Microsoft started shipping its Windows Dev Kit 2023 which is a new hardware device built for developers to use for developing, testing, and running Windows on ARM applications. With this device, Microsoft too is pushing further towards the ARM CPU direction with their PCs similarly to what Apple has already been doing for a couple years now with the M1 and M2 chips based on ARM CPU architecture. However, Microsoft isn’t building their own silicon chips like Apple, as Microsoft is using a Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform in this new Windows Dev Kit.
There are many others following the traditional path of looking at this new dev kit form a purely Microsoft Windows perspective. So, I thought I’d do a little research and put together the following comparison between this new Microsoft Windows Dev Kit 2023 and the Apple Mac mini. Obviously, it’s Windows OS for Microsoft and macOS for Apple on the software side, but let’s see how these two ARM-based computers compare on a hardware level. After all, you can run Windows on ARM in a VM on Apple’s hardware too, so Windows can technically run on both sides.
Let’s dig in and find out which device is best!
Table of Contents
Microsoft Windows Dev Kit 2023 Hardware Specs
The Windows Dev Kit 2023 is meant for Developers to use for building apps targeting the Windows on ARM platform. As such, it’s not really meant for the average Windows user to be using as a desktop PC just yet. However, it’s still a fully capable Windows PC built using ARM based hardware.
The following are basic hardware specifications of the Microsoft Windows Dev Kit 2023:
|Windows Dev Kit 2023|
|Processor||Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3|
|Graphics||Qualcomm Adreno GPU, Snapdgragon 8cx Gen 3|
|Memory||32GB LPDDR4x RAM|
|Storage||512GB fast NVMe Storage|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Pro|
Apple Mac mini Specs
Currently, the Apple Mac mini is available in both the Apple M1 silicon and the Intel CPU hardware. Since we’re looking to compare this to the Windows Dev Kit 2023 that is running ARM CPU hardware, we’ll stick to the option from Apple that’s based on the M1 chip.
The following are the basic hardware specifications of the Apple Mac mini which is currently available with the M1 chip:
|Apple Mac mini|
|Processor||Apple M1 chip (8-core CPU w/ 4 perf and 4 efficiency cores)|
|Graphics||Apple M1 chip (8-core GPU)|
|Memory||8GB (configurable up to 16GB)|
|Storage||256GB SSD (configurable up to 2TB)|
|Price||Starting at $699 USD|
Windows Dev Kit 2023 vs Apple Mac mini
After reviewing the above tables of the specifications for both the Windows Dev Kit 2023 and the Apple Mac mini, then you can clearly see there are some big differences between the two devices. It seems the Windows Dev Kit 2023 offers a higher amount of RAM (32GB instead of 8GB) and more storage (512GB instead of 256GB). This looks to give the Microsoft Windows Dev Kit 2023 a bit more bang for your buck at a price point that’s $100 lower than the Apple Mac mini base model.
Now, we know the Windows Dev Kit 2023 runs Windows 11, and the Apple Mac mini runs macOS. These are different operating systems and will affect your ability to run certain software on the device. One thing for Windows developers is the difference that you need to be running Windows to run Visual Studio 2022 which is now available for Windows on ARM released specifically to support the new Windows Dev Kit 2023 device. However, it’s possible to run Windows on ARM in a Virtual Machine (VM) on top of macOS on the M1 chip too. So, with Windows on ARM in a VM you should be able to still run Visual Studio 2022 or any other Windows software on the Apple Mac mini with the M1 chip as well.
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 vs Apple M1
The CPU and GPU hardware are very different between these two machines. Microsoft is using the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform, while Apple is using their own Apple M1 chip. This makes it a bit difficult to directly compare the hardware between the two. This is similar to the days of comparing Intel and AMD CPUs in a way.
To see how the performance compares between the two machines, let’s first take a look at a performance comparison that Linux Tech Tips did between the Surface Pro X running the Microsoft SQ2 CPU (built as a modified Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 processor) compared to the Apple M1 chip.
As we can see from Linus Tech Tips performance tests that the Apple M1 chip natively is much higher performing than the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 from the Surface Pro X. This applies to both the single-thread and multi-thread tests that were performed.
When you look at the performance comparison to running Windows in a VM on the Apple M1 chip, it’s still faster than Windows natively on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 hardware. So, for overall performance, this makes the Apple M1 chip the winner for best compute performance between the two hardware CPUs.
What about compared to the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 though? Since Linux Tech Tips provided some numbers for the M1 and Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 for Geekbench 5 performance tests, I thought I’d look up some Geekbench 5 results for the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 CPU to make a comparison. Since we can’t get our hands on the physical Windows Dev Kit 2023 hardware just yet as Microsoft just made it first available this week for purchase we’ll have to use these Geekbench comparisons for now.
Looking at Geekbench Browser, I found that the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 seems to be scoring an average of about 1076 single-core and 5662 for multi-core in Geekbench 5. Let’s take those numbers and compare them to the previous graph to see exactly how much faster the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 in the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is from the Gen 2 in the Surface Pro X, and compare that to the Apple M1 in the Mac mini.
|Geekbench 5||Microsoft SQ2 (Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2)||Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3||Apple M1|
|Single-Core Score||785||1,076 (+37%)||1,729 (+60%)|
|Multi-Core Score||3,072||5,662 (+84%)||7,537 (+33%)|
The numbers show the obvious assumption that the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is much faster than the Gen 2. These Geekbench number match pretty close to Quallcomm’s own estimates of how much faster Gen 3 is than Gen 2. That’s a great performance improvement. However, we can see the Apple M1 Geekbench scores are even still higher than the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 scores still. This means that software running on the Apple M1 chip will likely outperform the same software running on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. However, that comparison is hard to make precisely because the operating systems of each device is different.
Let’s look at the Geekbench scores of running Windows on ARM in a VM on the Apple M1 chip compared to the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. This will give us a more equal comparison of how running Windows software on the Apple M1 in a VM will compare to running natively on the Windows Dev Kit 2023 hardware directly with Windows 11.
|Geekbench 5||Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3||Apple M1 w/ Win11 VM|
|Single-Core Score||1,076||1,486 (+38%)|
|Multi-Core Score||5,662||4,660 (-17%)|
This comparison between the Geekbench 5 scores on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compared to Windows 11 VM running on the Apple M1 chip are a little closer in comparison. The Single-Core scores show the Apple M1 chip with an approximately 38% increase in performance, but with the Multi-Core score showing an approximate 17% decrease in performance. While Single-Core performance is much higher, the Multi-Core performance is a little slower.
Which is the best deal?
Apple’s custom silicon in the M1 chip has shown to have some great performance, but the chip is a couple years old now and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is a newer chip. This makes for some interesting differences when comparing performance. When you look at just raw hardware performance, it’s clear the Apple M1 is superior. However, from a Windows Developer perspective who would need to run Windows in a VM on Apple’s M1, then the performance difference for running Windows software becomes much closer. Sure Single-Core performance is great still with Windows 11 in a VM on the Apple M1, but it’s slower for Multi-Core performance.
With the CPU performance showing practical usage of Windows 11 software on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Apple M1 chips being similar, it’s going to come down to other specs like Memory and Storage, as well as overall price. The storage of 512GB in the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is double the 256GB in the base model Mac mini with M1 chip, and the Windows Dev Kit 2023 has 32GB of Memory while the base Mac mini with M1 chip only has 8GB. Plus, the price of the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is $100 less than the Apple Mac mini base model with M1 chip.
Taking all the differences into account for performance, to memory and storage, to comparing the price of each device, the clear winner is…
Microsoft Windows Dev Kit 2023 Wins!
Overall, the performance of the Windows Dev Kit 2023 looks to be similar for running Windows 11 and Windows software to the Apple M1 chip which requires the use of a Windows VM. Plus, the Windows Dev Kit 2023 comes with more Memory (32GB) and Storage (512GB) than the base Apple Mac mini w/ M1 chip at a price that’s $100 cheaper. It seems clear at this time the best Windows device from a hardware perspective for Windows Developers is the Windows Dev Kit 2023.