Qualcomm chips come to Windows 10 laptops for silent, 4G-connected computing

Microsoft has announced laptops running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 are on the way, with manufacturers including Asus, HP, Huawei and Lenovo all getting in on the act.

Yes, the processor that powers some Samsung Galaxy S8s and the upcoming OnePlus 5 will now also be found in notebooks.

The news, announced at Computex, is part of Microsoft’s ‘Always Connected’ mantra. This means laptops running under this brand will ship with 4G LTE connectivity so they’re always online. Of course, this won’t come for free and we imagine you’ll need an active mobile subscription to take advantage.

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In truth, this announcement is probably not for us here in the UK, and is likely intended for parts of the world that have skipped wired connectivity almost entirely, and instead rely mostly on high-speed wireless internet, such as that provided by 4G.

PCs with built-in mobile transceivers have been around for ages, so what’s actually new here? Good question.

The most interesting news is that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 will be powering laptops for the first time. This is big, because Qualcomm chips are based on ARM designs, which are very different to the x86 architecture used on AMD and Intel chips – the kind you’ll find in regular laptops.

Until recently, Windows didn’t work on ARM chips, but with that hurdle out of the way, it’s possible we’ll start seeing even thinner and lighter laptops with a fair amount of processing power.

We know that ARM chips are highly efficient, but until recently they haven’t had the power to handle high-end tasks. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of Windows experience you can get from a Snapdragon chip.

The other advantage could be battery life. The Snapdragon 835 uses what’s called bigLITTLE tech, where four cores are high power and four are low power. If Windows 10 can play nicely with them, we could end up with much better battery life with background tasks being relegated to the lower-powered cores when they’re not urgent.

The most attractive thing about the 835 in terms of connectivity is Qualcomm’s latest X16 LTE modem, which has a theoretical maximum speed of a gigabit, although whether you get that depends on your mobile reception.

No actual devices have been announced yet, nor is there a launch date for the Always Connected laptops, but stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

Do 4G-enabled laptops tempt you? Let us know.