Qualcomm Lifts the Curtain On Its Most Powerful PC Processor

October 30, 2023 by Aaron Carman

The latest Snapdragon processor brings on-device AI performance to desktop computers.

In a move to bring more AI performance to PCs, Qualcomm Technologies has announced the Snapdragon X Elite: the “most powerful computing processor.” This announcement rounded out Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit, which included other plans to improve AI-focused processing on both mobile devices and Windows computers.


Snapdragon X Elite

The Snapdragon X Elite implements an onboard NPU, making AI applications more accessible to consumers. Image used courtesy of Qualcomm

Qualcomm has loaded its newest Snapdragon processor with several features that make it blazing fast for both general computing and inferencing applications. In this article, we’ll take a closer look under the hood of the Snapdragon X Elite to give readers a sense of how it could stack up to the competition. In addition, we will discuss the move toward AI-centric processing to see how new features could change the next generation of computing.


Qualcomm Invests in On-Device AI

Traditionally, AI models require devices to collect data from the edge and send it through a cloud system for processing. While this method works fine for models such as ChatGPT, it can be problematic for sensitive data.  As such, the move to on-device AI could alleviate privacy concerns and open the doors for new applications.

The move to on-device AI, however, would require major advancements in the processing speed of consumer-grade electronics. Qualcomm claims that the new processing power afforded by the Snapdragon X Elite could facilitate the move toward on-device AI.

The Snapdragon X Elite includes a 64-bit Qualcomm Oryon CPU, supporting 12 cores up to 3.8 GHz. Combined with the onboard Adreno GPU with up to 4.6 TFLOPs, the general computing performance of the processor is competitive in the AI space. The integrated Qualcomm Hexagon NPU also increases inferencing power to 45 TOPs.


A Growing Ecosystem of Laptop AI Chips

This balance between AI and general-purpose performance afforded by the 4 nm process node makes the processor a good candidate for future computing systems. Though it is not currently clear where the processor stands against competitors in quantifiable benchmarks, Qualcomm anticipates that the chip will deliver equal or better performance than existing processors with the benefit of on-chip AI acceleration.


Snapdragon X Elite benchmarks

The Snapdragon X Elite reports improved computing performance compared to the competition, with the ability to run generative AI models in silicon. Image used courtesy of Future (Click to enlarge.)

Qualcomm has reported improved acceleration performance in both laptop and smartphone-based AI applications. Windows 11 on-device assistants reportedly used 30 tokens per second, while smartphones with the processor accomplished image generation in less than a second using Stable Diffusion.

During a live benchmarking session at Snapdragon Summit, Qualcomm demonstrated two laptop reference designs with different configurations to show off the power of Snapdragon X Elite. This demonstration and others proved that the chip uses a third of the power of Intel's highest-performing laptop CPU and outperforms an M2 processor in an Apple MacBook Pro 13" at 80 W peak.


More Edge Computing to Come

Windows PCs that include the Snapdragon Elite X are slated for release as soon as mid-2024, according to Qualcomm. At this point, the platform's performance can be fully tested with popular AI models to determine the processor’s performance compared to competition in both general computing and AI-focused tasks.

Although this release won’t spur an overnight shift to on-device AI, the Snapdragon X Elite's processing power indicates that AI is becoming more accessible.