Snapdragon X Elite vs Apple M3: Qualcomm Does an Apple!

The long-awaited Snapdragon X Elite was announced recently, and Apple, without losing a beat, unveiled a new family of M3 chipsets. The Snapdragon X Elite has been developed by the Nuvia team, formed by ex-Apple engineers, and later acquired by Qualcomm. It features the new Oryon cores, which are set to challenge Apple in the laptop segment. So in this post, we compare the Snapdragon X Elite vs Apple M3 with deep analysis of CPU, GPU, NPU, and more.

We have also compared the performance and discussed the Geekbench scores for both Snapdragon X Elite and Apple M3. So, without any further ado, let’s jump in.

Note: For this comparison, we are using Qualcomm’s Reference device (QRD), which is powered by the Snapdragon X Elite chipset. The Snapdragon X Elite has been showcased in two thermal profiles — 23W and 80W, the difference being boost in clock speeds across compute units. However, the 12-core CPU remains the same across both variants. And on the M3 side, we are using the Apple M3 Pro as reference for better parity in comparison. It comes with 12 CPU cores and 14/18 GPU cores.

Specification Comparison

Snapdragon X EliteApple M3 Pro
Fabrication ProcessTSMC’s 4nmTSMC’s 3nm
TransistorsNot known37 Billion (M3 Pro)
CPU Cores12 cores12 cores on M3 Pro
CPU Cluster12x high-performance cores6x high-performance + 6x efficiency cores
Max Frequency3.4GHz (23W)
Dual-core boost up to 4.0GHz (23W)
3.8GHz (80W)
Dual-core boost up to 4.3GHz (80W)
Up to 4.05GHz
GPUNew Adreno GPUApple’s next-gen GPU
GPU CoresNot known14 or 18 cores
TDP23W and 80W (two profiles)Not known
Neural EngineHexagon NPU
Up to 16 cores
Unified Memory (RAM)Up to 64GBUp to 36GB
Memory Bandwidth136GBps150GBps
ConnectivityWi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4 LEWi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
ModemSnapdragon X65 5G modem
(optional and discrete)
Exact specs not known
OthersAV1 encode and decodeAV1 decode

CPU: Are Nuvia Cores Better?

Let’s compare the CPU of the Snapdragon X Elite and Apple M3 first. The Snapdragon X Elite is fabricated on TSMC’s proven 4nm process node. The chipset features 12 high-performance Oryon cores and does not pack any efficiency cores. It has a tri-cluster design with four cores packed in three tiles.

Qualcomm has showcased the X Elite in two thermal profiles for different use cases. For thin and light Windows laptops, the 23W profile is suitable. And for high-performance laptops, the Snapdragon X Elite can be configured up to 80W.

So with varying power plans, there are different clock speeds, although the CPU core count remains the same. The 23W variant of X Elite has a maximum clock speed of 3.4GHz, and two cores can boost up to 4.0GHz during intensive workloads. On the other hand, the 80W version of X Elite has a maximum frequency of 3.8GHz and two cores can be boosted up to 4.3GHz. With more power, Qualcomm has the leverage to squeeze more performance out of the Snapdragon X Elite with increased clock speeds but the same amount of cores.

Coming to the Apple M3 series, and the M3 Pro in particular is developed on the TSMC 3nm process node, which results in 37 billion transistors on a single die. Just like the Snapdragon X Elite, the M3 Pro also packs 12 CPU cores, however, it features 6x high-performance cores and 6x efficiency cores. We don’t know the power profile of the Apple M3 Pro, but the older Apple M2 Pro operated between 20W to 30W at 3.5GHz. According to early Geekbench score leaks, the family of M3 chips appears to have a maximum clock speed of 4.05GHz.

Now, we need to ascertain whether Apple has increased the operating power of the new M3 chipsets or not. But looking at the clock speeds and the Geekbench scores, it seems like the 80W version of the Snapdragon X Elite seems to have defeated the Apple M3 Max in single-core tests. We have compared the Geekbench results in detail below and there is more nuance to it, so read on to understand how the CPU performs on both chipsets.

Snapdragon X Elite vs Apple M3: Geekbench 6

Qualcomm recently unveiled Geekbench 6 scores for both 23W and 80W versions of Snapdragon X Elite. The X Elite (23W) scored 2,741 in the single-core test and 13,021 in the multi-core test. Keep in mind that the Snapdragon X Elite is elevating the clock speed to 4.0GHz during single-core workloads.

Similarly, the X Elite (80W) scores 3,238 in the single-core test and 17,181 in the multi-core test. Here, due to the increase in power, the clock speed goes up to 3.8GHz along with a dual-core boost of 4.3GHz, so the Snapdragon X Elite can draw more performance with the same amount of cores. Also, bear in mind that benchmarking apps generally perform better on Linux than on Windows.

Max FrequencySingle-coreMulti-corePlatform
Snapdragon X Elite (12-core, 12P, 23W)3.4GHz / 4.0GHz Dual-core Boost274113021Windows
Snapdragon X Elite (12-core, 12P, 80W)3.8GHz / 4.3GHz Dual-core Boost323817181Linux
Apple M3 (8-core, 4P+4E)4.05GHz309511724macOS
Apple M3 Max (16-core, 12P+ 4E)4.05GHz315120463macOS
Apple M2 Pro (12-core, 8P+4E, 36W)3.5GHz264314210macOS

Moving to the M3 chipset, the base M3 with 8 cores (4P + 4E) running at 4.05GHz scores 3,095 in the single-core test and 11,724 in the multi-core test. If we compare the single-core result of the 23W version of X Elite (running at 4.0GHz) with the base M3, which is also running at 4.05GHz, then Apple M3 seems to have better performance cores. In the multi-core test, we cannot compare the scores since both have different core counts.

If we compare the M3 Max having a 16-core CPU (4.05GHz) with the 80W version of the Snapdragon X Elite with 12 CPU cores (up to 4.3GHz), then the latter outranks Apple’s chipset. In the multi-core test too, with just 12 cores, the Snapdragon X Elite comes very close to the M3 Max in the benchmark scores. However, we should also consider the power envelope of both processors. Since we do not have info about the operating power consumption of M3 chipsets, we can’t make a solid judgment right now.

Having said that, it appears the Oryon CPU on the Snapdragon X Elite is on par with the Apple M3 CPU. They are close to each other and as Qualcomm adds more cores, it will be able to compete with Max and Ultra chipsets as well in the multi-core test. Not to mention, the Snapdragon X Elite is better than the older Apple M2 Pro chipset at less power. So finally, we can conclude that in the Windows ecosystem, we have an impressive ARM-based chipset that can compete with Apple’s latest and greatest M-series SoCs.

GPU: Apple or Snapdragon?

In our comparison between A17 Pro and Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, we found that 8 Gen3’s Adreno GPU is both more powerful and efficient than Apple’s new mobile GPU. But, does the Adreno GPU have the prowess to defeat Apple’s next-gen GPU developed on newer architecture for M-series SoCs? Let’s find out.

The Snapdragon X Elite comes with an integrated Adreno GPU onboard. We don’t know how many GPU cores Qualcomm has deployed on X Elite, but it can perform 4.6 TFLOPS, which is higher than the 10-core GPU (3.6 TFLOPS) on the base M2 chip from last year.

However, Apple has taken its GPU to the next level this year with the M3 chipset. It has introduced a new GPU architecture and has also brought support for ray tracing and Mesh Shaders. Not to mention, Dynamic Caching is supposed to make graphics performance even better on macOS with proper memory management.

Apple is planning to make macOS a powerful gaming platform, which is something the Cupertino giant has missed out on for many years. As things stand right now, the GPU on the Apple M3 chipset seems to be powerful, and Qualcomm needs to do more to entice the gaming community to move from x86 to an ARM-based Windows platform.

Having said that, Qualcomm released some GPU benchmark numbers for the X Elite in comparison to the older Apple M2 chipset. The Snapdragon X Elite (80W) achieved 44.5 FPS in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme test whereas the Apple M2 (core count not provided) achieved 40.8 FPS.

In the Aztec Ruins benchmark test, the X Elite (80W) scored 350 FPS and the M2 scored 295 FPS. It seems like the Adreno GPU on the Snapdragon X Elite beats Apple M2’s 10-core GPU, but it possibly won’t outrank the M3 GPU, especially with higher GPU cores.

ML and AI Engine

As we transition to the AI age, the competition in the silicon industry is heating up to deliver the best on-device AI experience. Qualcomm has packed its powerful Hexagon AI Engine on the Snapdragon X Elite and it can perform 45 TOPS (trillion operations per second). But what’s even more impressive is that when using all the compute units together including CPU, GPU, NPU, and Sensing Hub, it can deliver 75 TOPS. Not to mention, it can generate 30 tokens per second while running a 7B LLM model.

In comparison, the 16-core Neural Engine on the Apple M3 chipset can only perform up to 18 TOPS. It’s quite puzzling that Apple’s A17 Pro, a mobile chipset with 16 Neural Engine cores can perform 35 TOPS, but Apple’s latest M-series processors are limited to just 18 TOPS. However, with the M3 family, you get an option of 128GB Unified memory to load large language models whereas you can only run models up to 64GB on X Elite. Simply put, in terms of on-device AI capability, the Snapdragon X Elite is far ahead of the Apple M3.

Memory Speed Comparison

The Snapdragon X Elite uses 16-bit 8-channel LPDDR5X memory, and it supports capacity up to 64GB. It has a memory bandwidth of 136GBps. On the other hand, as we mentioned in our Apple M3 vs Apple M2 comparison, the memory has been downgraded on the M3 Pro specifically. Apple is using a 192-bit memory bus (down from 256-bit), which reduces the LPDDR5 memory bandwidth to 150GBps from 200GBps.

Besides that, you can configure up to 128GB of memory on the M3 Max. Despite all of that, you’ll get better memory speed on the Apple M3 Pro than the Snapdragon X Elite.

Connectivity and More

The Snapdragon X Elite comes with the latest connectivity options. It includes Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4, and LE support. Laptop makers also have the option to add a 5G modem to bring an always-connected PC experience. Qualcomm has said that its discrete Snapdragon X65 5G modem can be paired with the Snapdragon X Elite. Not to forget, Snapdragon X Elite supports AV1 encoding and decoding for efficient video streaming and processing.

On the Apple M3, you get Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 support, but there is no support for mobile connectivity on the go. You will get AV1 decoding support, but can’t encode videos with AV1 codecs.

Has Qualcomm Finally Beat Apple?

As far as Oryon CPU cores are concerned, it appears Qualcomm has truly one-upped the competition and rivals the new Apple M3 chipset. The Nuvia team has managed to deliver powerful performance even at a lower TDP of 23W, which is amazing. In the GPU department, Qualcomm needs to make big changes to compete with a laptop-grade chip. Currently, it can only compete with the older M2 10-core GPU, which is not bad as such.

More than that, Qualcomm now needs to work with the developer community to bring gaming support to the ARM platform. Windows is already the choice for gamers, and if Qualcomm wants to succeed and replace x86 as the preferred hardware platform, it needs to work on software compatibility more than hardware along with Microsoft. Finally, in the NPU and connectivity departments, Qualcomm is already leading the race and setting a benchmark for on-device AI experiences.

Overall, there’s just one conclusion that we can make; whether it’s Qualcomm or Apple, it’s time for ARM to shine bright for years to come. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments 2
  • benchmark not shown the real test.. intel i9 have better performance than M2 max cip, but still lost in some video and photo editing on a laptop.. ARM on windows is not like the x86 windows.. hope they can bring improvement.

  • Finally, the future of Windows on ARM looks very interesting. We might finally get iPad Pro-like performance on Windows tablets 🤞

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