A recent report suggests that Qualcomm is working on a 12-core processor based on Nuvia technology, with support for discrete GPUs.
Qualcomm is reportedly preparing to launch a 12-core chipset for PCs, finally bringing the heat to Apple Silicon Macs. According to a new report, the company is planning to launch a new chip leveraging the designs from Nuvia, a company it acquired in early 2021.
The information comes from Twitter user Kuba Wojciechowski (via Windows Central), who often leaks information about upcoming tech products, and it seems quite promising. According to the tweet posted by Wojciechowski, the new chip will feature four efficient cores and eight performance cores based on the Nuvia Phoenix design. That would put it ahead of the Apple M1 and M2 in terms of core count, and it could be especially impressive considering the bulk of those cores are performance-oriented. The Apple M1 and M2 both have 8-core CPUs, four being efficient cores and four being performance cores. Additionally, it seems like the processor will have a similar memory and cache configuration compared to the Apple M1.
What’s even more interesting about this report, however, is that the chip is said to feature explicit support for discrete GPUs, which is a big deal for Arm-based devices. While Apple has developed some very powerful integrated GPUs in processors like the Apple M1 Max and M1 Ultra, support for discrete graphics just hasn’t been possible with Arm-based devices. In fact, that’s likely a big part o why we haven’t seen an Apple Silicon-based Mac Pro yet. If Qualcomm can implement discrete GPU support and there are GPUs to support on the platform, there’s potential that even serious gaming applications will be feasible on Arm in the future. Wojciechowski claims that performance is looking “extremely promising” based on initial reports.
You’ll need to wait a while, if it ever happens
The big caveat here is that this chip, if it ends up happening, is still a while away. According to Wojciechowski, this Qualcomm chipset, codenamed Hamoa, is set to be released in 2024, so it’s still over a year away. That gives Apple plenty of time to introduce more powerful designs on its side, too. We’ll have to see how this new Qualcomm processor looks like next to whatever Apple has released at that time.
There’s also a chance that this processor may be significantly delayed, or it may never happen at all. Remember, Qualcomm’s acquisition of Nuvia hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. Arm recently sued Qualcomm for breaking its licensing agreement, claiming that Qualcomm is trying to leverage Nuvia’s existing Arm license without having the appropriate rights for it. According to Arm, its licenses are not transferrable through acquisition, though Qualcomm has defended itself saying it has its own Arm licenses that cover its custom processors. While the process is still ongoing, Arm is seeking to force Qualcomm to throw out any designs developed by Nuvia since the acquisition. Arm has also been reported to be trying to change its licensing model altogether, which would affect Qualcomm’s plans severely, along with other companies using Arm-based designs.
Windows on Arm needs more powerful processors
Despite having an early start in terms of Arm adoption, Windows PCs have struggled due to a lack of coordinated effort to make the platform a success. Qualcomm processors have historically been slower than existing Intel solutions, all the while Apple sprung onto the scene in 2020 with the Apple M1, which was almost universally praised for its performance and efficiency. Since then, Apple has put out increasingly more powerful processors, including the M1 Ultra inside the Mac Studio, which offers incredibly performance in a very compact chassis.
Qualcomm acquired Nuvia in early 2021 to be able to step up to Apple, but it takes time to develop new products form the ground-up. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, present in devices like the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s, is a big step forward and makes these devices much more usable. However, they’re still nowhere near what you can achieve with Apple’s processors. The Nuvia acquisition by Qualcomm could be essential to keep Windows on Arm alive, so we can only hope Qualcomm and Arm will resolve their legal dispute and that this reported processor will make its way to the market.