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How to get the most out of your Windows 10 on ARM device

Galaxy Book S
Galaxy Book S (Image credit: Windows Central)

Windows 10 on ARM is precisely what the name states; Windows 10 on ARM. It looks like Windows 10, acts like Windows 10, and can run Windows 10 apps and programs. It has a few notable restrictions, such as its inability to run x64 apps, but in general, it's simply a version of Windows 10 built to run on ARM processors. Devices running Windows 10 on ARM feature long battery life, excellent standby battery, and have the ability to stay connected to the web through cellular data. Depending on your workflow, you might be able to just turn on a Windows 10 on ARM device and run it exactly like your other PCs, but there are a few things you can do to get the best performance and battery life out of the device.

Arm yourself with an ARM-friendly browser

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

A web browser is the central hub for many people on their PC. Whether it's getting work done, browsing the web, or watching some videos, a person's browser of choice is probably one of their most-used apps. While you can download Google Chrome on to a device running Windows 10 on ARM, you'll get better performance and better battery life by using a browser that's compiled for ARM. The new Microsoft Edge has a version compiled for ARM, and there's an ARM64 version of Mozilla Firefox as well.

These browsers run natively on Windows 10 on ARM devices and don't require any emulation. As a result, they run smoother than Google Chrome and get better battery life.

Get progressive with your apps

Surface Pro X

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Microsoft continues to take advantage of and work with progressive web apps (PWAs). The new Microsoft Edge can "install" progressive web apps to the taskbar or Start Menu. These PWAs are often dramatically lighter on your system and smaller than their full-fat app counterparts.

Some PWAs will run better than other versions of the same service. For example, you can install the web version of Spotify onto your PC instead of the desktop bridge version in the Microsoft Store or the classic program from Spotify's website. The web version is touch-friendly, arguably looks nicer, and provides a great Spotify experience. The only real drawback is the lower bitrate that the web version has.

How to install Disney Plus as a Windows 10 app

There are some excellent sites that are PWAs, including Disney Plus, Hulu, Instagram, Twitter, Google Mapps, and Spotify. As a bonus, the PWA you install on your Windows 10 on ARM device will likely get more updates than many Windows 10 apps. PWAs work across platforms, so Windows users benefit when a developer updates a PWA, even if the company's real target was another platform.

Related: Disney+ Xbox One app now available to download

Utilize UWP

Mixer

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Progressive web apps and a good web browser are great, but you can take your Windows 10 experience even further with UWP apps. These apps are built from the ground up with Windows 10 in mind. They automatically suspend when they're not in use, and will help you get better battery life on your device than older pieces of software.

There's some debate on what makes a UWP app. For the purposes of getting the best Windows 10 on ARM experience, you should look at what some people call native UWP applications. As an example, myTube is a native UWP application that's an excellent YouTube client. Apps using the desktop bridge, like Spotify, don't have all the advantages that native UWP apps do.

Simply set up a SIM

Surface Pro X Sim Card

Source: Dan Thorp-Lancaster/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Dan Thorp-Lancaster/Windows Central)

One of the best things about Windows 10 on ARM devices is that they're Always Connected PCs. You can connect your PC to the web through a cellular connection. Windows 10 handles this well, and you can seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and cellular connections. It's a great way to get work done on the road without having to use public Wi-Fi. You can also stay connected in places like a nice park or anywhere that has a cellular signal but no Wi-Fi.

While constant cellular connectivity is an excellent feature, you might want to stick with a physical SIM card over eSIM. Our news editor Dan Thorp-Lancaster went through an eSIM hell trying to get his Surface Pro X to work with Sprint through an eSIM.

Warming up to ARM

Snapdragon 8cx chip

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Windows 10 on ARM is still a relatively new platform, but it's already better than it was at launch. The new Microsoft Edge has a version compiled for ARM and allows you to easily install PWAs. Windows 10 works well with cellular connectivity, at least once you initially set up your SIM, so Windows 10 on ARM devices can stay connected all day.

Sometimes PC tweaks and pieces of advance only make a small difference. That's not the case with the suggestions in this guide. If you stick with apps built for ARM, PWAs, and a browser compiled for ARM, you will have a noticeably better experience on your Windows 10 on ARM device. Your battery will last longer, your apps will run quicker, and your device should feel better to use.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

13 Comments
  • I've recently started using PWA's on my Surface Go and they are really great. Even though they are simply web pages they give the device a more app friendly feel and run well.
  • I agree, they run extremely well.
  • I agree and many aren't even simple. Many Web Apps are powerful these days. Most of the apps I need are Web Apps. Combined with Your Phone it's a powerful combination. I prefer Outlook over the Gmail website and use the Spotify Desktop App too.
  • Question 1: Are you still in the return period?
  • I've been using the PWA version for Microsoft Teams and I have full functionality without the emulation penalty. (as well as the PWA versions for Facebook and Twitter) Also, installing the Kindle Cloud Reader as a PWA gives me offline reading is actually a better experience then the old x86 or UWP version. My Pro X has been the perfect device for what I do both professionally and personally.
  • They don't work, or even install from what i can tell.
  • They won't work: I asked Affinity the day the Pro X was announced.
    Too bad, it's the only reason preventing me to purchase this great tablet ;)
  • Twitter has a Windows 10 App that's based on the PWA. Should offer a better experiance.
  • I'm using Surface Pro X at the moment, and starting using PWA. I think it's great. there are some problems here and there, but mostly good experience. looking forward to the development of WoA in the future. SPX will by my main computer for several years in the future.
  • It'd be nice if Chredge supported Chromecast the way chrome does. As in, YouTube Music app having the cast button. . .
  • As you can see, to get the full advantage of it - 1. Put it back in the box. 2. Return it to the store. 3. Get a device with an Intel CPU if you need Windows or an ARM CPU if you need iOS or Android.
  • To get full advantage of your life, take a look at whether trolling makes you a better person?
  • Great article. Spotify is a poor example of a PWA. It's heavily cut down from the Desktop App. WhatsApp is a much better example. They're identical.