Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx vs. Intel Core i5

Does Qualcomm's latest laptop processor hold up against Intel's Core i5?

snapdragon 8cx vs core i5 logo
Photo by David Cogen

Intel is under assault. Its long-running tenure as the king of computing CPUs is being shaken at its foundation with hot new competition from AMD in the desktop space and now Qualcomm in the mobile arena. Funnily enough, it’s happening in similar fashion, too. Where AMD’s Ryzen chips pushed core counts to counter Intel’s strength in single-threaded tasks, Qualcomm is bringing its mobile-oriented octacore Snapdragon chips to laptops and tablets with decent onboard graphics. The 8cx is the latest attempt to topple Intel from its processing throne.

Qualcomm might be a contender in the mobile space, but Always Connected Windows laptops powered by Snapdragon 835 and 850 chips have seen mixed results. Perhaps its new Snapdragon 8cx can prove more capable. To find out, we’ve pitted the Snapdragon 8cx versus the Core i5 Intel CPUs to see how they compare.

Both Intel’s and Qualcomm’s chips combine CPU and GPU cores on a single die, so we’ll look at the performance of each segment of the chips individually and consider their cost and efficiency too.

CPU performance

microsoft failed with rt but qualcomm is doing windows on arm the right way snapdragon 8cx chip  front

The Snapdragon 8cx sports Qualcomm’s latest generation Kryo 495 octacore CPU. That means it has eight cores to work with, four of which will be lower-power and operate when efficiency is more important than performance. In comparison, Intel’s mobile Core i5 CPUs tend to offer two or four cores, sometimes with support for double the number of threads using its hyperthreading technology.

Qualcomm’s new chip is based on a 7nm process — a node that has seen AMD make big gains with its desktop chips. Intel is still mostly focused on 14nm, but does have a handful of new, 10nm-equipped laptops using its new Ice Lake generation of CPUs.

While we don’t exactly know how Qualcomm’s 8cx will compare to new Ice Lake CPUs, we do know how well it does against an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU. Teaming up with UL Benchmarks (formerly Futuremark), Qualcomm delivered some performance results for a new version of PCMark at Computex 2019, showing us just how well its new 8cx stacks up against a popular Intel mobile CPU.

In an application benchmark that looks at performance in Microsoft Office applications and its Edge browser, the Snapdragon 8cx pulled ahead of the Intel chip in PowerPoint, Word, and Edge. It fell noticeably behind in Excel by more than 10 percent, but in the other tests it had an impressive lead of between three and 16 percent. That’s doubly impressive, because the ARM CPU was technically emulating Office, rather than running it natively, as Windows Central highlights.

NotebookCheck lists the Snapdragon 8cx as having a clock speed of 2.84 GHz. That’s lower than we typically see with Intel chips. The 8250U in the above tests runs at 3.4GHz. That doesn’t necessarily mean the 8cx will be slower though. With more cores and threads, and the potential for a higher instructions per clock, it may be competitive. This may result in a similar performance comparison to Intel’s Core i5 against AMD’s last-generation Ryzen CPUs. In that race, Intel excels in single-threaded tasks but offers more comparable performance in multi-threaded scenarios. That may have been evidenced during a graphics test at Computex, which saw the Intel 8250U maintain a greater CPU score than the Snapdragon part, despite seemingly weaker performance in more productivity-focused tasks.

With Snapdragon 8cx laptops now starting to ship — starting with the Samsung Galaxy Book S — we don’t have long to wait to find out for sure how well the new Snapdragon SoC performs.


snapdragon 8cx vs core i5 night raid
Photo by David Cogen

Intel’s HD graphics aren’t known to be fantastically powerful, nor do they offer credible competition for what we could consider budget graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1050, but they are passable. They allow users to do some gaming, and if Qualcomm’s new Adreno 680 core can offer that, it might not matter if it doesn’t do much more.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the clock speed of the 8cx’s new GPU core, but Qualcomm has given us some details to extrapolate a speculative idea of its performance potential. The Adreno 680 GPU core is said to be the fastest GPU Qualcomm has ever produced, with up to twice the performance and 60 percent greater power efficiency than the Snapdragon 850. It also supports the latest DirectX12 API.

In graphics tests performed at Computex 2019 against the Intel 8250U with its onboard Intel UHD 620 graphics core, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx performed favorably. In the PCMark 10 Night Raid benchmark it achieved a graphics score as high as 6,266, while the Intel chip was only able to achieve a score of 5,831. That’s a more than 20 percent uplift in performance for the Snapdragon SoC and equates to a difference of 29 FPS for the Intel chip (at best), versus the Snapdragon’s 37 FPS.

These are impressive results that suggest the Snapdragon 8cx will be a solid gaming chip for entry-level and indie titles. It may find stiffer competition with Intel’s Iris Plus graphics that are onboard the new Ice Lake CPUs, though. Some Intel Core i5 CPUs will still sport older, UHD graphics, and could be easier to defeat.

App support

samsung galaxy book s hands on 4
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

One of the concerns with Microsoft’s “Always Connected” PC style is the lack of native applications for the Qualcomm hardware under the hood. Although the two companies have built emulation that allows x86 applications to run on the platforms, that’s not ideal, as it does require some processing power to perform the translation.

That said, the Electron cross-platform app development system is currently integrating Windows on ARM support and is expected to finalize it as soon as June. That brings popular apps like Slack, Discord, Microsoft Teams, and Spotify into the fold of native ARM applications, which could lead to a great increase in performance on Qualcomm chips. Unity is also said to be adding native ARM support, potentially leading to far greater game support on Snapdragon SoCs like the 8cx.

There are still some missing applications, most notably browsers like Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, though Qualcomm promised that such apps will be ported to the platform in the near future. Microsoft and Google had reportedly been working on Chrome for ARM as of late 2018. More recent attempts to compile Chrome in Chromium make an official launch from Google feel imminent. The recent addition of 64-bit app support should help fill any glaring voids in the software lineup too.

Cost and efficiency

The big selling points of the existing Always Connected line of products are efficiency and connectivity. Qualcomm has talked up efficiency gains for the Snapdragon 8cx, suggesting it could even deliver “multi-day” battery life in some products. That would be an improvement even upon the extensive battery life seen in solid entries like the HP Envy x2, and perhaps see 8cx-equipped laptops offering greater battery life than industry leaders like the Surface Book 2.

The first 8cx-equipped laptop, the Galaxy Book S, is said  to have a battery life as long as 23 hours. That’s something quite special. Even if it merely approaches such numbers in real-world testing, we’ll be happy.

Battery life comparisons with Intel’s i5-8250U CPU at Computex 2019 saw the Snapdragon beat it handily, lasting nearly 20 hours during a video loop test, while the Intel equipped laptop managed just 12 hours. However, it’s important to note that the Intel laptop was running a screen at 2K, where the Snapdragon-equipped one was limited to 1080p. This isn’t a conclusive test, especially when we consider new Intel Ice Lake chips and their improved efficiency, but it does suggest that a Snapdragon 8cx laptop would be very efficient and offer great battery life.

Competing on cost will be a little more difficult, though not impossible. Existing Always Connected PCs, like the aforementioned HP Envy x2, sell for as much as $1,000 with the Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM and a 12.3-inch display. Prices have come down as of late, though, making it much more competitive with the likes of the standard Envy in sales. The Galaxy Book S costs $1,000 with the Snapdragon 8cx, so it’s not totally unreasonable; especially if features and performance hold up.

Qualcomm is a serious competitor, but Ice Lake looms

Qualcomm’s 8cx is shaping up to be an impressive SoC with strong performance in general computing and graphics, as well as decent battery life. It may well compete favorably with Intel’s older CPUs and may even face off well with AMD’s latest Ryzen APUs. But we don’t yet know what it can do when compared to the latest and greatest, like Intel’s new Ice Lake processors.

We’ll want to see more benchmarks and third-party testing before we can say for sure how strong the 8cx will perform in the wild, but we’re not far away from its release and products sporting it from doing the same. The first have now started shipping, with the earliest arrivals expected at the start of September.


Can Lakefield help Intel contend with efficient chips from mobile competitors?

The Intel Lakefield chip design is one of Intel's most intriguing developments in years. It combines high-performance cores with energy efficient ones for a mobile processor design that can do it all.

If Core i5 CPUs are great for most people, do you really need a Core i7?

This guide is designed to help you decide whether you need the extra technological enhancements provided by the i7 core, or if the more affordable Core i5 will suit your needs. In the i5 vs. i7 battle, which is best for you?

Between Intel and AMD, these are the best gaming CPUs at every price

What are the best processors for gaming you can buy? You don't need to spend a fortune to get an amazing gaming CPU and now that AMD is competitive again, there are more choices than ever.

Intel i7 vs. i9: Which of these top-tier CPUs works best for your needs?

If you need a high power CPU Intel makes some of the best. But pitting the Intel i7 vs. i9 can highlight just how different the top-tier chips can be from one another. Here's an explainer to help you decide which is right for you.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.

Now’s your chance to get the latest iPad Pro for $100 less on Amazon

The latest iPad Pro has always been our favorite since its release last year, and we even tagged it as the best tablet ever. Don’t miss out on Amazon’s discount on the 12-inch 256GB Wi-Fi model and get yours today for $1,049.

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for August 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work, we have you covered. We've put together a list of the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.

Amazon cuts $52 off this Samsung Galaxy 10.1-inch tablet for the whole family

Normally priced at $330, you can grab the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1-inch 128GB Wi-Fi tablet now for only $278 and enjoy $52 savings. On top of that, Amazon is offering an extra $28 discount when you apply for a coupon during checkout.

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…

Tired of your Mac freezing? Try these tips to fix your Mac

A Mac that keeps freezing can be an incredibly annoying thing to deal with, but fixing it doesn’t have to be a pain. There are six main things you should try, which we got through in this guide to help you fix the issue once and for all.

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.

1.5% of Chrome users’ passwords are known to be compromised, according to Google

In February, a new feature was introduced to the Google Chrome browser which checks whether users' passwords are secure. Now, Google has released eye-opening stats gathered from Password Checkup.

Latest Windows 10 update is causing random reboots and can break Visual Basic

The latest update for Windows 10, made available on Tuesday this week, includes patches against two critical vulnerabilities. But it is causing a string of issues including random reboots and failure to install.