With a total of 12 CPU cores and modern features such as USB4, Qualcomm’s next notebook processor Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 is apparently intended to compete with the CPUs from AMD, Apple and Nvidia. It is said to be the first model to use self-designed ARM cores from the acquired company Nuvia.
The first processors with Nuvia technology have been awaited for a long time, as they are seen as a promising ARM competitor with chip expertise by former Apple people, among others. So far, Qualcomm and Microsoft have neglected the ARM PC market, resulting in poor Windows-on-ARM devices.
CPU cores with lots of cache
A bunch of details on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 come from Twitter member “Za_Raczke”, which has so far primarily dealt with leaks relating to Google’s Pixel smartphones. Accordingly, the processor uses eight performance and four efficiency cores, arranged in three clusters of four. Current test samples should run at around 3.4 GHz on the P cores and 2.5 GHz on the E cores.
Each 4-core cluster is said to use 12 MB of level 2 cache, which would be significantly more than any other performance CPU core from other companies; the shared level 3 cache, on the other hand, is said to be quite spartan at 8 MB. All logic blocks have access to the supposedly 12 MB system-level cache (SLC), including the GPU and the integrated AI processor. For comparison: The previous Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 uses four Cortex-X1 (3 GHz) and Cortex-A78 (2.4 GHz) with a total of 6 MB L2 cache, 8 MB L3 cache and 6 MB SLC
The independent GPU cache in the Gen 4 processor should be compact at 4 MB by today’s standards. Even if the GPU is still called Adreno 740, a modernized media engine beckons, among other things, with a hardware accelerator for the AV1 codec, for example. The processor should be able to control at least three high-resolution displays, including via three USB4 ports with built-in DisplayPort mode.
There is a question mark behind the LPDDR5 DRAM controller, which is only supposed to handle clock frequencies up to LPDDR5-4200. The octa channel interface can mean anything from 128 to 512 bits due to the different configuration options of LPDDR memory. Qualcomm should provide a connection of up to 64 GB of RAM.
PCIe 4.0 for standalone GPUs and SSDs
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 should provide eight PCI Express 4.0 lanes for the use of independent graphics chips. There are four more for one or two NVMe SSDs; Additional controllers can be connected via PCIe 3.0. As an alternative to NVMe SSD, the processor can handle UFS storage, which is primarily found in smartphones.
The logic for Wi-Fi 7 is said to be integrated in the system-on-chip (SoC), but Qualcomm no longer seems to accommodate a 5G modem directly in the SoC. The always-on functionality has been a key selling point for manufacturers of Windows-on-ARM notebooks, but would suffer from a separate modem due to the higher energy requirements.
Notebooks ab 2024
“Za_Raczke” should appear notebooks with the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 in the coming year 2024. That would be a good bit later than Qualcomm had previously promised: At that time it was said that partners should receive test samples from the end of 2022 and devices would be realistic from 2023.
By then, Qualcomm will likely have to compete with Apple’s M3 generation. In the case of AMD and Intel, there should be notebooks with the CPU series Meteor Lake (probably Core i-14000) and Phoenix (Ryzen 7040) at the time.
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