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ARM PCs with Windows 10 get a new start with Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

Agam Shah | Jan. 4, 2017
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chip could make Windows PCs on ARM attractive again

Microsoft has put up a Youtube video showing Windows 10 running on a PC with the Snapdragon 835. The PC runs a 64-bit version of the OS, supports touch and Windows Ink features, and also can run Win32 applications via hardware-level emulation.

But there is also a new set of opportunities for PCs with the Snapdragon 835, Cheng said. PCs will be thinner, batteries will be bigger, and groundbreaking wireless connectivity features will come to all devices using the chip, Cheng said.

The Snapdragon 835 -- which is based on the Kryo 280 architecture -- is smaller than a U.S. penny and will take up very little space on a laptop or 2-in-1. That helps slim down and reduce the device's weight, and saves space for a bigger battery.

Qualcomm's new chip also integrates the latest LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. Intel hasn't yet integrated Wi-Fi or an LTE modem into its PC chips, giving Qualcomm an advantage.

The Snapdragon 835 also has the fastest LTE modem, able to download data at up to 1Gbps. That's even faster than modems in the Apple iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7, which can download data at 600Mbps.

PCs with the Snapdragon 835 will also get Bluetooth 5, which can transfer data at 2Mbps, two times faster than Bluetooth 4.2. Bluetooth 5 also has a longer range than its predecessor.

In addition, Snapdragon 835 laptops will support 802.11ad, an emerging Wi-Fi standard that can theoretically transfer data at speeds of up to 7Gbps. Qualcomm's promoting a realistic speed of about 4.6Gbps.

The chip also has a feature called Quick Charge 4, which provides five hours of talk time on a smartphone after just a five-minute recharge. That feature could make it to PCs.

But there are hurdles. Intel's latest CPUs could handily beat the Snapdragon 835 in performance benchmarks. Intel's chips are built for performance, while the Snapdragon 835 is built for power-efficiency on mobile devices, which drags down performance.

Qualcomm did not provide information on CPU performance improvements in the 835 compared to its predecessor, the Snapdragon 820. But the 835's Adreno 540 GPU is about 25 percent faster compared to the GPU in the older chip.

PC makers have been designing laptops and desktops around Intel chips for decades, creating a challenge for Qualcomm. PCs need to be designed and tweaked around a processor, which can be a 12- to 18-month process. So it could take some time for PC makers to design Snapdragon-based laptops and 2-in-1s.

Exactly how PCs will take advantage of the Snapdragon 835 will become clear later this year. But the chip provides opportunities to bring different OSes to PCs. For example, Snapdragon provides a chance to bring Google's Android-based mobile DayDream VR platform to PCs.


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