Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) continues to be in the spotlight, as the product announcements from the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 keep coming. And this latest one is a doozy. QCOM announced it will beat Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) in the race to release processors for the PC market using the advanced 7nm process. The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx — the “x” stands for extreme — is the largest processor the company has ever made, and it looks like it has the power to give Intel the cold sweats.
On Wednesday, QCOM announced its new Snapdragon 855 mobile CPU. Yesterday, it took the wraps off another new processor and this one could be the key to grabbing a chunk of the PC market, which is well past its glory days, but still generating sales of over 67 million units last quarter.
The new Snapdragon 8cx is designed using the 7nm process, which means Qualcomm can pack a lot more processing power in a smaller and more energy efficient package than Intel’s 10nm chips offer. That pays off with laptops that can be thinner than ever, with extended battery life. The Snapdragon 8cx is also equipped with the latest PC technology, including USB-C, 8-cores, up to 16GB of RAM, aptX HD audio for better interaction with digital voice assistants, graphics support for two 4K monitors and LTE up to 2 Gbps.
What does all this mean? QCOM says the Snapdragon 8cx has the power and capabilities needed to support Windows 10 enterprise applications, not just consumer Windows devices. Onstage, the company claimed that competing against Intel’s current 7w chips — like the Y-series powering Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) new MacBook Air — the Snapdragon 8cx is twice as fast.
Qualcomm says to expect to see Windows 10 laptops, convertibles and 2-in-1 devices equipped with the Snapdragon 8cx shipping by the second half of 2019.
Could QCOM Really Disrupt the PC Laptop Market?
Two of the biggest factors for those who buy ultra-slim and ultra-compact laptops and 2-in-1 devices are battery life and always-on capability. Users don’t want to be schlepping a power adapter everywhere or fighting for an electrical outlet at the airport. And they don’t want to wait for their laptop to boot up or search for a Wi-Fi network. They want it to be instantly on and where they left off the moment that lid is opened, and instantly connected to LTE if Wi-Fi isn’t available.
Qualcomm promised these capabilities last year. And it delivered. Windows laptops released this year with its Snapdragon 850 processor were always on, and they were blowing away Intel chips with 25 hour battery life. However, these modified smartphone processors couldn’t deliver the performance Windows users demand. Ultraportable laptops still need to deliver performance to succeed.
The Snapdragon 8cx was designed specifically for Windows PCs. And it appears to have solved the performance issues that plagued QCOM’s first generation chips. According to Engadget, one of Qualcomm’s reference design laptops was running two web browsers with multiple tabs open while running Windows apps and simultaneously outputting 4K video to two external displays. That’s pretty impressive.
If Qualcomm has also managed to retain the impressive battery life of its initial PC efforts — double what the MacBook Air can manage — the company is in a position to give Intel a serious run for its money in the laptop market. With PC demand showing signs of life even as QCOM’s core smartphone market is beginning to contract, success here would be a big win for the company, with upside for Qualcomm stock.
Don’t Forget AMD
QCOM introduced the Snapdragon 8cx as “the world’s first 7nm PC platform.” Yes, it’s beating Intel to the market, but QCOM’s marketing department appears to have overlooked Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD). AMD announced its own 7nm Zen 2 PC processors a month ago and they’re expected to show up in computers before the end of this year.
However, it’s market leader Intel that QCOM is really focused on at this point, and with the Snapdragon 8cx, it appears that 2019 could be the year that Qualcomm breaks into the PC industry big time. One thing that’s sure out of all of this? With QCOM and AMD, plus Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) newly announced Graviton processors for cloud servers, Intel has its work cut out for it next year.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.