Qualcomm’s Computex 2024 keynote: powerful new chips, plus some jokes at Apple’s expense

I’m out in Taiwan at Computex 2024, and I’ve just finished watching Qualcomm’s major keynote presentation, led by CEO Cristiano Amon – somewhat comically dressed in a Snapdragon T-shirt and Windows Copilot-branded sneakers. Naturally, the keynote opened with a promo video – proudly labeled as ‘Shot on Snapdragon’, which is perhaps a cheeky dig at Apple.

Unsurprisingly, the focus today has been on AI PCs – Qualcomm already announced its new Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus chips in the build-up to Computex, while Microsoft showcased the first wave of new Snapdragon-powered laptops at its Build event. Today, we got more insight into Qualcomm’s approach, along with some tidbits about what we can expect from Snapdragon in the near future.

Qualcomm is immensely confident about its rapidly expanding presence in the laptop market. The first round of laptops will come from a spread of seven major manufacturing partners – more or less all the big names in computing, including the likes of Dell, Lenovo, and HP. Amon is clearly proud: he claimed that “today is a graduation day for Qualcomm” when it comes to truly breaking into the computing industry.

Amon went on to talk about the Hexagon NPU inside the Snapdragon X Elite chip, pointing out that it not only has an industry-leading 45 TOPS, but also that it’s the most power-efficient AI processor out there right now – comfortably beating out both the Apple M3 and Intel Core Ultra 7 155H. He also showed a short thermal-imaging clip showing the superior thermal performance of a Snapdragon laptop versus an Intel Core Ultra 7 laptop, demonstrating that the X Elite chip can perform better during extended use.

The age of Copilot+

A still from a video promoting the capabilities of Windows Copilot.

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

We then saw Microsoft’s Corporate VP Pavan Davuluri appear on stage to reiterate the strength of the professional connection between Microsoft and Qualcomm. Ultimately, this didn’t give us anything particularly new and exciting – but that’s hardly surprising, given that it’s only been a few weeks since Microsoft Build. 

However, a short sizzle reel showing off the power of new Copilot+ AI assistants was intriguing, giving us a further look at what the future of ‘everyday AI’ could look like.

In the video, we saw people chatting casually to their PCs: using Copilot to book a dishwasher repair, learn how to play guitar, and navigate a corporate meeting. Some of the stuff on show was impressive, including a video call feature that translates speech in other languages in real-time while also using AI to ‘lip-sync’ the translation to the speaker.

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Laptops as far as the eye can see

We were also treated to a litany of on-stage appearances of other executives from various laptop makers, including Asus, Acer, and HP, who were essentially just there to show off their new AI laptops and talk about how closely they all work with Qualcomm. Nothing we hadn’t already seen, really – although it was intriguing to hear the CEO of HP claim that in a few years, Qualcomm systems would account for 50% of HP’s business.

More impressive was a timelapse video demo of two laptops – one with a Snapdragon X Elite chip, the other with an Intel Core Ultra 7 – playing the same YouTube video on a loop. The Snapdragon laptop lasts for literally twice as long, and since battery life is a key factor for many consumers when it comes to buying a laptop, the ball is in Intel’s court to deliver some seriously impressive battery longevity with its upcoming Lunar Lake processors.

Microsoft presenting Surface Laptop and Surface Pro devices.

The new Surface devices, revealed last month, will be among the first to receive the powerful new Snapdragon X Elite chip. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Also peppered throughout the keynote were promotional clips demonstrating some of the apps that have been newly optimized to run on Snapdragon hardware, such as popular video-editing software DaVinci Resolve. Amon also talked about Qualcomm’s new ‘AI Hub’ for developers, which makes designing apps that take advantage of AI functions easier. One such app is Cephable, a newly AI-boosted program that lets users with disabilities control Windows with facial gestures and voice controls – a genuinely great use of AI. The Snapdragon Dev Kit for Windows will be available to pre-order later this month.

Amon was also keen to talk about gaming – he considered Snapdragon X Elite to be “a true gaming platform”, and I can personally attest that the performance of the integrated GPU is surprisingly good. More than 1,200 games are currently being optimized to run on Snapdragon, and Amon believes that “we are at the start of a revolution for gaming with AI”.

The competition is fierce

Of course, a lot of the comparisons being made by Amon today aren’t quite as meaningful as they appear. Qualcomm is comparing the X Elite chip to competing processors that are fundamentally a whole generation behind – we’ve already seen AMD’s Ryzen 9000 and AI 300 chips, along with the first Apple M4 iPad Pro, with Intel set to unveil its new Lunar Lake CPUs in just a day’s time.

In other words, for all the big numbers being thrown around in this presentation (more than 50% faster Edge browser speed! Wow!!), Qualcomm hasn’t just won the AI laptop race. Ultimately, we’re going to have to wait until we can get our hands on these chips to test them properly ourselves – remember folks, you can’t always trust a company’s performance figures for its own product!

While Microsoft Build may have stolen Qualcomm’s thunder here, Amon had one last fun thing to show off – a tongue-in-cheek parting shot at Apple with a short ad featuring Justin Long of “I’m a Mac” fame ordering a new Snapdragon laptop on his MacBook and saying ‘What? Things change.”

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