Hands-On with Industry’s First 5G Laptop: A Lenovo with Qualcomm’s 8cx SoC and X55 Modemby Ian Cutress & Anton Shilov on May 27, 2019 1:00 PM EST
Lenovo and Qualcomm introduced the world’s first laptop with an integrated 5G modem at Computex. The convertible notebook is based on Qualcomm’s latest platform for Windows 10 on Arm systems, the Snapdragon 8cx, and further includes the company's upcoming Snapdragon X55 5G modem. The PC is expected to be available later, but Lenovo is not disclosing its exact launch timeframe.
While Qualcomm and Lenovo have always promoted these devices as being super-efficient for ‘always connected’ workflows, leveraging the smartphone modem inside, these devices have actually seen more success when advertised for all-day battery life: by putting a smartphone chip in something the size of a laptop, the substantially larger battery makes the laptop last all day, and then some more. If there’s one thing that the Qualcomm always connected PCs (ACPCs) resonates with the tech press, it’s the phenomenal battery life. Now Qualcomm wants to pair that with a slightly more powerful chip, extending the capability in CPU and GPU.
Outfitted with what seems to be a 13-inch display featuring a Full-HD resolution (for now, Lenovo says it can install any screen, even an Ultra-HD one), the Lenovo 5G notebook (or 5GPC as the manufacturer calls it) is as thin and light as the company’s convertible Yoga C630 based on Qualcomm’s previous-gen Snapdragon 850. The Yoga design housing the new Snapdragon 8cx is the same chassis design as the previous generation (the Yoga C630). This is a super thin and light laptop that I really like. The downside of the older version was always the responsiveness, and the 8cx with its higher turbo performance promises to solve some of those issues. Similar to the previous ACPCs, a full version of Windows is being used, with Windows standard software and services being optimized for the Arm cores inside the Snapdragon SoC. The complaints about the previous models were mostly in ‘instantaneous performance’ – the performance that matters most when opening up programs and affecting the user experience. The new 8cx has a higher thermal envelope and can turbo higher – the chip has a can be set to a wide all-core TDP, over and above 10W, making a substantial difference.
Overall, the laptop feels to be a bit lighter than the majority of 13-inch notebooks on the market, possibly due to the lack of a sophisticated cooling system that normally accompanies x86 CPUs used in such PCs.
Meanwhile, the computer has a keyboard that feels rather nice: the keys are easy to press, yet they are located far enough from each other to minimize typos.
Qualcomm's new 8cx chip will feature a 4+4 Kryo 495 design, paired with 10MB of L3 cache and a large shared system cache. The GPU in this case is the Adreno 680, which is a much larger version of the Adreno 640 we see on the top end Snapdragon 855 which has powered most of the major 2019 smartphones. This chip is built on 7nm, and Qualcomm states is 60% more efficient than the Snapdragon 850 in the current generation of ACPCs.
As far as specifications are concerned, Lenovo says that it can equip its 5G notebook with up to 16 GB of RAM as well as a PCIe or UFS 3.0 SSD with up to 1 TB capacity. Since the product is set to be available later, Lenovo is being pretty flexible with its specifications, but it is likely that the company will offer multiple versions of its 5G-enabled notebook priced and speced differently.
When it comes to connectivity, the Lenovo 5G supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi (this is what the 8cx SoC supports), Bluetooth 5.x, and, naturally, 2G/3G/4G (Cat 22) and 5G via the X55 modem. It is noteworthy that the notebook exclusively uses Qualcomm’s X55 modem even for non-5G networks as the manufacturer believes that this is more power efficient. On the wired side of things, the Lenovo 5G notebook has two USB Type-C ports as well as a 3.5-mm headphone jack.
At present, Lenovo is not disclose anything about the actual launch date, price, or even launch countries. As far as availability goes, the linchpin would appear to be the X55 modem, as this is Qualcomm's next-generation 5G modem that's yet to ship (as the first X50-based devices only started shipping a couple of months back). As for pricing and availability, Lenovo still has some work to do to feel out the market for what kind a premium users are willing to pay for a 5G laptop, and then where 5G service is even readily available. This is one of the reasons why Lenovo does not want to disclose an exact launch timeframe, as the company wants 5G networks to roll out first and then release the laptop once demand is there.
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SarahKerrigan - Monday, May 27, 2019 - linkI really hope that the 8cx roll-out isn't limited by 5G availability, and that 5G-free 8cx laptops exist. I don't particularly care about 5G, but 8cx shows every sign of being an excellent processor.
Alexvrb - Monday, May 27, 2019 - linkIt does. Frankly I hope we see it end up in far cheaper models. Premium units like this well... at this price you might as well buy something with a U series chip from AMD or Intel. Unless you really need the modem, perhaps.
HStewart - Tuesday, May 28, 2019 - linkCalling this or anything else with Windows for ARM is a disgrace to call it a PC - but that might be entire purpose of Windows for ARM ( or Windows RT 2.0 ) series.
5G will be available on other real cpu's for sure - but big question do you need 5G modem or just another way the wireless services want to add more to your subscription bill.
Lakefield option looks more exiting if you need this.
SarahKerrigan - Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - link8cx is a powerful processor, with four very substantial cores in a lean TDP. I want that, not 5G.
austinsguitar - Monday, May 27, 2019 - link5g aside... that is a very handsome laptop. my god. just take away that 5g logo and <3.
PeachNCream - Monday, May 27, 2019 - linkI love it, but before getting excited I want to see the price. Although Windows on ARM seems like a good idea much needed to shake up a tired x86 only PC industry, the hardware released thus far has been hanging around in premium price brackets leaving rational people that want to try the hardware and OS without blowing a ton of money out in the cold.
Prestissimo - Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - linkI really don't understand, what are the benefits of ARM (SD8cx) over a low-end ULV chip (Core i3 Ice Lake), especially considering it's more than double the price?
Santoval - Monday, May 27, 2019 - linkI would want this "bare" or with a Linux distro pre-installed, a slightly larger screen (14" to 15") and with no 5G because I don't care about it (due to reasons of, er, fundamental laws of physics, very few are going to "care" about 5G anyway).
skavi - Tuesday, May 28, 2019 - linkSo you want this, but not this.
GreenReaper - Sunday, June 2, 2019 - linkA Qualcomm laptop device, but not this one, yes.