Hardware

Windows 10's new ARM laptops: Always on internet, 20-hour+ battery life

The Windows 10 laptops will use hardware typically found in mobile phones, the ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, to bring the always-on connectivity and longer battery life of smartphones to laptops.

A new class of Windows 10 laptops with always-on internet and 20-hour plus battery life will begin rolling out this month.

The laptops will use hardware typically found in mobile phones, the ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, to offer thin and fanless machines that are able to connect to mobile networks at up to Gigabit speeds and promise improved battery life over today's 2-in-1 laptops.

The first Windows 10 on ARM laptops will be available from December, and were revealed at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit yesterday. Among these will be the Asus NovaGo, a 13-inch laptop with Windows 10 S and a battery able to sustain 22 hours of video playback and up to 30 days in standby, according to the vendor. The laptop will have a Snapdragon 835 processor, and up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, and will be priced between $599 and $799.

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The Asus NovaGo laptop.

Image: Asus / Microsoft

Early 2018 will see the release of the HP Envy x2, a 12.3-inch device which comes with the same processor, Windows 10 S, up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, and that is able to support "up to 20 hours of active use".

Both laptops can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro, removing Windows 10 S' restriction of only running Windows Store apps, with Asus saying a free upgrade will be available until September 2018.

The laptops will run a version of Windows 10 S that works natively on ARM, and which uses emulation to run Win32 apps, traditional Windows desktop software.

The laptops' ability to run a broad range of Windows desktop software sets them apart from Surface RT, the now defunct ARM-based Windows tablet that was held back by a poor choice of software.

Despite the performance overhead of emulation, Microsoft claims to have developed an efficient emulator, and demos of Windows running on Snapdragon processors to date haven't revealed any issues. Microsoft says that popular Win32 apps, such as Microsoft Office, have been tested to ensure they work well on the new devices, and that it will continue to test new apps over time.

Microsoft envisions these machines as having a wide market, spanning students, home and mobile business users. However it is stressing the benefits to business users of always-available internet, the security benefits of connecting via cellular rather than potentially insecure Wi-Fi networks, and the reduced costs of firms not having to maintain so many internal Wi-Fi networks themselves.

These Qualcomm Snapdragon-based computers will also be quicker to wake from sleep than a typical laptop, more comparable to how quickly a smartphone is usable after waking.

Qualcomm predicts one of the biggest benefits will be the always-on availability of internet access—providing you can connect to a mobile network that is—with the Qualcomm X16 LTE modem offering download speeds three to seven times faster than competitors, according to the company.

While Qualcomm promises download speeds of up to a Gigabit, in a demo earlier this year, a Qualcomm rep downloaded a 30 minute, HD video in about 30 seconds over the cellular link, with the 1.9GB movie downloading at between 330 and 380Mbps.

In May Microsoft revealed that the first mobile operators supporting the platform will be AT&T, BT/EE, DTAG/T Mobile, Vodafone, Orange, Tele2, Swisscom, 3, KDDI, Gemalto, Oberthur, Gigsky, and Transatel.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan says these Qualcomm-powered devices are likely to compete with everything from Chromebooks to traditional laptops to the iPad Pro—and raised questions about the competitiveness of the $799 price tag.

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The HP Envy X2

Image: Microsoft / HP

Read more on Windows 10 Arm devices

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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