Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus Laptop Chips Explained

Is Qualcomm finally ready for Windows laptops? This generation is different, and here's what you'll need to know when you start to shop -- that we know so far.

Mark Knapp
4 min read

Qualcomm is one of the biggest under-the-hood names in mobile devices, producing the popular Snapdragon chips that power many of the best Android phones on the market. But ever since it turned its attention to laptops several years ago, its Windows laptop CPUs have experienced some big performance and compatibility issues. The Qualcomm Snapdragon X Plus and Snapdragon X Elite chips announced in late 2023 and early 2024 look to right its course and raise the bar for notebook processing performance in speed, efficiency and AI acceleration. 

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Microsoft and Qualcomm recently announced the Windows Copilot Plus PC branding in conjunction with new laptops based on these chips, making it a good time to discuss the chips: what they offer, where to find them and what they'll mean for the latest batch of computers to run on them.

What are the Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite chips?

The Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite are a family of systems-on-chip, combining much of the components a computer runs on into a single package. This is a common approach, as many Intel, AMD and Apple chips also feature graphics processors, memory controllers and more integrated into the same chip as the CPU. Lately, they've also featured neural processing units on the chip. 

What makes the Snapdragon chips different is that they use an ARM-based architecture rather than the x86 architecture that has been near universal in the personal computing space for decades until Apple introduced its own ARM-based M-series chips. One problem with previous ARM-based laptops has been many popular programs simply aren't designed for it, instead being coded for x86 architectures. The requires either different low-level code or a translation layer, like Apple's Rosetta, to run on ARM architectures. 

This has posed problems in the past; some apps simply didn't work and others performed poorly, there's no reason to think compatibility won't rear up for these new chips as well. But Microsoft has put in some effort to ensure compatibility and fast performance with the new Snapdragon X chips for hundreds of popular apps, and it's using a special emulator called Prism to run nonnative apps.

Here's a breakdown of the current Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus variants:

Snapdragon X specs

Oryon CPU coresCPU total cacheCPU max multithread frequencyCPU dual-core boost frequencyAdreno GPU (TFLOPS)Hexagon NPU (TOPS)Memory Type
Snapdragon X Elite X1E-00-1DE 1242MB3.8GHz4.3GHz4.645LPDDR5x-8448
Snapdragon X Elite X1E-84-100 1242MB3.8GHz4.2GHz4.645LPDDR5x-8448
Snapdragon X Elite X1E-80-100 1242MB3.4GHz4.0GHz3.845LPDDR5x-8448
Snapdragon X Elite X1E-78-100 1242MB3.4GHzNone3.845LPDDR5x-8448
Snapdragon X Plus X1P-64-100 1042MB3.4GHzNone3.845LPDDR5x-8448

Beyond the ARM difference, the Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite chips have a lot in common with other modern laptop chips. They feature between 10 and 12 high-performance CPU cores (the current generation is Oryon). They support fast, low-power LPDDR5x memory and include an integrated GPU -- currently Adreno. And like the most recent chips from competitors, they have a dedicated NPU as well, made to handle basic AI-powered tasks using less power than they would using the CPU and GPU. Software shifts relevant workloads from the CPU and GPU to the NPU to conserve power.

Qualcomm has made much ado of the performance of its components. Qualcomm says its Hexagon NPU is the "world's fastest NPU for laptops" at a rated 45 tera-operations per second, or TOPS. It's worth noting that discrete graphics processors available in laptops can offer higher TOPS, but at a much higher power draw. 

The company claims the Oryon CPU outpaces Apple's M3 chip in a MacBook Pro in multithreaded CPU performance by 28%. It also claims to be faster in single-threaded and multithreaded performance than AMD's Ryzen 9 7940HS and Intel's Core Ultra 7 155H when running at the same wattages. When Apple launched its M1 chips, it made similar claims regarding performance and efficiency. So if Qualcomm's chips live up to these expectations, they could be a big leap forward for mainstream laptops.

What else is coming with Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite chips?

In addition to the performance they offer, a part of these packages is also the technologies they provide. The Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus offer support for UFS 4.0 and PCIe 4.0 storage as well as SD 3.0 media. It supports multimonitor setups up to 4K@60Hz with up to three displays. It also supports 4K HDR encode and decode and includes an image signal processor to support camera recording up to 4K video, as well as dual 36-megapixel sensors or a single 64-megapixel sensor. 

It also includes hardware for high-speed connectivity: up to three USB4 ports, Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4 and 10Gbps 5G cellular via the Snapdragon X65 modem. How many of these features you'll have in your laptop ultimately comes down to the device manufacturers and their hardware choices. Which brings us to the next big question.

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What kind of computers will have Snapdragon X Plus and X Elite chips?

By targeting high performance at low wattages, Qualcomm's chips are geared for machines meant for mobile productivity -- those meant to tackle modestly heavy workloads while still running away from the power outlet for the whole workday. The AI capabilities of these chips get special emphasis and a key part of Microsoft's Copilot Plus push.

Laptop manufacturers have already begun to incorporate these chips into their various mid-tier and premium models. The Surface Pro 11th Edition, Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6, Dell XPS 13 (9345), Asus Vivobook S 15 (S5507), Samsung Galaxy Book 4 Edge, HP OmniBook X and HP EliteBook Ultra G1q all feature Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite or X Plus chips. 

Common among these laptops is their more portability-minded form factors (no bulky 17-inchers here) and more premium designs. While Snapdragon chips may seed down to budget laptops in time, right now they're landing in more models costing over $1,000.

With these chips set to reach consumers' hands in mid- to late June, it's only a matter of time before we really see what they're capable of.