It's great to see a 5G laptop in the flesh and the possibilities of being able to tap into gigabit speeds on the go without having to be tethered to Wi-Fi are pretty exciting.
The Lenovo Qualcomm 5G will feature Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform – more commonly known as simply 8cx – an eight-core 7nm system-on-chip (SoC), incorporating the forthcoming Snapdragon X55 5G modem, which promises peak download speeds of up to 2.5Gbps over 4G, and 7Gbps over 5G.
If that kind of bandwidth is what you can get from Qualcomm (and, perhaps more to the point, your network provider), then you may never need to have to hunt for Wi-Fi ever again.
Unfortunately, seeing as there were no 5G services available in Taiwan for Qualcomm to use to demonstrate Project Limitless, we were instead treated to a demo of it working with the X55 connected to a call box, a piece of network testing equipment used to simulate real-world 5G.
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In this case, the call box was using sub 6GHz spectrum that’s been earmarked for 5G services around the globe, so in the absence of real 5G, this was about as real as things were going to get.
We weren’t able to run a speedtest on the Lenovo Qualcomm 5G device. As well as being limited (ironically) in terms of what I was able to do with it, I was also told that running Ookla or any other kind of common or garden speedtest wouldn’t deliver any meaningful results, thanks to the call box connection.
While it was impressive to be able to actually see a 5G laptop in the flesh, it was disappointing to not actually see it running on the real thing. I was assured by Qualcomm personnel that if we were to take the Lenovo Qualcomm 5G laptop to Chicago, or anywhere else in the world where 5G has been deployed, we’d be able to open the ‘Cellular’ connection option in the laptop’s system settings and hop on the network.
Seeing that little setting appearing next to Wi-Fi and airplane mode was the closest glimpse I got to a 5G always connected PC future.
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As for the laptop itself, the Lenovo Qualcomm 5G is a very slender-looking and lightweight thing that’s cut from similar cloth to the Apple MacBook Air – there are just two USB-C ports here and the ThinkPad-style keyboard is flanked by speakers sitting underneath columns of micro-drilled holes.
I was also able to see three unbranded reference design laptops with an 8cx chip running PC Mark 10, a standard benchmark suite which ranks PC performance by simulating a number of common everyday tasks.
These gave us an average score of 4276.6, which is a pretty good score for a lightweight laptop, above what most lifestyle devices would give you, and a little under what you’d get from a lighter gaming laptop.
Similarly, a test of 3DMark’s Night Raid with this reference device versus the ‘expected scores’ of an unnamed competitor powered by an Intel Core i5-8250U Kaby Lake Refresh processor should be taken with a pinch of salt.
A Qualcomm 8cx ref design laptop I saw actually managed 5841, while a similary-specced Intel machine would hope to muster around 5047-5055 – comparing a reference design unit, which nobody will ever be able to buy, with a finished consumer item is a little apples and oranges though.
This is merely suggestive how the eight-core 8cx chip will function in any device, not a test of the Project Limitless laptop’s nascent powers. I say nascent, because this thing is apparently still on course for release in early 2020, affirming what Lenovo’s consumer PC and smart devices group Johnson Jia told us back at Mobile World Congress.
While I wasn’t able to do much more than look at the thing, I was pleased to be able to hold the Project Limitless laptop in my hands and at least get a sense of what the future of working on the go might look like. If it beats traipsing around humid conference centres desperately looking for decent Wi-Fi, I’m all for that.