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5G in PCs? That's Lenovo's plan for early 2020 with Qualcomm's new chips

Qualcomm has paired its second-generation 5G modem, the X55, with its 8cx PC chip.

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Lenovo's Yoga C630 used Qualcomm's chips to connect to 4G LTE networks. 

Lenovo

Move over, 5G phones. The ultrafast connectivity is also coming to PCs.

Qualcomm on Monday at MWC here in Barcelona said it has paired its second-generation 5G modem, the X55, with its 8cx processor for computers that it unveiled in December. The new Snapdragon 8cx 5G compute platform will let computer-makers release devices later this year and early next year that connect to the new, ultrafast 5G networks. 

The company expects to see businesses roll out their own, private 5G networks in their buildings, which "will allow for a more security-rich, high-performance data link for the next generation of connected applications and experiences for the modern connected worker."

Lenovo said it will "be the first" to have a Snapdragon-enabled 5G PC on the market in early 2020.

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"This new generation of smart PCs that will offer artificial intelligence, high performance, long battery life and always-on connectivity has the promise of enabling better, faster and more seamless experiences for consumers, small businesses and large enterprises," said Johnson Jia, senior vice president and general manager of Lenovo's Intelligent Devices Group's consumer PCs and smart devices, in a press release.

5G promises to significantly boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. It can run between 10 and 100 times faster than your typical cellular connection today, and even quicker than anything you can get with a physical fiber-optic cable going into your house. It'll also boost how fast a device will connect to the network with speeds as quick as a millisecond to start your download or upload. 

MWC, the world's biggest mobile trade show, has seen announcement after announcement of companies working on 5G -- and Qualcomm has been part of most of them. Lenovo joined Qualcomm at its press conference Monday to talk about connected PCs. 

Always-connected PCs

The aim of always-connected PCs is to bring smartphone features to computers, like all-day or even multiple-day battery life and constant 4G LTE connectivity. People spend an increasing amount of time on their phones and less time on their PCs, and they're holding onto computers for much longer than their smartphones. The answer for Microsoft and traditional PC makers has been to turn computers into something more like phones -- and the promise of Qualcomm-powered computers was multiday battery life.

In December, Qualcomm unveiled its first processor designed specifically for always-connected PCs, the Snapdragon 8cx. This chip, like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 for smartphones, is built using 7-nanometer process technology, the most advanced technique available today. It delivers big performance jumps from its predecessors in PCs and is capable of running more of the apps and services users want in their devices. Lenovo was Qualcomm's first major partner for the 8cx. 

With the new 8cx with 5G, Qualcomm is still touting multiday use, but said "battery life varies significantly with settings, usage and other factors." 

And while 5G may be coming to PCs, that doesn't mean consumers will use it. Matt Bereda, vice president of global consumer marketing for PCs and tablets at Lenovo, told CNET in December that most people don't activate the 4G LTE service on their Lenovo always-connected PCs. 

"Over half the people aren't connecting these devices," Bereda said at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit. 

Cost is one of the biggest factors for why people don't use 4G LTE on their Windows or Snapdragon computers, he said. Lenovo found the best way to sell always-connected PCs was downplaying the actual connectivity part.