Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 gives Windows 10 a 5G-ready rival to Apple Silicon

Intel may have shown off its newest chips for ultraportable notebooks yesterday, but today Qualcomm is aiming to eclipse that with the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G Compute Platform. The latest iteration of the chip-maker's high-end ARM architecture for always-connected laptops and 2-in-1s, it promises 5G as standard, along with not just hours but days of battery life.

It was a beguiling idea from the outset, though the actual market of ARM-based notebooks rather than x86 variants using Intel and AMD processors is still on the slim side. That may get a nudge overall as Apple Silicon arrives in new MacBooks, with Qualcomm's chipsets offering Windows notebook-makers a similar opportunity.

As the name suggests, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 is the second-generation of the chipset Qualcomm first announced late in 2018. Like before, it taps the company's experience in making processors for smartphones and tablets, where battery size is generally limited and yet demands for CPU and GPU, connectivity, and more recently AI and machine learning have only been increasing.

For the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, then, there's now a 50-percent bump in performance system-wide compared to what Qualcomm considers its rivals. That's courtesy of the Kryo 495 octa-core CPU, paired with LPDDR4x 8-channel memory and NVMe SSD UFS 3.0 storage. Battery life is up to 25 continuous hours, and there's Adreno graphics which can drive up to 4K HDR 120fps video playback.

The chipset supports up to a 4K Ultra HD display on-device, and can drive two external 4K displays over DP-MST too. Up to a 32-megapixel camera can be supported. It also uses Qualcomm's Quick Charge 4+ for more rapid charging over a USB-C connection.

For wireless connectivity, it's the Snapdragon X55 doing the heavy lifting. That gives Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 based notebooks both Sub-6 and mmWave 5G, for maximum downloads of 7 Gbps (network-depending, of course) and upload rates of up to 3 Gbps. It supports FDD, TDD, SA, and NSA. There's also WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Other recent improvements we've seen from Snapdragon-based phones are making their way to notebooks, too. Given just how many video calls most people are on these days, Qualcomm Aqstic echo cancelation and noise-suppression will probably come in handy, for example.

First up to use the new chipset will be the Acer Spin 7, and it's promising to take full advantage of Qualcomm's capabilities. A convertible notebook, it'll be just shy of 3.1 pounds in weight and 15.9mm thick, but have 5G, run Windows 10 Pro on a 14-inch display, and deliver "multi-day battery life" the company says when it goes on sale late in 2020.