

In a press release, Qualcomm claimed that the GPU allows for gaming at full HD (1080p) up to 120 fps, "and is optimized to allow users to game up to 50% longer than certain competing platforms." The company didn't specify which platforms it was trash talking, but that test is based on using the game Big Rumble Boxing on Qualcomm reference platforms and commercially available machines. 

For video conferencing, the 8cx Gen 3 utilizes a Qualcomm Spectra image signal processor with camera startup that is 15% faster than the previous chip. It has enhanced autofocus, auto white balance and auto exposure, and works with up to 5K HDR cameras (and up to four cameras in total).

The 8cx Gen 3  also implements Microsoft Pluton TPM on the Qualcomm secure processing unit (SPU). There's also a camera-based security feature that uses a computer vision processor to make sure that Windows Hello cameras lock the screen when authorized users step away from their notebooks.

The Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 is meant for entry-level Windows PCs and Chromebooks. Unlike the 8cx Gen 3, it's built on a 6 nm process. The company claims it offers up to 30% stronger CPU performance than competitive chips, but didn't name those competitors. In terms of AI, it offers 6.5 TOPS of performance.

Qualcomm's lower-end chip also has 5G support, albeit with a single modem option, the Snapdragon X53 with a peak download speed of 3.7 Gbps. This platform, too, supports both mmWave and sub-6 s GHz support.

Both chips follow Qualcomm's new naming scheme for both its mobile and PC processors, which ditch the company name entirely to focus on the "Snapdragon" sub-brand. Qualcomm is currently fighting an intense battle in the Arm space, with Apple proving to be a powerful competitor with its M1 chips offering strong performance and long battery life in fanless designs like the MacBook Air.

Qualcomm hasn't announced any devices powered by these new chips, but claims that they will begin to launch in the first half of 2022. Perhaps we’ll see some at CES in Las Vegas in January.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex. among others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE