Once upon a time, a smartphone chip designer like Qualcomm wouldn't have a place at PC-centric Computex. Last year, though, we witnessed the introduction of a new class of Always Connected Windows mobile PCs built around the then-top-shelf Snapdragon 835 (SD835) chip. Qualcomm took to the Taipei trade show to announce the Snapdragon 850 (SD850), a new ARM SoC designed specifically for compact PCs running Windows 10. The company also announced that its competitor-slash-customer Samsung would be the first manufacturing partner to offer a Windows 10 PC with the new chip as its beating heart.
Qualcomm didn't provide a whole lot in the way of details, but it did say the new chip was made using the same 10-nm process node used to fabricate the SD835 and Snapdragon 845 (SD845). The modem in the SD850 is the same X20 unit found in the now-smartphone-specific SD845 and promises peak download speeds of 1.2 Gbps on supporting 4G LTE networks. The manufacturer says the chip will “support up to a 30 percent system-wide increase in performance,” compared to the “previous generation,” which we assume means the SD835.
Forbes' Simon Rockman says the SD850 will run at up to a 2.95-GHz boost clock, the same speed as the binned SD845 in Asus' new ROG Phone. Qualcomm also says the chip has three times the AI performance of the previous-gen model, though we're unsure how that applies to a machine whose main draw is compatibility with x86 Windows applications coupled with a claimed 25-hour battery life. The company was mum as to the specific core configuration of the SD850, but we suspect it's similar to the 4+4 Kryo 300-series CPU core loadout in the SD845. We expect the GPU is probably very similar to the Adreno 630 unit in that flagship smartphone SoC. The SD850 probably also carries over the Spectra 280 image processor and the Hexagon 685 DSP of the existing model.
Samsung's choice to step forward as the first Snapdragon 850 manufacturing partner is an interesting one. Some might recall that Samsung was the first major player to offer an ARM-powered Chromebook back in 2012. Those machines were based on the Korean manufacturing juggernaut's in-house Exynos 5 dual-core Cortex-A15 SoC. Microsoft has partnered exclusively with Qualcomm for its Windows 10-on-ARM efforts, but one has to imagine Samsung would like to offer consumers an alternative ARM SoC if the segment takes off.
Qualcomm says Windows 10 PCs built using the Snapdragon 850 should hit the market later this year. The company didn't provide any pricing information, but it will only sell them to manufacturing partners ready to buy thousands of chips at a time anyway.