Qualcomm is holding its Snapdragon Tech Summit today in beautiful Maui, Hawaii and it’s clear that not only is the event a huge media spectacle and briefing for press and analysts, but also a flat-out celebration. Today, the QCOM team took to the stage with a number of tier 1 OEM partners. Microsoft was leading the charge, but representatives from HP, ASUS, Lenovo, and others were on hand to officially roll-out Windows 10 laptops and hybrid 2-in-1 devices powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor. These devices aren’t running some sort of reduced functionality OS either, nor are they limited to Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, but rather are capable of running any software developed for the Windows platform including legacy Win32 applications, for full backwards compatibility.
And they do this on a mobile processing platform that currently powers an overwhelming majority of the world’s Android smartphones. However, Qualcomm has proven, in its partnership with Microsoft, that the Snapdragon 835 can power full-fledged thin and light laptop convertibles that offer a ground-breaking 20 plus hours of real-world, always-on battery life, with some models expected to last as much as 25 hours. In addition, the machines will be equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X16 Gigabit LTE modem which can provide 1Gbps speeds on compatible cellular networks and negate the need for a WiFi connection if you have a cellular data plan setup.
Intel has been feeling significant competitive pressure in a number of high margin products from the likes of AMD, in the desktop and data center as of late, but Qualcomm’s Snapdragon threat takes aim and strikes hard at Intel’s high volume mobile business, specifically the popular hybrid 2-in-1 convertible or detachable laptop segment.
“Qualcomm Technologies continues to transform the way people use their mobile devices,” said Cristano Amon, EVP of Qualcomm Technologies and QTC. “At the second annual Snapdragon Technology Summit, we are excited to highlight our role in the mobile ecosystem while we continue to execute on our strategy with Microsoft for the Always Connected PC. I am honored to have been joined on stage today by industry leaders from around the globe to illustrate how we are driving mobile technology forward to redefine consumer mobile experiences.”
I was fortunate enough to be on-hand at the Maui event (a tough place to work, but I took one for the team) and got hands-on time with a couple of machines from HP and ASUS. The ASUS NovaGo is a hybrid convertible 13-inch laptop with an FHD 1080p touch display, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to a 256GB Solid State Drive. Pricing starts at $599, but the 256GB SSD variant will retail for $799. It has a number of ports on board including USB 3.1 type A and a microSD card slot.
Also on-hand was the HP Envy x2, which is a premium-built 2-in-1 detachable with a kickstand design, similar to a Microsoft Surface Pro, but with really nice aluminum construction. It’s also based on the Snapdragon 835 mobile platform, of course, claiming 20 hour always-on battery life, and it’s wafer-thin at just 6.9mm. It also comes with an FHD touch display and a companion stylus for pen input as well. Storage and memory options also scale up to a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM with a starting price of $599 as well.
What impressed me, however, was how responsive both devices felt. I did a little web surfing, and loaded up an HD video, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Word, all simultaneously, and switched between them with ease and relative responsiveness. On the HP Envy x2 there was also an augmented reality demo running and it was rendering, rotating, and placing animated characters over the rear camera scene with ease, similar to Google Tango, if you’ve seen that in action. There will likely be use case limitations, like heavy gaming scenarios, for example, that won’t run well on a Snapdragon-powered laptop, but what I saw today was encouraging for many use cases in both personal and business applications.
“We’re not trying to create a PC that basically is designed to compare with what the PC is today,” said Cristiano Amon, the head of Qualcomm’s chip business. “What we’re thinking is how can we make the PC more like a smartphone.” That’s a concept that could be very enticing for mainstream consumers that are looking for always connected devices, without the need to hunt for a WiFi signal, along with dramatically better battery life to get them through the day (and then some).
ASUS and HP hinted the machines will be “coming soon” or “by the end of the year.” What I saw today looked pretty polished and ready for prime time, actually. We’ll be testing the machines in the months ahead at HotHardare.com and I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
MORE FROMDave Altavilla, Contributor