Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it was releasing new hardware to encourage more developers to start using and supporting the ARM version of Windows. Dubbed “Project Volterra,” all we knew at the time was that it would use an unnamed Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, NVMe-based storage, support at least two monitors, and have a decent number of ports.
Today, Microsoft is bringing Volterra out into the world, complete with a snappy new name: the Windows Dev Kit 2023. The Dev Kit 2023 will use a 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, placing it somewhere below, but very close to, a modern Core i5 laptop CPU would, but probably not as fast as Apple’s M1). But 512GB of storage and 32GB of RAM should make the Dev Kit 2023 useful as a development and testing environment.
Microsoft says the box can connect to up to three monitors simultaneously via its two USB-C ports and mini DisplayPort, and that up to two of those displays can be 4K 60Hz displays. Three USB-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 round out the connectivity options.
The Dev Kit 2023 continues Microsoft’s efforts to get the entire Windows development toolchain to run natively on ARM hardware without the performance penalties caused by the x86-to-ARM code translation that Windows uses to build the Maintain compatibility with the broader universe of Windows apps. Visual Studio, both old and new versions of the .NET Framework, Visual C++ Runtime, and other Windows development software are either already available as ARM-native versions or as ARM-native preview versions, which will be widely released by 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 a lot cheaper than the Dev Kit 2023, but it was also a lot less powerful, with a weak Snapdragon 7c processor, only 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of slow eMMC storage. I’ve used the QC170 and it works, but it’s not comfortable. In everyday life, the Dev Kit 2023 should at least feel like a modern mid-range PC.