Qualcomm makes the processors found in many of the world’s most popular smartphones. But the company’s chips aren’t exactly the fastest ARM-based processors available for mobile devices. Year after year Apple’s processors tend to carry that title, with the company A series chips tending to outperform the best Qualcomm has to offer, and the new Apple M1 processor even besting many Intel and AMD processors in the laptop space.

Now Qualcomm has completed its acquisition of a startup that could give its future chip designs a shot in the arm. NUVIA is a young company that was founded by chip design veterans with experience at Google, AMD, ARM, Broadcom and… Apple.

Qualcomm announced plans to buy NUVIA for $1.4 billion in January with plans to use the expertise of its CPU design team for future Qualcomm processors. The company announced that the deal had closed on March 16, 2021.

One of NUVIA’s founders is Gerard Williams III. As AnandTech points out, he was chief architect for Apple’s CPU designs for more than a decade, having worked on that company’s chips until at least the Apple A13.

That alone doesn’t necessarily mean that Qualcomm will now have the expertise to match or exceed the performance and efficiency of Apple’s processors (especially since Apple, unlike Qualcomm, designs both the hardware and the operating system that takes advantage of it). But it probably doesn’t hurt.

Until now, NUVIA had primarily been focused on developing custom processors for servers, with the company promising last year to deliver a new “Phoenix” processor that offered higher performance than then-current Apple, Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm processors while consuming much less power.

Now Qualcomm wants to leverage the company’s technology for use in smartphone and laptop chips as well as in-vehicle systems and other applications such as augmented reality, although the company appears to be starting with notebooks.

According to a press release, first Snapdragon-branded chips to “feature Qualcomm Technologies new internally designed CPUs are expected to sample in the second half of 2022 and will be designed for high performance ultraportable laptops.”

This article was originally published Jan 13, 2021 and last updated March 16, 2021. 

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One reply on “Qualcomm’s $1.4 billion NUVIA acquisition could supercharge Snapdragon chips for laptops (and other devices)”

  1. Assuming Qualcomm sticks to the announced timeline, Apple will be releasing M3 CPUs by the time they sample the new chips.
    I am always looking forward to being surprised but I don’t see them catching up so quickly.

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