We test-drive the HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo – the first ‘Always On’ laptops with a Snapdragon 835 mobile chip.
Executives from Microsoft, Asus and HP unveiled the first ‘Always On PCs’ at the recent Qualcomm Technology Summit in Hawaii. These Windows 10 laptops feature Qualcomm mobile processors, with a promise of week-long battery life and high-speed gigabit-class 4G connectivity.
Calling the machines the “next wave in innovation”, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson extolled the virtues of this new wave of laptops, which he said would also offer always-on connectivity, fanless operation and better security.
“It's not a matter of if, but when all PCs will become Always Connected PCs,” said Myerson.
The first Always On laptops feature Qualcomm’s current top mobile chipset, the octo-core Snapdragon 835, the same processor used in high-end smartphones such as the Google Pixel 2 and HTC U11.
How well do they work?
We managed to get our hands on two of the new devices – the HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo – at the event. Here are our first impressions of the NovaGo, a convertible flip-over laptop, and the Envy x2, a 2-in-1 with a removable keyboard cover like Microsoft’s Surface Pro.
Next: hands-on with the Asus NovaGo
Hands-on with the Asus NovaGo
The Asus NovaGo was the first Always On PC we got our hands on. Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 mobile chipset and running Windows 10, Asus makes some big promises for the NovaGo, including battery life that lasts 22 hours of video playback and gigabit-class 4G connectivity.
Also impressive is that the NovaGo promises to be very reasonably priced. Australian availability and prices are yet to be announced, but the US prices will be US$599 for the model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and US$799 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB when they’re released early next year.
Design and performance
Physically, there’s little difference between the NovaGo and a decent Intel-powered Windows 10 flip-over convertible laptop. It’s reasonably light and slender (at 1.4kg and 15mm thick), feels well-made and has a good quality keyboard that – from our admittedly short time with it – felt nice to type on.
The touchpad and 13.3in touchscreen seemed responsive enough, too – and there’s also stylus support here – and, in fact, the whole Windows 10 experience was pretty nippy. That’s impressive given this is running on a smartphone chipset.
We weren’t able to run our benchmarks, so the jury is still out on how the Snapdragon 835 compares with Intel’s chips and how it handles heavy-duty multitasking and applications, particularly non-natively coded apps. But on the upside, even though it is a mobile chipset, it has a octo-core processor with four cores running at 2.45GHz and four at 1.9GHz, and graphics that support smartphone screen resolutions that are higher than the NovaGo’s Full HD.
Alongside a dual-purpose SIM tray, which will take both nano SIM and microSD cards for storage expansion, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, a full-sized HDMI output and a pair of full-size USB ports.
Battery life and connectivity
The key differences between the NovaGo and regular Windows laptops are twofold. First, always-on connectivity courtesy of the Snapdragon 835 chipset and, thanks to a 4X4 MIMO antenna array, gigabit-class 4G connectivity – albeit with mobile networks that support these speeds. And second, battery life that’s potentially three to four times as long as an Intel-powered machine.
Asus is claiming the NovaGo will last for 22 hours during video playback and will deliver 30-days on standby. That could seriously challenge the domination that Intel holds over the Windows laptop market. If accurate, that video playback number compares very favourably with most Intel-based laptops that struggle to get past ten hours.
One thing to note here before you get too excited, is that the NovaGo won’t run full Windows 10 out of the box. Instead, you get Windows S – just like the Microsoft Surface Laptop. The good news is that, just like that laptop, you get a free, time-limited upgrade to Windows 10 Pro as long as you redeem that offer by a certain date (30 September 2018 in the US).
And while Windows and its core apps may run smoothly, applications that require emulation to run, may not. Time will tell.
With prices ranging from US$599 to US$799, the Asus NovaGo looks like it may well be a tempting purchase when it eventually reaches Australian shores.
It looks and feels like a proper laptop – performance, from first impressions, seems responsive, and battery life ought to be awesome as well.
We’ll review the NovaGo in depth when it comes to Australia.
Key specifications: 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen; 2.45GHz/1.9 GHz octo-core Snapdragon 835 processor; 4GB or 8GB of RAM; 64GB or 256GB of UFS 2.0 storage; 802.11ac (2x2 MIMO) and Gigabit LTE (4x4 MIMO) connectivity; 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A and 1 HDMI ports, Nano SIM and MicroSD card slots; 1.4kg; Windows 10 S.
Next: hands-on with the HP Envy x2
Hands-on with the HP Envy x2
HP has been a leader in the Windows laptop market of late and it’s done it again, beating much of the competition to be one of the first manufacturers to show off a Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 laptop.
Along with the Asus NovaGo, the HP Envy x2 is the first of its kind – an ‘Always On PC’ that promises to deliver gigabit-class 4G connectivity but also battery life far in excess of that offered by current-generation Intel machines.
Battery life and design
The first thing to catch your eye about the HP Envy x2, apart from its Snapdragon processor, is that claimed battery life. It’s a little less than the Asus NovaGo claims to be able to produce, but is still nonetheless impressive at a 20-hours of video playback.
To put this in perspective, that’s two to four times better than most Intel-based Windows 10 laptops we’ve tested recently and, while we haven’t tested those claims, we have no reason to expect battery life would be significantly less than the claim.
Otherwise, this looks every bit the regular Windows 10 2-in-1 detachable. It’s designed, like the Microsoft Surface Pro, for the keyboard to detach and be usable as a tablet. It has a 12.3in touchscreen display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,280 pixels and stylus support.
There’s no kickstand built into the 6.9mm-thin, 0.7kg tablet part, though. Instead, the stand comes as part of the leatherette keyboard case and hinges down on a piano-hinge to prop up the tablet for use as a laptop.
Performance and features
The HP Envy x2 isn’t quite as well endowed with ports as the Asus NovaGo. It has a single USB Type-C port on the left edge, while the other edge hosts a 3.5mm headphone jack. Internally, of course, there’s that Snapdragon 835 processor with gigabit-class 4G connectivity, along with Bluetooth and dual-band 802.11ac, and up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Again, we weren’t able to run our benchmarks, so we don’t know how the Envy x2 compares with Intel-based laptops and how it handles heavy-duty multitasking and applications, particularly non-natively coded apps.
But in the short time we had with the device, it felt pretty nippy. In terms of usability, the keys on the keyboard had good feedback and the ultra-wide touchpad was responsive, too. That stand means it won’t work for everyone as a device you can prop on your thighs, but as a super-light tablet-cum laptop device, the Snapdragon HP Envy x2 looks very promising indeed.
However, one word of warning: as with the Asus NovaGo and the Microsoft Surface Laptop, the Envy x2 is a Windows 10 S device, with a one-time upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. And don’t forget that, while Windows and its core apps may run smoothly, applications that require emulation to run, may not.
HP has yet to announce pricing for the US, let alone here in Australia. But if the price is right and the performance is acceptable, we may have a winner on our hands.
One thing is certain, though: the new wave of Qualcomm-powered laptops is here and they’re going to be highly competitive.
Key specifications: 12.3in, 1,920 x 1,280-pixel screen; 2.45GHz/1.9 GHz octo-core Snapdragon 835 processor; up to 8GB of RAM; up to 256GB of storage; 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Gigabit LTE connectivity; 1 x USB 3.1 C port, 0.7kg (without keyboard); Windows 10 S.