If you thought Microsoft had given up on the mobile front, think again as Qualcomm’s latest system on chip, the Snapdragon 835, can run full-fat Windows 10. Announced as part of a new partnership during this year’s Computex in Taipei, Taiwan, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835-enabled Windows 10 devices could be a game-changer for lightweight and portable Windows 10 machines.
We already know that desktop-like performance can be had with the 835 thanks to the Samsung Galaxy S8’s Android-powered computer interface. Instead of running a custom-built desktop, future Snapdragon 835 devices will be able to run Windows 10 natively.
Don’t think this means that the next wave of smartphones, or the likes of the HTC U11 will suddenly become Windows 10 devices. The Windows 10-compatible Snapdragon 835 is a slightly different SKU to ensure it works better with Microsoft’s OS. What this really means is a slew of affordable, low-power, lightweight Windows 10 ultraportables running on Qualcomm’s chips. It’s unlikely this means the end of Intel’s, somewhat lacklustre, mobile chips, but it does certainly apply some pressure on the manufacturer.
Currently no Snapdragon 835 Windows 10 devices have been unveiled, but we do know that HP, Lenovo and Asus are all working on manufacturing some. It’s expected the first slew will arrive later this year, priced in the $400 – $700 range. Going by the mentioned manufacturers, it’s likely these won’t be phone-like devices, but could be lightweight Windows 10 tablets that can dock into a full desktop experience.
Microsoft and Qualcomm claim that this is full-fat Windows 10, not some sort of cutdown OS like Windows RT was. Qualcomm sees the 835 as competing with Intel’s Y chips and, while it’s not going to be the performance beast gamers would want, it should be more than capable enough of simple photo editing and any light workload most users will want on the move.
The real benefits of switching from an Intel chip to a Qualcomm one come in the form of better battery life and superior connectivity. Not only is Qualcomm well versed on the connectivity front, trying to create mesh networks for the home and bring superior 5G mobile connectivity speeds, but the Snapdragon 835’s integrated Gigabit X16 LTE means a Windows 10 device could offer always-on connectivity. Combine that with eSIMs and your portable Windows 10 machine could literally always be connected even when you don’t have Wi-Fi.
In terms of battery life, the 10nm Snapdragon 835 is smaller and more power efficient than Intel’s mobile chips. Not only does this mean more room to slide in a bigger battery due to Snapdragon 835’s 30% smaller chipboard, but it’s BigLittle architecture allows for the high-power cores to run idle when not in use – meaning your battery isn’t sapped. Qualcomm claims that all of this results in up to 50% longer battery life compared to “a competing solution” and four to five times better connected standby. This, should, result in a truly all-day battery life for a Qualcomm-enabled Windows 10 machine.
It’s going to be a little while until we get to see one of these devices in operation, but when they do finally emergy it could completely change the ultraportable market. Only time will tell, but it’s clear Microsoft believes Qualcomm has what it takes to give Intel a run for its money.
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