Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it would release new hardware to encourage more developers to start using and supporting the Arm version of Windows. Dubbed “Project Volterra,” all we knew about it at the time was that it would use an unnamed Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and NVMe-based storage, that it would support at least two displays, and that it would have a decent number of ports.
Today, Microsoft is introducing Volterra to the world, complete with a new name: the Windows Dev Kit 2023. The Dev Kit 2023 will use Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3—essentially the same chip as the Microsoft SQ3 in the new 5G version of the Surface Pro 9—plus 512GB of storage and a whopping 32GB of RAM for the surprisingly low price of $599.
We don’t know exactly how fast the 8cx Gen 3 will be (Qualcomm says “up to 85 percent faster” CPU performance than the 8cx Gen 2, which would put it somewhere below but within spitting distance of a modern Core i5 laptop CPU, but probably not as fast as Apple’s M1). But 512GB of storage and 32GB of memory should make the Dev Kit 2023 useful as a development and testing environment.
Microsoft says the box can connect to up to three displays simultaneously using its two USB-C ports and mini DisplayPort and that up to two of those displays can be 4K displays running at 60 Hz. Three USB-A ports, gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 complete the connectivity options.
The Dev Kit 2023 continues Microsoft’s effort to run the entire Windows development toolchain natively on Arm hardware without the performance penalty imposed by x86-to-Arm code translation, which Windows uses to maintain compatibility with the wider universe of Windows programs . Visual Studio, both old and new versions of the .NET Framework, the Visual C++ Runtime, and other Windows development programs are all either available as Arm-native versions already or as Arm-native previews that will be generally released before the end of the year.
The last officially sanctioned Arm PC for Windows developers is last year’s $219 ECS LIVA QC170 (another name that rolls off the tongue). It was much cheaper than the Dev Kit 2023, but it was also much less powerful, with a weak Snapdragon 7c processor, only 4GB of RAM and 64GB of slow eMMC storage. I used the QC170, and it works, but it’s not nice. In everyday use, the Dev Kit 2023 should at least feel like a modern mid-range PC.
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