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Valve’s Steam Deck may fall behind the competition if Windows on Arm really does revitalize PC gaming

Windows on Arm, the new frontier?
Last Updated on June 10, 2024
Valve's Steam Deck may fall behind the competition if Windows on Arm really does revitalize PC gaming
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The recent Microsoft Build conference offered some intriguing hints about the potential of Windows on Arm for PC gaming, particularly for laptops and handheld devices such as Windows-based alternatives to the Steam Deck. While Microsoft and Qualcomm haven’t explicitly addressed this yet, both companies seem to be laying the groundwork. Let’s take a look at some of the hints that have been dropped as of late and what this could mean for gamers going forward, to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Microsoft and Arm-based laptops

Qualcomm previously suggested most Windows games would run just fine on Snapdragon X Elite laptops. Microsoft supported this by showcasing games running on the platform, with titles like Borderlands 3 demonstrating a 60% performance boost thanks to Microsoft’s Auto Super Resolution tech, a technology similar to Nvidia’s DLSS, that leverages the NPU for enhanced visuals.

Adding to this, Microsoft unveiled a website listing compatible games for Arm-based Windows laptops. Over 1400 games have been tested, with over 700 confirmed to run smoothly at 1080p and 60fps. This is promising for emulated games on portable laptops, meaning coming back to your old favorites is a real possibility. Overcoming some minor compatibility issues, a shift to Windows on Arm could significantly improve PC gaming on laptops. On the flipside, Steam Deck running on Linux may not see the same kind of support – though the operating system does have a history with Arm.

Freeing up space

Many gamers struggle to optimize their laptops for peak performance, with background processes impacting gameplay. At Build, Steven Bathiche from Microsoft showcased over 40 AI models running concurrently on a Snapdragon X Elite laptop without using the GPU. This included tasks like image generation and background effects, while a new AI feature cataloged everything.

Remarkably, the system maintained minimal CPU and GPU usage. Even without widespread Windows on Arm adoption, the rise of Copilot Plus PCs with powerful NPUs suggests a future where background tasks are handled by the NPU, freeing up CPU and GPU resources for gaming — an enticing prospect for avid gamers.

Next-gen chips and Steam Deck rumors

The conversation extends to handheld gaming PCs. Popular devices like the Steam Deck rely on AMD’s Ryzen APUs, often sacrificing battery life as a result. While the Snapdragon X Elite might not be the perfect solution yet, leaks suggest a next-generation Qualcomm chip arriving in mid-2025.

Additionally, information that’s going around about Nvidia entering the AI PC market, potentially launching Arm PC chips in 2025. With these rumors and leaks converging, 2025 could be a turning point for new chips powering these devices. Will it be the year of Arm PC chips? We’ll have to wait and see, especially if Windows-based devices based on Arm start to outclass the Steam Deck on its Linux-based SteamOS.

Tom is a tech writer with a detailed view on ensuring the best buying advice, most useful information, and latest news makes its way into PC Guide's articles.

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