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New Snapdragon-Powered Copilot+ Windows PCs Redefine the PC Market

New Snapdragon-Powered Copilot+ Windows PCs Redefine the PC Market

The News: At its Build conference this week, Microsoft finally introduced Copilot+ PCs, an entirely new next-gen category of AI-accelerated PCs powered exclusively by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus PC platforms (the only devices capable of bringing Copilot+ experiences to life today). To highlight how seminal this moment is in the transition from traditional PCs to AI-accelerated PCs, major global PC OEMs—Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung—joined Microsoft to unveil their lineup of Snapdragon X-powered Copilot+ PCs. Read the press releases here and here.

New Snapdragon-Powered Copilot+ Windows PCs Redefine the PC Market

Analyst Take: Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC announcement this week in Redmond signals an impending tectonic shift in the PC market, one that will likely redefine both expectations and buying cycles for the PC segment moving forward.

It would be tempting to focus mostly on the AI piece of this announcement, but it is about much more than that. On the one hand, yes, the Copilot+ PC as a category is, at its core, about the types of next-gen on-device AI experiences that AI-accelerated PCs will be able to deliver from now on. But on the other hand, the announcement is also significant because it finally marks the arrival of Arm-based Windows PCs, which, thanks to Qualcomm, may give the Windows ecosystem the Arm-based hardware it needs to finally compete against Apple’s own Arm-based silicon. And if the perfectly orchestrated Blitzkrieg launch of Windows-on-Arm Copilot+ PCs from every major PC OEM this week is any indication, both Microsoft and Qualcomm are off to a very good start. If nothing else, the industry-wide buy-in from Microsoft and its biggest PC OEM partners should make even the most recalcitrant naysayers and luddites perk up.

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X PC platforms (X Elite in the flagship tier and X Plus being a bit more tame) promise to finally deliver true enterprise-class Arm performance for PCs that Apple users have been enjoying on their M1, M2, and M3 devices—excellent performance per watt, battery life, thermal efficiency and form factor advantages—but with the added advantages that come with having Qualcomm’s neural processing unit (NPU) and AI-accelerating systems both turbocharging device performance and delivering impressive new PC experiences.

New Terminology in the AI PC World: Copilot+ PCs

First things first, let’s take note of a nomenclature reset in the PC space: While we have already gotten used to calling next-gen PCs with built-in AI capabilities AI PCs, Microsoft effectively rebranded AI PCs Copilot+ PCs to establish a clearer connection between its Copilot product family and AI PC use cases. I think it’s a smart move for several reasons, not the least of which is that it establishes some degree of AI PC ecosystem ownership for Microsoft and Windows. I also like that instead of a broad and abstract nomenclature such as AI PC, Copilot+ PC clarifies the value of AI use cases by focusing on on-device assistant features that will revolutionize how we all work, play, and create on PCs.

The new terminology also brings Microsoft to the forefront of these new AI-powered experiences, which is a pretty great strategy for Windows, given that we would otherwise be talking mostly about chipsets and hardware. Microsoft taking ownership of the AI PC nomenclature and rebranding it is a clever market-facing strategy: It not only sets Microsoft as the leader in AI experiences across the PC segments, regardless of hardware, but also establishes a consistent, predictable standard of OEM-agnostic UX expectation across the segment.

So, Copilot+ PCs it is, at least for the time being. It isn’t clear yet how that nomenclature will evolve over time, but that is a question Microsoft doesn’t need to worry about just yet.

Hardware Matters: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Platform Big Moment

What sets Copilot+ PCs apart from other, previous, AI PCs is primarily the hardware that allows them to deliver Copilot+ experiences. At launch, it appears that only Qualcomm’s brand new next-gen Windows-on-Arm Snapdragon X PC SOC is capable of delivering these experiences. In other words, until further notice, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus are the chipsets of choice for Copilot+ PCs.

A quick look at the specs gives us a glimpse into why: Snapdragon X Elite delivers the highest NPU performance per watt for a laptop (up to 2.6X versus Apple’s M3 and up to 5.4X against Core Ultra 7), and thanks to its integrated Qualcomm Hexagon NPU architecture, can deliver up to 24 trillion operations per second (TOPS)/watt peak performance in uses cases such as Super Resolution. Qualcomm’s Oryon CPU also helps Snapdragon X Elite lead in performance per watt, “matching competitor peak PC CPU performance at 60% less power,” per the company’s briefing materials.

There is talk of Intel and AMD versions coming at the end of 2024 and shipping in 2025, and Microsoft is adamant about helping bring both into the Copilot+ PC ecosystem. But for now, Qualcomm is the company making this transition from first-gen AI PCs to next-gen AI experiences (and putting Windows Agents) on PCs possible.

To say that Qualcomm is making the most of its head start would be an understatement. Monday’s announcement heavily promoted the Snapdragon X platform—and especially the flagship Snapdragon X Elite, which will be powering Microsoft’s newest generation of Surface devices. Its 40+ TOPS, impressive resource management advantages, and Apple-crushing performance were a constant theme during Monday’s first-look briefings, and it is pretty clear that Microsoft sees both the Snapdragon X PC platform and the Copilot+ PC category as a whole as an opportunity to have a go at Apple. Slide after slide provided insight into how much better and faster Copilot+ PCs powered by Snapdragon X Elite were compared with MacBooks powered by the M3 chipset. One that stood out for me was 58% faster in sustained multithreaded performance, but the side-by-side live demo of a Surface device easily outperforming an M3 MacBook in Adobe helped illustrate just how much of a difference Qualcomm’s NPU makes.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that all TOPS are not created equal. My caution here is that TOPS-to-TOPS comparisons between Apple and Copilot+ PCs shouldn’t be distilled to simple number-to-number comparisons. (There is an Apples-to-Apples joke in here somewhere, but I will spare us all the attempt.) The PC industry is going to need to come up with more nuanced system performance benchmarks for this, though. Application performance deltas will be helpful here, but we might need a more application-agnostic metric, such as TOPS per watt or something along those lines.

The main takeaway is that Copilot+ is a Qualcomm Snapdragon X exclusive right out of the gate and will remain so for at least most of 2024, if not longer. Qualcomm’s Windows-on-Arm first-mover advantage is paying off.

Summary of Major PC OEM Copilot+ PC Launches

Below is a quick summary of key Copilot+ PC launches from major PC OEMs, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Samsung, all of which are powered by either the Snapdragon X Elite or the Snapdragon X Plus platform.

New Snapdragon-Powered Copilot+ Windows PCs Redefine the PC Market
Image Source: Qualcomm

Acer: Acer is introducing the Swift 14 AI, offering new AI experiences to support everyday computing tasks. Combining the powerful Snapdragon X Series platforms, Copilot+ capabilities in Windows 11, and solutions such as Acer PurifiedView 2.0 and Acer PurifiedVoice 2.0, the Swift 14 AI seamlessly utilizes AI to elevate productivity and creativity. It offers an option with a 2.5K touchscreen display for immersive visuals and stands out with a Copilot+ PC-exclusive design, featuring a unique AI logo on the cover and an Activity Indicator on the touchpad.

ASUS: ASUS incorporating Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus into the ASUS Vivobook S 15 signifies a paradigm shift in personal computing, delivering unprecedented AI power and efficiency. As a result of integrated 45 NPU TOPS and an unmatched 45W TDP, supported by ASUS IceCool Thermal technology, users will enjoy lightning-fast on-device AI processing, enabling Copilot+ PC next-gen AI-powered features. The ASUS Vivobook S 15 offers more than 18 hours of uninterrupted productivity, despite its 15.6-inch 3K 120 Hz OLED display. All this is combined with a slim form factor and a full set of I/O ports, making it a versatile on-the-go companion.

Dell: Dell now offers five new laptops powered by Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus. With a comprehensive portfolio for consumer and commercial, XPS 13, Inspiron 14 Plus, Inspiron 14, Latitude 7455, and Latitude 5455 deliver exceptional speed and AI performance and groundbreaking battery life to elevate computing and simplify tasks. The new devices also feature NGAI, enabling transformative AI PC experiences.

HP: HP’s next-gen AI PCs are designed and engineered around the Snapdragon X Elite processor and its dedicated NPU, capable of 45 TOPS, to run language models and generative AI locally on the device. The HP OmniBook X AI PC and HP EliteBook Ultra AI PC deliver more power in sleek, ultra-thin, and cool form factors that harness the most powerful AI PC technologies with up to 26 hours of battery life, rapid charging, and AI optimization on device for greater productivity. The HP EliteBook Ultra also delivers additional features for commercial customers, including Wolf Pro Security Next Gen Antivirus (NGAV) designed to protect the PC down to the firmware level with hardware security features that shield user credentials and other critical data, Microsoft Secured-Core PC designation (a chip-to-cloud security technology that provides secure identity, secure attestation, and cryptographic services), and a 3-year warranty.

Lenovo: Lenovo introduced the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x and Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6, its first AI PCs powered by Snapdragon X Elite. These laptops offer top PC performance per watt and fast NPU-based AI processing up to 45 TOPS. Windows 11 and Copilot+ enhancements enable access to large language model (LLM) capabilities offline, enhancing creativity, productivity, and security. The Yoga Slim 7x and ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 deliver innovative AI PC features, ensuring futuristic and streamlined consumer and business user experiences.

Microsoft: The new Surface Laptop is the fastest, most intelligent Surface Laptop ever. Now in an updated, modern laptop design with razor-thin bezels, a brilliant touchscreen display, AI-enhanced camera, and a haptic touchpad. It delivers incredible performance, ultra-long battery life and all-new AI experiences powered by Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors. Customers get a choice between a 13.8” and 15” display and four stunning colors. The all-new Surface Pro is the most flexible 2-in-1 laptop, now reimagined with more speed and battery life for all-new AI experiences, powered by X Elite and X Plus. It introduces a new, optional OLED with HDR display and ultrawide field of view camera perfect for Windows Studio Effects. The new Surface Pro Flex Keyboard allows you to position your Surface Pro and keyboard where they suit you, designed to be used both attached or detached.

Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Book4 Edge is equipped with cutting-edge hybrid AI integrations and powered by the fastest, most powerful Snapdragon X Elite for laptops backed by 45 TOPS NPU computing power. This device joins the most hyperconnected Galaxy AI ecosystem. With 14-inch and 16-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display size options, Galaxy Book4 Edge unleashes new levels of creativity and productivity and breaks down communications barriers with intuitive capabilities and simple language prompts. It also brings beloved Galaxy AI features like Circle to Search with Google, Live Translate, and Chat Assist to the PC’s more expansive display. It is worth noting that Samsung is the only PC OEM launching a Copilot+ PC with Snapdragon X Elite’s highest spec package.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Image Credit: Qualcomm

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.

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