What Users Have To Look Forward To With Chromebooks Powered By Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of large display devices like notebooks and Chromebooks took center stage. Tens of millions of students, businesspeople, and government workers had to be productive outside of their physical offices and learning centers – quickly hunkering down in their homes, for instance. We saw a tripling of Chromebook sales, and Windows PC demand increased up to 50%. Chromebooks and PCs were so popular, and they are now nearly impossible to find as the supply chain has been taxed, particularly with displays. While Qualcomm is best known for its smartphone and tablet solutions, its growing compute business has played a part in enabling kids to continue their education, governments to operate, and businesses to stay open.

When Qualcomm expanded its lineup of dedicated Snapdragon processors for Chromebook and Windows devices, adding entry and mainstream to its premium 8cx offering at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, none of us knew how important that technology would be. Most of us experiencing Covid-19 lockdowns can appreciate the power-sipping efficiency, performance, and connected capabilities of the Snapdragon processors in devices like Microsoft’s semi-custom chips (SQ1/SQ2) Surface Pro X. Microsoft’s design was the high of the high end from $999 to $1,599 with its 8cx processor, but what about more affordable devices powered by its entry-tier 7c, such as the Acer Chromebook Spin 513; how should it perform?

I can’t tell you as it’s not shipping yet, but the good news is that I did have the chance to sit down with Miguel Nunes, Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Product Management for the Snapdragon Mobile Compute business line, who had a lot to say about it. While this isn’t like actually testing the Acer system myself, Qualcomm has always been good about equating the reference design performance of its phones and tablets with devices shipping. The great thing is that Nunes isn’t shy, and always likes to share. He shared some figures that I thought were impressive. The tests were performed by an outside vendor, Hot Tech Vision & Analysis. They are good folk and I run into them regularly on Zoom calls with vendors. Nunes was quick to correct me when I asked about performance, rightly so, and redirected me to performance and battery life on the comparisons. While I didn’t run the tests myself, I didn’t see anything wrong with the benchmark selection, and the results didn’t surprise me.

Let me net out the benchmarks:

  • Web: In web performance, using Google Octane and Jetstream 1.1, the Snapdragon 7c was close to the HP Chromebook x360 (Intel Pentium Silver N5030), and handily beat the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (Intel Celeron N4020), and destroyed the Acer Spin 311 (MediaTek MT8183). Using Speedometer, the Intel-powered HP Chromebook x360 won, then Celeron but was close to the 7c, both of which outperformed beat the Spin 311, and destroyed, by double, the MediaTek 8183. Based on these benchmarks, the 7c platform looks like a solid web performer.
  • CPU: In raw synthetic single and multithreaded CPU performance, the 7c platform beat the Pentium x360 and destroyed the Spin 311s with Celeron and MediaTek. While Geekbench isn’t my favorite benchmark, it’s OK to test between “like” Chromebook platforms.
  • Graphics: This is where the Snapdragon 7c platform has a field day. Using GFX Bench T-Rex and Manhattan, Off-Screen, the 7c trounces everybody by 2-3x. It isn’t even close.

Zoom battery life: I liked this test as it was a more real-world application, not synthetic. The Snapdragon 7c beat out the Spin 311 (MediaTek) by a close margin but beat the Pentium x360 by nearly 2x and the Spin 311 (Celeron) by 3x. When you account for the size of the battery, the Pentium x360 and Spin 311 (Celeron) still lose by over 2x. If you’re going to use your Chromebook for Zoom calls, I think the choice is clear.

Qualcomm also did a fun video showing more battery life comparisons.

What’s not gathered in these benchmarks are a other benefits of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c compute platforms. Each platform comes with integrated 4G LTE which comes in handy when you’re not near WiFi. Many kids in Austin and across the world had no WiFi access at home and a connected PC or Chromebook with this level of performance and efficiency would have been a perfect solution for them. Qualcomm mobilized on the benefit of their devices for education at the beginning of the pandemic, donating pallets of their connected PCs to their own San Diego Unified School District. I shouldn’t have to explain the benefits for other users, especially as we get out of the pandemic and are flying, driving, and taking trains for work or travel. The security made possible through this reliable cellular connection and ability to avoid public WiFi networks also provides ease of mind. These always connected experiences have changed the way I work and live and you should give it a try.

Other benefits of Snapdragon 7c that can’t be measured are AI capabilities and related improved user experience, such as echo noise cancellation that helps reduce background noise from a gardener or barking dog when on a Zoom or Teams call. This is enabled by the over 5 TOPS raw performance and some fancy driver work.

Net net, based on these numbers, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c looks like a good CPU, GPU, web, and Zoom battery life performer compared to the head-to-head competition, and it’s super exciting to see more match at the lower end of the spectrum. Reviewers don’t scrutinize the lower end of the notebook and Chromebook stack enough, but maybe they should. When the Spin 513 and corresponding Enterprise Spin 513 does show up on shelves, I’m hoping someone will do a complete swath of testing. I will certainly compare the figures to those supplied by an outside tester to Qualcomm and presented to me.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.