Qualcomm joins the PC chip race, posing a challenge to Intel and Apple
- Qualcomm just revealed a chip that claims to outperform Apple and Intel’s fastest laptop processors.
- The chip is a substantial leap forward from the company’s earlier PC market endeavors, which faced performance and Windows compatibility limitations.
- The Snapdragon Elite X, resulting from the US$1.4 billion Nuvia acquisition, was initially slated for a 2023 release but is now set for availability next year.
When Apple unveiled its new Mac computers in 2020, it marked the end of a 15-year run where Intel processors powered Apple’s laptops and desktops. It was a significant shift for the semiconductor industry and became a transition that occurred even more rapidly than most had anticipated. Now, as Apple completes a two-year transition away from Intel processors, another semiconductor giant–Qualcomm– joins the race. The three-way rivalry could only mean one thing–the long-standing dominance of x86 and Intel in the PC chip market will be challenged further.
Amidst its long-running endeavor to penetrate the personal computer market, Qualcomm has introduced a new laptop processor–Snapdragon X Elite–explicitly engineered to surpass competing offerings from Intel and Apple. For context, when Apple unveiled its first in-house silicon, it effectively undid years of Intel’s status quo, and the transition occurred even more rapidly than most had anticipated.
Now, with Qualcomm introducing a processor that, according to the company, surpasses the speed of the fastest laptop chips produced by Apple and Intel, the rivalry among all three players will result in an increasingly competitive market for computer processors.
In a rather bold claim, Qualcomm’s press release stated that “The Snapdragon® X Elite platform features the custom integrated Qualcomm Oryon™ CPU – the new CPU leader in mobile computing – and delivers up to two times faster CPU performance versus the competition, matching competitor peak performance with one-third of the power.”
Unveiled at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit, the company dubbed the Snapdragon X Elite “the most powerful computing processor it has ever created for the PC.” “It would usher in a new era of premium computing by delivering a massive leap forward with best-in-class CPU performance, leading on-device AI inferencing, and one of the most efficient processors in a PC with up to multiple days of battery life,” Qualcomm highlighted.
Everything about the most powerful PC chip created by Qualcomm
The latest chip marks a significant improvement over the company’s previous attempts in the PC market, which faced issues like sluggish performance and limited Windows compatibility. As a result of the US$1.4 billion Nuvia acquisition, the Snapdragon Elite X was initially slated for a 2023 release but is now set for availability next year.
“There is a new sheriff in town,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon said, showing the Snapdragon X Elite outpacing the fastest chips from Apple and Intel on a specific benchmark for single-threaded CPU performance. The Elite X uses a 12-core Oryon CPU running at 3.8GHz. Qualcomm says it can locally run AI models with up to 13 billion parameters without relying on AI processing in the cloud.
Lenovo and HP are among the PC makers promising to debut devices running the new chip. Compared to Apple’s M2 Max, Amon claims that Qualcomm’s chip can achieve comparable power while consuming 30% less energy. He also said Qualcomm looks to wow the industry with far speedier performance with the new chip that can run 50% faster at peak times than Apple’s M2.
Likewise, Amon asserts that Qualcomm’s chip can rival the performance of Intel’s fastest laptop chip while using almost 70% less power. It is, however, necessary to note that Qualcomm is making performance comparisons between its forthcoming product and the currently available chips from Apple and Intel. It is essential to note that the competitive landscape is dynamic, and there’s a strong likelihood that developments will continue in this space.
Until now, only Apple’s proprietary designs have made substantial progress, eroding the dominance of the traditional standard by Intel. Apple’s share of industry shipments has recently exceeded 10%.
Qualcomm, Apple, Intel to be joined by Nvidia and AMD soon
Earlier this week, we reported on Nvidia and AMD’s intention to join the intensifying PC chip race, which will happen as early as 2025. In short, an Arm revolution should be coming to the PC market soon, with Nvidia planning to launch CPUs based on the architecture explicitly designed to run Windows, while AMD also plans to go down the same route.
As it is, Intel has been under attack in a market it dominated since the 1980s. That company, still one of the world’s largest chipmakers, has been trying to regain its footing with a massive investment in new technology under CEO Pat Gelsinger. While the news on Nvidia’s intention is not yet confirmed, the company, which already dominates the AI, HPC, and consumer graphics card industries, reportedly plans to expand its portfolio to include Arm-based processors for client Windows PCs.
The move is triggered by Microsoft’s encouragement for others to enter the Arm-based systems market once the former’s current exclusivity deal with Qualcomm ends next year. In 2016, Microsoft chose the company to bring the whole Windows experience to Arm-powered devices. While Nvidia and AMD’s foray into the PC chip space will not happen for the next two years, it will be interesting to see how the rivalry between Qualcomm, Apple, and Intel will turn out.
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