Monday, November 29, 2021

A $219 Windows on Arm PC is finally available for developers

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Developers, historically, have had somewhat limited options when it comes to testing apps for Windows on Arm. They’ve commonly needed to purchase costly Arm devices like the Surface Pro X, which starts at $899.99. Microsoft and Qualcomm aim to lower that barrier to entry with the new ECS Liva Mini Box QC710 Desktop, a tiny Snapdragon-based PC that’s now available for $219 on the Microsoft Store.

The QC710 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c Compute SC7180 (the first-generation Snapdragon 7c, rather than the second-generation chip that Qualcomm announced earlier this year). It also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, as well as various expansion ports including USB 2.0 Type-A, HDMI, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB Type-C, and a microSD slot.

In other words, this isn’t a high-end rig that will replace a Mac Mini or other fully fledged desktop. It’s specifically intended for developers to test Arm64 apps at an affordable price point (apps which consumers could then, of course, run on fancier devices like the Surface Pro X). It’s also something you could feasibly bring back and forth to the office, weighing just over half a pound.

There are only a handful of Arm-based Windows PCs and Chromebooks available currently, as high-profile releases gradually trickle into the consumer space. Qualcomm’s second-generation Snapdragon 7c, announced in May, currently powers Lenovo’s $429 Duet 5 Chromebook and Samsung’s $349 Galaxy Book Go. But app compatibility is still a gamble, which is a barrier for many potential buyers. Microsoft and Qualcomm are no doubt hoping that the availability of a $219 developer kit will help build out the ecosystem of Arm64-compatible apps — though whether that will come to fruition remains to be seen.

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