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CheckMag | Windows on ARM is certainly more dead than it is alive

This isn't the first time Microsoft has tried its luck with ARM chips (Image source: Unsplash/Microsoft/ARM - edited)
This isn't the first time Microsoft has tried its luck with ARM chips (Image source: Unsplash/Microsoft/ARM - edited)
Of the 10 ARM-powered laptops we tested in 2022 and 2023, just 1 comes with Windows on ARM - all the rest are Apple MacBooks. Apparently, laptop makers do not see much point in using ARM chips; worse still, software developers do not appear to be very interested in creating/maintaining dedicated ARM versions of their products, either.
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Over the last 22 months, Notebookcheck has tested 10 laptops powered by ARM architecture processors. The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s G1 stands out as the only system that runs Windows; all the rest are MacBooks powered by various Apple silicon chips:

Now, Windows on ARM indeed has enabled enthusiasts all over the world to build all kinds of interesting things, mostly starring Raspberry Pi series SBCs. So why are the likes of Dell and Asus shying away from building Windows laptops around ARM chips? Why keep what's supposedly a promising platform limited to a couple of detachables?

The X13s Gen 1 is one of the very, very few Windows on ARM laptops we know of (Image source: Notebookcheck)
The X13s Gen 1 is one of the very, very few Windows on ARM laptops we know of

A few reasons come to mind, software compatibility being one of the more noteworthy ones. Most Windows apps are built with the x86 architecture in mind, meaning there is no way to run them on an ARM chip without employing some kind of emulation (read, without noticeable slowdowns). While Mozilla was quick to announce that it would start releasing dedicated Firefox builds compiled specifically for Windows on ARM, and several other notable software developers followed suit - say, the Paint.NET image editor runs natively on ARM chips - most companies could not care less about Microsoft's attempts to break away from its perennial dependence on x86.

Game studios in particular appear to be completely ignoring Windows on ARM, and they have a valid reason for that, too. GPUs built into most ARM chips are anything but impressive, lagging far behind proper graphics cards such as the GeForce RTX 4060 (Laptop). To this, laptop makers can say that putting powerful graphics adapters into Windows on ARM laptops would make those laptops much, much costlier, and with virtually no games that are guaranteed to run well on such a system, no one in their right mind would buy one. This is a loop of misery that has no end.

While Apple shows no intention of reconsidering its switch from x86 to ARM, it looks like Microsoft might eventually be forced to bid farewell to Windows on ARM as doing that would allow the tech giant to give more love to its core products and its core audience. For now, it is way too early to claim that Windows on ARM will be discontinued (just like Windows RT was discontinued several years ago). But for the project to succeed, companies such as Qualcomm really need to step it up in terms of the integrated graphics, and Microsoft really needs to get software developers onboard. The Snapdragon X Elite may or may not prove to be a game-changer; but right now, what we have is a case of "all talk, no walk".

Source(s)

Image credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash | Microsoft | ARM

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2023 11 > Windows on ARM is certainly more dead than it is alive
Sergey Tarasov, 2023-11-13 (Update: 2023-11-15)