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ARMs Race | Qualcomm’s answer to Apple’s M1 and a peak at Microsoft’s SQ3



The Windows platform is chip-architecture-agnostic and enables OEMs to deliver PC’s to nearly every corner the PC market. Microsoft launched the Windows 10 on ARM platform with 32-bit app emulation and just recently launched a 64-bit app emulation preview enabling 64-bit app emulation of creative professional apps like Affinity Photo and Designer. 64-bit app emulation makes the platform as compatible as Intel/AMD based PCs with the majority of Windows apps which is an enormous accomplishment.

That accomplishment is overshadowed however; by Apple’s macOS on Apple’s own Silicon platform that not only out performs Snapdragon-based PC’s, it also outperforms Windows 10 on ARM for running legacy apps through translation rather than emulation like on Windows 10 on ARM. It would seem that Qualcomm is now reacting to Apple’s M1 supremacy with a new chipset that could finally challenge Apple’s M1 chip in an future Surface Pro X, ARM-powered Surface Laptop 4 and other PCs from OEM’s.

Snapdragon 8280

We recently reported on Qualcomm’s successor for the 8cx platform in the works referred to as Snapdragon 8280 in import-export databases, even though the final name for marketing is likely to be 8cx Gen 3 or something else entirely. According to a report from, there are two variants being tested internally at Qualcomm. According to the report, Qualcomm is no longer focusing on combining four high-performance cores with four energy-saving cores, but instead combining two clusters of eight high-performance cores clocked at varying speeds.

While not much is currently known about the chipset, the new chipset reportedly supports up to 32GB of LPDDR4X RAM or 8GB of the faster LPDDR5 RAM which would enable OEM’s to added more than the current ceiling of 16GB to next-gen ARM PC’s. Test Systems with the SC8280 show that they have 14-inch displays, which means these are likely laptops. There is also some information on the Neural Processing Unit or NPU which is said to be capable of up to 15 TFLOPS.

Snapdragon 8280Snapdragon 8280XPSQ3
Cores4x Gold cores 4, efficiency cores4x Gold+, 4x cores4x Gold++ cores, 3x Gold cores
Clock Speed4 @ 2.43GHz, 4 efficiency cores4 @ 2.7GHz, 4 @ 2.43GHz 4 @ 3.0GHz, 4 @ 2.43GHz
GPUAdreno 690 @ 693 MHzAdreno 690 @ 693 MHzAdreno 690 @ 693 MHz
Neural Processing Unit15 TFLOPS15 TFLOPS15 TFLOPS
RAMUp to 32 GB of LPDDR4X, support for 8GB LPDDR5Up to 32 GB of LPDDR4X, support for 8GB LPDDR5Up to 32 GB of LPDDR4X, support for 8GB LPDDR5
ModemQualcomm X50 5G, X55 5GQualcomm X50 5G, X55 5GQualcomm X50 5G, X55 5G
Die Size20 x 17 mm20 x 17 mm20 x 17 mm
DevicesARM PC’sARM PC’sSurface Pro X (SQ3)

Snapdragon 8280XP

One of the three chip variants being developed has four “Gold+” cores running at 2.7GHz and four “Gold” cores running at 2.43GHz. All of the other specifications are unchanged from the Snapdragon 8280 variant.

Microsoft SQ3

According to the report, there are certain samples being tested that are similar to the Snapdragon 8280XP but with the 4 performance cores cranked up to the maximum 3GHz with the other 4 lower-performance cores presumably at 2.43GHz. So why do we think this is the future SQ3? Because the past informs the future. For both the SQ1 and SQ2, the clock speeds were cranked up compared to what Qualcomm shipped and this higher clock speeds in some samples being tested aligns with Microsoft’s SQ chipsets running at higher clock speeds.

Could 2021 be the year Qualcomm takes the fight to Apple? Could Samsung Exynos chipset packing an AMD Radeon mobile GPU upset the Apple and Qualcomm duopoly? Stay tuned.



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