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Microsoft’s new Windows Dev Kit 2023 is a compact desktop computer designed as a platform for developers interested in creating apps that run natively on Windows PCs with ARM-based processors. But the $600 mini PC is also one of the most powerful Windows on ARM computers available at the moment.

It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor and features 32GB of LPDDR4x memory and a 512GB SSD stuffed inside an 8″ x 6″ x 1.1″ body that weighs about 2.1 pounds.

Microsoft first revealed it was working on the dev kit earlier this year, when it was known by tis code-name Project Volterra.

Now that the computer is ready for prime time, Microsoft is giving it an official (and descriptive, if somewhat boring) name. Full specs have also been revealed, so we know that the system has two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports, three USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, a mini DisplayPort, an Ethernet jack, and support for WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 wireless connectivity.

The system has an sTPM module for security and a case that’s made using 20% recycled ocean-bound plastic. It ships with Windows 11 Pro and, as the name suggests, it’s aimed at developers and includes support for features like the Windows Subsystem for Linux, virtual machines, and developer tools including Visual Studio and VSCode.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor is said to offer 85% better performance than the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, making it the most powerful ARM processor for Windows PCs to date (although it’s unclear how it stacks up against Apple’s latest ARM-based chips for Macs and iPads, or whether this will finally be the chip that allows Windows on ARM laptops to feel competitive with PCs featuring x86 chips when it comes to performance not just efficiency).

Update: Early reviews of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 5G suggest that while the operating system and some Microsoft apps run smoothly on a tablet with a nearly identical processor, apps that haven’t been updated to run natively on ARM are still frustratingly sluggish. And that’s kind of why this Dev Kit exists – to give developers an affordable platform for testing their apps on an ARM-based PC. Whether they’ll actually do that and port their software to ARM architecture remains to be seen. 

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chip four ARM Cortex-X1 CPU cores, four Cortex-A78 CPU cores, Adreno  graphics, and a neural processing unit (NPU) that Qualcomm says delivers up to 29 TOPs of AI performance.

According to Microsoft, that NPU is an important feature. One independent software vendor said that after moving their AI models to run on the NPU, they saw those models run 80-90 times faster than they would on the CPU, and 20 times faster than they would on the GPU, while leaving the CPU cores free for other tasks.

Only a few devices featuring the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor have been announced to date, including the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s that sells for $1000 and up, and the ARM-powered version of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 that sells for $1300 and up (and which actually uses a Microsoft SQ3 processor that’s based on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3).

In other words, not only is the Windows Dev Kit 2023 one of the most powerful Windows on ARM computers to date, but it’s also one of the more affordable options for folks interested in testing a high-performance, Windows-compatible ARM processor. I suspect it’s just a matter of time before someone tries to see if this thing can run Linux natively though.

Microsoft says the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is available from the Microsoft Store in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US.

via Windows Experience Blog

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  1. All good news for mobile Windows fanless computing. Will this solve the incompatibility of current Snapdragon ARM based Windows laptops from HP and Samsung with all Adobe CC Suite video editing tools Iike Premiere and Rush?

  2. There is no mention that this is an Arm System Ready certified product as such regular Linux distros that already adhere to the Arm UEFI standard wouldnt work on it.

    Arm PC’s with Linux already exist but they are very expensive developer workstations, the cheap SBC’s are not Arm SR certified.

  3. Microsoft’s decision to form an exclusive partnership with Qualcomm for their Windows-on-ARM products has been a failure.

    Things are going to go much better for Windows on ARM when some competition is allowed. I’m certain Rockchip has the ability to compete, and I’d be interested to see if Nvidia would be willing to compete.

    1. I’d like them to insist that after a certain point all new Windows on ARM devices have to be systemready (but we’ll support your SoC as long as it is), but I don’t really know if that would stop them from locking the bootloader on everything, and if it did stop them, if it would be worth the [sarcasm] HORRIFYING possibility of a tiny faction of PC buyers installing something else on them and acting like their opinions matter.
      After all I don’t even know if that’ll boost sales any.

    2. The only reason the new QC 8CX g3 chipset is even “good” is because their exclusivity deal has ended. So Qualcomm had done a knee-jerk reaction to come forwards, so they’re not completely embarrassed by Apple’s M1 (which is their lowest chipset) and so that any new contender (Samsung Exynos, Nvidia Tegra, MediaTek Dimensity, Unisoc Tiger, etc etc) doesn’t take the flagship position.

      There was nothing preventing Qualcomm from making an awesome chipset years ago. At the very least they could have maxed the core count; ie 8x Cortex A73 (2017), 8x Cortex A75 (2018), (2019) 8x Cortex-A76, 8x Cortex-A77 (2020) etc etc. By then they could have jumped to the X-platform. Ie/ 8x Cortex-X1 (2021) and (2022) 8x Cortex-X2. Remember this is the least they could have done. They were given the chance and funds to do so much more.

      Remember, Qualcomm’s “best effort” prior to this was the QC 8CX g2 chipset. If you look into it, it’s basically the same QSD 855 chipset like on the Samsung S10+ phones, with a mild overclock.

      Doing “more” would be to designing a custom core, basically a new processor like Apple, to better take advantage of the “thin laptop” form factor. And yes, Qualcomm used to do this. The Kryo-100 was their own design, and it competed strongly against the Cortex-A72. While the Krait-450 was decent against the Cortex-A17, the Krait-400 and Krait-300 was strong against all Cortex-A15 variants, the Krait-200 was very strong against the Quad Cortex-A9. However their Scorpion-S2 was very weak against the Dual Cortex-A9, and their Scorpion-S1 was weak against the Cortex-A8. So they could have gone the same way, just like how Samsung has been trying to innovate with their Mongoose cores, and the industry basically emulatd that with the introduction of the Cortex-X1.

      1. (sarcasm) You could always run Windows on RPI 4. Perhaps Microsoft should work with them

        1. Linux users or even Apple users opinion’s doesn’t matter (sarcasm), only millions sheep’s buyers count. Blah blah blah. For a SoC manufacturer, what is the advantage to lock his SoC on only one system? To sell even as low as 1 or 2% less? Where is the gain? Or is the truth is that the wonderful OS editor (sarcasm) force the SoC manufacturer to lock his device to close the competition?

  4. Microsoft are dumb. The one thing that has always pushed home hardware to be better is playing games. Look at the console wars.
    History reminds us Doom pushed PC’s to need to perform better in CPU, GPU. Want better Arm Windows Computers? Push the Arm hardware to play, recent Windows demanding games.

    1. That could change if “games are finally making the move to The Cloud just like everything else has in its entirety and now it can’t be found elsewhere so don’t even try” the way Google and the like would want you to believe. Then the focus on home hardware becomes entirely on battery life, silence, and hardware video decoding.

  5. Guess we’ll see what kind of performance we see on Windows. Past devices have made a lot of promises that didn’t materialize in the performance data.

    1. With 32GB of RAM and performance roughly on par with a Ryzen 5600U, this isn’t a total slouch as a developer system, and it’s good value for the money. Finally!

      1. I managed to find the Windows GeekBench 5.4 results, roughly they are:
        QC: 1100, 5000
        Intel: 1700, 6000
        AMD: 1500, 9000

        The 15W chipsets in question are the:
        – QC 8CXg3 (4x Big + 4x Medium)
        – Intel i7-1265u (2x HUGE + 8x Medium)
        – AMD r7-6800u (8x Big)

          1. Not quite. It’s more like the AMD 4600u, very similar performance, but with much less heat generation and a decent +50% battery life.