Hands-on with the first ARM-based Windows 10 laptops from Asus and HP

Excitement for the reveal of Windows 10 PCs running on Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon 835 chipset has been building for almost a year and now the first two have finally been revealed: Asus’ NovaGo and HP’s Envy x2.

Qualcomm unveiled the two laptops with its partners at its Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii, promising week-long battery life and seamless x86 emulation — a promise that’s been made before, but has yet to be fully realized.

The potential benefits of using ARM-based mobile processors to run a laptop are significant: LTE connection, fanless design, a more power-efficient instruction set in comparison with Intel’s dominant x86 processor and more room for larger batteries, to name the major points.

The two fanless devices aren’t particularly different in appearance than those with Intel processors, with more heft and bulk than one might expect from 2-in-1s with such small processors. This, of course, is likely accounted for by battery size, an element that was unfortunately impossible to test in my short time with the two laptops.

It was also difficult to test a range of x86 applications, since the laptops come running with Microsoft’s Windows 10 S as a default, which limits apps to those that can be purchased through the Windows Store.

However, from my tests loading up 20 tabs in the Edge browser and navigating through various Office apps, I found it a snappy and smooth experience — particularly with the HP Envy x2. Additionally, both offer a one-time free switch to Windows 10 Pro. For the Asus NovaGo, that free switch is valid until September 2018.

The Asus NovaGo is expected to debut ‘early next year’ at $599 USD (no Canadian pricing or availability information has been announced yet), while more information on pricing will be available for the HP device this spring.

HP Envy x2

The HP Envy x2 is a sleek detachable 2-in-1 that looks almost precisely like the company’s Spectre x2.

With a sans-keyboard thickness of 6.9mm and weight of 1.54 pounds, however, it comes in slimmer and lighter than the Spectre x2, which is 8.38mm and 1.7 pounds.

As for the keyboard, it’s backlit, with a comfortable key travel of 1.3mm. Meanwhile, the 1920 x 1080 pixel touch display is 12.3-inches diagonal and looks bright and crisp.

The detachable’s integrated stand adjusts 110 to 150-degrees. It features a USB-C port and headphone jack.

Internally, the device’s Snapdragon 835 processor features an X16 LTE modem, which offers theoretical gigabit LTE speeds of up to 1Gbps. Backing that up is 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

While I wasn’t able to put the 2-in-1 through its paces as much as I would’ve liked, it performed well when loading up 20 tabs on the Edge browser and playing with Office apps. The browser felt notably faster than on the Asus NovaGo.

HP is promising battery life of up to 20 hours, or 700 hours in standby mode. Whether or not this is ultimately accurate will be one of the major keys to the success of the Envy x2.

Asus NovaGo

Asus’ 2-in-1, unlike the HP Envy x2, is not detachable and features a fairly run-of-the-mill design.

Its 1920 x 1080 pixel display, which comes in at 13.3-inches and is LED backlit, swivels on its hinges to enter tent mode, entertainment mode and tablet mode.

It’s about 3 lbs — more than many 2-in-1s on the market, including, for instance, the 2.4-pound Pixelbook — and has an about 14.9mm thickness which is, again, not at the slim end of the 2-in-1 market.

As with the HP Envy x2, the laptop stocks the X16 LTE modem, along with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. Performance was snappy, but I experienced a little more lag when browsing in Edge than with the Envy x2.

Inputs include a DCIN port for power, a headphone jack, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, one HDMI port and one Micro SD port — a fairly robust offering, though unfortunately missing USB-C.

What’s to come

It’s difficult in both instances to judge the Asus NovaGo and HP Envy x2 after such a short time, both clearly show promise, and if they manage to live up to what’s promised: multi-day battery, always-on LTE connection and solid x86 emulation, they have the potential to spark a whole new category of mobile PCs.

Lenovo’s 835-powered 2-in-1, first announced in May 2017, will be unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this January.

Comments

  • ToniCipriani ✓pǝᴉɟᴉɹǝʌ

    Still hoping this architecture would bring back small Windows tablets, with a stylus.

  • FirstLine

    If this could bring cheaper Surface Pros then I am all for it. 😎😘

    • John Lofwire

      Its be pretty similar to surface pro running same app ect but its wont be as fast.

  • Smanny

    Well will you look at that the Snapdragon 835 running x86 apps through emulation. I would love to see Apple with their bragging A11 SoC run Windows or even x86 emulation. But alas the A11 is relegated, and locked down to running a hobbled iOS. I bet you if the A11 were to even try running something like Windows, then the A11 would most likely overheat and throttle down, since it is not designed to run real operating systems with full multitasking and lots of open windows.

    • Stu T.R.

      It’s quite possible that Apple’s A11 would have difficulties running Windows given that it’s not optimized for Windows but then again, it’s not optimized for Windows. Horses for courses.

    • John Lofwire

      well Apple could optimize it 😉 if they wanted.

    • Stu T.R.

      But by changing the A11’s hardware, it wouldn’t be an A11. As someone whose never owned an iPhone nor a Mac, I’m not saying this out of some allegiance to Apple: The A11’s ability to run Windows should be irrelevant. The A11 may run Windows fine or not. Regardless, it wasn’t designed for that and as far as I know, it hasn’t been tested.

    • John Lofwire

      I deeply hate apple lol I just say a SOC powerful as the a11 is with right optimization it’s could run windows.

    • Stu T.R.

      On that note, I’m incredibly curious about the rise of coprocessors. Whether it be ARM or some A11 variant or whatever, it would be great to see portable computers mostly running off lower performance but much higher energy efficient chips, with much stronger, less efficient coprocessors handling grunt work. As it is, we currently use high performance, low efficient chips for most laptops, while phones/tablets use more efficient but less powerful chips.

    • John Lofwire

      Thats would be amazing.

      a big cpu for heavy work ( like a i7 ) with a low power cpu for day to day operation ( like an SD835 or A11 )

      Some motherboard on computers and laptop already do it for graphic its use a low power GPU built in the motherboard for day to day operation and kick-in a full fledged GPU when gaming or others intensive graphic applications..

      Some even will use both at the same time.

    • Smanny

      That is why Apple makes other versions of their iPhone chips for their iPads. For instance the A10 is for the iPhone only, but they also produce an A10X with a better and faster GPU for the higher resolution iPads, because everyone knows that iPhones have low resolution displays.

    • Brad Fortin

      I would love to see Apple with their bragging A11 SoC run Windows or even x86 emulation

      They’ve been doing that in their labs for years, albeit with macOS instead of Windows.

      But alas the A11 is relegated, and locked down to running a hobbled iOS.

      Interesting you should make that statement when Android can’t even, say, copy and paste images and you’ve never once criticized Android for being “locked down and hobbled”.

      since it is not designed to run real operating systems with full multitasking and lots of open windows.

      Have you used an iPad Pro, or paid attention to any of the reviews? It can do the exact things you’re describing.

  • Les

    Are these “Windows” laptops if they only run apps? I don’t see the point when Android and iOS have a bigger selection of apps, and don’t need to emulate anything. Seems like a repeat of the Windows Phone debacle.

    • Squishy

      And you can take a free upgrade to W10Pro which then allows you to run x86 programs. Remember Windows 10s which is standard on the Surface Laptop.

    • Les

      What’s this free upgrade?

      These are ARM tablets, not x86 tablets. They don’t do 64 bit, they don’t do x86.
      They can only run 32-bit apps, limited to 4GB RAM. No upgrade will magically transform these into an expensive Surface, other than throwing it in the bin and buying something else.

      Calling these things “Windows” is just meant to confuse people. It’s working.

    • John Lofwire

      Stop talking if you know nothing.

      Windows 10 pro was specifically remade to run in 64 bit on this soc.

      Ppl like you are just hater that talk whitout having tested the product.

    • Captain H. Morgan

      I think Les just likes being feasted especially holiday season is not far from here.

      Obviously, some people just have no idea what they are talking about..simply because they don’t own the device but still talked like they are an expert.

    • Mr Dog

      at the price points they are targeting, a iPad would be more useful.

    • Captain H. Morgan

      Serious question here, someone asked me which is better: an iPad Pro or iPad Air 2. What are your thoughts?

    • Les

      The 64 bit emulation mode was not released. Even if/when it gets released, it’s still an emulation mode, so performance will suck (which is why it wasn’t included in the initial release).

      So, not only is this worse than an Apple or Android tablet, it’s also worse than a $300 windows laptop.

      I love that you guys think that “Microsoft would never lie to us.” It’s so cute.

      Seriously though, these things will be in overstock in 6 months, and in landfill shortly after, just like other MS attempts at reclaiming lost market share in the portable computing market: Netbook, Ultrabook, Windows Mobile, Windows RT. Hard to believe that even the most ardent MS ultrafans can’t see a pattern in that mess.

      Over-priced? Check!
      Under-performing? Check!
      Limited software? Check!
      Less functionality than any competing product? Check!

    • John Lofwire

      Here we go mr Apple troll continue to talk whitout having tested the darn device.

      Here blocked you.

      apple troll? Check!

    • Quinn Thompson

      Les, you obviously haven’t been paying attention lately. Microsoft and Qualcomm unveiled a while back that through emulation they can run 64bit apps.

      Maybe do a little research before posting comments with such a toxic attitude.

    • Walter

      Actually your wrong. I just wanted my turn at kicking Les.

    • John Lofwire

      Got to read the news fully before commenting.
      Free windows 10 pro upgrade included so you be able to run full fledge desktop grade app.

      Seem like a windows hater 😉

  • Brad Fortin

    This is interesting considering the warning Intel gave Microsoft about emulating x86 on ARM.

    • Smanny

      Of course Intel would say that emulating an x86 CPU would not be as good as the real thing. Intel wants you to buy Intel. Duh. However there have been x86 emulators on Android for years now.

    • Brad Fortin

      The warning Intel gave wasn’t about performance, it was that emulating x86 on ARM is “a patent minefield”, implying Intel might sue if Microsoft tries to emulate Intel’s code on ARM.