Qualcomm Challenges Intel, Apple With Snapdragon X Chips For Copilot+ PCs

A small player in the PC market, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X launch for Microsoft’s new category of Copilot+ PCs marks the chip designer’s biggest move in the space to date, creating a new wave of competition not only for Intel and AMD but also Apple.

Qualcomm launched its highly anticipated Arm-based Snapdragon X processors on Monday, saying the chips will go into more than 20 upcoming PCs that fall under Microsoft’s new “Copilot+” banner for computers with advanced AI capabilities.

The San Diego, Calif.-based company served as the main chip launch partner for Microsoft’s push at its Build 2024 event in Seattle to establish Copilot+ as a new category of Windows-based AI PCs, which feature a neural processing unit (NPU) capable of at least 40 tera operations per second, “all-day battery life and access to the most advanced AI models.”

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The Snapdragon X processors are set to go into PCs from HP Inc., Dell Technologies, Lenovo, Microsoft, Samsung, Acer and Asus that will become available starting next month.

A small player in the PC market, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X launch marks its biggest move in the space to date, creating a new wave of competition not only for Intel and AMD but also Apple, which, like Qualcomm, designs custom processors using Arm’s instruction set architecture albeit for its own devices.

“It’s a new era for the PC and our collaboration with Microsoft combines the power of Snapdragon X Series with the power of Copilot+ to deliver groundbreaking AI capabilities that are redefining the personal computing experience—all with industry-leading performance and multi-day battery life,” said Alex Katouzian, group general manager of mobile, compute and extended reality at Qualcomm Technologies, in a statement.

Microsoft is hoping that Qualcomm’s new chips, along with new processors to come from Intel and AMD, will help it better compete against Apple and its growing portfolio of Macs that have been revitalized by the iPhone giant’s M-series system-on-chips such as the M3.

“Copilot+ PCs powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Series deliver performance-per-watt leadership to the Windows ecosystem while also powering groundbreaking AI experiences and exceptional battery life” said Pavan Davuluri, corporate vice president of Windows and devices at Microsoft, in a statement.

The Snapdragon X processors feature a CPU, GPU and neural processing unit (NPU), the latter of which is positioned as low-power engine for accelerating AI features. While Intel and AMD have launched PC processors with an NPU in the past year as part of their AI PC efforts, Qualcomm was the first company to introduce an NPU for PCs back in 2018.

In touting its capabilities, Qualcomm said its Snapdragon X chips can deliver 2.6 times greater NPU performance than Apple’s M3 and 5.4 times greater NPU performance than Intel’s Core Ultra 7 processor. The company also said its Snapdragon X Elite series, which represent the highest performance chips in the lineup, “leads in performance per watt,” matching the peak CPU performance of the Core Ultra 7 while using 60 percent less power.

“This is an inflection point for the Windows PC ecosystem, enabled by our deep partnership with Qualcomm. I am thrilled to be able to launch innovative Copilot+ PCs experiences and devices with Snapdragon, including Surface, that have leading performance and energy efficiency,” Davuluri said.