Qualcomm makes the most of Windows Copilot+ capabilities

Arm is raised with Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus.

David Harold

Qualcomm showcased its Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus processors, highlighting their AI capabilities and compatibility with Microsoft’s Copilot+ features. These processors lead today in performance and efficiency for Windows PCs, especially in AI tasks. The Snapdragon X Elite claims up to 51% faster CPU performance using 65% less power compared to competitors, and the NPU delivers significantly better claimed  performance per watt than Apple’s M3 and Intel’s Core Ultra 7. Over 20 Copilot+ PCs powered by Snapdragon processors are now available for pre-order.

avan Davuluri, corporate vice president, Windows + Devices, Microsoft and Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm president and CEO, at Qualcomm’s Computex 2024 keynote stage.
Pavan Davuluri, corporate vice president, Windows + Devices, Microsoft and Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm president and CEO, at Qualcomm’s Computex 2024 keynote stage. (Source: Qualcomm)

What do we think? Qualcomm and Microsoft have put blood, sweat, and tears into getting Windows for Arm to this point, but it is AI that is making it compelling. The premium pricing of Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus devices suggests that Qualcomm believes they can hold their own in appeal against Intel. Qualcomm’s NPU is strong, but initial independent benchmarks suggest the GPU is so-so. If they can make a breakthrough on the GPU side, say with Nvidia’s RTX or a stronger GPU from an unexpected third party, they might stay up with AMD and Intel as PC chip leaders.

Windows is the story for Qualcomm

In a keynote at the start of Computex 2024, Qualcomm made the most of having the only currently shipping AI PC platform up to spec for Microsoft Copilot+.

Making the most of the fact that PCs with Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors are the only ones today that can deliver Copilot+ AI PC experiences. Qualcomm lined up partner demos and showed benchmarks staking a claim to taking back the performance leadership for Windows from Apple.

Qualcomm President and CEO Cristiano Amon took the stage with an all-star lineup of industry leaders from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Samsung.

“I am grateful to the partners that joined me on stage today to celebrate this industry shift that puts Snapdragon-powered Windows Copilot+ PCs at the forefront of technology innovation,” said Amon. This is Qualcomm’s window (pun intended), and they have toiled for years to get to this point, where Windows on Arm is, for this brief moment, more interesting than Windows on x86.

Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus are certainly right for the job, which is not to deliver massive gaming performance but to run crucial apps like Copilot+ while maintaining up to multiple days of battery life. And that means carefully balancing performance per watt.

While the middle of the year is not prime PC sales season, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia will all be shipping Copilot+ devices by Q3’24. Over 20 Copilot+ PCs powered by Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors are available for pre-order now, shipping from June 18. A Snapdragon Dev Kit for Windows will be available on the same day.

(Source: Qualcomm)

Amon emphasized the importance of the NPU in the Snapdragon X series, citing it as a crucial factor for the superior performance of PCs running on the Snapdragon X series and enabling Copilot+ experiences. Qualcomm’s NPU delivers an impressive 45 TOPS, comparing well with the not-yet-in-market offerings from Intel (48 NPU TOPS) and AMD (50 NPU TOPS).

According to Qualcomm’s presentation, their NPU delivers the highest NPU performance per watt for laptops, up to 2.6× versus Apple’s M3 and up to 5.4× versus Core Ultra 7.

(Source: Qualcomm)

They say that Snapdragon X Elite is the new performance leader for Windows, with up to 51% faster CPU performance at ISO power, matching competitor peak PC CPU performance at 65% less power.

Qulacomm roadmap
(Source: Qualcomm)

Of course, AMD and Intel will be making stronger performance/watt claims for their new parts, but it is legitimate for Qualcomm to compare against parts that are shipping now.

Qualcomm also presented their AI Hub, which enables developers to deploy a model on Snapdragon platform devices in “less than 5 minutes.” Developers can use their devices or choose from Qualcomm Technologies’ selection of pre-optimized AI models. The new Snapdragon Dev Kit for Windows offers developers an ideal hardware platform with an accelerated Snapdragon X Elite chipset and a popular, stackable form factor. Tools matter for Qualcomm as they seek to shore up Windows on Arm and their new standing alongside the PC leaders.

Qualcomm roadmap
(Source: Qualcomm)

There were decent demos from Cephable (facial and voice control), DaVinci Resolve (faster performance driven by NPU), Djay Pro (instrument isolation), and others, and a claim of over 1,200 games running today. We continue to think the AI PC killer app is some way off (though Recall features look interesting).

Said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, “The PC is being reborn, and it’s changing what consumers can expect from their devices across productivity, creativity, communications, and entertainment. Last month, we announced Copilot+ PCs—the fastest, most intelligent Windows PCs ever built. They represent an inflection point for our entire industry. And it’s only possible because of the collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies.”