PCWorld (USA)

Qualcomm prophesies 2023 as the rebirth of PC Snapdragon chips

Nuvia CPUS and gaming graphics? Qualcomm thinks its future is bright.

- BY MARK HACHMAN

Qualcomm processors for PCS enhanced by the company’s Nuvia design team will sample in 2022 for devices shipping in 2023, Qualcomm executives said Tuesday. The company also boldly pledged to offer Adreno graphics that could compete with desktop PCS.

At the company’s 2021 investor day in New York, Dr. James Thompson, chief technology officer at Qualcomm, offered an overview of the company’s technology roadmap in several areas. A key focus, naturally, will be how and when Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors will integrate the Nuvia design team, an Arm CPU developer that Qualcomm acquired in January ( fave. co/3pwuvuh).

Processor developmen­t takes time, however, and that integratio­n won’t happen immediatel­y. “They’re pretty far along at this point,” Thompson said, presumably talking about the first Snapdragon processors featuring Nuvia technology. “We’ll be sampling a product nine months from now, or something like that.”

Thompson said that Qualcomm’s goal was to have the “highest-performing, lowestpowe­r CPU in the industry” and that the new chips would “set the performanc­e benchmark for Windows PCS.”

Low power, of course, is a goal that Qualcomm has always easily achieved. Qualcomm’s Arm-powered CPUS sip power, using a “big-little” mix of performanc­e and efficiency cores that are allocated for specific tasks and whose overarchin­g design has been mimicked in Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake Core chips.

Qualcomm’s problem has been that its “performanc­e” cores have failed to keep up with X86 designs from AMD and Intel, putting them in a niche market where performanc­e doesn’t matter as much as battery life. Our tests of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G from earlier showed that it (in the HP Elite Folio) offered performanc­e about on par with the Surface Pro 3 ( fave.co/3iu35w2) and its 4th-gen Core chip. Unfortunat­ely, the

PC industry’s answer has simply been to add more battery cells to their designs, making those laptops a bit thicker and heavier but with more performanc­e, too. Qualcomm Snapdragon chips also haven’t been able to keep up with the Apple M1 ( fave. CO/3DY6UWD), a chip that benefits from Apple’s more open architectu­ral license.

“If you think about the overall technology

roadmap, that was the overall weakness I felt we had for quite a while,” Thompson said of the Snapdragon roadmap before acquiring Nuvia.

Thompson also claimed that the company’s graphics technology was on pace to improve, too. In terms of the Adreno integrated graphics core onboard the Snapdragon chips, Qualcomm performs somewhat better against the competitio­n than its CPUS at present—somewhere between an 8th-gen and a 10th-gen Intel Core processor, when measured by the 3Dmark “Night Raid” benchmark.

Thompson, though, said that Qualcomm could do better. “I just want to make it clear that our graphics will scale up to desktopsty­le gaming capabiliti­es,” he told investors. He didn’t elaborate further.

Thompson had some advice for reviewers, however, noting that the company’s own tests had shown that competing graphics solutions offered higher benchmark scores when tested just once. When tested over a prolonged period of time via looped benchmarks, however, he said that the Snapdragon mobile processors generated better overall sustained performanc­e.

Thompson also said that the company will continue to improve its AI capabiliti­es over time. Today, AI has several applicatio­ns: It can be a way in which Google Assistant parses your spoken commands and queries, or it can be a way in which a photo is computatio­nally enhanced to bring out detail. The latter is known as semantic segmentati­on, and is responsibl­e for the visual improvemen­ts that make skies bluer, sharpens the edges of buildings, and so on. Thompson also showed an 8K30 video, which he said Snapdragon processors support, and promised HDR enhancemen­t would arrive soon.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Right now, Snapdragon chips for laptops struggle to keep up with the competitio­n.
Right now, Snapdragon chips for laptops struggle to keep up with the competitio­n.
 ?? ?? Qualcomm had this to say about its Nuvia-powered Snapdragon CPUS.
Qualcomm had this to say about its Nuvia-powered Snapdragon CPUS.
 ?? ?? Thompson showed how Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU performanc­e actually improved over time.
Thompson showed how Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU performanc­e actually improved over time.

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