Apple M-series chips such as the M2 Pro and M2 Max in the latest MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 are some of the most powerful processors in the industry. For some, they’ve unofficially become the new gold standard for ARM-based chips. But it’s possible we may see an Apple M-series rival if recent alleged leaks are accurate.
As sibling site Tom’s Hardware reports, unnamed sources have reached out to developer Kuba Wojciechowski with specifications for the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 SoC (System on Chip). The alleged processor in question promises to have the same impact for the best Windows laptops and the best computers as Apple silicon did for macOS and iOS devices.
If all of this is true, this could be huge for the computing world. Here’s why I’m excited about the alleged Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4.
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4: Purported specs
Before moving on, I want to discuss the alleged specs for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 that Wojciechowski shared on Twitter.
The chip in question is supposedly codenamed “Hamoa.” As Wojciechowski leaked back in November 2022, this processor has 8 performance cores and 4 power-efficient cores. Qualcomm is testing the chip at 3.4GHz (performance cores) and 2.5GHz (efficient cores). Each block of 4 cores has 12MB of shared L2 cache. There’s also 8MB of L3 cache. In addition, there’s 12MB of system-level cache and 4MB of memory for graphics use cases. For RAM, the integrated controller supports up to 64GB of 8-channel LPDDR5x with optional low-power features at up to 4.2GHz.
Leak: update on Qualcomm's Apple M rival - 8cx Gen 4, codename Hamoa 🧵 pic.twitter.com/1tptCk8ghfJanuary 20, 2023
The leak suggests Qualcomm’s next-gen PC chip will support discrete GPUs over 8 lanes of PCIe 4.0, with another four lanes being allocated for NVMe storage use. This is important since it means you can build a PC using graphics cards like the latest Nvidia RTX 40-series or AMD Radeon RX 7000 GPUs. Wi-Fi 7 will also apparently be supported by Qualcomm’s chip, with an external X65 option for those who want cellular connectivity.
The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 will have an integrated Adreno 740 GPU, which is the same GPU found in the previous Qualcomm processor for Windows on ARM PCs. It supports APIs like DirectX 12, Vulkan 1.3, OpenCL and DirectML.
You can read more about the SD 8cx Gen 4 in Wojciechowski’s tweet thread, but suffice it to say that Qualcomm’s next-gen chip should be a powerhouse if leaks are accurate.
Potentially smaller and more power-efficient PCs
In his Twitter thread, Wojciechowski said that he hopes to one day discard his big bulky desktop PC packing a 300W CPU in favor of something with similar performance using a third of the power and in a form factor as small as a Mac mini.
This is a sentiment I can relate to. I’ve always owned big desktop PCs but, after moving to a studio apartment where space is limited, I’ve begun entertaining the idea of getting something smaller. To be more specific, the best mini PCs like the recently released Apple Mac mini M2 (2023) have become more enticing. Phone editor Jordan Palmer’s article about how 2022 was the year of the mini PC also serves to make me seriously consider making a mini PC my next computer.
If the SD 8cx Gen 4 is real and offers Apple M-series level performance, it could be the deciding factor for me to take the plunge into the mini PC realm. And even if I decide to build a traditional desktop with this alleged next-gen Qualcomm CPU, I could potentially lower my electricity bill if such a device uses less power. The latter option will likely be what I go for since I still prefer owning a PC with a discrete GPU.
Competition is good
Windows ARM computers have been around for over a decade but they haven’t gained significant traction. The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s, which runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon Gen 3 chip, is a good showcase of what an ARM computer is capable of, but it seems like Windows ARM PCs and laptops won’t be ubiquitous any time soon.
As I said up top, the ARM-based Apple M-series chips are seen as the current standard for such processors. And since they’re found in some of the best MacBooks and the best iPads, the chips power some of the most popular computing devices on the market. It’s little wonder that Apple M-chips are held in such high esteem.
That’s all well and good, but I hope Qualcomm’s next-gen CPU will give Apple a reason to sweat. Competition is always good, especially if it results in consumers getting better products at competitive prices. It may take some time for Qualcomm to match Apple — if it ever does at. But the prospect makes me hope the SD 8cx Gen 4 and potential future iterations deliver the goods.
As usual when it comes to rumors, we should take supposed leaks about the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 with a healthy dose of skepticism. With that said, I want these leaks to be legitimate. If Qualcomm can truly deliver a processor to match Apple’s M-series, we’ll all be winners.
With the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 expected to arrive sometime in 2024, we won’t have long to see if the leaks are true and if the chip is everything reports say.