Qualcomm says most Windows games will work on its latest Arm laptop chipset

Qualcomm says most Windows games will work on its latest Arm laptop chipset

It sought to assure game developers their titles by and large will run on Snapdragon X Elite systems with minimal issues.

Qualcomm says most Windows games will work on its latest Arm laptop chipset | DeviceDaily.com
Qualcomm

Qualcomm is said to have new Arm-based laptops of its own in the pipeline, while consumer versions of the new Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 that run on the Snapdragon X Elite chipset are believed to be on the way. While that in the past would have meant the makers of x86- and x64-based Windows software needing to port their apps, Qualcomm sought to assure game developers that their titles will run just fine out of the box on any unannounced Snapdragon X Elite systems that just happen to be coming up.

At the Game Developers Conference, Qualcomm engineer Issam Khalil told the audience that the computers will use emulation to run many x86 and x64 games at nearly full speed without the need to tweak the code or change any assets. According to The Verge, Khalil explained that games are typically bottlenecked by the graphics processing unit, and emulation doesn’t impact GPU performance. As such (save for some CPU cost when a block of code in a game runs through its emulation process for the first time), Qualcomm suggests many titles will perform just fine.

There are some caveats. Certain games simply won’t work through emulation, particularly those using kernel-level anti-cheat tech. However, Qualcomm has been testing its emulation with the top games on Steam and appears convinced that its tech should be able to handle most games.

Otherwise, Khalil told developers that they have two other options for running their games on Snapdragon-based Windows machines. They can fully port their titles to native ARM64 for optimal CPU performance and power usage. Alternatively, Qualcomm will support hybrid ARM64EC apps, in which Windows libraries and Qualcomm’s drivers run natively, but the other parts of the software are emulated. This is said to deliver “near-native” performance.

If Qualcomm can actually pull off this emulation trick as promised, it’ll be an impressive move, and it could ultimately help Arm-based Windows laptops offer a blend of strong performance and better power efficiency than x86 Intel-based machines. However, the proof is in the pudding. Qualcomm hasn’t had a terrific track record of x86/x64 emulation thus far. In fact, senior editor Devindra Hardawar criticized the Arm-based Surface Pro 9 for its poor Windows emulation.

So far, Apple has arguably been the most successful company at emulating x86 software on its Arm-based M-series chips with the help of its Rosetta 2 translation layer. One key point to bear in mind here is that Apple has total control over the entire ecosystem, as PC Gamer notes, including the hardware and operating system. As such, Apple can perhaps better optimize the emulation process than other companies that provide fewer parts of the equation, such as Qualcomm with its GPUs and CPUs.

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

(8)