Almost exactly a year ago, Microsoft revealed its plans for a new wave of Windows 10 computers called “Cellular PCs”. With this technology, Microsoft made it possible for manufacturers to offer the full-fledged Windows 10 experience on ARM-powered devices. Today, the company together with Qualcomm and a bunch of hardware makers is unveiling the first set of “always-connected” hybrid laptops.
These new type of Windows 10 computers essentially try to bring a smartphone experience to laptops. For starters, they are “always-on” which means they last all day on a single charge (20–22 hours) and you’ll be able to instantly wake them up without worrying about standby drains just like a phone. In addition to that, they support LTE connections, hence the “always-connected tag”.
Unlike previous attempts, this time, you won’t have to live with any compromises while running Windows 10 on an ARM computer. Microsoft says it has natively compiled the software so that each and every Windows process can be executed on them (Read that as “there’s no emulation involved”). Furthermore, desktop applications are compatible as well. Although there’s one drawback right now — 64-bit Windows apps aren’t supported yet unless developers rebuild them. Apps like Photoshop, Chrome, Office will function just fine, however. The biggest question mark currently lies in the performance department as we’re still not sure if Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon SoCs can really meet all of the usual laptop demands. However in this demo video below the Windows 10 PC based on Qualcomm Snapdragon does look to be pretty fast.
To kick things off, Asus and HP have already launched their own always-connected PCs which are powered Qualcomm’s 835 chipsets. Lenovo will be unveiling its own in the coming months.
The new Asus NovaGo is a 2-in-1 featuring a 13.3-inch HD screen, up to 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, and an impressive set of I/O ports including two USB 3.1 ports, HDMI, and a MicroSD card reader. It starts at $599 for the base model that comes with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and goes all the way up to $799 for the 8GB RAM and 256GB storage variant.
HP’s Envy x2, on the other hand, is a marginally compact hybrid PC featuring a 12.3-inch display, up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Both of these also support Stylus input, run Windows 10 S out of the box with an option for a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro and can connect to LTE networks. The Envy x2 will be available sometime in Spring next year.
Microsoft is just getting started with these so-called always-connected computers and if the company manages to deliver even remotely on the promises, it can certainly present a substantial threat to longtime Windows chipset partner, Intel. However, for now, at least, they are priced roughly in the same range as their more powerful counterparts. Hence, performance will play a key role in their success. That being said, Microsoft’s ambitions are promising here. There’s also a good chance the company will launch an ARM-powered Surface device in the coming months.