Why Microsoft's ARM-based Windows 10 laptops still have a lot to prove

Real products we can test against Intel and AMD competition are still months off.

[Check out all of our Top Computex 2017 coverage, here.]

Asus, HP and Lenovo have signed on to Qualcomm's ambitious plan to make Windows 10 PCs that run on ARM Snapdragon processors. If Qualcomm and its partners succeed, it would represent a major shift in the PC industry, which has been centered around Intel's x86 architecture for a couple of decades. 

Qualcomm, which is a powerhouse in mobile phone chips, wants to extend its platform to laptops and tablets. The new machines could benefit from its phone-centric focus on power saving and see battery life of 20 hours, said Qualcomm vice president Don McGuire in an interview at Computex in Taipei.

Devices from the three companies are already under development and based on the Snapdragon 835 chip, which is used in the Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11, and Sony Xperia XZ phones.

The new machines will compete alongside Intel-based models in a sector Microsoft calls "always connected" PCs. These are Windows 10 machines intended to bring some of the best features of smartphones to laptops: an all-day battery life and fast, constant LTE cellular connection.

"It's all around this idea that a PC should be connected, just like a smartphone," said McGuire. On current Windows 10 PCs, standby mode means the machine is shutdown but Qualcomm promises greater things from standby on the new computers.

"With these systems, you're truly connected and you will be syncing data, Cortana will be available and it give you truly instant on," he said.

170531 qualcomm arm 2 Martyn Williams/IDG

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (right) motherboard for a Windows 10 PC and board from a competitor (left) are seen during a demonstration at Computex in Taipei on May 31, 2017.

During a demonstration at Computex in Taipei on Wednesday, Qualcomm showed off a Windows 10 ARM development system running on the Snapdragon 835. The machine was running the full Microsoft Office suite without any significant lag and was able to stream a full-screen movie while keeping video smooth.

The addition of Asus, HP and Lenovo will give Qualcomm's chances a boost, although it's worth noting that big-name support doesn't guarantee success. Microsoft learned this in 2012 when Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung all launched laptops for Windows RT. The operating system was also based on the ARM architecture and ended up failing because of incompatibilities with too many Windows apps.

"That was an experience that over promised and under delivered," said McGuire. "This is not RT version 2, this is full Windows running on the platform."

170531 qualcomm arm3 Martyn Williams/IDG

Windows legacy app 7 Zip is installed on a Windows 10 ARM development device during a demonstration at Computex in Taipei on May 31, 2017.

Qualcomm says its platform can run both 64-bit universal Windows applications and legacy 32-bit apps. It demonstrated one such legacy app, 7 Zip, running on its platform without any perceivable problems.

The demonstration looked promising, although the real test won't come until first-generation hardware is available for review. No ARM-based Windows 10 laptops were on show Wednesday aside from the demo unit. Qualcomm says machines should start appearing later this year. They are expected to cost between $600 and $800.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?