Windows 10 Arm-based laptop devices hit the market this year and I finally got my hands on one to use as a work PC. After using the HP Envy x2 (one of the Windows 10 Arm-based laptops) for over a month, I have to say that I’m really impressed.
In my job, I rely on a few key features that have become common attributes of today’s modern smartphones – the long battery life and being able to stay connected anywhere. Unfortunately, the PC market has been slow to catch up to these two key features, with connectivity often limited to Wi-Fi and battery life improvements lagging behind smartphones. That is until now, with Arm starting to become a disruptive force in the market.
Our partner ecosystem recognized the gap between the evolution of smartphones and PCs and launched the first Arm-based laptops this year. In addition to the HP Envy x2, other Arm-based laptops include the Asus NovaGo and Lenovo Miix. OEMs are also integrating Arm-based SoCs from Qualcomm into their ‘Always On, Always Connected’ PC offerings, with newer SoCs set to launch later in the year. But Arm is not standing still. In May this year, we launched our newest IP, the new Arm Cortex-A76 CPU, based on DynamIQ technology, which aims to deliver laptop-class performance while maintaining the power efficiency of a smartphone for products in 2019.
Going back to my own experiences with the HP Envy x2, the one big feature for me is the amazing battery life. Personally, this trumps speed any day of the week! The battery life of most laptop devices is anywhere between one and six hours, with the HP Envy x2 it’s 20 plus hours. I can’t remember a time when I left the charger at home – in fact, I almost never bring it with me into the office. If I were to use a regular laptop device, then I would probably need to charge it up again by the time I reach the office after my commute from London to Cambridge. With the HP Envy x2, I won’t need to charge it until the following day – and that’s me being cautious! In fact, as I write this blog the battery life is still at 70 percent and it was last charged two days ago.
Mark Hambleton, an Arm colleague who is also using the HP Envy x2, is having similar positive experiences with the battery life. Mark used the device as audio for a remote caller at a meeting with Arm partners which lasted just over seven hours – essentially it was on all the time for a full working day. By the end of the day, the device was still on 83 percent battery life. A remarkable achievement!
Another feature which I love is the always connected element of the device. In my role, I’m constantly on the move in different locations, so it’s essential that I can stay connected to send emails and message colleagues even when I’m not in a place where Wi-Fi is freely available. Going back to my commute from London to Cambridge to the Arm office, I start the working day in my apartment with a coffee going through emails. When I’m at King’s Cross getting the train to Cambridge, I connect to the somewhat dubious Wi-Fi system and continue to work. Even when the dubious Wi-Fi drops off, the device automatically connects to the 4G LTE, meaning I don’t lose connectivity during an important call on Skype for Business or when I’m sending emails.
When I arrive at Cambridge station on my commute, I close the HP Envy x2 and make my way to the office. Unlike other laptop devices, the always on, always connected advantage means my new PC is instantly on and up-to-date, allowing me to resume my ongoing work when I arrive at the office. The whole journey from my apartment in London to the office in Cambridge is a completely seamless experience!
On the HP Envy x2 I’m able to use all the important productivity apps, such as those in the Microsoft Office suite, and communication apps, such as Skype. All my Microsoft Office apps, including the work email, have been very responsive. In fact, I haven’t experienced any time-lags when using them. Away from work tasks, I can use music apps, such as Spotfiy, and watch films and TV programmes through the different content providers, such as Netflix. I have encountered no problems accessing different programmes and apps – for work and play – on the device; everything I want, and need has been successfully installed. Moreover, there have been no adaptability issues, so my PowerPoint presentations prepared on the HP Envy x2 can be moved seamlessly onto other laptop devices and vice versa.
From an engineering perspective, Mark has told me that software engineers would still probably prefer a Linux-based machine. However, Mark has been able to access Linux-based software on the HP Envy x2 for a few engineering-based tasks. He also commented that using Linux on the device was “surprisingly fast.” While it might not be the engineers’ number one choice at the moment, there is definitely potential for the future.
The slimness and light weight of the HP Envy x2 is also impressive. It’s far lighter than a traditional laptop. This makes the device easy to carry around, which is useful when you’re constantly on the move like myself. According to the International Data Corporation, the ultra slim and convertible PC market is predicted to achieve a growth rate of 12 percent by 2022, so it’s likely that the HP Envy x2 is part of a wider trend towards thinner and lighter designs. The device also has facial recognition for security log-in, a neat machine learning based feature. I’ve encountered no problems with this – it even recognized me when I had a large cut at the top of my nose!
Despite being very impressed overall, especially with the system, my one issue with the HP Envy x2 is the detachable form factor. The device does work well in a constrained environment, such as on a desk on a train or plane, but the lapability (how a laptop sits on your lap while working) of the HP Envy x2 isn’t great, as it doesn’t have a flat surface like a traditional laptop device. In addition, other business people might prefer a standard laptop design for their work tasks. Personally, if I could combine the internal guts of the HP Envy x2 with my ThinkPad T470 – I would be in heaven (are you listening Lenovo…?).
However, I can look beyond these mild criticisms, as the HP Envy x2 represents a step-change for laptop devices, particularly the astronomical difference in battery life. In many ways, it is one of the first devices for the always on, always connected generation, giving users more power to accomplish what they want, whenever they want to and wherever they want to accomplish it. Using the device throughout the working day from when I wake up in the morning to when I get home is one long seamless operation, with seamless connectivity and seamless productivity no matter where I am.
Overall, I’m really look forward to seeing where the Windows 10 powered by Arm technology heads, as I truly believe that this is the start of something special for laptop devices. I plan on continuing my journey with the HP Envy x2 and will be using it for plenty of work tasks in future – both in the office and on my travels!
Learn more about Arm's CPU roadmap to accelerate laptop performance through to 2020 by clicking on the button below.
Arm's CPU Roadmap
The always on factor, the battery life being classed as long (not just regular long but long in terms that archeologists use the word) seems like it should be natural progression for MacBooks also? I think Apple could do well with listening alongside Lenovo.
Great to hear these WoA devices actually do a great job in the real world - and the battery life sounds fantastic, a real game changer.