The Asus NovaGo is a convertible laptop with Windows 10 software, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, and a starting price of $599.

It’s expected to ship sometime around May, which is when other new Windows on ARM computers (from HP and Lenovo) will probably hit the streets as well.

When Microsoft announced it was bringing Windows 10 to devices with ARM-based processors, I think a lot of folks had expected we’d see low-end devices that compete with $300 and $400 Intel Atom, Celeron, and Pentium machines. But so far the $599 Asus NovaGo is the most affordable Window 10 on ARM device announced to date.

When you look at the hardware, that’s not surprising: phones with the same processor tend to sell for around $500 and up and the Asus NovaGo has a bigger screen, a bigger battery, and a full-sized keyboard. Of course it costs more than $500. But what remains to be seen is whether it’ll be competitive with cheaper Intel-powered machines when it comes to performance.

I spent some time talking to folks with Qualcomm and Asus about that this week. The general thinking is that Snapdragon 835-powered Windows devices like the NovaGo offer good-enough performance for most basic tasks. It’s not clear how competitive it will be in synthetic benchmarks, but when it comes to perceptible performance, it has no trouble handling applications like Microsoft Edge, Word, and Excel.

The Asus NovaGo (and HP Envy x2 and Lenovo Miix 630) will all come with Windows 10 S pre-installed. But if you want to run x86 apps that aren’t available from the Microsoft Store you can switch to Windows 10 Pro. The upgrade is free for a limited time, and it brings the ability to run just about any Windows application… although that does involve emulating an x86 instruction set on an ARM processors, so x86 apps might not run as smoothly as those that are compiled to run natively on ARM.

Still, why spend $600 to $800 on a device that offers the same kind of raw horsepower as an Intel-powered computer that may sell for as little as half the price?

There are a few key selling points:

  • Extra long battery life
  • Even longer standby
  • The computer never really shuts off, so it’s truly an always-connected PC

Asus says the NovaGo should get up to 22 hours of battery life, and other PC makers are making similarly bold claims. It’s always a good idea to shave a few hours off an official battery life estimate. But even after you do that you’re left with a computer that can probably run from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed without stopping.

And that’s just when the screen is on. Close the lid of this convertible laptop to turn off the display and you might not need to plug it in for a month.

But unlike most PCs with x86 chips, closing the lid doesn’t really turn off the computer. Instead it enters a low power mode but stays connected to the internet the same way phones do. That way you can receive incoming alerts and messages even when the computer is “off.” It also means when you lift the lid or press the power button to wake the computer, you won’t need to synchronize your data or download your latest emails. They should already be there.

Are those features worth paying a premium for? That depends on your needs and preferences.

While we won’t have official benchmarks until Microsoft is done fine tuning Windows 10 to run on ARM processors, most of the folks I’ve talked to think that it’s safe to say you’ll get the kind of performance you’d expect from an Intel Core M3 or lower power processor. And when you look at laptops and tablets with Intel Celeron, Pentium, or Core processors, it’s not unusual to find models that get around 10 hours or more of battery life these days.

Once you get to 10 hours, do you really need 20? Not if you’re used to charging your laptop or tablet every night. But if you don’t think of the Asus NovaGo as a tablet that promises up to 22 hours of continuous usage, but rather as a machine that you can use for 5 hours a day for 4 days straight without plugging it in, then things might look a little different.

This is a computer you might only need to charge once or twice a week.

For now Asus says it’s targeting the business market, where “road warriors” might be looking for a machine they can use on a cross country flight and then keep using to take notes or deliver presentations at meetings without stopping to charge.

But there’s nothing stopping consumers from picking up a NovaGo, and I suspect if enough people do that then we might start to see additional Windows on ARM devices at different price points.

The NovaGo features a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display with a 360-degree hinge, HDMI and headset ports, two full-sized USB ports, and a power jack. It supports 4G LTE and has a fingerprint sensor built into the touchpad.

Asus will sell a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for $599. There’s also a $799 model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

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30 replies on “Hands-on with the Asus NovaGo (and is Windows on ARM even a good idea?)”

  1. What if you want to shut it down for troubleshooting purposes? You can’t even remove the battery to shut it down.

  2. The price seems perfectly fair. A good Android tablet or iPad pro would be that or more. If you want a decent screen, non mushy KB, quality trackpad, touchscreen, 20 hr battery, fast enough processor enough RAM . . . a midrange phone with half that spec costs $300 but you expect to a nice laptop for same? It’s not 2005 anymore.

    Now as for 10 S and the port to ARM . . . I can see why MS needs to do this and buck up the Windows Store and move most apps to Universal apps. This would finally fix most of the Windows maintenance mess. But I think at first this will have a lot of rough edges and compromises. I use a lot of x86 apps that install the old way. MS will have to commit and stick this out for a couple of years at least.

    1. I would love to see affordable Chromebooks with these, stronger ARM processors.
      RK3399 is nice but even that has only a few shipping devices.

  3. I am interested in these new ARM devices, but not in the laptop ones.

    The Windows 10 ARM device I’d really like to see is a premium Windows 10 7″-8″ tablet with pen input and at least 8 hours of real use battery (manufacturer’s 10+ hours of estimated battery). Not sure if that will be possible since they wouldn’t be able to fit a larger battery in a device like that.

    It will be interesting to see how well or poorly x86 apps run on these devices. I’m also interested to see if x86 apps will drain battery life faster.

  4. Certainly there are cheaper WinTel devices for the $600-800 range that offer better perf with higher specs. But none will give us 20+ hrs of battery life + LTE always connected like a phone. That kind of *always on and always-connected* notebook PC will start north of $1000 and many models don’t even offer CELL option. The ones that do when you add the Wireless option and it will add $299 to the price. If one only needs basic Office computing for an always-connected, then this is the perfect device for that price point. I am one of them. That said this kind of niche device is NOT well served in North America. The reason is that the wireless carriers are overcharging its customers for data plans and we can’t do anything about it.

    For example: Verizon charges $260 a month for 40GB for data only plan.

    where as the same 40GB of monthly plan is a mere $20 in Cambodia, (this is the plan i use) and you can top up (add more data) anytime during the month. No contract. No activation fee. If you don’t like the service you can terminate it whenever you like without having to make a single phone call. Just punch in some code and you are out of the auto-renewal plan or simply don’t keep any money in the account and it can’t auto-renew when there is no fund. And add more data takes less than 5 minutes and it works right away. Don’t like the services provided by Cellcard, you can buy a $1 SIM from Metfone and activate it yourself. In just 15 minutes and you get your new data plan on a competing carrier, activated and operational.

    So, the NovaGo is an exciting product for me as I’m using Chromebook and I am thinking of installing ChromeOS on the NovaGo as soon as I get it, if it works at all. There aren’t any Chromebook on the market that (haven’t seen one yet) that offers wireless WAN for that price at the moment. PixelBook starts at $1000. That said, I haven’t used Windows 10s but for Windows 10 Pro I’m sick of its bloatware and long updates, etc. etc.

  5. I’m mostly hoping this will enable smaller form factor mobile PCs with built in LTE. Too bad that is a small market with a good chunk of people who wouldn’t pay $700+ for such a device.

    1. Same. I’m not going to pay a premium for slower notebooks. I will pay a premium for always on and connected ultra portable full desktop Windows devices though.

      The GPD Win 2 seems to partially meet what I want but it seems getting GPD devices is pretty risky: QA, warranty, shipping and other issues seem to be rather frequent. Hopefully, major/more reliable OEMs enter/re-enter this market.

  6. I’m with John. The first thing I would look for — is it compatible with Linux?
    Yes? Deal.
    No? No deal.

    1. Same stance here. These could perform very well with native Linux apps.

      Most important Linux apps have already been compiled/packaged for 64 bit ARM so they would work well.

      It will take years for the Windows ecosystem to reach that state. (more likely, Windows on ARM willl simply fail like Windows RT).

  7. the price and performance of this will be a total joke, maybe the greatest joke the tech industry has ever told

  8. I’d be curious about how easy it is to replace the battery on this. Also, I know Linux has some pretty good (general) ARM support and it’ll be interesting how this plays out in this area if the various chips aren’t all completely locked down. Honestly, 20+ hours running a lightweight distro… nice if possible.

    1. I expect these to be completely locked down and only be used with Windows.

      If these get into realistic price range ($350), and it will be possible to use them with Ubuntu or similar mainstream Linux, I will probably buy one.

    1. Well, in Canada, that’s going to put it near the $1000 mark. Maybe $900 + about 12% tax. That’s pretty ugly and if you look at what sells these days, it’s not the premium priced laptops.

    2. Yeah, a little expensive for new Surface RT device that Microsoft not willing to produce themselves.

  9. Nopes, not even Intel Core M3 level performance but way lower. From early preview benchmarks here Look at Sunspider result, 210.0ms with native Edge browser. For comparison Intel Core M3 gets 122.4ms (time to complete, lower is better). Also Jetstream result, 80.363 with native Edge browser. For comparison Intel Core M3 gets 172.36 (higher is better). The rest of the benchmark results more like Intel Atom level performance (with Geekbench and Cinebench) and worse (with Passmark and Octane). With such high prices and subpar performance, likely D.O.A at launch. Heck, why didn’t Microsoft use Windows on ARM in their own Surface product line? Perhaps due to failure of Microsoft’s Surface RT (and Windows Mobile phones). ASUS, HP and Lenovo were simply pawns (to test the market response).

    1. I’ve been told by multiple folks this week that the reason benchmarks aren’t being released yet is because Microsoft is still optimizing windows on ARM, so any benchmark scores you see now may not be indicative of the performance we’ll see when these launch later this year.

      1. Whatever is the truth, it’s not a good indicator. I can’t recall situations where new products hide/obscure/delay performance. Obviously it’s detrimental to the product(s). If you can’t get the performance or accurate results now, it just means sketchy. If you have to announce, and then work out the performance issues, I’ll take a pass. It’s shady. The fact is they should have built these as budget. When a product is compromising, it’s not deserving of a mid-high price tag in my opinion. Is there anyone thinking that the lack of data is actually a positive thing? The word that comes to mind is “hokey”.

      2. Suspiciously why do they keep using that limited Windows 10 S, since Window 10 Pro is “free” upgrade? Might as well include Windows 10 Pro as default. Possible using Windows 10 Pro (bloatware) could reduce battery life dramatically, and that is my guess. Concerning the emulation, the patent for many x86-specific SIMD (SSE) and AVX instructions has not expired yet, so how will Microsoft’s x86 emulator get around them? As we all know, the minimum requirement for Microsoft Windows is a processor with at least SSE2 instruction supported (since the older MMX and x87 instructions were demoted and discouraged). That means most Windows programs (in the last few years) expects to use SSE2 and above. And if programs could not use SSE2 (and revert back to x87 path) then wouldn’t that impact CPU performance? Interesting times ahead.

        1. I agree on most counts. I suspect they’re shipping with Windows 10 S because it’ll perform best on Windows 10 S and you’re less likely to encounter apps that aren’t optimized for the platform and which cause the system to run sluggishly.

          If everyone who buys it immediately upgrades to Win 10 Pro and then complains about lackluster performance, it’ll be an issue. But if enough people buy these for the extra-long battery life and don’t take advantage of the upgrade option, it could provide more incentive for developers to make Win 10 S-compatible versions of their apps and submit them to the Microsoft Store.

          It’s a gamble… and I’m not sure if it’s going to pay off. But the idea of a new major player entering the PC chip space is still intriguing enough that I’m keeping a close eye on this space.

          1. Personally I love the idea of this but only at a more realistic price point. This may not be possible given that people point out that a small smartphone is priced at DOUBLE the price. I feel safe in saying that any mid/high price point laptop is not going to change anything. It’s going to come, and it’s going to go just as quickly. The potential performance/battery issues as mentioned about Windows 10 Pro makes me sad actually. I just think their plan collectively should have started with price point X, and how can we get it there. If this was their (MS, Qualcomm, partners) target price then I guess they truly are clueless.

        2. Yeah, some food for thought. However these devices themselves looks well ready for rollout but why the delays? Could it be possible Microsoft is trying to work around those SSE instructions in their optimizations without breaking current x86 compatibility thus taking much longer? Intel’s warning about x86 compatibility on these devices was quite apparent. Perhaps negotiating with Intel on full instruction compatibility on their emulator? Final performance may be lower if SSE instructions are not allowed. So the delays continued.

  10. These won’t sell. Remove the convertible aspect if that means cheaper price. Go with a slightly cheaper processor. People who will use this don’t give a crap about touchscreen/tablet capability. Honestly, who on earth craves a Windows OS tablet? Dumb this thing down and maybe it works. They want these to do everything and that ups the price and it’s a wasted effort. Battery life is great but not for a limited OS and compromised emulation performance. Anyone guess how much a non touchscreen and non flippable hinge will save on price?

  11. it might be worth noting that MS rewrote as much code natively for ARM as possible. Not just the UI and kernel and stuff but also all the native libraries that lots of windows applications already tap in to. So it won’t always be completely emulating an app

    1. That’s a problem for anything that userland applications touch. If they break 100% x86 compatibility, existing Windows programs won’t compile and run on these machines.

  12. It makes business sense to initially price these at a premium. Like everything tech, the prices will probably move lower later on and the ARM chips will also get more powerful.

    1. What kind of business sense is that? Apple’s? Are you implying these are “premium” devices?

    2. Nonsense. These things are nowhere worth the $500+ asking price, and everyone knows it. So asking too much for them benefits nobody, and is therefore a stupid thing to do.

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