Qualcomm Is Getting Serious About Gaming

Qualcomm Is Getting Serious About Gaming
Image: Qualcomm

Over the past few years, Qualcomm has been expanding its chip development to cover laptops and PCs. But today at its annual Snapdragon Summit, Qualcomm announced another new venture, this time in gaming: the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 platform.

By combining tech and features from its smartphone and laptop chips, Qualcomm is trying to create a purpose-built chip designed to power portable gaming handhelds similar to the Nintendo Switch or Valve Steam Deck. With a focus on creating a chip intended for use in Android devices, Qualcomm’s G3x looks to be more focused on the mobile market by supporting existing Android games and game streaming services like Stadia, GeForce Now, and Xbox Game Cloud rather than trying to compete directly against traditional handheld consoles like the Switch.

Image: Qualcomm Image: Qualcomm

Qualcomm hasn’t provided detailed specs for the G3x, but the company says its gaming chip will include support for updatable GPU drivers, 10-bit HDR colour, and refresh rates of up to 144Hz at 4K resolutions. The G3x appears to be very similar to Qualcomm’s new flagship mobile chip — the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 — but Qualcomm says the G3x has been tweaked to better take advantage of larger handheld console designs which have higher thermal limits and often come with some form of active cooling (instead of being completely fanless like a smartphone), while also delivering better performance than you can get from a phone.

The G3x is designed to support additional features not normally found on phones, including stereo haptics and the ability to push content out to a nearby TV or even a mixed reality headset of some kind.

Image: Qualcomm Image: Qualcomm

But Qualcomm didn’t stop at making the chip. The company also partnered with Razer to create the first Snapdragon G3x Handheld Gaming Developer Kit.

It’s important to mention that this dev kit is strictly intended to help developers create apps that can better utilise the chip’s advanced capabilities, and as such, Qualcomm has no plans to make the dev kit available for sale. But for people who have wanted an Android-based alternative to the Switch, the Snapdragon G3x dev kit offers an interesting look at the kind of devices we might actually be able to buy sometime next year.

Image: Qualcomm Image: Qualcomm

The G3x dev kit sports a 6.65-inch HDR OLED display with a full HD+ resolution, a built-in 5-MP webcam so you can live stream games directly from the dev kit, support for both 5G and Wi-Fi 6E, four-way speakers, and built-in buttons that can be mapped to an Android game’s default on-screen controls.

It remains to be seen how Android game devs will react to the availability of more powerful hardware, but the G3x platform could help pave the way for more ambitious titles that push the kind of graphics we generally expect from traditional mobile games.

Qualcomm’s gaming chip lacks some of the more advanced features we see from gaming PCs, such as super sampling tech (i.e. Nvidia’s DLSS or AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution) or ray tracing, so there will still be a significant gap between the G3x and systems with discrete PC GPUs.

Even though there aren’t specific plans to sell the G3x dev kit to the public, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Razer launch a consumer device with a very similar design and features in the not-too-distant future. Now that this chip is in the wild, it’ll be very interesting to see what other OEMs might do with it.