back to article Lap-slabtop-mobes with Snapdragon Arm CPUs running Windows 10: We had a quick gander

Qualcomm, Microsoft, Asus, HP Inc and Lenovo today talked up their upcoming Arm-compatible, Snapdragon-powered three-in-one Windows 10 PCs. "Three in one" because they combine a laptop, a tablet, and smartphone-like connectivity in one. The laptop is the base unit. It's also a tablet because the display is a touchscreen and, …

  1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    "Three in one" because they combine a laptop, a tablet, and smartphone-like connectivity in one.

    ASUS did this (more or less) with Android on some of its Padfone products. A smartphone with a dumb tablet "skin" that could then be attached to a keyboard.

    The concept was abandoned years ago, but at least a Windows laptop is useful.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Adding a keyboard to a phone isn't quite the same as adding 4G mobile data to a laptop

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Is the only "smartphone" feature here the SIM slot?

        That's been available in laptops and tablets for years...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        adding 4G mobile data to a laptop

        "adding [high speed] mobile data to a laptop"

        The 1990s called. They're wondering if everyone's forgotten about things like Nokia 6310s and laptops communicating via infrared. Stuff that worked (on the whole) and was relatively secure (hmmm). Plus:

        No battery issue because each device has its own power.

        No portability/size/weight issue because each device is with the user anyway.

        No vendor opportunity to charge an extra $200 for a miniPCB internal addon consisting of bits that cost $10.

        Oh well.

        1. Patrick R
          Holmes

          Re: The 1990s called...

          The 90s have never heard of the 6310 because it was released in 2001.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Windows laptop useful? In what way? Who even wants to run x86 apps anymore? Especially not if they run 1/4 (or worse) of it's native speed.

      This will be yet another in a long line of Windows fails, where they really don't understand what people want (as what people want is no longer Microsoft)

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Emulation ?

    If you can only run MSFT store approved apps you can easily restrict that to .Net

    If the app is running .Net bytecode does that really need an emulator or is it just a different .Net runtime for the CLI?

    1. hughca

      Emulation ?

      Perhaps it's only with Win 10 Pro but I think you can run any x86 programs you want. There is a video on Youtube from Microsoft showing Photoshop running on a Snapdragon box.

      1. TReko

        Re: Emulation ?

        We'll see.

        The now abandoned Microsoft Surface promised this, and just burned many users.

        We'll also have to see how Intel's IP lawyers feel about x86 emulation on an ARM. They own the TransMeta patents.

        1. joeldillon

          Re: Emulation ?

          I don't think the emulation is being done in hardware. Software emulation of another CPU is unlikely to infringe or qemu would be in a heap of trouble.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Emulation ?

            The emulator runs in a just-in-time basis, converting blocks of x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is cached both in memory (so each given part of a program only has to be translated once per run) and on disk (so subsequent uses of the program should be faster, as they can skip the translation). Moreover, system libraries—the various DLLs that applications load to make use of operating system features—are all native ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. Calling them "Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables" (or "chippie" for short), these libraries are ARM native code, compiled in such a way as to let them respond to x86 function calls...

            .... For the most part, Windows 10 on ARM should be identical to that on x86. The most notable exception is perhaps that there's no Hyper-V virtualization, and since so many of its features depend on Hyper-V, no version of Windows 10 Enterprise for ARM.

            _ https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/12/hp-asus-announce-first-windows-10-arm-pcs-20-hour-battery-life-gigabit-lte/

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Emulation ?

              So a combination of recompilation and native libraries. Since it's not on the fly after the first invocation, and since it's software-based, Intel would probably lose in a lawsuit given existing prior art.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Emulation ? Translation?

                Further prior art for the mixed emulation/on-the-fly/translation for later probably also includes DEC's FX!32, which allowed Win32 apps for x86 to run on NT/Alpha systems.

                "Intel would probably lose in a lawsuit given existing prior art."

                Maybe. Intel have very big pockets. It may not have to actually get to court. Again, see DEC Alpha - but in that case, it was about Alpha vs Itanic. Intel's cash pile, not Intel's allegedly superior technology in Itanic, is what killed Alpha.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FX!32

      2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: Emulation ?

        > Perhaps it's only with Win 10 Pro but I think you can run any x86 programs you want.

        Win10S certainly does not run "any x86 program that you want", only what is in the store. The Snapdragon does run x86, but only 32 bit. x86-64 does not run.

    2. Filippo

      Re: Emulation ?

      Parts of the .NET runtime use Win32 calls under the hood. There are subsets of .NET runtime that don't, if you target those then it should run with no emulation.

  3. OffBeatMammal

    if there was an ARM native version of the Office suite then I could see some value in this (as long as it's as usable and reliable as my trusty MacBook Air) but if my primary apps are going to be running in emulation mode it'll be a slow, frustrating experience and I suspect would never reach the expected battery life.

    telcos will find ways to screw with the experience to try and drag an extra buck out of users (and the device will probably support limited bands which will make hopping countries a pain, not to mention international roaming rip-offs from folks like Telstra that have me searching for wifi when I'm overseas)

    It does solve part of the the problem with the previous Windows Phones and ARM based devices in that it can finally run real apps so they won't launch with just the dozen than Microsoft Evangelists could pay people to develop (and drop as soon as the cheques stopped coming)... but the performance is going to be the make or break of this especially if they want to complete with an iPad for the same money but the added cachet of having well optimized apps created for the form factor...

  4. Paratrooping Parrot
    Linux

    Linux?

    Imagine adding a solid state drive and installing Linux. That should fly like the wind. :)

    1. wallaby

      Re: Linux?

      They just cant help themselves

      Nobody has mentioned Linux yet - lets steer it that way.....

      tedious

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux?

        There are people to whom Windows is useless so asking whether it is possible to install some other operating system is fine. But it would probably be better to wait for some device that contains support for M.2 NVMe SSDs.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Linux?

      Imagine adding a solid state drive

      As I understand it, the storage is soldered-on eMMC or something and you're stuck with what you're given. That said, you could do a lot of useful Linux-y stuff with what you're given in these cases, and you can always slot in an SD card.

      M.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Linux?

        I own an Intel-based version of this (mostly as a media device, so lack of power isn't an issue, the onboard GPU does the lifting--sucks at 3D but plenty of oomph for 1080p). He's right, it'll likely uses eMMC (and it CAN be a bit skimpy, mine only has 32GB), so they'll likely have an SD or MicroSD slot to use for data storage. There's just about no way you can get 20 hours of battery life with spinning rust.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: Linux?

          I'd like to have a NUC-sized computer (or perhaps even Raspberry Pi sized) with these guts. Nice 64bit ARM CPU and lots of memory and disk space, HDMI or DP output, few USB interfaces, (micro)SD card and two 1Gbps Ethernet ports - yummy.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Linux?

      Why bother with getting an ARM machine, when a four year old laptop with an SSD upgrade will be faster, more useful, and most importantly for linux, there's a chance some of the hardware might be supported.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Linux?

        Why bother with getting an ARM machine, when a four year old laptop with an SSD upgrade will be faster, more useful, and most importantly for linux, there's a chance some of the hardware might be supported.

        Show me this mythical 4 year old laptop with a 20hr battery life.

        And why "can we Linux"? Lets see:

        * Cheaper SKU if we don't have to buy wiindows

        * No need for on-the-fly code translation

        * No restrictions on what we can run on it (You can only install Chrome on the pro SKU? GTFO)

        * Its what we actually use in day to day life

        Sorry if this bores you, I'm a tech guy, I use Linux for my work, Linux on my phone and Linux on all my home machines, please forgive me for being interested in whether this new device can actually be useful for my needs.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Linux?

          I also use linux a lot, which was why my biggest question about this was hardware support. I've yet to find hardware that's less than 6 months old which works out of the box with most distros.

          As for the mythical laptop with a twenty hour battery, isn't that still a myth? (Some older laptops are big enough to fit multiple batteries in which might get you closer though) And again, I wouldn't count on the power-saving working correctly under linux at launch.

    4. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: Linux?

      Does anyone know if the UEFI (or whatever) boot system is sufficiently relaxed that alternative operating systems can be installed?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most people don't need a powerful computer...

    ...so these would fit the bill. A bit of wordprocessing, some video playback, some browsing - very few people ever needed anything more than something like a P3 (about the same performance as ARM) would be able to do with a decent video card. Intel's innovation stalled because AMD wasn't putting up much of a fight but another factor was: very few people (comparatively) needed to edit video, play high-end games on a pc, manipulate large datasets etc. Most people aren't content creators and as such these with their very good battery life will do well, when old hardware dies... the trouble is old hardware tends to keep working long after the software has abandoned it, therefore this new effort to open another frontier of offerings will probably not shift slabs. I'd get one though because I'm crazy for anything which enables me to stay away from my wife for longer durations of time.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Most people don't need a powerful computer...

      So what happens when amateurs want to edit their home movies? Or want to play halfway-decent games from the likes of Steam?

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Most people don't need a powerful computer...

        Then they buy a proper laptop as the OP said most not every one.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Most people don't need a powerful computer...

        > So what happens when amateurs want to edit their home movies?

        That's a software issue, not a hardware issue. The decoding of video is routinely offloaded to hardware decoders anyway (which are present and correct on Sanpdragon SoCs), and GPUs are used to apply effects. The rest of it is IO, which with solid state storage is plenty fast enough.

        For editing HD video for YouTube on occasion, there'll be no problem in using ARM native software. Someone who more regularly edits 4K video isn't going to consider these machines anyway.

        Ditto gamers - gamers pore over every spec of the machines they want to buy, with battery life barely making the list. They won't buy one of these by accident.

    2. FIA

      Re: Most people don't need a powerful computer...

      very few people ever needed anything more than something like a P3 (about the same performance as ARM)

      I think the ARM stuff might be more powerful than you give it credit for.

      People are starting to put ARM in servers and back on the desktop, this will result in chips that aren't designed to be thermally/power constrained. This thing has several GHz cores and much more thermal headroom than a phone. It'll blow any P3 out of the water easily.

      Some of the ARM CPUs out there are getting to be as powerful as some of the lower end x86 stuff, and that's before the market has caused chip designers to target the desktop/laptop explicitly.

    3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Most people don't need a powerful computer...

      Bill? $600-800 for a tablet-with-a-keyboard?

      Why not just buy an actual laptop with a real X86 processor in it, and run real Windows?

      Until they killed them, Intel had a nice range of Atom-based chipsets that made nice Windows TWACs, that could run real Windows.

  6. Timmy B Silver badge

    Is it only battery life...

    ... that makes these different from other i5 based SSD 2 in 1 laptops? I can get very similar for a couple of hundred pounds less and the only thing that's different seems to be battery life. I'd also get better performance without the emulation. If all you want to do is a little browsing and word processing and youtube then one of the really really cheap convertibles would do the job and you'd save £500 - some of these have data too. I got an atom based Surface 3 for £250 that can do all that.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Is it only battery life...

      Yep, it's battery life - not only is ARM more efficient for native tasks, but the ARM SoC takes up less space than an x86 motherboard leaving more room for battery in these machines.

  7. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Overpriced

    Between the high price of the machine, the typically high price of mobile data and the sluggish performance, it is difficult to see there being a large market. What does one of these systems get you that you could not get better with an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard or a secondhand laptop from ebay.

    (For example a Lenovo Thinkpad X220 with I5, 8GB, 240 SSD, Win 7 Pro was £230 on the first ebay listing that I looked at.)

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Overpriced

      "Between the high price of the machine, the typically high price of mobile data in the UK."

      FTFY

      Unlimited mobile data for reasonable tariff is the norm in many countries now.

      I'm just surprised this has taken so long for everyone to get their acts together to produce such products.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Underestimation

    I think you are underestimating the per-core performance of these ARMs. Comparable to a P3? Umm.... I've thrown Ubuntu onto my (Tegra K1-based) Chromebook, and per-core performance (it's a quad-core) is roughly between a Core 2 and an i5. This uses older 32-bit ARM cores, compared to the Snapdragon, I'd expect it to be faster. Honestly, I've done light video editiing, video encoding, photo editing, compiled software, and done android software development (in addition to lots of web browsing and video playback) with no complaints.

    I'm glad these are coming out, so I can get one (probably used), strip Win10 the hell off it and put a nice ARM distro onto it.

  9. jzl

    Apple's next

    This makes an ARM based Macbook an absolute certainty.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Apple's next

      Or possibly just the continued development of productivity application such as Adobe LightRoom for iPads.

      Who knows? :)

      OSX and its forebears have jumped architecture a few times; it's unthinkable that Apple haven't had OSX on ARM running internally for years.

  10. Joerg

    What a scam! $600+ for this crap ? slow x86 emulators...please!

    What a scam! $600+ for this crap ? slow x86 emulators...please!

    More pathetic Microsoft crap with the awful Windows 10

  11. Fursty Ferret

    And you can't install Chrome on 10 S. You'll have to get Pro for that.

    To be fair, it's not as if it would kill Google to add Chrome to the Windows App store.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > To be fair, it's not as if it would kill Google to add Chrome to the Windows App store.

      You appear to be expecting that Microsoft will allow competing products (browsers, office suites) into the App store.

  12. Craigie

    Almost but then no

    'You also have to get any new applications from Microsoft's store'

    In the words of Mr Paisley, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!

    SMH

    1. a pressbutton

      Re: Almost but then no

      ..... let me go

      Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

  13. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Imagine a netbook with a SIM card. Bingo

    Not really though, is it? My personal definition of a netbook is something with a screen no bigger than about 10". 13" is "small laptop" territory which isn't to say that there isn't a market for these things (I remember when laptops came with built-in modems as standard) but that they don't quite fill that very-small-but-still-very-usable category the likes of the EeePC once created.

    Or the Psion 5 :-)

    M.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Imagine a netbook with a SIM card. Bingo

      And I remember when a netBook was a Psion machine!

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psion_netBook

      The EEEPC was well known, but Sony amongst others had been making small x86 Windows notebooks (and even weird things with half the keyboard on either side of the screen) for a few years before. I think it was the use of Linux to enable otherwise slow cheap hardware that initially led to Netbooks, until more RAM and newer CPUs made Windows less slow on them. Many weren't used for much more than web browsing, hence the article drawing the parallel.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: Imagine a netbook with a SIM card. Bingo

        "The EEEPC was well known"

        Maybe more for the advertising than for the computer.

      2. steelpillow Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Imagine a netbook with a SIM card. Bingo

        The old netbooks had two problems. Technically, they struggled to get seamless connectivity, they were an idea ahead of its time. But also Micro$aft protected its monopoly position by crushing out manufacture of what was at the time a lean Linux-only product.

        It has taken the combined might of Apple and Google to lever apart the current cracks in its armour. M$ must join the fray or perish.

        At the same time, as hardware advances and several generations of "leaner, faster (honest!)" Windows flowed by under the bridge, we are finally approaching a netbook ecology in which the monopoly is actually able join in.

        Would have been nice to see even one actual useful innovation though.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Imagine a netbook with a SIM card. Bingo

          Also, after the initial joy of "Wow, a cute computer for only £200!" wore off, the ball ache of of doing anything through a 9" letterbox screen started to grate.

          For that reason small cheap tablets (screen aspect less of an issue if you can rotate it to portrait to read a web page) and larger screened thin n' light laptops have largely replaced the netbook format.

  14. splod2

    I have native ARM Office running nicely on my Surface 2. Okay it's 2013 Office but the old Tegra 4 actually still copes well with ARM Windows 8 so I'm sure the Snapdragon will walk it. The x86 emulation is almost a negative for security - the older ARM devices find it hard to run x86 viruses making it an unusually secure Windows experience.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can already buy one

    You can buy a 64bit arm laptop running Linux for £72. It's called a pinebook.

    1. Robert Moore
      Coat

      Re: You can already buy one

      You can buy a 64bit arm laptop running Linux for £72. It's called a pinebook.

      I would buy one in a second, if they would make the 11" version available again.

    2. annodomini2

      Re: You can already buy one

      Lack of 1080p screen puts me and many others off.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: You can already buy one

        Does it have to be an actual physical on-board 1080p screen? Most of these will drive a 1080p monitor via the HDMI port.

  16. Alan Sharkey

    I'd buy one if it starts up as fast as my iPad does and performace is better than the Z8350 series intel chips.

    Just saying that I think it does have a place somewhere.

  17. 0laf Silver badge
    Meh

    Is it just me that really doesn't see much to get excited about here.

    It's a variation of a laptop / transformer 2 in 1 type thing that's been around for ages. It got a sim slot which lots of things used to have for a while then they went away becasue everyone was tethering and now it's back and that's a big thing, apparently.

    And it's using a different processor than usual but then who really gives a toss as long as it works ok.

    So it's got kindof meh features, kindof meh big/small and it's meh powerful for a kindof meh price.

    People who want cheap things will still buy a clunky underspecced celeron laptop and then complaint about it. People who want faster things will buy a surface 4 and then complain about it. People who like shiny things will buy a macbook of some variety and then curse internally.

    Meh.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    to your heart's content without having to faff about with Wi-Fi networks

    or your internet bills. Instead...

  19. Sebastian Brosig
    Coat

    Now you'll have to get the ee-PC lady out of retirement and send her on her beach assignment again, for the photo accompanying every article remotely related to one of these new old netbooks.

  20. W. Anderson

    Continued suport for Microsoft crap software!

    These companies seem to become more desperate in attempting to keep Windows Mobile relevant in the age of Android and Apple iOS, and soon resurgent Linux Mobile OS.

    Whether they will succeed, even minimally is anyone's guess, but I would not put my money or trust in Microsoft OS software.

    All the Ransomeware, Viruses, Trojans and Worms belong to Microsoft OS. Do governments and countries really want to continue down this path of Cyber destruction?

    1. OtotheJ

      Re: Continued suport for Microsoft crap software!

      'Re' surgent Linux?!

  21. ecofeco Silver badge

    What's old is new again

    Anyone remember the days of aircards? PCMCIA slot?

  22. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Microsoft FAIL

    So ... Qualcomm and Microsoft have invented the Chromebook. Except this one doesn't run Chrome natively. Epic fail.

  23. Dante Alighieri

    emulation of intel on ARM again....

    My A420/1 emulated a 386 well enough to be competitive. Flew on StrongARM Risc PC

    If we are looking at alternative os I would pay **sausages** for one with RISC OS

    Some features of which are yet to be matched by both (ex) windows or my current linux boxes.

    make an !Impression, use !Artworks, !Squirrel away your data

    still waiting for a native box in 2017

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: emulation of intel on ARM again....

      My A420/1 emulated a 386 well enough to be competitive. Flew on StrongARM Risc PC

      IIRC, the software emulator on early RiscOS actually emulated an 80186. It was perfectly fine for DOS programs, but Windows was a bit of a stretch, though that was partly because my A310 started life with a single floppy disc and 1MB RAM, so it was a bit of a squeeze even finding 640k for DOS. After the 4MB upgrade it was easier.

      When I bought a RiscPC (initially with a 600-series ARM) I also bought the second processor option, which was a '386SX. Coupled with a hard drive, 4M main memory and 2M VRAM this actually made a very usable Windows 3.1 box, but there was no real emulation involved as DOS was running natively on the '386SX and the ARM was merely doing I/O duties.

      That RiscPC - minus the '386 but now with 80MB main memory (luxury!) is actually still in daily use, I still prefer Impression for document creation but mostly it's used for email.

      M.

  24. conscience
    FAIL

    Microsoft desperation

    We all know that Microsoft are very desperate indeed to get into mobile after so many failed attempts, but I can't see this changing anything.

    For a start, $600-$800 for a netbook is way too much, it's not worth even half that price. Rather than a selling point, always on mobile data is a terrible idea especially knowing how much data Microsoft like to slurp from their users - this could get very expensive very quickly. Add in the very limited hardware that slows down to almost half speed while running emulated x86 code, and their crippled Windows 10S OS that's tied to their failure of an app store, and this is almost a guaranteed loser.

    Then when these overpriced, crippled netbooks fail like all Microsoft's previous attempts, they will inevitably discontinue it and demonstrate (once again) that they cannot be trusted to stick around and support their own products regardless of whether it leaves their customers screwed.

    ARM in netbooks, laptops and desktops is a good idea that has it's place, I just don't believe that Microsoft will benefit from it as they don't seem to have any clue what people want.

  25. Wiltshire

    Does anyone know of a version of Linux that can run on these?

    Is it close enough in spec to the ARM RaspberryPi to run Raspian?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asus Chromebook Flip

    I recently bought a refurbished Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA (recently replaced by the C101PA - faster processor, USB-C ports and noticeably-inflated price tag), and so far I'm finding it a great little machine.

    The reviews of the Flip frequently comment along the lines of "ooh, it's a bit small, isn't it" - well, I don't want to lug a paving-slab around with me, and as a previous owner of two Psions (3c and 5mx) and an Eee 701SD, I find the Flip positively spacious by comparison. I also like the performance, and the all-aluminium-apart-from-the-glass-screen construction makes it feel to me like a mini-MacBook at a quarter of the price.

    Why raise this here? The Flip runs Chrome OS (the "philosophy" of which, Windows 10 S appears to share), and it packs an ARM CPU like these new machines. Granted, the Flip doesn't take a SIM card, but then the latest model costs about half of the price-tags quoted for these Snapdragon slabs.

    These new machines won't suit every user - then again, neither will a Chromebook - but it's interesting to see a rise in the number of ARM-based laptops, and good to have more choice out there.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's like no one at Microsoft remembers the painful lessons of Windows RT

    Doing the same thing again and again, and expecting different results.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It's like no one at Microsoft remembers the painful lessons of Windows RT

      But the thing is, if you do the same thing over and over and actually get a different result, you're praised for your persistence.

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