(Pocket-lint) - Asus is no stranger to innovation, so when Qualcomm told us that Windows on Snapdragon was ready to meet its public, it was no surprise to see Asus as the first company to step up and present its solution.
The aim is simple: to give you a laptop that's always connected, removing the need to hunt for a Wi-Fi connection because of the integrated LTE, with a long battery life but still giving you the advantages of running the full Windows 10 experience.
This is starting point for a new wave of laptop and mobile devices offering Windows 10, but with a whole range of advantages for those looking to work on the move. Say hello to the Asus NovaGo.
Affordably designed, but elegantly executed
- 316 x 221.6 x 14.9mm, 1.39kg
- 13.3-inch display, 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Asus Pen support
The Asus NovaGo offers a conventional Windows 10 laptop design, with a display that doesn't detach and a proper keyboard. To make it a little more versatile, it does have a lot of flexibility in the hinges, so you can flip the display all the way back to put it into tablet mode.
That's a common feature in laptops, but you can't remove the display to use it as a tablet. If that's the sort of device you're after, then the HP Envy x2 is probably more your flavour.
The NovaGo isn't as lavishly designed as Asus' lovely ZenBook models, so you could say that it's more of a mid-range design. It's finished mostly in plastics with the occasional framing in chrome around the trackpad and display edge for example.
That fits with the reasonable pricing for this model and we're happy with the build quality from what we've seen of this notebook so far. There's a good-sized keyboard sitting beneath the 13.3-inch display and a quick tap reveals a comfortable level of travel in those keys.
There's perhaps some flex towards the back of the deck, but first impressions are good: we think this will probably be a great choice for someone looking for a thin and light notebook for working on the move.
It's here that it perhaps has a little more conventional appeal over the HP Envy x2; although HP's Snapdragon-powered model is a little more premium, the tablet and keyboard form factor isn't always as practical for down and dirty working anywhere. If we had to pick a device to work sitting on the floor in an airport, or the back of a taxi or crammed into a train, we'd go with the Asus.
You also get things like USB ports for connecting your peripherals, as well as HDMI so you could connect to an external display.
It's all about Qualcomm's hardware
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
- 4/8GB RAM, 64/256GB storage
- 2x USB 3.1, HDMI
- SIM slot
- 22 hour battery life
But the meat of this sandwich is really the Qualcomm Snapdragon hardware. It's here that the NovaGo is different to other laptops from Asus and other manufacturers. The Snapdragon 835 that powers the NovaGo is best known as the heart of many of 2017's best smartphones.
For a couple of years, Qualcomm has been referring to Snapdragon as a "platform" and with its wider deployment in devices beyond the smartphone, we're really starting to see how it's working as a platform rather than just being "a processor".
Part of this comes down to the technologies that are bundled into the Snapdragon 835. It's not only the main application processor - the CPU - it's also the GPU, the modem and a whole lot more besides.
On the specs front there's 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage, but it's the inclusion of a SIM slot that makes things more exciting. Asus has said that it will support both embedded SIM and nano SIM, which means that all you really have to do is throw in the SIM card and you're connected to the network. Asus is also saying that you'll be able to buy a local mobile subscription from the Windows store for the embedded SIM, so you can be connected as soon as you arrive in a new country.
Now this connection isn't for voice calling or messaging - that's not supported by Windows 10 - so this is all about data. Exactly what the mobile networks or carriers will do about bundling up SIMs into deals for customers we don't yet know, but with more people wanting more devices connected all the time, it's something we're sure to learn more about in the near future.
Something we also don't know is how the Asus NovaGo will compare in terms of performance against a more conventional Intel-powered Windows 10 notebook. Qualcomm and Microsoft are both saying that this shouldn't be about benchmarks and we agree, it should be about that experience as a whole.
Aside from easy connectivity, there's the promise is great battery life and this is one of the key pillars that is pushing this shift to Qualcomm's hardware and away from Intel. According to Asus' figures, you're looking at 22 hours of continuous video playback. Anecdotally, the talk is of using these Qualcomm-powered devices through the week, without needing to regularly charge.
There's a slight twist here in the phraseology that's being used too, with Asus, Qualcomm and Microsoft all talking about standby time. The idea is that you'll be able to leave your notebook off the charger for some time, and it will still have life when you get back to it.
Windows 10 S with a twist
- Can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro
Those with a longer member might remember the last time that Microsoft attempted to move on from x86 hardware and move over to ARM-based hardware. This shift to a mobile version in Windows RT didn't really work, because too much was stripped out of it. With this version of Windows on ARM (which is what Snapdragon 845 is), things feel a lot more positive.
Firstly this is a full version of Windows 10 S (that's the slightly limited version that can only run apps from Microsoft's store), but you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if you prefer. The message we're getting here is that everything should work as it does on any other Windows 10 computer, but this has been the result of a lot of work from Microsoft.
That has led to changes within Windows 10 to ensure that it runs on this new hardware set, with Qualcomm saying that in some cases, the hardware is better placed to run at a higher rate than some rivals. While we're yet to see how this all works in the real world, Microsoft has told us that it worked specifically on certain high priority apps to ensure that these are slick and fast and running natively.
There is some emulation needed to run some of the Windows applications, but as we've said, we've not had the chance to see how the NovaGo handles in the real world - something we're keen to look at closer to launch.
One of the things that might make you sit up and take notice is that the Asus NovaGo has already declared that it will cost $799 in the 8GB/256GB configuration, but there will be a 4GB/64GB version for $599, which is cheaper than most Snapdragon 835 smartphones.
The important thing about the Asus NovaGo is that this is designed to be a whole new way of working. It's designed to be portable, always connected, instantly on and ready to give you that Windows experience. For the mobile worker, at first glance, it looks like there's a lot to like about this new Asus model.
UK prices are still to be confirmed, but it will be launching in the UK in early spring.