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Qualcomm boasts about upcoming chip, says most PC games ‘should already work’

The company previously claimed the upcoming Snapdragon X Elite chip outperformed Apple's M3 chip

Qualcomm has been making big claims about its Snapdragon X Elite chip. The company previously said the chip outperforms Apple’s M3 chip and now the company says most Windows games should “just work” on the chip.

According to The Verge, a Qualcomm presentation at the 2024 Game Developers Conference (GDC) detailed how Windows laptops sporting the company’s X Elite chip could run games at nearly full speed via emulation.

Qualcomm engineer Issam Khalil explained during the talk that developers have three options when it comes to games on the X Elite.

First, they can port titles to native ‘ARM64’ to get the best CPU performance and power usage. That’s because Qualcomm’s scheduler can dynamically lower CPU frequency.

The second option is a hybrid where developers can create an ‘ARM64EC’ app where Windows, its libraries, and Qualcomm’s drivers run natively, but the rest of the app is emulated. Khalil says this gives “near-native” performance.

And the final option is to do basically nothing and games should still work using x64 emulation.

Khalil reportedly said that developers shouldn’t need to change game code or assets to get full speed, especially since most games are graphically bottlenecked by the GPU, not the CPU, and GPU performance isn’t affected. Admittedly, there is a slight CPU performance hit when translating or transitioning between x64 and ARM64, but this reportedly only happens the first time a chunk of code is translated.

And on the GPU side, Qualcomm has Adreno GPU drivers for DX11, DX12, Vulkan and OpenCL, with DX9 and up to OpenGL 4.6 via ‘mapping layers.’

Naturally, not everything will work smoothly. Slides from the GDC presentation detailed limitations, such as games using kernel-level anti-cheat drivers. Games using AVX instruction sets also won’t work, though Khalil says developers should use SIMDe to get a head start converting those to NEON code.

It’s also worth noting that Khalil didn’t say how many games work or how many Qualcomm tested. However, he did say the company was testing top games on Steam and in doing so, it’s confident most other titles should work too.

The Verge also pointed out that we don’t know how good Snapdragon X Elite is at gaming anyway, and Qualcomm told the publication it’s seen ARM run a game faster than x86, or get better battery life than x86, but not both.

Still, if Qualcomm can pull off a smooth transition for games from the current x86 standard to ARM, that could go a long way in making the Snapdragon X Elite a more viable option for many people. ARM-based Windows devices have struggled for a while for various reasons, like mediocre performance and lack of software support. But things have improved, and if Snapdragon X Elite is as good as Qualcomm says, there might finally be some viable ARM Windows machines to give Apple’s M-series MacBooks a run for their money.

It likely won’t be much longer before we get to see for ourselves how good the X Elite is. Qualcomm says systems with X Elite are coming this summer, and Microsoft’s rumoured upcoming Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 (for consumers, not the recently-unveiled business variants) are set to use the X Elite and are expected to launch in May.

Header image credit: Qualcomm

Source: The Verge

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