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Qualcomm’s 8cx Gen 2 5G processor promises a new wave of better ARM-based laptops

It’s been almost two years since Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8cx, its flagship ARM processor for Windows laptops, but at IFA 2020, the company is unveiling its successor: the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G, which promises some incremental improvements over the original.

Qualcomm wasn’t too forthcoming about what specific performance improvements the 8cx Gen 2 will offer over its predecessor beyond saying that it would provide “generational performance and efficiency gains.”

However, Qualcomm is very interested in showing that the new 8cx Gen 2 chipset is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with Intel’s traditional systems. It claims that the 8cx Gen 2 offers significant performance gains over both a comparable 10th Gen Core i5 chip from Intel as well as Intel’s Lakefield chips (which are meant to directly challenge Qualcomm’s laptop efforts, and even utilize a similar hybrid core system.)

The 8cx Gen 2 also offers improved battery life, with Qualcomm promising not just a full day’s worth of work off a single charge but over 25 continuous hours of use, enough for “multiple days of battery life” — an impressive achievement, assuming it actually holds up in the real world.

Other new features on the 8cx Gen 2 include built-in support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, Qualcomm’s Aqstic audio technology (which is used for “echo-cancellation and noise suppression”), and support for dual 4K external monitors at 60fps. There’s also vaguer promises of enhanced AI capacities, which should allow for more features like the Surface Pro X’s eye-contact feature, and improved security functionality for business and enterprise customers.

Despite the addition of “5G” to the name, the 8cx Gen 2 doesn’t actually iterate much on the connectivity front: it’ll offer the same X24 LTE modem and X55 5G modem options as the original 8cx, but it’ll be up to manufacturers to decide whether to offer either.

The refreshed chips come as Qualcomm is looking to press its advantage with 5G laptops. While the 8cx was announced in December 2018, the first 5G laptops have only begun to arrive this year, and as my colleague Cameron Faulkner noted in his review of the Lenovo Flex 5G, while the battery life on these machines is indeed phenomenal, things like app support still aren’t there for ARM-based Windows computers. Plus, Qualcomm is about to have some fresh competition: Samsung has already announced the Galaxy Book Flex 5G, powered by Intel’s 11th Gen chips and built on Samsung’s own 5G modem.

Qualcomm says to expect the first 8cx Gen 2 5G devices to be out later this year, starting with the Acer Spin 7, which was announced alongside the new chipset (and will also be Acer’s first 5G computer.)

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