Qualcomm unveils a more powerful 5G processor aimed at laptops

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

5G connectivity is not just for phones. Laptops can take advantage of the faster speeds and lower latency of the new networking standard, too, and Qualcomm is angling to make sure that upcoming always-connected laptops will be running a more powerful 5G-equipped chipset.

The chip maker used its IFA 2020 keynote today (Sept. 3) to unveil the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2. That's the latest version of the mobile processing platform Qualcomm produces for premium ultra-thin laptops.The Lenovo Flex 5G became the first Snapdragon 8cx-powered laptop to offer 5G connectivity when it debuted earlier this summer, and Qualcomm clearly wants this second-generation chipset to find its way into more machines.

Laptops powered by the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 should start appearing in late 2020, according to Qualcomm.

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 performance and other features

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 should provide a nice performance punch to any laptop it powers. Qualcomm promises an 18% increase in total system performance over Intel's 10th Gen Core i5 processor. When compared to a hybrid Core i5, performance jumps by up to 51%.

Expect less power consumption from the new system-on-chip, too, as Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2's performance per watt is up to 39% better than a 10th Gen Core i5 and 58% better than a hybrid version of that processor. In fact, the 8cx Gen 2 should be able to provide multi-day battery life to the laptops it powers, lasting for up to 25-plus continuous hours.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 includes Qualcomm's X55 5G modem as well an X24 LTE modem for staying connected when 5G networks aren't available. The Qualcomm FastConnect 6800 subsystem supports Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for faster and more efficient wireless networking.

Specs like that make Qualcomm think Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2-powered laptops are well-suited to the work- and study-at-home realities of the coronavirus pandemic. Miguel Nunes, Qualcomm's senior director for product management, points out that an always-available connection over LTE or 5G means that IT managers can make sure that anything stored on those laptops is kept secure and that updates are easier to push through. Those alway-on connections also help students who are trying to learn remotely, he added.

Those aren't the only features Qualcomm is touting with the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2. The system-on-chip includes Qualcomm's AI Engine, which can power features like eye contact correction, making it seem like you're still making eye contact with your laptop's built-in camera even if you're glancing down at information on the screen. The AI engine can also create realistic-looking avatars for video conferencing, something Qualcomm has been working on with a company called Loom.ai.

Additional features of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 include an image signal processor capable of supporting up to 4K HDR and support for built-in cameras up to 32 megapixels. The compute platform can also support dual 4K displays through a Type C cable to a dock.

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2: Where you'll find it

Qualcomm's IFA presentation highlighted two laptop makers that are planning on incorporating the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 in future machines. Acer says the new chip will power a future Spin 7, which will be the first Acer PC offering 5G connectivity. 

HP plans to work with Qualcomm as well on a new device that's designed for business and based on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2. Expect more details on that effort later this year.

Other Qualcomm processor news at IFA

As for Qualcomm's other mobile chips, the company says that its 4 Series chips for low-cost smartphones will add 5G connectivity, with the first devices featuring 5G appearing in the first three months of next year. The push to get 5G into phones that cost less than $200 follows similar moves by Qualcomm to add 5G connectivity to its 6 Series chips aimed at budget phones. The Snapdragon 690 was unveiled in June and should be arriving in phones shortly.

Philip Michaels

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.