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Inside the X Elite: Unpacking Qualcomm’s Next-Gen Performance and Features – Six Five On The Road

Inside the X Elite: Unpacking Qualcomm's Next-Gen Performance and Features - Six Five On The Road

On this episode of the Six Five On The Road at Computex Taipei, hosts Olivier Blanchard and Anshel Sag are joined by Qualcomm‘s Nitin Kumar, VP Product Management for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., for a conversation on Qualcomm’s groundbreaking approach to the design and capabilities of their latest technological marvel, the X Elite.

Their discussion covers:

  • The X Elite’s 45 TOPS NPU and its revolutionary performance features
  • The genesis and development of the X Elite’s IP to surpass current-generation performance
  • The significance of CPU performance and the impressive results of the Oryon CPU
  • Enhancements in GPU performance and its impact on gaming, drivers, and game compatibility
  • The advancement in connectivity features including WiFi, cellular connections, cameras, and sensors

Learn more at Qualcomm.

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Transcript:

Olivier Blanchard: Welcome back to Six Five on our special coverage of Computex and the Snapdragon X PC platform. I’m Olivier Blanchard. This is Anshel Sag, and we’re here with Nitin Kumar who is VP of Product Management with Qualcomm for Snapdragon PC platforms. Thanks for joining us and congratulations on the launch of the Snapdragon X platform Elite and Plus. How’s the week’s been going for you?

Nitin Kumar: Absolutely phenomenal, and thank you Olivier and Anshel. Thank you for having me. So nice to meet you. To answer your question, the week, the month has been absolutely phenomenal. We are super excited with what we have announced and where we are headed.

Olivier Blanchard: Excellent.

Anshel Sag: Great. I’ll start with the first question. The performance of the X Elite platform starts with the 45 TOPS NPU, and what was the genesis of this IP and how it was built to be so high performance compared to the current gen of compete products?

Nitin Kumar: Absolutely, Anshel. Actually, if you look at Qualcomm’s history in integrating an AI-dedicated NPU, some form of dedicated AI engine onto our Snapdragon chip sets, we have I think about maybe eight to 10 years of history of integrating NPU AI capability onto our chips. We have been doing that on our mobile platforms for several years and we have learned more about how applications… how users want to use it, what kind of variety of different use cases you can power enable running on top of these AI engine capabilities.

And then, specifically, on our Compute platforms, even our prior generation of a product that we had announced, 8cx Gen 3, that was announced, I think, a little more than two and a half years ago in October of 2021, had dedicated 15 TOPS of NPU capabilities supporting Microsoft Windows Studio Effects back then. And so we learned that AI is a fundamental technology that is going to transform and enable a unique and differentiated experience that will benefit across a variety of user base.

So we invested early on in this technology, and we put a dedicated 45 TOPS of our NPU capability on our X Elite and X Plus platforms, which are the only platforms today that can power the new generation of Microsoft Copilot+, enabling all those experiences. So because we have had a long history, we have learned a lot about it, we have optimized the engine, we have the tool sets to do that, and we designed this capability to completely enhance the experience you expect out of your PC. And I think that’s why we are calling it the PC as well.

Anshel Sag: Great.

Nitin Kumar: Yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: So speaking of performance, so obviously CPU is very important and the Orion platform is already showing some amazing results. But given that so much of AI relies on the NPU, why was it so important to get this level, this class of CPU into the platform?

Nitin Kumar: Very good point, Olivier. I think when you look at PC, it’s a very general purpose device. It is a very common device. It’s your fundamental device for compute capability or whatever you want, outside of smartphone, of course. Smartphone is more personal. Smartphone is your individual device and then the PC is an individual device, you run a different kind of applications. And there are so many different applications across different disciplines, different verticals for different users, and CPU is a fundamental generic processing engine. That’s just how the CPU is, what the PC really is. And then came along, GPU’s, now came the AI as the third shift, if you will, or the third processor along with it.

I think there’s a class of application that are fundamentally written to take the advantage of the CPU architecture. Just by having the absolute leading AI capability does not necessarily say that if you are not so efficient on the CPU, then it won’t qualify as a great PC. CPU is fundamental, general purpose compute architecture that’s so tied to a PC. So having that top level of CPU performance that Orion CPU delivers was absolutely like a base requirement, if you will.

And in our view, it’s not just about performance. It’s really about performance and power efficiency or delivering that high performance while saving battery life because at the end of the day, the PC is a mobile device. It’s not like we put it on a desk and just kept on the charge and when you take it away, you have an hour or two of battery life. It needs to last all day. So designing that Orion CPU to deliver high performance, because that’s what’s required by the applications, and at the same time to deliver that multi-day battery life was equally important as adding a 45 TOPS of NPU capability and driving those next generation of AI applications.

Anshel Sag: And so we’ve talked about the NPU, we’ve talked about the CPU and how those are both really important, and since this is an SoC, there’s also a GPU. I was wondering if you could tell us about what makes the GPU in the Snapdragon X series different and how you are able to extend the life and the performance of the GPU compared to other Snapdragon processors, but also the competition?

Nitin Kumar: Absolutely, and as you said, Anshel, there are the three fundamental processing blocks within our SoC, Snapdragon SoC, right? CPU, we talked about that, and NPU, we talked about that. And of course the third one is GPU. We have our homegrown IP Adreno GPU. We’ve been designing that since, I think, a little over 13, 14 years, and integrating across a variety of different platforms on mobile, our IOT platforms, Compute platforms, automotive platforms.

And the fundamental way we design our GPU’s are really similar to drive that next generation of graphics experiences, but at the same time keeping it at a much lower power. That’s where our unique angle comes in and that’s how we have defined to provide that high level of graphics capability. At the same time, don’t burn and don’t drain your battery life completely where you completely lose the mobility aspect that’s similar to what we discussed for the CPU.

To give an example, our Snapdragon X Elite graphics performance is very capable of, or even I think it’s similar to an Apple M2/M3 class of performance in that same range, and compared to latest Intel Core Ultra platform, Core Ultra 7 class of platform. But when you compare it to Core Ultra class of platforms with an integrated GPU across other laptops, Snapdragon delivers the same level of graphics capability at about half the power. And that’s where the true difference is. That’s where you can actually use that graphics capability and still be able to last a whole day out of your GPU. So no matter what your application is for CPU, NPU, GPU, the fundamental architecture to provide high performance and much lower power is just so inherent to Snapdragon.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. So changing gears a little bit, Qualcomm obviously has its roots in connectivity from a long, long time ago, that hasn’t changed. So how do you think about advanced connectivity, wifi, cellular sensors and cameras differently for PC than you did for mobile?

Nitin Kumar: Absolutely. That’s another great question. Outside of I think touching the processing block, CPU, NPU, GPU, another key area of differentiation for us is, and we sort of bucket all of them in calling it as providing a much improved user experience or smart user experience. But when you look behind the scenes on what that term really means, it’s across a multitude of technologies including connectivity with wifi sensor technology, audio technology, camera technology as well.

So in terms of wifi capability on both Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus class of systems, we support the absolute latest advance of wifi 7 technology. Our Fast Connect 7,800 platform with hinet simultaneous support, that’s the absolute leading technology. I think it provides about 5.8 gigabits per second speed. That’s absolutely phenomenal, latest gen with the Bluetooth 5 RX support with Bluetooth Elite support as well. You look at, it’s again tying back to that mobility experience because you’re not always connected to an ethernet connection on your laptop, right? You want to be everywhere. Like we are traveling here today at Computex in Taipei. We all have our laptops. We’re connecting to a fast wifi here or in the hall or elsewhere or at the airport. You want to be absolutely at the latest edge of the wifi to get that connectivity angle going.

At the same time, we of course, support the latest 5G modem technology as well on the platform that can get you up to 10 gigabits per second download speed, the most advanced 5G option available. Along with that, to the other question that you asked in terms of our sensor technology, our audio technology and our camera technology, that’s another area where we are disrupting on what you get out of your PC. If you look at smartphones have evolved significantly on the camera capability, not only from a resolution or a megapixel resolution capability, but across a bunch of other use cases that are built on top of what you can do with your camera in terms of background effects, video effects, bokeh effect, image quality improvement, noise cancellation, noise reduction.

And we have all that fundamental technology on our smartphones and we have brought that onto our PCs as well with Snapdragon X Elite, fundamental core camera technology derived from our Snap smartphone platforms. And you can see that we support MIPI-based cameras that can allow a much improved that video call experience that we are all probably several hours of our spending that be it Zoom or Microsoft teams, we are on the camera. So let the camera do its job and even make me look a little pretty on the camera and not a USB-based camera.

Anshel Sag: But maybe not too early. Yeah, I guess one of the questions I had was we have seen a lot of different OEMs launch with your Snapdragon X Elite platform and I was wondering if you could tell us how partners are reacting to the Elite and maybe talk about what kind of different chassis designs we’re seeing and how they’re differentiating on design.

Nitin Kumar: Absolutely, Anshel. So, I think, last week or a couple of weeks back, OEMs announced platforms based on both X Elite and X Plus platforms. And a common theme across all our OEM partners and all our devices that were launched based on Snapdragon were innovation not only on the silicon and the capability that the silicon provides, but the fundamental power efficient architecture allows our OEMs, allows our customers, allows the design team at our OEMs to be more innovative on how they want to use the design.

Because the fundamental architecture doesn’t warrant you to have maybe multiple fans or a much longer battery life or a thermal pipe or a significantly more invested in terms of thermal architecture. It opens them a variety of degrees of freedom in terms of how the designer wants to leverage this better capability of the Snapdragon architecture and do it in terms of a thinner design, longer battery life, uniqueness in terms of chassis’s, uniqueness in terms of form-factored creativity that they can enable with that architecture.

So when you look at what was announced, almost all of the devices were really thin, nice, sleek looking, and if you look at the reviews that have already been published because the designs were publicly shown, that feedback has been absolute phenomenal for us. And again, it’s tied back to the fundamental architecture advantage that we bring onto the table to provide that form factor advantage.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. Well, thanks so much Nitin. That’s pretty much all the time we have, unfortunately. But stay tuned. There’s plenty more content coming from our special coverage of Computex and the Snapdragon X PC platform post launch. So hit that subscribe button, get into our community, and we’ll see you soon.

Author Information

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

Six Five Media is a joint venture of two top-ranked analyst firms, The Futurum Group and Moor Insights & Strategy. Six Five provides high-quality, insightful, and credible analyses of the tech landscape in video format. Our team of analysts sit with the world’s most respected leaders and professionals to discuss all things technology with a focus on digital transformation and innovation.

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