Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit: Oryon Sets the Table for PCs with AI

October 24, 2023 / Ben Bajarin

What’s Significant

Qualcomm has finally shared extensive details of their Oryon custom architecture purpose-built to take Arm-based Windows PCs to the next level. This is a result of years of work via their acquisition of Nuvia, and represents a significant moment for Qualcomm as they return to a proprietary custom Arm architecture.

Overall, Qualcomm shared some impressive specs with the new PC architecture named the Snapdragon X Elite. The benchmarks included better single-threaded performance than Apple’s M2 and better single and multi-threaded performance of select AMD and Intel’s current lineup.

Most important, in our view, are the specs around the custom Hexagon NPU, which has 45 TOPS performance capabilities and is the single most important metric and benchmark for running pervasive generative AI natively on client devices.

Another critical element of this announcement is the support of Microsoft, which is doubling down even more on AI with Windows and is leading the charge of bringing advanced AI features to Windows, which will have performance advantages on Snapdragon X Elite thanks to the NPU.

There is a question of market traction going foward for Arm-based Windows PCs given they represent a very small portion of the market today. We believe the technological differentiators Qualcomm now acheives with a return to a fully custom architecure makes the opportunity more attractive. That combined with a re-invigorated Microsoft around AI enhancing Windows and their prioritizing the Snapdragon X Elite in that equation give Qualcomm a window of opportunity we do not believe existed before. The big questioning remaining is how can Qualcomm start to attract enterprise buyers to OEM PCs running Snapdragon X The scale opportunity is even larger if Qualcomm can attract enterprise buyers who are ready to pivot to AI enhanced PCs.

What was announced:

  • Qualcomm has unveiled its next-generation Snapdragon X1 Elite platform for premium Windows PCs, promising massive performance and efficiency gains.
  • The Snapdragon X1 Elite features Qualcomm’s new custom Oryon CPU based on ARM architecture. With up to 12 cores and clock speeds up to 3.8GHz, Oryon delivers up to 2x faster CPU performance compared to competing x86 chips while using only one-third the power.
  • The 4nm Oryon CPU utilizes new architectural innovations like dual-core boost, heterogeneous computing, and power-saving techniques to achieve the best balance of high performance and remarkable power efficiency. This results in laptops with multi-day battery life.
  • For graphics, the integrated Adreno GPU provides up to 4.6 TFLOPS of power, enabling stunning visuals, smooth gaming, and fast rendering. The Spectra ISP supports up to 64MP cameras.
  • The Hexagon processor drives AI acceleration, delivering up to 75 total system (CPU/GPU/NPU) TOPS and 45 TOPS on Qualcomm’s custom NPU alone to run powerful on-device AI experiences. Snapdragon X1 Elite can run AI models with over 13 billion parameters directly on the device for new intelligent capabilities.
  • With the integrated FastConnect 7800 system, Snapdragon X1 Elite supports the latest Wi-Fi 7 and 5G wireless technologies. This enables PCs to achieve fiber-like speeds wirelessly with minimal latency for activities like streaming, syncing, and downloading files.
  • Additional features include AV1 video codec support, Snapdragon Sound technology for high-fidelity audio, enhanced security, and more.
  • The Snapdragon X1 Elite platform will power premium consumer and commercial PCs from major manufacturers starting in mid-2024.

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