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Qualcomm invades Intel territory with Snapdragon PCs that increase battery life over performance

Qualcomm is invading the territory of Intel, announcing Windows PCs that use the same Snapdragon chips as their phone and can last up to a second day of use.

On Tuesday at its Snapdragon Technology Forum, Qualcomm showed off its Snapdragon 835 mobile PC platform on an HP Envy x2 tablet and an Asus NovaGo ultrabook. Both work on the company's Snapdragon 835, yes, the same processor (and cellular modem) within popular phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Qualcomm uses its success with smartphones to justify its foray into PCs. It demands performance all day long from your phone, while you are constantly connected to the Internet. Why should not your PC offer the same?

Let's clear up one concern immediately: Qualcomm Windows PCs run Windows 10, not the abandoned Windows RT variant that only runs Microsoft's UWP applications. However, these PCs emulate non-UWP applications and slow down performance. Qualcomm expects it to be willing to change some speed because of the promise that the Snapdragon mobile PC platform will offer between 14 and 24 hours of constant use, interspersed with inactive periods of "connected wait" time.

What it will mean to you: At some point, the performance of your phone, tablet or PC exceeds your demands, what we call "good enough" computing. The Qualcomm bets are already there, at least for a group of potential users. Instead, it focuses on basic productivity, always active (cellular) connectivity and battery life.

Many questions remain in the air: is it good enough for you? How well does a Snapdragon PC work in emulated everyday applications, such as Google Chrome? How close to reality are these claims about battery life? Do customers want to pay for an additional cellular plan? If Qualcomm can meet their demands and offer (affordable) ever active WWAN connectivity, a small competition for Intel is always good news for consumers.

  the always connected PC powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon Qualcomm

Qualcomm's vision of the connected PC, driven by its Snapdragon chip.

Qualcomm Snapdragon PC: power, not performance

Keep in mind that chip makers like Intel – and, to a lesser extent, AMD – are interested in selling chips that offer the best possible performance at the lowest price. low. That is not the priority of Qualcomm.

"Most of the people who work on these form factors are interested in the piece of connectivity, and things like music, email, some productivity, shopping, it's mostly an extension of a phone," Miguel said. Nunes, senior director of product management at Qualcomm. . "We do not see people using heavy workloads, such as graphic design, if they do, they avoid these form factors."

"I have been using one of these devices [Snapdragon-powered] for several months," Nunes added. "It has replaced my Surface Pro device, and I go several days without charging."

  hp envy x2 frontrightdetached HP via Qualcomm

The HP Envy x2 will be one of the first to include a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip inside.

Nunes was referring to a version powered by Snapdragon of one of the devices, HP Envy x2. PCWorld reviewed a similar tablet, the HP Elite x2, which includes an Intel Core m chip inside it. The Elite x2 delivered more than seven hours of battery life in our tests, which included the constant reduction of the video. Qualcomm claims that the same tablet will offer 20 hours of battery life with a Snapdragon inside.

Put another way, Qualcomm believes that a device with a 48-watt-hour battery – basically the battery within the latest Microsoft Surface Pro – will last 21.2 hours when a 1080p video is played. (As a reference, the Surface Pro lasted approximately 8.5 hours before running out of battery in our tests)

  asus novago Asus via Qualcomm

The Asus NovaGo ultrabook, also powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. [19659017] Qualcomm also released a partial list of the specifications of each machine, in part to assure potential customers that they were getting a "real" PC, with support for the various peripherals and other components that make up a PC.

Asus NovaGo:

  • Display: 13.3 inches, 1920×1080 LED-illuminated panel
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform
  • Memory: Up to 8GB
  • ] Storage: Up to 256GB UFS 2.0
  • Connectivity: Qualcomm X16 Modem (MIMO 4×4); 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO)
  • Input: Stylus, two USB 3.1 type C ports
  • OS: Windows 10 S
  • Dimensions: 12.4 x 8.7 x 0.59 inches, 3.06 pounds

HP Envy x2:

  • Display: WUXGA + Panel (1920×1200) 12.3 inch
  • CPU : Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform
  • Memory: 8GB LPDDR4
  • ] Storage: Up to 256GB
  • Connectivity: Snapdragon Modem X16 LTE
  • Operating System: Windows 10 S

Interestingly, both the HP Envy x2 and the Asus NovaGo use Windows 10 S That is important because in our tests, the use of Windows 10 Pro significantly reduced battery life. The test of the Microsoft Surface Book running Windows 10 S produced a huge battery life of 765 minutes. "Upgrade" to Windows 10 Pro reduced the battery life to 654 minutes, a decrease of 14.5 percent.

Snapdragon PCs will be slower, but does it matter?

To your credit, Qualcomm admits that the performance of a Snapdragon PC will be slower than what you get from your Intel or AMD-based competition. In part, that's because Snapdragon chips are not designed to process code natively. Instead, the Snapdragon 835 passes the code through some intermediate steps, which include an abstraction layer and an emulator. This was a step that left out the Windows RT devices and the ARM chips with which they were executed.

  Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 PC estimated battery life 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

Qualcomm breaks down the estimated battery life of your Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 PCs here …

As a result, UWP applications Windows (Mail, Calendar, Edge, in addition to native Skype applications such as Twitter, Spotify and similar) will always work with the maximum performance of the chip. A lot of traditional .EXE applications, which include most games, browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, and synthetic benchmarks, simply will not run as fast.

  Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 PC estimated battery life 1 Mark Hachman / IDG

… and here, with a more detailed breakdown of the energy consumption of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.

Naturally, Qualcomm is minimizing the impact Any application depends on a combination of CPU, GPU, memory and storage, said Nunes. "You will see some differences here and there … but it will not affect the user experience."

"You can see something that is launched in 1 second, in the other platform that starts in 1.4 seconds", Nunes explained. "That's 40 percent slower, but in reality, that does not matter."

Nunes emphasized instead the energy efficiency of the Snapdragon 835 mobile PC platform. "It's better to address battery life, since that's what most people care about."

When asked to define the performance penalty that the emulation would cost, Nunes again refused. "Actually, it depends on the application," he said.

  Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 PC performance estimate 1 Mark Hachman / IDG

These are the "performance" metrics Qualcomm wants you to think about when considering Snapdragon 835 mobile PCs.

Qualcomm feels that it can compensate for part of that gap as more powerful CPUs accelerate, reducing clock speed under load to control heat output. But executives admit that they will notice the differences between native and emulated applications. In part, that is due to a design peculiarity in the ARM architecture that underlies the Snapdragon chip: ARM uses a combination of "large" and powerful cores along with "small" cores that are more energy efficient. It is these small cores that help to prolong battery life, but can not be maintained when they are under load.

Snapdragon PCs will taste our "good enough" taste

For the average user, Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform's strengths and weaknesses influence how PCs will be marketed. When Asus and HP ship the new devices with Qualcomm technology, companies will emphasize "user experience" metrics, such as how fast applications will open, rather than synthetic benchmarks like Cinebench or PCMark.

In addition, the applications you use will import. "You can run Chrome on it, Edge is significantly more optimized, but Chrome will work," said Nunes.

If qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile PCs are going to take off, consumers will have to accept the "good enough" performance of the PCs in exchange for two days or so of the battery life and the dominant WWAN connectivity . So far, we've had two architectures testing that argument for size: Core m chips and Intel's Atom. Intel Core m possibly succeeded. The Atom did not, offering a slow computing experience often composed of anemic storage and memory.

For years, however, consumers have begged smartphone manufacturers to increase battery life. Now Qualcomm has the opportunity to help PC manufacturers do the same. Will they succeed? As soon as we can have the devices in our hands, we'll let you know.

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