In a first for Crew Cupertino, it’s holding a global event at night, with its ‘Scary Fast’ event set to stream from 5pm PT time on October 30, or if you’re in the UK, midnight on Halloween. Spooky indeed.
Qualcomm should also perhaps be soiling its collective pantaloons, because even though it looks like its recently announced Snapdragon X Elite silicon is placed to make real strides over The Big A’s current lineup of M2 chips, it looks almost certain that, at long last, the Apple M3 chip will finally be announced next week. That could potentially spell big trouble for the X Elite.
The timing of ‘Scary Fast’ (lame as that name is), hardly seems to be a coincidence. More a case of Apple making a calculated move to take the wind out of the sails of the Snapdragon X Elite’s announcement… well, if high-end processors had sails.
Though we won’t see these Snapdragon X Elite processors until the middle of 2024 at the very earliest, we’re fairly certain they’ll feature in certain Lenovo laptops — like the company’s ThinkPad range.
Specs-wise, Qualcomm has already served up some tantalizing snippets and figures, with the company promising the X Elite is the “most powerful, intelligent, and efficient processor in its class for Windows.” If true, this means some of the best Windows laptops could finally overtake or at least more closely compete with the best MacBooks when it comes to high-end computing tasks, like 4K video editing.
The Snapdragon X Elite looks like it will be twice as powerful as certain 13th Gen Intel processors, like the Core i7-1360p, and Qualcomm are confident it will smoke said CPU in Geekbench tests.
The firm also claims the new silicon will be around 68% more energy efficient than some of its direct competitors on the market, such as the previously mentioned i7-1360p.
Enter the Snapdragon
The X Elite uses the same 4mn process as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, and it will include 12 high-performance cores that are capable of reaching 3.8Hz. There’s even more juice to be squeezed out of the already impressive Elite thanks to a dual-core boost of up to 4.3GHz. In terms of memory architecture, we’re looking at a processor that boasts a 42MB total cache and up to 136GB/s of bandwidth.
How does these impressive numbers stack up to Apple’s M2 range of chips? Well, Qualcomm is confident the Snapdragon X Elite has 50% faster peak multi-threaded performance than Apple’s current set of silicon, which features in the likes of the brilliant MacBook Air 15-inch.
Both the regular M2 chipset and the M2 Pro/Max chip are among the fastest CPUs on the market, and it looks like the X Elite has the power to smoke them both when it comes to performance, owing to its reportedly higher TDP (Thermal Design Power).
The Apple-shaped elephant in the room, of course, remains the M3 chip — a piece of silicon we’re now convinced the Californian tech giant will reveal next week on the eve of Halloween.
While none of the following is confirmed quite yet (although we fully expect that to change in the next few days), the M3 chipset allegedly makes use of TSMC’s 3nm process. For context, the most powerful laptop Apple currently manufactures is this year’s M2-powered MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023, which uses the larger 5-nanometer tech.
Going by frequent reporting from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, the base configuration of the M3 will start with 8 CPU and 10 GPU cores. The most likely piece of hardware we expect this chipset to debut in? That would be the much-rumored 2023 iMac. Considering the aging iMac 2021 uses the dated M1 chip, Apple's iconic computer is long overdue an upgrade, which is why we're expecting it to leapfrog M2.
Reports from respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also point to an array of M3-powered MacBook Pro models being the star of 'Scary Fast'. If the MacBook Pro M3 is announced next week, a combination of high demand and limited units could make obtaining one roughly as easy as scaling Everest with toothpicks instead of an ice axe.
Going back to that whole 'Scary' angle, there's also a chance we could see the reveal of more powerful M3 Max chip, which could have 16 processor cores and 40 GPU cores.
And if you want to talk about truly frightening power that may leave the Snapdragon X Elite looking roughly as intimidating as Spyro, as he rumored M3 Ultra chip could feature 28 CPU cores, and (wait for it) a staggering 80 GPU cores.
It's more likely we may just be treated to the base M3 and possibly the M3 Pro chipsets next week, though.
Just how ‘Scary Fast’ Apple’s new range of silicon proves to be, it looks like it will have a healthy lead in terms of power over what the likes of Intel, AMD and Qualcomm can currently offer.
How do the big players in the PC space hope to keep pace with Apple when it so regularly moves the goalposts in terms of processing power? That’s a good question, and one that will no doubt have engineers at this trio of companies sweating over solutions for the foreseeable.