Microsoft demos 'Baldur's Gate 3', 'Borderlands' running at 30 FPS on the new Snapdragon X Elite Windows on Arm platform, with auto Super Resolution support in tow

 Windows new Super Resolution.
Windows new Super Resolution.

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Surface and AI event culminated with showcases for Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X Elite chipset, which is giving Apple's silicon a big run for its money.

  • Complete with NPU processing on the SoC for local AI operations, the new Copilot+ PCs boast far better battery life, cooling, and better performance than equivalent Intel-based ultrabooks of today.

  • Many apps and games have to run via emulation for Windows on Arm, but Microsoft has been demonstrating how much performance you can expect during its events this week.

  • Our own Zac Bowden recently offered some glimpses at what kind of performance you can expect for gaming on these devices.

Microsoft's new Copilot+ PC range for Windows is making waves.

Debuted this week during Build 2024, Microsoft's AI and Surface event showcased the new Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite, which grants devices like the new Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7 all-day battery life, superior performance to their Intel predecessors, and better cooling. The ultra-low energy Arm processing requires some emulation for certain apps, but the performance is so good that it has become something of a non-issue. These devices will run much cooler than previous Surface tablets and laptops without sacrificing performance. Surface has some notoriety for getting hot enough to fry eggs, particularly in warm climates. That reality is about to change.

Companies like Adobe have pledged support for the Windows on Arm initiative, with aims to bring its suite of creative tools to the platform natively. However, thousands upon thousands of classic games will have to be emulated if you fancy gaming on these devices. But how will they perform? Well now, we have some ideas.

Our favorite Windows Phone afficionado Zac Bowden is on the ground for Build 2024, and has been attending Windows on Arm sessions this morning. During the demonstration, Microsoft revealed that Baldur's Gate 3 will run at around 30 FPS unlocked on something like a Surface Pro 11, which is quite encouraging. Microsoft also showcased Borderlands running on Windows on Arm with Microsoft's new native "Auto SR" Super Resolution support.

Details on real world gaming scenarios are still trickling out of Build 2024 and other similar events, but these early glimpses certainly seem promising. I doubt we'll be seeing Cyberpunk 2077 running on Ultra on these types of devices any time soon, but the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite might be absolutely ideal for running mid-range 720p to 1080p HD games at 30 FPS. It could be especially ideal in smaller devices and handhelds, like the ASUS ROG Ally or the Steam Deck, particularly if it provides better battery life than AMD's Z1 Extreme chipset.

At the event, Microsoft also showcased the website, which is a community-led project to catalogue the games that run decently well on Windows on Arm. Microsoft says over 1,000 games should work at 1080p with 30 FPS, which is thoroughly playable in my view. They also announced that Unity 6 will have native support for game developers, with a demonstration showcasing how smooth it runs on a Surface Laptop 7. "Shockingly smooth," according to my colleague Zac Bowden, who is on the ground at the event as I slave away writing this for him at 9.30PM. Thanks Zac.

A hint for future Xbox consoles, or handhelds?

Windows gaming compatibility
Windows gaming compatibility

Microsoft's work on native Super Resolution support for Windows on Arm, coupled with efforts to court native development on the platform should bode well for future devices based on this tech. It seems at least roughly as capable as a Steam Deck in terms of output, while potentially boasting superior battery life in potentially slimmer devices.

Microsoft is known to be exploring Arm for the next Xbox, even, with Xbox president and tech lead Sarah Bond founding a team specifically dedicated to Xbox "game preservation" on future devices. To me, that sounds like emulating Xbox One and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S "ERA"-based x86 games on Arm devices.

One of the biggest downsides of the ASUS ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go, and even the Steam Deck itself, is raw battery life. If the Snapdragon X Elite or future Arm iterations can deliver better battery life while maintaining the small form factor, that's really the holy grail of portable Windows and Xbox gaming. Microsoft is widely rumored to be working on some form of Xbox-branded handheld, with prototypes hidden deep within Microsoft's labs. These glimpses of Windows on Arm gaming capabilities could be a hint at the future of Xbox too.