Yesterday finalized Qualcomm’s yearly Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui and towards the end of the 3rd keynote (there have been daily keynotes for the past 3 days), they finally took a break from talking about the upcoming Snapdragon 865 (which looks to once again be an absolute monster), 5G and VR/AR/XR to talk about their compute platforms: the 8cx, 8c, and 7c. While Windows laptops with Snapdragon chips aren’t a new thing, this expanded platform of chips and continued dedication to the ARM on PC effort was clearly a big deal.
The 8cx is the top-end Snapdragon aimed at devices similar to the Surface Pro X in an attempt to deliver multi-day battery, always-connected PCs to Windows users. So far, the results haven’t been great due to a lack of developer support for Windows on ARM. Sure, some software can run on these devices via emulation, but the reviews of the expensive – albeit beautiful – Surface Pro X are not good and I’m not sure that a new chip or even a bit more power will solve the issue for Qualcomm silicon in a device running Windows.
The new entrants are the 8c and 7c, with the 8c being aimed at general laptops and the 7c geared for more entry-level devices. Down deep, these are just tweaked versions of other Snapdragon chips, and the 8c is basically the 850 and the 7c is the laptop version of the 730 we find in the phones like the Xioami Mi 9T. With the 8cx already struggling to make a decent impression with Windows users, I can’t imagine the 8c or 7c doing very well in the space either.
Where I can see them working is in a Chromebook. I have a theory as to why I think that may be exactly what Qualcomm is up to and why things became so quiet on the Snapdragon 845 Chromebook front. The first part of that theory revolves around the naming scheme of a chip on the baseboard ‘Trogdor’ which was spun off of ‘Cheza’ (the original Snapdragon 845 baseboard)
We’ve talked about this prior, but ‘Trogdor’ was introduced as a basic copy of ‘Cheza’ with plans to change the needed stuff as time went on. You can see that language clearly in this commit:
Add chipset-qc7180 overlay, rebase baseboard-trogdor to it
This is the overlay for the Qualcomm SC7180. Name it qc7180 instead since for some reason that seems to be how we prefix all Qualcomm overlays.
Just copying everything from qc845 for now, can be fixed later if necessary. Dropped the testclock utility — if we decide that we also need that here, we should probably find a better home for it.
Since finding that commit and baseboard, we’ve all been a bit flummoxed as to what the Qualcomm SC7180 is. I’ve searched and searched and found absolutely nothing. Some posited that it was a development chip, some thinking that maybe it was an internal model of one of the 700-series chips. But, at the base of it all, we’ve never known. A comment by a developer in that initial commit for ‘Trogdor’ lead me to believe this chip was something we’ve not seen just yet:
Patch Set 1:
Can’t wait to see how Chrome Unboxed will spin this one…
Yeah, we dig around in the repositories a lot and the devs there know it, but this call-out was a bit different than other times we’ve been mentioned. This almost felt as if they knew we wouldn’t be able to find anything on this chip, and they were 100% right. Even searching around yesterday, I still couldn’t find any concrete info on a chip by the model name of SC7180.
However, looking at the repositories, the action on ‘Trogdor’ of late has completely eclipsed the movement of ‘Cheza’, making me believe that the devs may be still using ‘Cheza’ for baseline Snapdragon work, but have now moved on to actually building out the Snapdragon platform on this SC7180 chipset instead. That would explain the two year absence of any real news on a Snapdragon 845 Chromebook and explain why we’ve not seen ‘Cheza’ variants with the 845 on board.
Taking all that info, we now need to look at the Snapdragon 7c that was made official yesterday. The second I saw them unveil this chip, my gut reaction was to expect them to say that we would see Chromebooks running on the platform alongside Windows devices. That announcement didn’t happen, but it doesn’t mean that Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks aren’t coming. With the great speed and performance somewhere in the vicinity of the Snapdragon 835 in the Pixel 2 and the 845 in the Pixel 3, the Snapdragon 7c would be a great fit for affordable, always-on, always-connected Chromebooks with insane battery life and phenomenal Android app support.
Then it hit me: 7c. Snapdragon SC7180. 7c. Do you see it? Qualcomm has used internal names and models for processors through the years, and this would be no different. It would completely make sense that the Snapdragon 7c would have an internal working name and model number as to not give away its identity via the open-sourced repositories, and I fully believe that internal name for the variation being developed for Chrome OS is the SC7180.
If you take a look at the internal part number for a chip like the Snapdragon 730 that is used for mobile, it is SM7150. Snapdragon Mobile 7150. Yesterday, the new line of Snapdragon chips for laptops were constantly referred to as Qualcomm’s ‘compute’ platform. So if the (Snapdragon Mobile) SM7150 is the Snapdragon 730, it would make tons of sense that the ‘C’ in SC7180 would stand for ‘compute’ and make the (Snapdragon Compute) SC7180 a chip very similar to the SM7150.
Add to all this the fact that tons of commits rolled in just last night for ‘Trogdor’ now that the Snapdragon 7c has been made official. My guess is that if we continue digging around, we’ll find references to evidence of the SC7180 being the Snapdragon 7c and they needed to hold back on these commits until the chip was announced to the world.
I’m sure the coming weeks will unveil quite a bit about this new direction for Snapdragon-powered Chromebooks, and I’m still very excited to see this movement. I think Qualcomm has changed its strategy around computing in a fundamental way in the past 24 months since they launched the Windows/ARM campaign, and that shift took the Snapdragon 845 basically off the table for use on a laptop of any kind moving forward. The work done on ‘Cheza’ isn’t lost, however, as that baseboard can still help lay groundwork for base-level Snapdragon drivers and functionality. At this point, however, it seems it might be time to move on from spying on ‘Cheza’ and set our sites on ‘Trogdor’, ‘Bubs’ and whatever other baseboards come form the new Snapdragon 7c.