Qualcomm partners with Lenovo for “Project Limitless” – A Snapdragon 8cx Windows 10 Laptop with 5G Connectivity
The stage is set for 5G to enter the mainstream. With the first 5G networks in the United States, Europe, and South Korea going live, we’re slowly entering a new era of mobile connectivity. We’ve seen companies race to be the first to build 5G networks and 5G smartphones, but in the near future, we’re going to see the first laptops with 5G connectivity. Today, Qualcomm and Lenovo announced “Project Limitless,” the first Windows 10 laptop PC with the 5G Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx.
Project Limitless – A Qualcomm and Lenovo collaboration
Not many details were shared at Qualcomm’s press conference ahead of Computex 2019 in Taipei, but we’ll hear more from the two companies in early 2020. What we do know is that the “Project Limitless” PC is part of Qualcomm’s “Always On, Always Connected” portfolio of Windows 10 PCs. “Always On, Always Connected” PCs are Windows 10 laptops powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. These laptops are designed to have long-lasting battery lives and sustained performance without throttling or need for internal fans. Since Snapdragon processors are based on the ARM architecture, “Always On, Always Connected” PCs all run Windows 10 optimized for ARM. Microsoft has improved support for ARM processors in Windows 10 over the years, and with the upcoming generation of “Always On, Always Connected” PCs that support is poised to get even better with ARM-optimized versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and other apps.
“Project Limitless” is powered by the 7nm Snapdragon 8cx, Qualcomm’s premium-tier mobile computing platform for PCs, along with the multimode, 7nm Snapdragon X55 modem. This is Qualcomm’s most powerful SoC along with their fastest-ever modem. The Adreno 680 GPU in the Snapdragon 8cx boasts twice the performance and 60% greater power efficiency over the Adreno 630 GPU in the Snapdragon 850. The Kryo 495 in the Snapdragon 8cx consists of 4 ARM Cortex-A76-based cores for high-performance and 4 ARM Cortex-A55-based cores for efficiency with more system and L3 cache than the Kryo 385 in the Snapdragon 850. The Snapdragon X55 supports Category 22 LTE for peak theoretical download speeds of up to 2.5Gbps while also supporting both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G frequencies with QTM525 antenna modules. When the Snapdragon 8cx is paired with the Snapdragon X55, the built-in Snapdragon X24 LTE modem is shut off.
5G on a PC with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx + Snapdragon X55 Modem
So why do we need 5G on a PC? Qualcomm argues that with the improved speeds given by 5G, we can download and upload large files so quickly that remote storage feels as seamless as local storage. We can stream videos from YouTube or Twitch without buffering in 4K or even 8K quality. We can quickly download high-quality models for AR and VR applications, stream higher quality games on-the-go with cloud gaming services, and much more. Since we’ve grown accustomed to the 4G LTE speeds, we’ve learned to accept that some things just aren’t possible with the speeds we currently have. Once we break past those barriers with much faster and lower-latency 5G connectivity, we open the doors for new use cases to emerge. Companies like Qualcomm and Lenovo aren’t the ones bringing you those new services – they’re just the ones providing the hardware to make them possible.
Of course, we’re still months from the launch of any commercially available laptop PC powered by the Snapdragon 8cx. We’re even further away from the widespread availability of 5G connectivity. In the U.S., Verizon’s first 5G tests on mmWave frequencies show promising speeds but poor coverage. In Taipei, where the annual Computex computer expo is being held, Qualcomm had to put together a makeshift sub-6GHz 5G network in the back of a hotel conference room so they could show us a demo of a Snapdragon 8cx laptop playing a YouTube video over 5G.
It’s easy to be skeptical about the importance of 5G after how much companies are hyping it up. Announcements like these tease us with products that we can’t buy, and that need upgraded networks that many of us don’t have access to. But make no mistake: 5G is already here, and its availability is rapidly accelerating as companies fight to stake their claim in the next era of computing. Huawei’s recent smartphone woes can be traced directly back to its 5G ambitions, so that shows how much importance the governments of the world are placing on 5G. As 5G starts getting deployed in more markets, expect to see these fights intensify.