Project Volterra launches today as the 'Windows Dev Kit 2023' with 32GB RAM and costs less than a Mac mini

Windows Dev Kit 2023
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Windows on ARM developer kit launches today for just $599!
  • It features a Snapdragon 8cx Gen3 and 32GB RAM on the inside.
  • It's available to order now in 8 markets and is called the "Windows Dev Kit 2023."

Microsoft's first Windows on ARM mini-PC developer kit is now available to order. Dubbed the "Windows Dev Kit 2023" and previously known as Project Volterra, the device features a small compact form factor with Snapdragon's latest 8cx Gen3 SoC, paired with 32GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage, all for the low price of $599.

That price undercuts the retail Mac mini, which can be found direct from Apple with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD storage for $699. This comparison is notable as both PCs are similar in size and are both based on the ARM architecture. Unfortunately, Microsoft is only marketing its mini PC as a developer kit. 

The Windows Dev Kit 2023 was unveiled earlier this year at Build 2022, and was announced alongside a renewed commitment to Windows on ARM as a whole, with the entire developer toolchain being released for ARM, including Visual Studio 2022 17.4 and .NET 7

Microsoft's focus on Windows on ARM has never been stronger. Just this month, Microsoft merged the ARM-based Surface Pro X with the Surface Pro 9 under one umbrella product, with the ARM version being exclusively available with 5G and features Microsoft's custom SQ3 processor.

The Windows Dev Kit 2023 is equipped with a handful of ports, including two USB-C and three USB-A ports for all kinds of external peripherals. It can output to up to two 4K monitors at 60Hz, and thanks to the ARM SoC, is energy efficient enough that the device is set to go into connected standby when idle instead of hibernating by default.

On the inside, the Windows Dev Kit 2023 also features a neural processing unit (NPU) which allows apps to offload AI camera and microphone effects to a dedicated processor, which Microsoft says is 80-90 times faster than if an app was to render those same effects directly on the CPU.

Over the last 12 months, we've seen more and more of Microsoft's own first-party apps get updated with support for Windows on ARM, and we're slowly starting to see third-party developers such as Spotify and Adobe do the same. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Zoom, Office, OneDrive, and many benchmarking solutions including PassMark and 3dmark are now ARM native. 

Windows Dev Kit 2023 SoC

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Although the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is advertised as a developer kit for devs, it may also serve well as an all-purpose mini desktop PC for the home office. It can be ordered directly from the Microsoft Store, and Microsoft isn't requiring you to "prove" you're a developer first before you can order one.

I was able to chat with Microsoft's CVP Windows Silicon & System Integration, Pavan Davuluri, on the origins of the Windows Dev Kit 2023:

"Its premise and purpose was to really be able to build a device so the developers who were building apps on Windows could build efficiently and professionally more easily on ARM, for ARM," Davuluri opens with. "This project started within the company with a bunch of developer folks at Microsoft wanting a device they could use to go build apps and infrastructure and frameworks on ARM, and so that's kind of the genesis of how this project really got birthed ... we realized that this is as much value to the broader ecosystem as it is for us within the company and that really is what took it from an internal effort to us trying to make it a motion for the Windows community."

Regarding why the company decided to ship as a developer kit and not as a general-purpose mini-PC for end-users, Davuluri said: "That's a conversation or set of discussions we had internally, and I think the primary reason was for us to make sure we have focus. The purpose of the devkit really is to make sure that when we think about the devkit, it is bigger than just the device.

... it's a matter of putting the device, the entire developer platform and ecosystem, together, and then making sure we're working through that lifecycle with customers, with partners, with developers to get results for Windows, with apps and experiences and compatibility, and capabilities for the future, and so what we wanted to do with Windows Dev Kit 2023 was make sure we could energize that entire lifecycle which wasn't really just about shipping a device to get something out there."

Microsoft tells Windows Central that the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is exclusive to Windows 11, with no official support for running other operating systems such as Linux or even Windows 10 on ARM. The product is designed for developers looking to optimize their apps for ARM on top of Windows 11. 

Windows Dev Kit 2023 is available to order today in 8 markets, those being the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, China, Canada, and Australia. 

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Windows Dev Kit 2023
Row 0 - Cell 0 Row 0 - Cell 1
OSWindows 11
ProcessorSnapdragon 8cx Gen3
RAM32GB LPDDR4x
GraphicsQualcomm Adreno 8cx Gen3
Storage512GB NVMe
Ports2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 3x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
Row 7 - Cell 0 Mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet
WirelessWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
SecuritysTPM
Dimensions196mm x 152mm x 27.6mm
Weight960g
ColorMatte Black
AvailabilityOctober 24
Price$599
Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.