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Latest Snapdragon 8cx chipset should power some blazing fast laptops next year

Snapdragon 8cx gen 3 and snapdragon 7c+ gen 3
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

High-end laptops with cellular connectivity stand to get a big boost next year, when the first models featuring Qualcomm's latest PC processors start to arrive.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, unveiled today (Dec. 1), is the first 5-nanometer chip for Windows PCs. Previous Snapdragon 8cx chips had been 7nm, so Qualcomm's including more transistors on this version, which should lead to a big boost in both speed and power efficiency.

Qualcomm isn't just rolling out new processors for premium always-connected notebooks. The Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 made its debut, too, introducing 5G connectivity to entry-level laptops and Chromebooks.

Laptops featuring either new chipset aren't expected until the first half of 2022, according to Qualcomm. But here's what you can expect from both the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Snapdragon 7cx+ Gen 3 once the new silicon finds its way into assorted laptops.

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3: What you need to know

Power and performance appear to be the name of the game for the Snapdragon 8cx. Qualcomm says new prime cores integrated into the chipset's Kryo CPU can boost 85% over a comparable x86 processor; performance per watt is 60% greater, according to Qualcomm's math.

The Adreno GPU is also getting a boost on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, where graphic performance jumps by 60% over the previous generation. Playing games at full HD resolution, users should be able to enjoy 50% longer sessions on a Snapdragon 8cx-powered laptop compared versus competing platforms.

Snapdragon 8cx gen 3

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

All told, Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 can keep a laptop powered up for 25-plus hours — twice as long as the current PC for most users. 

As with past Snapdragon 8cx chips, this new generation includes 5G connectivity, though there will be a choice in modems. The fastest option, the Snapdragon x65, can support up to 10Gbps speeds over 5G, but there will also be chipsets featuring the X55 (7.5Gbps download speeds) and X62 (4.4Gbps) modems. In addition, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 supports Wi-Fi 6E and its 3.6Gbps wireless speeds.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 includes Qualcomm's AI engine and Hexagon processor, and Qualcomm says the chipset is capable of 29-plus trillion operations per second (TOPS). That's 3x more than the competition, enabling Snapdragon 8cx-powered laptops to offer more sophisticated AI-driven experience such as facial recognition and blurred backgrounds on video calls.

Speaking of video, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chipset includes Qualcomm's Spectra image signal processor (ISP), which can support  4K HDR video and up to four cameras. Improved startup times should let users jump onto video calls 15% faster than they would with Gen 2-powered machines, and there's also support for noise and echo cancellation technology.

Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3: What you need to know

The Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 is aimed at more modest laptops than the Snapdragon 8cx platform. But you're till going to see a 60% boost in CPU performance and a 70% jump in GPU speed. AI performance can reach 6.5 TOPS, beating the 5 TOPS of previous Snapdragon 7c chipsets.

The bigger story here is that the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 is adding 5G connectivity in the form of a Snapdragon X53 modem. The modem, which works with both sub-6GHz and mmWave-based 5G, can reach download speeds of up to 3.7Gbps. On the Wi-Fi front, support for Wi-Fi 6 and 6E in Qualcomm's FastConnect 6700 technology means wireless download speeds of up to 2.9Gbps.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.