The first PCs with Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus chips are expected to launch soon. And while most of the prototypes Qualcomm has shown off so far have been running Windows, the chip maker says it’s also working on bringing support for its new processors to the mainline Linux kernel.

The company posted an initial set of patches for its new chips the day after unveiling the Snapdragon X Elite processor family in October, 2023. Since then, Qualcomm says it’s upstreamed support for more features, which means the Linux kernel 6.9 includes support for much of the basic hardware you’d need to get Linux up and running – in fact, there’s already an experimental Debian image available for PCs with Snapdragon X Elite chips.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Linux support is still very much a work in progress though. Qualcomm’s roadmap for the next six months includes adding support for features including CPU and GPU performance optimization, power optimizations, hardware-accelerated video decoding in the Chrome and Firefox web browsers, and camera features.

Some of those features should arrive in Linux 6.10, while others will be available with Linux 6.11. And Qualcomm says it’s also hoping that within the next half year we’ll have “access to easy installers” for Ubuntu and Debian.

According to Qualcomm, Snapdragon X Elite “supports standard UEFI-based boot,” with support for “all standard bootloaders, including Grub and system-d boot,” which should make installing an operating system like Ubuntu or Debian on a Windows PC with a Snapdragon X Plus or Elite chip just as straightforward as it already is on systems with Intel or AMD processors. You should even be able to repartition your computer’s storage and dual-boot Windows and a GNU/Linux distribution like Debian.

So while it doesn’t sound like installing Linux on a Windows PC that ships with a Snapdragon X chip will be a great experience on day one (unless you don’t care about things like power management and video), Qualcomm expects things to get better pretty quickly.

And that stands in stark contrast to another major chip maker that’s been building ARM-based processors for PCs: Apple’s M series processors have a well-earned reputation for offering excellent performance-per-watt for long battery life and strong performance. But Apple only officially running macOS on devices with Apple M chips. Independent developers have had to spend years reverse engineering Apple’s chip architecture in order to get Linux distributions like Fedora Asahi Remix up and running on the latest Mac computers.

 

PlatformSnapdragon X EliteSnapdragon X Plus
Part numberX1E-84-100X1E-80-100X1E-78-100X1P-64-100
Cores1210
Max multithreaded frequency3.8 GHz3.4 GHz
Dual Core boost4.2 GHz4 GHzN/A
Total cache42MB
Graphics (TFLOPs)4.6 TFLOPs3.8 TFLOPs
NPU (TOPS)45 TOPS
MemoryUp to 64GB
LPDDR5x 8448 MT/s
135 GB/s bandwidth
8 channels
StoragePCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD support
UFS 4.0
SD v3.0
CameraQualcomm Spectra ISP
Dual 18-bit ISPs
Always-sensing ISP
Single camera: Up to 64MP
Dual camera: up to 2 x 36MP
Video capture: 4K HDR
WirelessQualcomm FastConnect 7800 (WiFi 7/BT5.4)
Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF (10 Gbps peak download / 3.5 Gbps peak upload)
USBUp to 3 x USB4, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x eUSB2

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  1. Bringing mainline Snapdragon support is a huge win if it can be fully integrated into the linux kernel. Lack of powerful ARM support is a real hindrance for linux.

  2. It will be interesting to see how easily a Linux distro can be installed. I hear that Mediatek Chromebooks can be difficult and even then graphics acceleration may not work.

  3. Finally, I hope it will have support for all cores. Recently there have been problems with it.

    Maybe Linux tablets will finally appear

  4. I hope this turns out well especially since Qualcomm is doing it versus someone reverse engineering the chip in their spare time and rarely makes it to the point of actually worth using.

  5. I hope that the processor will be in small SBC boards like Orange pi or banana pi, which will give a second life to this industry. DP 2.1 and HDMI 2.1 expected in such devices

    1. I’d like to see a mini-ITX board myself. Standard ram and expansion ports could make a Qualcomm chip very interesting indeed.

  6. I’ll believe it when I see it in the flesh, but… I am quite excite about the possibility!

    (Shame these chips will still be miles behind the Apple M4 on performance/watt though)

    1. Same. When I first heard about this I was uninterested thinking “Yet more cobbled together hardware that won’t work with Linux.”

      But if they keep this up I will absolutely be interested, especially since these seem to be aimed at the lower end market.

    2. Shortly after the M1 came out I read a few comments that Qualcomm was 18-24 months behind Apple. They’ve come a long way since then, but Qualcomm’s problem is that Apple has come a long way in that time as well. So the Snapdragon is still 18-24 months behind the Mx line.

      But support being added to the mainline Linux kernel would be huge. If it actually happens I would definitely add Snapdragon machines to my consideration set the next time I’m in the market for a new laptop.

  7. Interesting that Qualcomm is doing this. Many past efforts mostly involved individual people reverse engineering their chips which, unsurprisingly, never really resulted in anything end users can really use.

    Hopefully, this has great results.

  8. I’m still only going to believe the laptops will actually have unlocked bootloaders and not have the UEFI stripped out of them, or some wonky onboard controller that doesn’t have Linux support, when I see it, but at least I can allow myself some hope now.
    Ironically, if it’s true that they had to cheat at their benchmarks to try and approximate what they’d get if Windows wasn’t so badly optimized, these machines might actually run better on Linux.

  9. Nice to see Qualcomm supporting Linux.

    I was interested to read that they are wrorking on getting the camera working… That’s been a real problem with Linux OSs on smartphones, so maybe their contributions will help.