Microsoft and Qualcomm announced late last year that they’re working together to bring Windows 10 to devices with ARM-based processors like the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip.

But what can we expect from those devices? According to PC World, upcoming “cellular PCs” with Snapdragon chips will include laptops with long battery life, always-connected 4G LTE connectivity, and Bluetooth 5 support.

One thing you shouldn’t expect? Dirt cheap prices.

That’s probably not a huge surprise if you stop to think about it: the Snapdragon 835 is Qualcomm’s most powerful chip to date and it’s expected to show up in high-end smartphones that sell for upward of $600. So why would you expect it to be used for a $200 laptop?

But I suspect there are some folks who view Microsoft’s upcoming Windows-on-ARM platform as an answer to low-cost Chromebooks. It probably makes more sense to think of them as competing with premium Chromebooks like the Samsung Chromebook Pro and Plus or Asus C302 Chromebook, which sell for between $400 and $500.

So why not just buy a cheaper Windows laptop with an Intel Apollo Lake processor? ARM chips may have advantages when it comes to energy efficiency, built-in wireless connectivity and, in some cases, graphics.

This won’t be the first time Microsoft tried to make a version of Windows that’s compatible with ARM processors. But the ill-fated Windows RT was never very popular with device makers or users, at least partly because it was unable to run most of the applications available for Windows computers with x86 chips.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 835-powered Windows 10 devices will be able to support Win32 apps thanks to emulation software.

Not everyone is convinced that Windows on ARM has a bright future though. PC World notes that chip maker MediaTek has decided not to bother with Windows… at least not yet.

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16 replies on “Don’t expect Snapdragon 835 Windows laptops to be Chromebook-cheap”

  1. I will buy Snapdragon 835 powered Windows 10 device if it will completely substitute my Smartphone by adding the calling feature with my network SIM card. I should be able to open all those apps like whatsapp with full functionality that require my smartphone. MS should come up with a device which is a substitute to both 2-in1’s & Smartphones.

  2. Good point, but let’s remember two things:
    1. They showed it running an an SD 820. It hasn’t yet been formally announced what the minimum specs will be, as far as I know. So we may yet see it running on lower priced silicon from the get go.
    2. As newer chips are released, eventually the performance of the 835 will be available at those lower prices.

    Depending on how well the 835 performs, it may well be worth paying more for it, just because of better battery life and thermal characteristics. We’ll have to wait and see, we don’t really know enough yet…

  3. Why there are no Benchmarks vs Atoms? or vs Celerons?

    And why using Windows 10 when GNU/Linux (or any Linux basedd OS as Chrome OS) is much faster on ARM (at least until now)

    If Qualcomm want to sell laptops or convertibles it seems Windows 10, that a lot of users do not want even for free, is not a good option. Ubuntu Kylin with UKUI, or Chrome OS seem to be far better choices.

    And I expect this new laptops will be able to use GNU/Linux in dual boot and in a native way as ARM SoCs use not to be GNU/Linux friendly even they suceeded thanks to Android Linux.

    1. Devices sold by HP or Dell will have far more traction if they come with W10 than any Linux distributions. I am sure the reason we haven’t seen benchmarks yet is because the devices don’t exist yet. We’re looking at second half 2017 for the MS Surface 5 and early 18 for the Dells and HPs devices.

  4. I can see those devices selling relatively well for enterprises salesforce or serviceforce.
    Currently users whose applications are Windows based have to use a laptop and a dongle, or a laptop and a tablet for portability. Tomorrow, they’ll be able to use of one of those.

  5. “and it’s expected to show up in high-end smartphones that sell for upward of $600.”
    Therein lies the problem…. sorry but to me this is a highly debatable subject and already there’s talk of Apple’s potential attempt to break the $1k ceiling with this year’s iPhone (or a ver of it). OnePlus proves that it can be done at sub $500 mark easily. Why should users be expected to pay more?

    On topic if I were qcom I’d worry about connectivity’s overall picture first rather than about the OS platform or product form factor. 4G internationally are still hardly a bridge for the digital divide factored by a couple; quality of service vs. cost of entry for most people. And then if we’re to argue that qcom could still trot out some decent 66x (or 67x???) series SoCs to deal with lower RRPs, at that point it’d be useless because the potential performance vs. user ROI hits from that, will hand that pie chunk back to Wintel in about 0.01 seconds flat… either way Redmond wins as an fyi to qcom.

    This is why we seriously need AMD to get back into the fray and qcom should stick to radios/modems for the time being.

  6. I’d be interested in this for netbook and UMPC sized devices (ie. sub-10″ screens). Otherwise, pass.

    1. Snapdragon 835 will not be cheap. It will be need to emulate x86 with decent performance. Generally speaking, other ARM SOC are not optimised for Windows but for Android and Chrome OS ( Rockchip OP1)

      1. No. Chinese Core M tabs already sell for $350 (with SSD/Full windows 10).

  7. I could imagine this might be an option if you wanted to make a super slim and light Surface. Not only can you go super thin, but you could also save weight.bulk by needing less battery capacity. There already are 1.8lb full laptops from LG and NEC (Sony.) A SP4 weighs about that… but its weight probably coud be halved using an 835, and still be very usable. I think there would be a market for a 12.5 tablet that weighed under a pound.

    Then again this is what MS tried with the Windows RT models, but that was an OS problem IMO.

  8. Mediatek chips are hardly top of the line, it’s better that a high performance SoC like the 835 is the baseline for cell pc’s.

  9. Emulation never works properly. Microsoft would do better to spend that money on paying people/companies to make programs for the windows store. Until there is a wealth of programs to run natively in the Windows store there will be limited sales of windows devices that do not run win32 programs. It is a simple idea that Microsoft can’t seem to grasp.

    1. The emulation is a hybrid approach, the OS and API’s the apps call on are all native Arm so only parts of the software are emulated in x86.

      Plus developers can natively compile Arm Win32/UWP versions which if you use Windows Store are transparent and already supported, old school desktop exe’s will probably require a separate Arm build to download.

      The Windows Store already supports bridged Win32 apps Kodi is on there for instance and others.

      MS should pay money for devs to get their apps on the Store but also offer free UI re-designs, the new Neon UI is very pretty but so much Windows software and developer mindsets are still stuck in UI design from Win95 era. They need to go get old apps from WinRAR to VLC and give them a new look.

  10. I’m still not convinced about the Win32 via emulation part.

    Microsoft: you’re gonna have to show me that an ARM SOC can do Win32 emulation with lower power consumption than an x86 chip does natively.

    If you think that your customers are going to rely 90% on “Universal Windows apps” and that this x86 emulation is going to be a 10% footnote, you’re very wrong. Your universal app selection sucks.

    1. They show a video with it running x86 Photoshop, seems to run pretty good, the limited functions they put it through. I just want a Windows 10 phone with a keyboard cover like the mock-ups on the internet. 🙂…

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