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$899 mini PC puts Snapdragon X Elite into a mini desktop for developers

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Enlarge / The Qualcomm Snapdragon Dev Kit for Windows fits a Snapdragon X Elite and 32GB of RAM into an $899 mini desktop.

Qualcomm

Microsoft and Qualcomm are both making a concerted effort to make Windows-on-Arm happen after years of slow progress and false starts. One thing the companies have done to get software developers on board is to offer mini PC developer kits, which can be connected to a software developer’s normal multi-monitor setup and doesn’t require the same cash outlay as an equivalently specced Surface tablet or laptop.

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon Dev Kit for Windows, a small black plastic mini PC with the same internal hardware as the new wave of Copilot+ PCs with Snapdragon X Plus and Snapdragon X Elite processors in them. The box is fairly generously specced, with a slightly faster-than-normal version of the Snapdragon X Elite that can boost up to 4.3 GHz, 32GB of RAM, and a 512GB NVMe SSD.

Unlike the Windows Dev Kit 2023, which appeared to be a repurposed Surface Pro 9 motherboard thrown into a black plastic box, the Snapdragon Dev Kit appears to be purpose-built. It has a single USB-C port on the front and two USB-C ports, an HDMI port, two USB-A ports, a headphone/speaker jack, and an Ethernet port in the back. This isn’t an overwhelming complement of ports, but it’s in line with what Apple offers in the Mac mini.

Perhaps most importantly for developers hoping to play with Microsoft’s new wave of AI-accelerated features and development tools, the Snapdragon Dev Kit includes the same NPU as all the Copilot+ devices announced yesterday. Qualcomm says the NPU is capable of 45 trillion operations per second (TOPS), a bit above the 40 TOPS that Microsoft has defined as the floor for Copilot+ PCs; this requirement means that no current-generation Intel and AMD laptops and desktops qualify for the label. x86 processors with more capable NPUs should arrive sometime this fall.

The back of the box has two more USB-C ports, plus USB-A, HDMI, Ethernet, and audio. There's a dedicated power jack, so you probably won't be able to power this from a USB-C charger or monitor.
Enlarge / The back of the box has two more USB-C ports, plus USB-A, HDMI, Ethernet, and audio. There’s a dedicated power jack, so you probably won’t be able to power this from a USB-C charger or monitor.

Qualcomm

The bad news is that this kit will run you $899, $300 more than the Windows Dev Kit 2023 (which was released in 2022). It’s also $680 more than the old Snapdragon 7c-based ECS LIVA QC710, the first Arm developer box that Microsoft offered. Though that model was dramatically under-specced, it does seem like there’s room to offer a cheaper box (maybe with a Snapdragon X Plus and 16GB of RAM) to developers or users who still want to experiment with a Copilot+-capable system but don’t want to drop nearly $1,000 on a desktop.

Given that a Surface Laptop with a Snapdragon X Elite chip and 32GB of RAM will run you at least $2,000, the Snapdragon Dev Kit is still a better deal if you plan to use it primarily as a testbed or a general-purpose desktop. You can sign up to preorder the box now, and it begins shipping on June 18.

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