Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 850 processor will arrive in Windows PCs this year

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Qualcomm has announced a new processor specifically designed for Windows 10 Always Connected PCs. The new Snapdragon 850 succeeds the Snapdragon 835 used in the first Always Connected PCs and offers improved performance, connectivity, and battery life. The Always Connected PC platform is Microsoft and Qualcomm’s answer to the iPad Pro. It features ARM processors, integrated LTE, long battery life, and an instant-on resume with no hibernation.

The Snapdragon 850, which Qualcomm says will only be used in PCs and will not make its way to phones, is essentially a customized version of the Snapdragon 845 that debuted in phones earlier this year. The improvements that it brings to the Always Connected PC platform are in line with that: it has a claimed 30 percent performance improvement, 20 percent better battery life, and 20 percent faster peak gigabit data speeds over the Snapdragon 835. The Snapdragon 850 is built on the same second-generation 10nm process as the 845, and it’s paired with the same X20 modem for cellular connectivity. Qualcomm says the 850 includes both hardware and software tuning to make it better at performing PC activities compared to the Snapdragon 845.

Though the first Always Connected PCs with the Snapdragon 835 processor just hit shelves this past spring, Qualcomm says that its PC partners will have devices with the 850 out in time for the holiday season this year. The company says it will have more partners than before and the platform will appear in a to be announced device from Samsung. The Snapdragon 835 platform was seen on devices from Asus, HP, and Lenovo.

Qualcomm doesn’t make an Always Connected PC device that you can buy, but it does provide a reference platform for OEMs to base their own computers on. It also has created front-end designs for the modem antennas so that PC makers don’t have to figure out how to make their own.

My experience with the first round of Always Connected PCs was disappointing: the performance was noticeably worse than computers with traditional x86 Intel processors, and there was a limit to the number of programs and apps that would work on the Always Connected platform. Since then, Microsoft has announced new tools and SDKs for developers to bring 64-bit apps to Always Connected PCs, so hopefully by the time the Snapdragon 850 devices arrive, some of those trade-offs will be solved.

Stay tuned for more on the new Always Connected PCs being announced at Computex.

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