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Qualcomm and Windows are Ushering in the Latest Era of the Always-Connected Laptop

Tired of the struggle of trying to find a cafe with reliable Wi-Fi, and bathrooms, and good coffee, and with employees who won’t hard side-eye you after you’ve been parked for two hours? We’ve seen the future, and it involves you, a laptop, and a beach somewhere. It’s going to be beautiful.

Word got out last year about a new wave of laptops and 2-in-1s running not on Intel CPUs, but Qualcomm chipsets — the same ones we find in most high-end Android phones! There are pros and cons. The Qualcomm-powered PCs will not only have LTE connectivity and better battery life, they’ll generally be available at a lower price. But, because those chips weren’t exactly made for PCs, they can’t run some Windows desktop programs — while they will be able to run anything from the Windows Store, any 64-bit Windows programs won’t work, and the 32-bit programs will be emulated. Microsoft is optimizing those 32-bit programs on a case-by-case basis, too, so while Photoshop is supposed to work well, others might not.

To be fair, we’ve been here before. Back in the days of Windows 8, Microsoft had an alternate, more tablet-oriented OS called Windows RT that ran on similar processors. It, uh, didn’t go too well. Windows RT devices were badly underpowered and unpopular when compared to Intel-powered laptops running Windows 8. Will things be different this time around? Maybe — if you’ve got the right expectations. Power will indeed still be a concern, but the hope is that they’ll be good enough for lighter users (the ones who only need web browsing and document editors). If so, that’ll let a lot of mobile workers operate from wherever, whenever. A few of these devices are at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this week — here’s what to look out for.

Next page: HP

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