Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 07:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, snapdragon 845, reference platform, qualcomm, mobile, headset, development

Qualcomm has another mobile-related announcement ahead of MWC, introducing a new VR reference platform based on the Snapdragon 845 in collaboration with HTC. As the new Snapdragon 845 boasts much more powerful graphics from its Adreno 630 GPU compared to the Snapdragon 835 - which was behind the previous mobile VR platform - this represents an important step forward in the mobile VR space.

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The increased graphics horsepower isn't the only aspect of the Adreno 630 that should translate into a better mobile VR/AR (now rolled together into the term "XR" for extended reality) experience, as the gains in graphics performance we saw from the SDM845 reference platform are said to come with 30% power savings as well as Adreno Foveation, which allows eye-tracking to direct resources only to the area where the user is looking. Thus Foveation allows for, literally, focused GPU resource allocation, which should translate into better performance with less hardware overhead.

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The Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform also boasts 6DoF, or "6 degrees of freedom", which incorporates external cameras to improve free movement compared to the previous 3DoF limitations:

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

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Qualcomm's goal with the new Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform is to support "the next wave of smartphone and standalone VR headsets", and it seems that mobile hardware is starting to catch up to the ambitions of what is now being called XR.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm signs major carriers and retailers for Always Connected PC launch

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2018 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, always connected pc

With availability scheduled to begin next month, Qualcomm is prepping for its final push to prepare the market for what it believes is a revolutionary product category for the PC market. Just before the mobile media and analysts focus attention on Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm hopes it has completed the final step in the launch of its “Windows 10 on Snapdragon” line. Partners like Amazon, the Microsoft Stores, Verizon, and AT&T will provide the cellular LTE connections to maintain an always-connected state and the retail and online locations to purchase them.

By combining Windows 10 and the company’s Snapdragon mobile platform with efficiency and connectivity advantages other PC chip vendors can’t match, Qualcomm is hoping that its creation of this new sub-category of PC that focuses on being always connected through a smartphone-like cellular connection will pay dividends. Compared to Intel processors that target similar form factors of notebook PCs including 2-in-1s and detachable tablets, the Qualcomm chips differentiate by including the capability for LTE connectivity on every design, without having to pay an upgrade cost.

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The ability for a Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 PC to have an “instant on” button to turn on the screen without a boot or wake-from-sleep process, again in the same way your smartphone works today, is another touted feature. Battery life is the other tent pole, with Qualcomm often citing disingenuous battery life estimates on Intel-powered systems but “beyond all day” battery life for its own.

Getting these Qualcomm-chip Windows notebooks into the market might seem like a trivial task but inserting a new totally new product category into retail and e-tail takes careful management. Qualcomm will have to educate consumers on how its platform is different and what advantages it can offer over other laptops. Retailers will have to undertake most of that education process, as the customer will need guidance to avoid costly returns and support calls.

The added complexity of a cellular connection will mean that some kind of registration process will have to occur before the PC is truly “always connected.” It will need to be added to a data plan on an existing carrier agreement (think adding a new phone to your cell account) or through a pre-paid arrangement.

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A touchier subject surrounds the retail channel and how PCs are sold in today’s market. Despite the years of legal disputes and resolutions, most in the industry still view Intel as wielding incredible power in the retail and online e-tail sales channels. Through practices like rebates, education programs, and sales clerk discounts, it can be hard for a new player to battle the incumbent without a similar amount of marketing muscle and dollars behind them. Even AMD, with years of practice selling its own processors and systems, struggles at time to get the attention and retail shelf space its products deserve.

In the US market, Microsoft will be taking the helm at the retail channel, stocking and selling the three first Qualcomm Snapdragon Windows 10 PCs from HP, Lenovo, and ASUS. Though the quantity of Microsoft stores is limited, placement here is a big win for Qualcomm and its partners. The Microsoft Stores are generally considered the presentation point for the flagship Windows devices, indicating that Microsoft itself puts a lot of weight behind the category that Qualcomm is creating.

For the online markets, Amazon will be the primary location in the US for sales. In talks with Qualcomm executives, it appears that the online giant will be handling a lot of that education and cellular activation. While I am certain that Qualcomm would love to have had a nationwide brick-and-mortar retailer like Best Buy in the mix, the Minneapolis-based company did not buy in.

Qualcomm has other retailers lined up across the globe, including in Australia, Italy, France, and the UK. China will have sales through JD.com, one of the largest online retailers in the world with more than 266M active users. Qualcomm still has many regions to address with availability and wider distribution as the second wave of PCs comes to market in the holiday of 2018, but it believes it has a solid start under its belt.

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Graphic Source: TechSpot

Operator support is just as crucial for Qualcomm’s new PC category as retail availability. If a consumer buys a device but isn’t offered service from a mobile telecommunications provider along with it, much of the appeal of the device is lost. Carriers in the UK, Italy, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and US (including all four major players Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile), will begin offering plans for the Windows 10 on Snapdragon PCs. Details of what the specific costs will be aren’t being shared and will vary for each carrier.

Affordability of these plans will be critical to the mass market success of the Always Connected PC. Consumers will not pay exorbitant amounts of money to add a device to their existing cell phone plan but providers may be hesitant to offer discounts for a platform that inherently will have potential for greater data consumption. Users on smartphones often get lower resolution video or web pages because of the smaller screen size. But these full capability PCs will likely stream full resolution content and could create additional strain on the networks.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Introduces TrueWireless Stereo Plus and Broadcast Audio

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: wireless audio, TrueWireless, stereo, qualcomm, occluded, music, Broadcast Audio, bluetooth

Just ahead of MWC, Qualcomm has a pair of announcements to make regarding new Bluetooth wireless technologies, beginning with enhancements to their TrueWireless Stereo technology; a fully wireless solution for devices such as earbuds and the 'hearables' category supported by Qualcomm's new QCC5100 Bluetooth SoC, introduced at CES 2018. This update to TrueWireless Stereo promises "an easier pairing experience with no need to pair individual earbuds" along with "the ability to autonomously role switch each earbud between primary and secondary roles in order to balance power consumption more evenly between the buds for longer playback time".

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The combination of the new QCC5100 SoC with the Snapdragon 845 is said to offer improved battery life thanks to enhancements lowering power consumption, and the combination of lower latency and a better pairing experience makes this very interesting as we enter a year that will see many Smartphones powered by the new SDM845 platform. Earbuds connected via TrueWireless Stereo Plus each pair with the device individually, rather than the common method of a single earbud connection - "cross-head Bluetooth transmission" - with a second Bluetooth wireless connection from one earbud to the other stereo channel. If that sounds confusing, it really is, and with standard fully wireless options you are at the mercy of the relay connection as far as compression, latency, and channel separation is concerned.

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TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design

"Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus is an additional mode of the technology designed to eliminate the need for cross-head Bluetooth transmission by simultaneously connecting the mobile device to both earbuds. In this new operating mode only the relevant audio content is engineered to relay to each bud helping to improve robustness and more evenly balance power consumption. When paired with a QCC5100 series based device and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus can help to reduce power consumption by up to an additional 10 percent, typically helping to deliver an extra hour of listening time before recharge is needed. Additionally, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus supports an even simpler pairing experience when connecting earbuds to the mobile device and helps to reduce latency because both buds are connected directly to the smartphone."

Another annoucement on the Bluetooth audio front comes as Qualcomm's Broadcast Audio technology is being made available on the Snapdragon 845 platform. What is Broadcast Audio? We aren't talking LTE or even FM radio here, as it simply allows "one Bluetooth source to stream audio to numerous headsets or speakers with near perfect synchronization".

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As Qualcomm explains:

"The technology is designed to support Bluetooth to be used for one-to-many sound broadcasting – helping to extend the capabilities of traditional Bluetooth. Qualcomm Broadcast Audio supports ad-hoc multi-speaker parties, sharing headphones and listening to the same music from a single smartphone, or for group audio tours."

Qualcomm's list of features for Broadcast Audio includes:

  • Simpler set-up and pairing of devices and device management helping users to more easily manage which devices can join
  • Broadcast to numerous devices within Bluetooth range
  • Built-in robustness, automatic retransmission and packet-loss concealment
  • Encrypted audio stream designed to help reduce the risk of eavesdropping

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This integration will not be limited to the Snapdragon 845, as devices using the new QCC5100 SoC as well as others in Qualcomm's range of Bluetooth chips will support Broadcast Audio.

Source: Qualcomm

ZTE Axon 9 Leaks Surface

Subject: Mobile | February 19, 2018 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 9, qualcomm, snapdragon 845

So there’s a lot to say about this story. The first bit is that the follow up to my current phone, which is a ZTE Axon 7, will be launching later this year. It will be called the ZTE Axon 9, and a bunch of rumored leaks have just dropped on it.

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Image Credit: ZTE Weibo via GSM Arena

GSMArena cites claims that the device will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. High-end SKUs will have 6GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. Low-end SKUs will have 4GB of RAM. Personally, I haven’t come close to filling up the 64GB of the original ZTE Axon 7, although that’s just me. This is the first time I checked pretty much since I got the phone, and I still have about 33 GB remaining. That said, you are not me, and you probably know how much space you’ll use.

The choice of SoC is interesting. ZTE seems to go straight for the top of Qualcomm’s product stack with their flagship device, which puts it against the performance of, for instance, Samsung’s latest-and-greatest at the time. The ZTE Axon 7 came out a few months after the Samsung Galaxy S7, had the same processor, and was hundreds of dollars cheaper. ZTE wanted market share, but it looks like they might be continuing the trend.

The new device is said to have a 6-inch screen, which makes it slightly larger than the Axon 7, which has a 5.5-inch screen. Both cameras have also been upgraded. The rear camera will be 20 megapixels, while the front-facing one will be 13 megapixels. This doesn't say much about how it will perform, such as how much light is required to get a good image, but we will find out eventually.

At around the same time, US intelligence agencies are warning against purchasing ZTE and Huawei devices because the two companies have ties with the Chinese government. ZTE and Huawei both rebuke the assertions, of course. Personally, I use the ZTE Axon 7 as my only cellphone.

It doesn’t bother me.

Source: GSMArena

Windows 10 on ARM Details

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2018 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, qualcomm, arm

Paul Thurrott found a developer documentation page, Troubleshooting x86 Desktop Apps, on the Windows Dev Center. The goal of the page is to list a few reasons why the software you develop might not be compatible with Windows 10 on ARM and the WOW translation layer. Yup, they’re reusing that name, which was the translation layer for 32-bit Win32 applications running on 64-bit Windows.

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Based on this document, we now know that Windows on ARM:

  • Will not translate x86 drivers, just x86 applications and services.
  • Does not support 64-bit applications (Thurrott.com says they’re working on it.)
  • Does not support (hardware-accelerated) OpenGL 1.1+ or DirectX 1-8
    • Vulkan is not mentioned anywhere, but I’m guessing not.

There are also a few other issues, like the application cannot modify Windows components (ex: the 7-zip entry in the Windows file explorer’s right-click menu) unless it is recompiled for ARM. Thurrott.com also says that Hyper-V is not supported in Windows 10 on ARM.

The amount of software that Windows on ARM can run is surprisingly both broader and narrower than I would have expected. The major issue for me is OpenGL – you would think that the graphics driver would dictate this, not so much the OS APIs. I certainly hope that, especially after their other pushes toward openness, Microsoft isn’t pressuring ARM manufacturers to not ship an OpenGL driver, even though the hardware vendors clearly know how to support OpenGL ES at the very least.

And yes, there could very well be a good reason, and they might even be working on OpenGL support as we speak, but it’s an odd omission (at least for now).

Lastly, this has nothing to do with UWP applications. This document is only about standard Win32 applications running on ARM processors. UWP is designed to be cross-architecture. You just need to include the ARM target when you build and package.

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #487 - AMD Desktop APUs, Snapdragon 845, ARM Machine Learning, and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2018 - 11:32 AM |
Tagged: podcast, Intel, amd, nvidia, raven ridge, r5 2400g, r3 2200g, arm, project trillium, qualcomm, snapdragon 845, x24, LTE, 5G

PC Perspective Podcast #487 - 02/15/18

Join us this week for a recap of news and reviews including new AMD Desktop APUs, Snapdragon 845 Performance Preview, ARM Machine Learning, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:18:46

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:09:00 Jeremy: &genie=1
  4. Closing/outro
 

Qualcomm pushes LTE forward again, up to 2 Gbps with Snapdragon X24 modem

Subject: Mobile | February 14, 2018 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, modem, 4g lte, x24

Hot on the heels of the 5G momentum that saw Qualcomm announce working with 18 different device OEMs and 18  different network providers to bring 5G hardware and carriers online for wide adoption in 2019, the mobile giant is launching another 4G LTE modem. The new Snapdragon X24 LTE modem will provide connectivity speeds as high as 2.0 Gbps (Cat 20) and happens to be the first chip officially announced to be built on a 7nm process technology. It will be shipping in products by the end of 2018.

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With the 5G wave of products just on the horizon it might seem odd to see Qualcomm launch yet another LTE modem, especially one that offers such high performance and capability. The truth is that while 2019 will see the first nationwide (and global) 5G networks launched, 4G LTE will remain a fallback for the many years going forward. In fact, the first 5G devices (phones, laptops, tablets) will be connected to both 5G and 4G networks simultaneously to maintain connectivity through location changes. This will be temporary as the 5G networks scale to outdoor and internal designs, but expect that to be the case for at least 5 years.

As a result, newer LTE modems will remain a key differentiation point for mobile devices and chipsets. While the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform (Sebastian recently posted a story with early benchmarks if you’re interested) uses the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which only runs at 1.2 Gbps peak download rate, the new X24 will start by shipping as a discrete modem/chip solution. As has been the case with the X16 and X20 before it, you should then expect to see the X24 integrated into the next-generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon application processor.

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Obviously the flagship feature of this new modem is its ability to raise peak download speeds to 2.0 Gbps, doubling that of the X16 modem that brought Gigabit-class LTE to the world. This is possible due to the chips ability to handle 7x CA (carrier aggregation) downlink and improved unlicensed spectrum support. You can see from the diagram above that the X24 modem greatly increases the complexity and potential combinations of spectrum.

The Snapdragon X24 also marks the first publicly announced 7nm chip in the world. Though it wasn’t confirmed by Qualcomm, this is being made at TSMC, the only foundry with currently available 7nm technology in place. This move to a new technology means Qualcomm can offer a chip that is smaller and more power efficiency than would be possible on 10nm or 14nm nodes. The company also has the world’s first 14nm RF transceiver chip to pair with the X24 modem, another improvement in power and space efficiency.

Qualcomm will be demonstrating the new Snapdragon X24 modem technology running at 2.0 Gbps at Mobile World Congress, working with Ericsson, Telstra, and Netgear later this month.

Source: Qualcomm

The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results

The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!

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The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device

While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.


Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:

  • Baseband Chipset: SDM845
  • Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
  • Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
  • Camera:
    • Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
    • Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
  • Audio:
    • No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
    • 4 Digital Microphones
  • Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
    • DisplayPort over USB-C

At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.

Continue reading our performance preview of the new Snapdragon 845 mobile platform!!

Qualcomm 5G devices coming in 2019, leaving Apple behind

Subject: Mobile | February 8, 2018 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: qualcomm, 5G, 5g nr, x50, snapdragon, apple, Samsung

This story originally appeared on ShroutResearch.com.

With significant pressure to show the value and growth opportunities for the company with a looming hostile takeover bid from Broadcom, mobile chip design house Qualcomm is hoping that its position in the market of next-generation cellular radio technology will be a foundation of its future. The company revealed today partnerships with 18 global OEMs that will be launching 5G-ready devices in 2019 and 18 worldwide cellular carriers will be completing tests of Qualcomm 5G radios in 2018.

5G is the follow up iteration to the current 4G cellular technology in the majority of the world’s smartphones. It will improve speed of connectivity, lower latency, and transform numerous markets from self-driving cars to industrial automation. And it can do all of this while lowering the load on carrier networks, giving all users a noticeable increase in performance and usability.

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Qualcomm has been leaning on this 4G-to-5G transition as a portion of its long-term plan and strategy for many years. As a part of the company’s recent call to action for shareholders to resist the hostile takeover from Broadcom, the San Diego-based company believes that it has a 12-24 month lead over competing connectivity providers, namely Intel. This position will allow Qualcomm to capitalize on what many believe could be the most disruptive and market shifting wireless transition in history.

To maintain the leadership role, despite mass-market availability being limited to 2019 products, Qualcomm has announced partnerships with 18 different OEMs that will build those products using the Snapdragon X50 modem. This modem was the first announced to support the finalized specification of 5G radios. OEMs like LG, HTC, Sony, ASUS, and vivo are committed to using the X50 modem in devices ranging from next-generation smartphones to Windows-based PCs.

There has been talk that 5G products would not be available until 2020, but Qualcomm believes that 5G will have an impact on revenue a year earlier than that. This collection of phone and device providers puts Qualcomm well ahead of Intel in terms of integration and support in the market, something Qualcomm has believed would be the case but is only now finally confirmed. Commercialization of 5G and collaborations with the leading device manufacturers will push Intel further back in the race, with time running out for it to catch up.

Two big OEMs are missing from the list in Qualcomm’s announcement: Samsung and Apple. While it makes sense that Apple would not want to be included in the public statements from Qualcomm considering the continuing legal dispute between the two companies, there is a legitimate question as to whether Apple will be an early-adopter of 5G technology at all. It has shown in the past that it is more than willing to let others experiment and drive wireless technology shifts on the networks, with both the iPhone 3G and first iPhone with LTE (iPhone 5) lagging behind other smartphones by several quarters. If Apple choses to not integrate the Qualcomm modem, it will depend on Intel to provide a solution instead, and could miss out on 5G technology for all of 2019.

Not seeing Samsung as a part of this announcement from Qualcomm is more surprising, but likely an omission of politics than of technology. I recently wrote about the extension and expansion of the licensing agreement between Samsung and Qualcomm and it is unlikely that this contract would not have included the X50 modem for 5G. I expect the 2019 models of Samsung’s Galaxy devices to include the Qualcomm chip as well.

The second part to this story is that 18 different global cellular carriers, including Verizon and AT&T in the US, China Mobile, and SK Telecom, will be testing 5G with Qualcomm devices and infrastructure in 2018. These validation tests are used to demonstrate the capabilities of new wireless technology and finalize the implementation methods for the hardware in the field.

These two announcements put Qualcomm in the driver’s seat for 5G adoption and integration. 5G will offer consumers speeds 4-5x faster than today’s top offerings, lower latency for more responsive web browsing and new capabilities like streaming virtual reality. It will make Wi-Fi less necessary. The cellular carriers will take advantage of 5G for its ability to run more data through existing infrastructure, opening capacity for more users, devices, and upgradable services.

CES 2018: Lenovo Joins the Windows on ARM Rush with the 12-inch Miix 630 2-in-1 PC

Subject: Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: WOA, windows on arm, snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, Lenovo, laptop, convertible, CES 2017, arm, 2-in-1

Lenovo today unveiled the Miix 630, a 12-inch Windows 10 S device powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor. With the Miix 630, Lenovo joins HP, ASUS, and other manufacturers in the new Windows on ARM product category of ultraportable, always connected PCs and tablets.

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The Miix 630 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with integrated Adreno 540 graphics. It features a 12.3-inch 1920x1280 touchscreen display which, when paired with the included Lenovo pen, offers up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity for drawing and writing. Other features include a 5MP front facing infrared camera with Windows Hello support, 13MP rear camera, detachable backlit keyboard with touchpad, and integrated LTE for the "always on" feature that distinguishes these devices from those with traditional mobile connectivity options.

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Despite its "always on" capabilities, the Miix 630 joins other Windows on ARM devices in touting lengthy battery life, with negligible battery draw while in standby mode and actual usage time of 20 hours for tasks such as continuous video playback.

The Miix 630's complete specs:

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Graphics Adreno 540
Micrphones 2
Speakers 2 x 1 watt
Memory 4GB / 8GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery 48 Whr
Display 12.3-inch
WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280)
Corning Glass Screen
Ports 1 x USB Type-C
1 x 3.5mm Audio In/Out
1 x SD Card
1 x Nano SIM Card
Connectivity 2x2 Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.1
LTE Cat11
Dimensions (D) 210mm x (W) 293mm x (H) 15.6mm
Weight 2.93 lbs (1.33 kg)

lenovo-miix-630-angle.jpg

Complete pricing for the higher-end configurations is not yet available, but Lenovo states that the Miix 630's base configuration will start at $799. It's expected to launch in the second quarter of this year.

Source: