Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8cx is the company’s chance to finally power a Windows laptop worth buying. Battery life and built-in cellular connectivity (read: your laptop always has an internet connection) have always been the company’s strengths, but its previous Snapdragon 850 didn’t always have enough raw power to work out through a workout. web browser full of web applications.
We won’t know if that will really change until we’ve had some quality time with real Snapdragon 8cx computers, none of which have been announced so far, but did I just have to put Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx reference design laptop in, and my first impression of performance was promising.
When I activated the beta version of a new Firefox browser that was revised to run natively on ARM-based computers, I was able to easily open a dozen browser tabs and scroll through them without major problems. That’s while a PowerPoint presentation and an instance of the Windows Store were kept in the background, and while being mirrored on an external monitor. It wasn’t a smooth experience, but it wasn’t a lag one either, and I felt like I had plenty of free space.
It felt like I had free space to spare
And I’m not just talking about a dozen Google instances. I’m talking about websites with a decent amount of page load and some ongoing demand on a computer’s memory and processor, including The edge, CNET, a couple of YouTube HD videos, a Google Sheets spreadsheet, and a fully loaded Tweetdeck instance with all my social media columns. The spreadsheet took a second to load successfully, but that could have been connectivity. I was browsing on a fairly limited 20Mbps Verizon LTE connection at the time.
Obviously this is not proof enough. I did not run a single quantitative benchmark. Also, the friendly Qualcomm representative on the site did not allow me to access the Windows Task Manager to see how much my browser was loading on the new chip.
And there isn’t much to say about the reference design itself. It looks and feels like a fairly generic, mid-range Windows convertible, slim but a bit sticky, with a fairly dim screen and a camera surrounded from behind. Neither of these things will necessarily be true for end devices from the right PC manufacturers.
Hopefully we will have a chance to test more in mid-2019, when Qualcomm expects the first 8cx devices to hit the market. For now, Firefox’s early performance is a good sign.