Qualcomm’s Oryon CPU Powers Laptops

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite for laptops finally achieves competitive Arm-architecture performance while keeping power low. It’s the company’s first use of its Nuvia-originated CPU.
Bryon Moyer
Bryon Moyer

Qualcomm is strengthening its push into the PC world with a new processor for laptops featuring its homegrown Oryon (pronounced like the Orion constellation) CPU that originated with Nuvia, which Qualcomm acquired in 2021. Oryon details are still under wraps, but its performance is now competitive at lower power.

The Snapdragon X Elite features 12 CPU cores, and the company claims big performance advantages for both the CPUs and the GPU, although absolute power data remains unavailable. It should compare well to x86 processors with up to 8 performance cores and 16 efficiency cores. PCs with the new Snapdragon are expected to appear mid-2024.

Qualcomm already offers processors for Windows machines using Arm cores, but those employ standard Arm-designed CPUs. The Nuvia acquisition gave Qualcomm a new CPU that still hews to the Arm ISA. It’s betting that the power-performance achieved will set it apart from other Arm-based laptop processors—as well as traditional x86-based ones. With the new processor, Qualcomm is also changing its PC-processor branding to Snapdragon X.

Software compatibility, once a big barrier, has eased since Windows 10 supported Arm in 2017. Much software is already available, and Windows 11 can emulate x86 execution for other titles at the expense of performance. Even so, favorable performance compared with x86 processors is necessary for Arm-based machines to be anything other than a curiosity. The rumored plans of other established vendors to sell Arm-based Windows processors could lend momentum to what Qualcomm and Microsoft are trying to achieve once Qualcomm’s exclusive arrangement with Microsoft expires next year.

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