Debian 12 and Linux upstreaming for the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite SoC

When Qualcomm launched the powerful 4.2 GHz Snapdragon X Elite 12-core Arm SoC for “mobile PCs” (better known as laptops), I was surprised they showed benchmarks for both Windows and Linux as in the past, the company focused on Windows only for this type of processor.

But at the time we were only shown Geekbench 6.2 results in Linux, so it was not clear what was supported at the time. But a recent post by Abel Vesa, Linaro engineer, explains a fully working Debian 12 image with GPU rendering and WiFi connectivity was ready right before launch and work is now being done to upstream the code to Linux mainline.

Debian 12 Snapdragon X Elite SoC
Quake3 on Debian 12 running on the Qualcomm CRD (Compute Reference Design) with Snapdragon X Elite SoC

In this post, he shares the Linux upstreaming plan and provides instructions to install Debian 12 on an official Snapdragon X Elite reference design.

Upstreaming will be done in two parts, starting with support for the following:

  • Qualcomm Oryon CPUs
  • Clocks, interconnects, regulators, power domains, and pinctrl providers
  • Low-Speed I/O: I2C, SPI, UART
  • Compute Reference Device (CRD) and Qualcomm Compute Platform (QCP) boards support

We’re told that at the time of writing (January 4, 2024), the interconnects, pinctrl, and power domains had already been merged, but I can’t find anything related to Snapdragon X Elite (X1E80100) or Oryon in the changelog for Linux 6.7. I’m probably not looking at the right places…

The second series of patchsets will add support for the following:

  • CPUFreq support
  • High-Speed peripherals: PCIe Gen3 and Gen4, USB SuperSpeed
  • Embedded DisplayPort support
  • GPU support
  • Qualcomm Hexagon Processor SubSystem (Audio)
  • Additional features for the Compute Reference Design (CRD): trackpad, touchscreen, keyboard, battery management, NVMe, and WLAN

Those should be merged in Linux 6.8 if everything goes according to plans.  Audio and camera support will also be worked on later on. You can check out the current Linux kernel code for the Snapdragon X Elite on Linaro git.

It’s already possible to install Debian 12 with GPU and WiFi support on the Qualcomm CRB (in the unlikely case you own one) with instructions for dual-booting with Windows a bit more complicated than on Intel/AMD platforms where users just need to download the ISO and create a boot disk… With the Snapdragon X Elite CRB, you’ll still need to download the Debian install and create a boot disk with Rufus, but you need to enter some key combinations to enter the EDL shell, switch to USB boot, use a USB to Ethernet adapter for network connectivity, modify EFI boot option, and run of a bunch of other commands…

Considering commercial devices based on the Snapdragon X Elite processor are planned for mid-2024, it’s not impossible for Linux distribution such as Debian to work out of the box once X Elite laptops and computers start selling.

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9 Replies to “Debian 12 and Linux upstreaming for the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite SoC”

  1. > Upstreaming will be done in two parts, starting with support for the following: Qualcomm Oryon CPUs

    My understanding is that this X1E80100 CPU consists of two different Oryon core types (differing also by MIDR_EL1). But it seems Qualcomm engineers got away with submitting qcom,oryon

  2. Clever that a hardware supplier (Qualcomm) hires Linaro to develop & mainstream the Linux stuff.
    I wish more hardware suppliers did that.

  3. What is the pricerange of laptops with a Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite SoC?

    500 euro, so Intel Core 3 range?
    Or more expensive?

    The Windows Snapdragon laptops are/were quite expensive. With as unique selling point: long battery live … which seems not much for a 1000 euro laptop.

    1. Based on the number provided by Qualcomm. the Snapdragon X Elite has performance similar to the latest Intel and AMD processors something like Core i5-14600K for the CPU, and the internal GPU performance is much better than the iGPU typically found in Intel/AMD CPUs, and close to Apple M2.

      So I’m guessing Snapdragon X Elite laptops will cost over 1,000 Euros.

      1. So someone (private, business) has a budget of 1000 euro for a laptop.

        1) Core i5 laptop, fast, guarantueed to work with with all software
        2) Snapdragon X Elite laptop, also fast, long battery life … but might have problems with software like printer/hardware drivers and non-mainstream software.

        I think I know what most people will choose.

        1. That’s making an assumption that you actually get good battery life. Raw performance numbers are useless for this, we need performance per watt numbers.

          This is where Apple does well, very high performance per watt on performance cores and efficiency cores AND a bunch of changes to macos to stay out of the performance cores and limit background tasks.

          Windows ARM machines IMO fall down in all aspects. They can have decent battery if you don’t run programs… just watching a video or something with hardware decoding etc.

          Are these chips high performances per watt, do they have plenty of accessible power controls for linux (or windows, but I care about linux….) so that you can actually get awesome battery life AND run programs.

          For the linux world, arm vs x86 isn’t nearly as big of a deal since almost everything will build on arm/arm64 so not much sacrifice there.

          basically, lets see real world hardware and real world tests.

          I’d really love these to be awesome. I’m running Apple M1/M2 hardware for performance and battery life at the same time. I have no special love for macos, I’d happily run debian/ubuntu on snapdragon X Elite if it’s even close.

  4. Heh. After failed with windows-only strategy, now they try to lick linuxer boots. Well, let’s see how it pan out.

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