After achieving market leadership in the smartphone world, Qualcomm now wants to make laptops and 2-in-1 devices sexy again. We had seen a glimpse of that in December last year, when alongside the announcement of the current gen smartphone flagship chipset — the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm also showcased some laptops running Windows 10, which were based on the Snapdragon 835 platform.
That promise of ‘Always-On, Always-Connected’ PC is impressive to say the least, and Qualcomm wants to build up on that. The Snapdragon 835-powered PCs we saw last year were definitely intriguing, but didn't really have the grunt to shake up the laptop space. The 850 aims to change that.
The Snapdragon 850 platform is specifically targeted at small form factor, thin laptops. The Snapdragon 850 takes a lot of the same architectural elements from the current flagship Snapdragon 845, but it has been specifically optimised for the mobile desktop and PC platform experiences.
Coming to the technical aspects, the Snapdragon 850 chipset houses 8x Qualcomm Kryo 385 processors (based on Cortex A75) reaching up to 2.96 GHz, along with a Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, Adreno 630 Visual Processing Unit, Spectra 280 image processor, Qualcomm Mobile security solutions and a Hexagon 685 vector processing units, among other components.
Essentially, the chip is designed to run faster and hotter than it does on a mobile device, giving it a significant performance edge over smartphones, performance that will be very welcome in a laptop.
Qualcomm wants to focus on offering an always on, always connected experience which it is using as its USP against the current x86 chip based laptops, which are powered by Intel or AMD processors. x86 refers to the design of the chips. To put it simply, x86 chips are more powerful and versatile, but they also consume a lot of power relative to an ARM-based design like the Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips.
In terms of improvements over the Snapdragon 835 mobile PC platform, the table below enlists some added advantages. The main focus seems to be on offering Gigabit LTE speeds so that even on the edge network you are able to get great upload and download speeds. With the Snapdragon 850 and partnering with Microsoft Machine Learning SDK, Qualcomm wants to ensure that Microsoft’s ML SDK is able to capitalise on all the hardware prowess offered by the Snapdragon 850 system on chip. A lot of the the AI experiences will be hardware accelerated as well.
Qualcomm also wants the multimedia experience to be richer and to that extent, it will not only support UltraHD Premium (4K HDR) playback, but there is also enough processing power for capturing video at that quality.
Apart from the initial launch partners such as Asus, HP and Dell, Qualcomm is expected to add more OEMs to the Snapdragon 850 Mobile PC platform program. A lot of the OEMs are most likely to announce their take on the Snapdragon 850 at the ongoing Computex event in Taiwan. While working prototypes from OEMs will be seen at Computex, Qualcomm said that commercial products would start selling in the holiday season towards the end of the year.