Qualcomm's new Snapdragon CPU set to rival Apple's M2 for power

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4
(Image credit: Kuba Wojciechowski (via Tom's Hardware))

Ever since Apple made the switch to making its own M-series chips for its Macs, the PC laptop market has been trying to play catch-up for something ARM-based that can match them in terms of both power and efficiency.

It looks like Qualcomm might have finally nailed the formula for its upcoming Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 chipset. First leaked all the way back in January, Windows Latest has spotted benchmark results on Geekbench that show the chipset beating both Apple’s M1 and M2 chips on one key metric.

First, the bad news: the chipset achieves a score of 1,197 in the single-core test which isn’t that big an advance on the average of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, which hovers in the 1,040 to 1,120 range. It’s also weaker than the M1 (1750ish) and M2 (~1,900).

But the new chipset — which Windows Latest says is developed by ex-Apple Silicon engineers at Nuvia — has made huge bounds forward on its multi-core score. While the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 sits around the 5,300 to 5,900 range, the Gen 4 achieves an impressive 9,337. On average, the M1 chip sits in the 7000s, while the M2 achieves 8,500 to 9,000.

That could be significant, but there are reasons for Qualcomm and Microsoft to hold off on popping the champagne corks just yet.

Real-world questions remain

There are, essentially, four reasons to withhold judgement. The first is simple: this is just a single, leaked benchmark and it could be a fake. 

The second is that the Windows Latest report says the architecture is a little different to Apple’s M-series chipset. The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 reportedly has eight performance cores and four efficiency cores, while both the M1 and M2 have four of each. While the average consumer won’t care about this, more performance cores might equal faster battery drain.

Thirdly, Apple has a big advantage in that all of its Macs are now powered by its own chips, which is hugely helpful for software compatibility. Windows on ARM has historically struggled in this regard, and though it’s far better than the bad old days of Windows RT thanks to stellar emulation, there’s less incentive for software makers to make ARM-native software versions when there are simply fewer Snapdragon-powered Windows devices out there.

Finally, though these Snapdragon scores are impressive, they’re competing with M1 and M2 — not the souped up Pro, Max and Ultra versions. Not only that, but these chips are now one-to-two years old and the Apple M3 chipset is just around the corner. Suffice it to say, this could be a big generational leap.

But it’s still an exciting development, and we should hopefully find out more soon. The Qualcomm Summit is kicking off this week in Hawaii, so we may well see specs and benchmarks appearing via the official channels imminently. Watch this space.

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Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.