The Qualcomm Snapdragon X Architecture Deep Dive: Getting To Know Oryon and Adreno X1

The curtains are drawn and it’s almost showtime for Qualcomm and its Snapdragon X SoC team. After first detailing the SoC nearly 8 months ago at the company’s most recent Snapdragon Summit, and making numerous performance disclosures in the intervening months, the Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus launch is nearly upon us. The chips have already shipped to Qualcomm’s laptop partners, and the first laptops are set to ship next week.

In the last 8 months Qualcomm has made a lot of interesting claims for their high-performance Windows-on-Arm SoC – many of which will be put to the test in the coming weeks. But beyond all the performance claims and bluster amidst what is shaping up to be a highly competitive environment for PC CPUs, there’s an even more fundamental question about the Snapdragon X that we’ve been dying to get to: how does it work?

Ahead of next week’s launch, then, we’re finally getting the answer to that, as today Qualcomm is releasing their long-awaited architectural disclosure on the Snapdragon X SoC. This includes not only their new, custom Arm v8 “Oryon” CPU core, but also technical disclosures on their Adreno GPU, and the Hexagon NPU that backs their heavily-promoted AI capabilities. The company has made it clear in the past that the Snapdragon X is a serious, top-priority effort for the company – that they’re not just slapping together a Windows SoC from their existing IP blocks and calling it a day – so there’s a great deal of novel technology within the SoC.

And while we’re excited to look at it all, we’ll also be the first to admit that we’re the most excited to finally get to take a deep dive on Oryon, Qualcomm’s custom-built Arm CPU cores. The first new high-performance CPU design created from scratch in the last several years, the significance of Oryon cannot be overstated. Besides providing the basis of a new generation of Windows-on-Arm SoCs that Qualcomm hopes will vault them into contention in the Windows PC marketplace, Oryon will also be the basis of Qualcomm’s traditional Snapdragon mobile handset and tablet SoCs going forward.

So a great deal of the company’s hardware over the next few years is riding on this CPU architecture – and if all goes according to plan, there will be many more generations of Oryon to follow. One way or another, it’s going to set Qualcomm apart from its competitors in both the PC and mobile spaces, as it means Qualcomm is moving on from Arm’s reference designs, which by their very nature are accessible Qualcomm’s competition as well.

So without further ado, let’s dive in to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X SoC architecture.

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