Windows 10 PCs to get 5G for first time as Qualcomm unveils new modem

'Always on, Always connected' Windows 10 PCs to get a 5G speed boost.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Chip maker Qualcomm has announced the first 5G chip for the emerging class of mobile-first Windows 10 laptops and convertibles. 

Qualcomm is betting that 5G will mean the end of workers relying on VPN or surfing naked on untrusted Wi-Fi networks to access apps in the cloud. 

Qualcomm took the wraps off its 'extreme' 5G mobile chips in December, laying out its 7nm Snapdragon 8cx compute platform dedicated to PCs, rather than its more common use in mobile devices. 

The system consists of an Adreno 680 GPU, a Hexagon 690 DSP, a Kryo 495 CPU, the Snapdragon X24 LTE modem, Wi-Fi support, the Spectra 390 ISP. It also supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+ and the firm's Aqstic audio technologies, as well as 4K HDR video playback at 120fps. 

The technology aims to improve the appeal of emerging Windows 10 'Always connected' PCs, which need to tackle a trio of challenges in mobile computing, including the performance of Arm-based CPUs, battery life, and mobile network speeds.  

The Snapdragon 8cx 5G is currently sampling to customers and is expected to be in commercial devices late 2019, Qualcomm said at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The 8cx 5G platform will become a selling point for Windows 10 PC makers as more 5G networks light up in 2019. This could appeal to subscribers with carriers like Verizon, which will launch 5G services in 30 cities by the end of the year, promising users up to 100 times faster download speeds than 4G LTE and help reduce network latency. 

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)    

It follows the launch of the first Windows 10 on Arm chip, the Snapdragon 835, which was followed by the Snapdragon 850, the chipset that will power the new Microsoft HoloLens headset, as ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported in December. 

Qualcomm today confirmed that the Snapdragon 850 will indeed power the HoloLens 2.  

"The Snapdragon 850 Compute Platform allows our team to leverage leading hardware and software technologies to build HoloLens 2 and transform the way people communicate, create and collaborate," said Scott Evans, general manager of mixed reality devices at Microsoft. 

"Power and thermal management are key Snapdragon benefits that helped enable the advances in immersion, comfort and business value we're delivering to customers with HoloLens 2."

Lenovo, the world's top PC maker by shipments, is onboard with Qualcomm's new 5G chipset, announcing plans to launch a Snapdragon 5G-based laptop in "early 2020". 

"In collaboration with Qualcomm, we're excited to be the first to deliver a 5G connected PC with the Snapdragon 8cx 5G compute platform in early 2020," said Johnson Jia, a top exec of Lenovo's consumer PC business.

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