Native Chrome arrives fashionably late to the Windows on ARM party
If a new browser arrives on an OS nobody cares about, did it arrive at all?
It was a while coming, but Google has finally made a Windows on ARM-native version of Chrome.
The update appeared as a Canary release, which could be unstable and full of bugs, but its arrival is a welcome development for Windows on ARM users waiting for positive news about the operating system.
There are browsers available natively for Windows on ARM, including Firefox and Microsoft Edge. However, others like the near-ubiquitous Chrome have required the use of Intel emulation, thus rendering many performance and power efficiency benefits of running on an ARM-based architecture useless.
Versions of Google's browsers have long been available for Apple Silicon Macs, and Microsoft's ARM-native Edge is based on Chromium, so the reason for the lengthy wait is unclear. Also unclear is when the browser will turn up in the Chrome stable channel.
We fired up our Windows on ARM device, a Windows Dev Kit 2023, to check it out. After the usual pain that comes from not having used the machine for a while – for some reason, ours loses track of time after a few days – we headed over to the Google canary channel.
After downloading and launching the browser, we found the usual plethora of Chrome.exe processes in the Windows Task Manager showing as Arm64 rather than x86 or x64.
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We'd be hard-pressed to notice a huge difference in performance between the emulation and the native version of the browser during our admittedly subjective tests. The ARM-native version seemed snappier, but other issues – for example, problems rendering the browser tabs – were unchanged. However, those are likely more to do with Microsoft's video drivers than the browser itself.
Being able to skip emulation should make for better power efficiency at the very least. The less emulation going on, the happier Windows on ARM appears to be.
With a possible push due this year to get more Windows on ARM devices into the world and a performance boost expected from Qualcomm's next generation chips, a native version of Chrome will be greeted with a sigh of relief.
With Visual Studio and Office having also gone native in recent years, there is very little on our system that is still running in emulation mode. For many users – and vendors – a native version of the most popular browser in the world represents the final piece in the Windows on ARM jigsaw.
Once it hits the stable channel. ®