This post describes my experience using the Windows Dev Kit 2023 ARM Mini PC as my office computer. This is not the usage scenario intended by MS, but I wanted to see how the little ARM machine fares as an office PC before working with it on my app development.

[compatibility issues are marked red]

Microsoft Learn: A video with details and some specification info

Main specs:

Arm-native dev tools:

  • IDEs
    • VS Code (Available now)
    • Visual Studio 2022 (now in preview, will be available by end of year 2022)
  • Tools
    • WinDBG
    • Git
  • Libraries
    • VC++ Runtime Libraries (Now in preview)
    • Many OSS libraries are and will be ported to natively target Arm64
  • Runtimes & Frameworks
    • .NET 6 (Available now)
    • .NET 7 (Now in preview, will be available by end of year 2022)
    • OpenJDK Java (Available now)
    • Python, Node JS (Porting underway)
    • CLANG/LLVM, GCC (Porting underway)
  • Cloud services
    • Azure Arm VMs (Available now)
    • Stand-alone Runner Agent (Details coming late summer 2022)
    • GitHub & Azure DevOps cloud hosted CI/CD (Details to follow)

More Info:

Image source: Jeff Geerling Testing Microsoft’s Windows Dev Kit 2023

The Dev Kit PC comes with a 2 year warranty. For hardware or warranty support you can create a support request on the Support for business services hub page.

You can order a replacement for a defective device via your MS account under Devices.

My setup experience

I bought my Dev Kit PC in the German MS Store. It was delivered within two days.
When ordering, one must accept a no refund policy. I doubt this is legally binding with German online shopping consumer rights, but one should expect difficulties, when trying to return the machine.

The Dev Kit PC comes without any user manual. There is only a leaflet describing the buttons and ports – with a link for more detailed information:
Microsoft Learn: aka.ms/arm-dev-kit-tools. This is totally sufficient for me.

Windows 11 Pro and Office Apps are preinstalled.

The display on my monitor was garbled when connected via a mini DP to DP cable, but readable enough to go through the Windows configuration. I later switched to a passive mini-DP to HDMI(*) cable. Windows setup might also work with a monitor connected via USB-C, but it will take about 25s before anything is visible.

Completing the basic Windows setup was quick and easy. For my complete typical Windows setup, see My Windows 10/11 Setup.

To be able to reset the PC completely I stored a copy of the Windows serial number, see ‚System, about‘. If needed, a Windows recovery image for the Dev Kit PC can be obtained here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/surface-recovery-image. Don’t select a product. Only enter the Windows serial number.

Here my office workplace with the Dev Kit ARM Mini-PC in the back, standing upright in the back – I hope this positioning does not cause thermal problems:

My current home office setup with the Windows Dev Kit ARM Mini-PC

The incredible amount of cables I removed when switching to the Dev Kit PC unplugging my old tower PC – only connecting to it via RDP now:

Cables removed at my work desk 🙂
Dual monitor setup on MS Site
Setup from a video by Windows Central using the beautiful Huawei MateView 28″ 3:2 Monitor(*)

Compatibility

Boxcryptor(*) works fine. This is a pleasant surprise, as I consider zero-knowledge encryption of cloud data a must-have, see Thoughts and Experiments on Cloud Encryption and Datenschutz (Ende-zu-Ende Verschlüsselung, …). Boxcryptor installed and configured without any hitches. Even Windows indexing of the (decrypted) x: drive works – after setting ‚Enable Windows search‘ in Boxcryptor advanced settings and adding x: to Windows indexing. In Nov 2022 BoxCryptor was sold to Dropbox. I don’t know if and when Dropbox will offer good and safe E2EE encryption.

My Brother HL L2340DW printer(*) was detected via WiFi and works without installing any drivers – albeit printing is very slow.

The Logitech X300 wireless speaker(*) and my old Microsoft LifeCam Cinema(*), including their microphones, work fine without installing any drivers.

The external Thinkpad keyboard(*) and MS compact mouse(*) work fine. They are connected to the USB-Hub of the Samsung Monitor. I use a Thinkpad keyboard to make switching between my desktop and Thinkpad notebook easier.

The simple and cheap Inateck USB C 7-port Hub(*) works fine.

Firefox, my preferred web browser for researching stuff (see Recherchieren – Warum, Wie und Womit), works fine with the newest updates after some initial hiccups. All my FF add-ons work fine too.

Windows Sandbox works. But web browsing is barely quick enough – slower than in Sandbox on my 12J old i7 desktop PC. Developers need VMs for testing and I assume the Dev Kit PC is too slow for running developer or test VMs. One will have to stack some Dev Kit PCs, use other machines or Azure instances – which is OK for me. [After some Windows updates and letting Windows run for a couple of days to let it ’settle in‘ the Sandbox performance is OK].

Casting audio and video to my Google Home devices including my Panasonic TV works fine using the Chrome Browser.

Portfolio Performance works fine. This is a Java app!

AusweisApp2 (App to authenticate using the German identity card) works fine.

cyberjack RFID standard USB smart card reader works fine after installing its ARM drivers.

Sysinternals Suite seems to work fine. There is an ARM version! Did not try all tools.

Macrium Reflect refuses to install with an ARM CPU. As a workaround I use ‚Backup and Restore (Windows 7)‘ for image backups, which is still available in Windows 11 (under Control Panel).

My preferred VPN Private Internet Access does not support Windows on ARM. For my desktop PC this is not so important.

Could not get my ScanSnap iX500(*) Scanner to work with Windows 11 ARM. The SW does install fine, but does not recognize the scanner via USB or WiFi. Sadly it also does not work with Hamrick’s VueScan . As a workaround I configured a WiFi connection to the Scanner with an Intel machine and use it with the ScanSnap Android app on my Pixel phone of with my Intel notebook.

I assume that most utilities and drivers for Scanner and (multi-function) printers that implement configuration options and features will not work until the makers supply ARM drivers.

Problems

Printing to my Brother HL L2340DW(*) is very slow – there is a long pause before pages. On Win10 Intel it prints fast without pauses between pages. The ‚Start printing immediately‘ setting is not the problem, as I use this on all my installations. Win11 ARM currently supports this printer only via WiFi not via USB.

My Monitors do not work properly when connected via a mini DP to DP cable. The Samsung S27A850D display is garbled. The Dell U2410 frequently turns on and off. Tried with four different mini DP to DP cables. This passive mini-DP to HDMI(*) cable and this active mini DP to HDMI adapter(*) work, and can be used to keep one USB-C port free. With the cable my monitor sometimes goes black, but wakes up when mousing to it. With the active Adapter the monitor sometimes goes black which can only be fixed by rebooting the PC. Somewhere I read the Dev Kit PC mini DP is an embedded DisplayPort(eDP) to Mini DisplayPort – which might be related to the problem.

Garbled display when monitor connected via mini DP

The Dev Kit PC sporadically looses the WiFi connection to my Brother printer. Solved: This was not a connection problem. Somehow the paper size in Windows printer settings was set to letter instead of A4, even though in Windows setup I selected Germany as locale.

I did not find a good solution for scanning. Simply using MS Lens on my phone is not a good option, because I like the multi-page scanning and quality of the iX500. Currently I use the ScanSnap app on my Pixel phone.

Firefox crashes frequently. I assume this will get this fixed quickly.
Fixed with FF version 106.0.3, installed on Oct. 31.2022.

The Dev Kit PC does not charge via USB-C.

The Windows Reliability History shows several Hardware errors. The event log shows display driver resets at these time, which I experienced as Windows hiccups. Changing ports and cables did not help. Here the reliability monitor status of my current machines:

I had one File Explorer crash.

Wishes

USB-C charging, Thunderbolt 4 ports. For the reasoning behind using standard USB-C ports see Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (5G) review: An Arm tablet actually worth buying.

Status feedback via LED blinking when booting the Dev Kit PC: After pressing the power button the white LED turns on and then there is no additional feedback until the Windows Start screen shows. Especially with monitor problems one does not know what is going on.

MS should document the mini DP special cabling requirements.
They do now!

Résumé

For me personally, the Dev Kit Mini-PC currently is the perfect office desktop PC, especially from a value for money perspective. It just came at the right time, as I am currently downsizing to a more minimalistic lifestyle: smaller apartment, less and simpler hardware and less and simpler travel gear. However, I cannot generally recommend it for office use because of the questionable future of Windows on ARM (considering the developments by AMD and Intel). My past assumptions about the success of technologies were often totally wrong – even in SW development, my field of expertise. E.g. I did bet on the Windows Phone and UWP and many years ago on the BiiN fault tolerant computer, jointly developed by Intel and Siemens.

The Dev Kit Mini-PC is surprisingly small – which I really like. The performance is totally sufficient for all my office tasks. I never play games or do video editing, thus I know nothing about performance and app compatibility in these areas.

Firefox crashes disappeared with a FF update. Besides one File Explorer crash and sporadic display driver resets I did not experience any Windows or app hiccups – no stutters, no hangs and not a single blue screen yet (despite many config experiments). Inadvertently disconnecting power several times while the PC was running did not cause any problems. Only Windows Sandbox virtualization is borderline slow.

Depending on your needs, missing drivers for peripherals like printers or scanners may be a problem.

This is the quietest PC (Desktop or Notebook) I ever had. The fan usually does not run at all and when it runs, there is just a little low-frequency hum – not the high-frequency hissing noise of notebooks. I assume the fan only exists to prevent throttling. I did not experience any coil whine.

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