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Snapdragon 850: Everything you need to know about the Windows 10 chip

Qualcomm has unveiled the Snapdragon 850 processor, which will power the next generation of always-connected Windows 10 devices.

The chip-maker is looking to go beyond extraordinary battery life with devices containing the 850, and to also address some of the biggest criticisms surrounding the previous generation of Snapdragon 835-powered PCs.

Here’s everything you need to know about the future of always-connected computers.

Related: HP Envy x2

The first batch of always-connected PCs use the Snapdragon 835, which powered some of best smartphones of 2017, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, Note 8, Pixel 2 and OnePlus 5T.

On Windows 10 machines, however, it didn’t quite hit the spot. The HP Envy x2, Asus NovaGo and Lenovo Miix 630 all have incredibly impressive battery life, but performance can also be extremely sluggish, and there are software compatibility issues too.

With the 850, which has been specifically built for Windows 10 devices and will not come to smartphones, Qualcomm is promising faster performance, higher data speeds and even longer battery life.

According to the company, Snapdragon 850-powered devices will offer a 30% performance boost over Snapdragon 835-powered computers. That’s good news on paper, but we can’t jump to any conclusions before we’ve had the chance to actually spend some time with a Snapdragon 850 machine. In a demo, a Qualcomm-built reference design (pictured below) performed smoothly while running Vendetta.

Qualcomm says that the new chip will bring a 20% battery life boost too (up to 25 hours of continuous usage), as well as a 20% increase in Gigabit LTE speeds (up to 1.2Gbps in theory), and 30% faster graphics.

“The Snapdragon 850 Mobile Compute Platform is designed to support many sought-after smartphone features in the PC and to stay connected to LTE or Wi-Fi so users can receive notifications and have their data virtually always synced on the go,” said Qualcomm.

Alex Katouzian, the senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm’s mobile business unit, also promised new AI-based features, such as a power management tool, describing artificial intelligence as “part of everyday life now”.

Snapdragon 850 reference design

Qualcomm is yet to spill the beans on new hardware, but it has revealed that Samsung, HP, Asus and Lenovo will be releasing Snapdragon 850-powered devices later this year. They’ll arrive in time for the holiday season.

Recent leaks have also suggested that Dell is working on a rather unusual-sounding Snapdragon 850 device. According to reports, it will feature two screens, and could be used as both a tablet and a smartphone.

Perhaps concerningly, Katouzian mentioned at the Snapdragon 850 reveal that research indicated that consumers are “willing to pay more” for devices with better battery life and Gigabit LTE connectivity.

We considered the £1000 835-powered Envy x2 to be fairly vastly overpriced. Indeed, at a roundtable, Qualcomm’s VP of global product marketing, Don McGuire, said he believes $600-$800 is the “sweet spot” for Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 devices.

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