Qualcomm and Microsoft are hoping the Nth time’s the charm for Windows on Arm/Snapdragon mobile chips. Despite years of disappointing implementations, as of the Surface Pro 9 in the fall of 2022 (the last big Qualcomm PC buzz child), the concept still hadn’t gained serious traction. It never delivered on the promise of making huge performance and compatibility sacrifices to get better battery life and phone-like connectivity.

And AI! In 2019, corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi said of the first customized Qualcomm chip, the SQ1, “We’ve got amazing graphics power. We’re going to do AI on the chip.” Cut to five years later and we’re still waiting for what the pair are now branding this go-round “CoPilot Plus PCs,” incorporating the Snapdragon X Elite or Plus processors announced last year.

Snapdragon X chips specs

Cores/threadsBoost frequency (GHz)iGPU
Snapdragon X Elite (X1E-84-100)123.8 (multi), 4.2 (dual)Adreno (4.6 TFLOPS)
Snapdragon X Elite (X1E-80-100)123.4 (multi), 4.0 (dual)Adreno (3.8 TFLOPS)
Snapdragon X Elite (X1E-78-100)123.4 (multi)Adreno (3.8 TFLOPS)
Snapdragon X Plus (X1P-64-100)10 (6 performance, 4 efficiency)3.4 (multi)Adreno (3.8 TFLOPS)

If they do finally meet long-held expectations, a lot of it is down to Microsoft finally ironing out a lot of issues with Windows on Arm and Qualcomm boosting performance.

Qualcomm has crossed the line someone’s drawn at 40 trillion operations per second for integer math, which is what neural processing units do and which neither of the other companies have hit yet. In general, anything that uses a chip that’s got a dedicated NPU less than six months ago was called just an “AI PC.” Intel Core Ultra, AMD Ryzen 7040 series and newer, and now the Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite series.

Floating point operations, another measure of computing power, requires more horsepower and memory, and if there’s an NPU, the system offloads the integer math to that and leaves the floating point to the GPU or CPU. And no one’s really boasting about their integrated GPU’s floating-point performance (16- or 32-bit floating point ops per second). Floating point is more accurate because it represents real numbers, so can handle larger amounts of more precise data, but it also requires more power.

The NPU is what’s used for all the now-commonly heralded AI applications that are performed locally rather than in the cloud: All the new features Microsoft announced for CoPilot, and also includes the oft-mentioned features we’ve become used to, like image processing for video conferencing (such as background removal, filters and more in Windows’ Studio Effects, and custom utilities supplied by the big laptop manufacturers); document and email summaries and drafting; voice commands and so on. Generating images, music and video requires more horsepower, and are still run in the cloud, but we’ve already got some basic automatic photo adjustments run locally using AI.

And enterprises are as tickled as IT people ever get about the use of AI for security, since it makes threat detection, recovery and more faster and less labor intensive. One of the previous problems for these laptops and enterprises was the software tools administrators needed to secure and deploy them weren’t really there. Now, there are, and Qualcomm is a partner for Microsoft’s Pluton security.

Bring on the laptops

The chipset doesn’t support Thunderbolt, so these laptops have at least one USB 4 port. The chips can handle up to three USB 4 ports (40Gbps) and two USB 3.2 gen 2 (20Gbps). They’ve got either Wi-Fi 7 by default or as an option and up to 64GB RAM. They can potentially drive one 4K-resolution 120Hz, HDR screen; up to three 4K, 60Hz, HDR screens; or two 5K, 60Hz external display configurations.

Not all of them boast out-of-the ordinary battery life claims, which range from 12 hours to about 22 hours. The partner laptops for the launch event are all, for the most part, gently modified versions of existing laptops or additions to existing lines, and all 14-inch class models, plus they’re all expected to ship in June.

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HP’s new OmniBook X and EliteBook Ultra G1q.

Josh Goldman/CNET

HP

HP decided to take the opportunity to rebrand its two mainstream consumer and business laptop lines. There’s also a new graphic to indicate “AI inside!” HP resurrects an old name for its consumer laptops. The new consumer branding is OmniBook (laptops), OmniStudio (desktop all-in-ones) and OmniDesk (desktops). Ultra is the flagship, X (10!) and 3, 5 and 7 models increase in premiumness.

For business customers, HP sticks with Elite: EliteBook (laptops), EliteStudio (desktop all-in-ones) and EliteDesk (desktops). The naming conventions are odd, rather than even. Ultra is flagship and replaces the Dragonfly line; X, 8 and 6 are premium/mainstream and 2 and 4 are entry.

Today’s launch models are the OmniBook X and the EliteBook Ultra G1q.

HP specs

HP OmniBook XHP EliteBook Ultra G1q
Starting price$1,200$1,700
CPUSnapdragon X Elite X1E-78-100Snapdragon X Elite TBA
Display14-inch, 2,240×1,400 pixels, touch, 300 nits, 100% sRGB14-inch, 2,240×1,400 pixels, touch, 300 nits, 100% sRGB
Memory16GB or 32GB LPDDR5X-8533 (soldered)16GB LPDDR5X-8400 (soldered)
GraphicsIntegrated Adreno 3.8 TFLOPSIntegrated Adreno 3.8 TFLOPS
NPUHexagon (up to 45 TOPS)Hexagon (up to 45 TOPS)
Webcam5 megapixels plus IR5 megapixels plus IR
StorageUp to 2TB SSDUp to 1TB NVMe M.2, 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Ports2x USB-C (1x display, PD, 40Gbps), 1x USB-A 3.2 gen 1, combo audio2x USB-C (1x display, PD, 40Gbps), 1x USB-A 3.2 gen 1, combo audio
NetworkingWi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4 or Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4 or Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Battery59Wh (rated for roughly up to 24 hours)59Wh
Operating SystemWindows 11 Home or ProWindows 11 Home or Pro 
Weight3.0 lbs/1.3 kg3.0 lbs/1.3 kg
Dimensions12.3 x 8.8 x 0.6 in/313 x 224 x 14 mm12.3 x 8.8 x 0.3-0.6 in/313 x 224 x 8.5-14 mm
AvailabilityJune 2024June 2024

HP will retain design modifiers, such as Fold for dual screens and Flip for two-in-ones. And any system with HP’s new Helix logo has an NPU rated for at least 40 TOPS. The Omen, and presumably Z workstations, retain their old branding, at least for the moment.

The hardware for its two launch laptops seems fairly average, neither under nor overconfigured. HP does have the thinnest — but not lightest — offerings of the three. 

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CoPilot key! On the keyboard of the Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 9.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Lenovo

Lenovo’s got the lightest laptops of the three manufacturers — under 3 pounds. The Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 9 is the only 14.5-inch model and has an attractive display option, a new OLED screen that’s DisplayHDR True Black 600 certified, a relatively new level.

Lenovo specs

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 9Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6
Starting price$1,200$1,700
CPUSnapdragon X EliteSnapdragon X Elite
Display14.5-inch, 2,944×1,840 pixels, 90Hz OLED, DisplayHDR True Black 600 (1,000 nits peak brightness), 100% P314-inch, 400 nits, 1,920×1,200 pixels, IPS. Two options: One uses 3M Dual-Brightness Enhancement film and supports touch, but has a gamut coverage of roughly 70% sRGB, while the other doesn’t support touch but has a 100% coverage of sRGB. A third option is 2,880×1,800 OLED, 100% P3, DisplayHDR True Black 500.
Memory32GB LPDDR5X-8448 (soldered)64GB LPDDR5X-8533 (soldered)
GraphicsIntegrated Adreno 3.8 TFLOPSIntegrated Adreno 3.8 TFLOPS
NPUHexagon (up to 45 TOPS)Hexagon (up to 45 TOPS)
Webcam1080p MIPI plus IR1080p MIPI plus IR
StorageUp to 1TB PCIe Gen 4 M.2Up to 1TB PCIe Gen 4 M.2
Ports3 x USB-C (3x display, PD, 40Gbps)2x USB-C 4, 2x USB-A (5Gbps), HDMI 2.1, combo audio
NetworkingWi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.3
Battery70Wh58Wh
Operating SystemWindows 11Windows 11
Weight2.8 lbs/1.3 kg2.7 lbs/1.2 kg
Dimensions12.8 x 8.9 x TBA in/325 x 225 x TBA mm12.3 x 8.6 x 0.7 in/314 x 219 x 17 mm
AvailabilityJune 2024June 2024

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The Acer Swift 14 AI has a big activity indicator on the touchpad.

Acer/CNET

Acer

The company’s Swift 14 AI is the only one of these that launches with a Snapdragon X Plus option in addition to the Elite, which allows it to start at a lower price by sacrificing a couple of CPU cores.

Like HP, Acer has a new graphic on the lid indicating the AI within, plus a new graphic (that looks very big) on the touchpad to serve as an activity and CoPilot-specific indicator. It’s the cheapest laptop announced today, but it’s also the thickest and the heaviest.

Acer Swift 14 AI (SF14-11) specs

Starting price$1,100
CPUSnapdragon X Elite X1E-78-100 or Snapdragon X Plus X1P-64-100
Display14.5-inch, 2,560×1,600 pixels, 120Hz, 100% sRGB
Memory32GB LPDDR5X-8533 (soldered)
GraphicsIntegrated Adreno 3.8 TFLOPS
NPUHexagon (up to 45 TOPS)
Webcam1440p plus IR
StorageUp to 1TB SSD
Ports2x USB-C (1x display, PD), 2x USB-A 3.2 gen 1, HDMI 1.4
NetworkingWi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4
Battery75 Wh (rated for up to 12 hours)
Operating SystemWindows 11 
Weight3.7 lbs/1.7 kg
Dimensions12.7 x 8.9 x 0.6 in/323 x 226 x 16 mm
AvailabilityJuly (US), June (EMEA) 2024


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