Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Plus Promises Lower-cost MacBook Alternatives

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Key Takeaways

  • Qualcomm has introduced the Snapdragon X Plus.
  • The chip promises more affordable Windows ARM laptops than the Snapdragon X Elite.
  • The company claims a slight edge in performance over Apple's M3 chip.

Qualcomm has introduced the Snapdragon X Plus, a more affordable ARM chip that could lead to lower-priced competition for Apple’s MacBooks.

The Plus is built on the 4-nanometer Oryon platform from the Snapdragon X Elite, but has 10 CPU cores and a 3.4GHz clock speed versus the 12 cores and 3.8GHz of its higher-end counterpart. Its Hexagon neural processing unit (NPU) is just as powerful, though, and should be enough to run major on-device AI features like Microsoft’s Copilot, Audacity’s music creator, or Codegen’s automatic code generation.

The company claimed multiple performance advantages. The Snapdragon X Plus is about 10% faster than Apple’s M3 chip in multithreaded tasks (that is, using multiple cores), Qualcomm said. The firm also touted better performance-per-watt than Intel, noting that the Plus had a 37% faster CPU than the Core Ultra 7 155H when running at the same power levels.

The first Snapdragon X Plus PCs are expected to ship in mid-2024 alongside Elite models, Qualcomm said. It didn’t name initial customers.

Qualcomm has repeatedly pitched the Snapdragon X series as superior to Apple’s chips, making them ideal for thin-and-light Windows laptops where performance and battery life are still important. Windows on ARM has improved significantly in recent years between 64-bit support and a greater number of native apps, including Google Chrome.

However, the Snapdragon X Plus’ real-world abilities aren’t yet clear. While Windows on ARM is better than before, it’s not certain that apps will run as well as they do on either Macs or equivalent x86-based systems. Some x86 apps will still have to run through emulation.

Qualcomm’s choice of equivalent-wattage Intel chips is also significant. While the benchmark suggests the Snapdragon X Plus is efficient, the Core Ultra 7 can run at higher wattages — up to 115W in turbo mode. The Intel part may be more powerful overall if you value raw speed over longevity.