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Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (ARM) test: still too little software optimized for the ARM architecture


The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is equipped with a Microsoft SQ3 processor from Qualcomm. Little information is available, we just know that it is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor with 8 cores engraved in 5 nm

The Surface Pro 9’s performance index is low (54). He places it under Huawei’s Windows tablet, the MateBook E and its small Core i5-1130G7 (56), and very far behind the Intel version of the Surface Pro 9 (87).
This is due to the lack of software optimized for Windows ARM. Indeed, when there are ARM optimized versions of the software, the score improves significantly.
As an example in Geekbench 5.4, the SQ3 scores 1119 in single-core and 5707 in multi-core; an honest score, almost comparable to that of Intel’s Core i7-1255U (1145 and 6792). Still for comparison, an Apple M1 with its perfectly adapted environment obtains 1739 and 7717 respectively. A file compression in 7-Zip requires 455 s for the Intel version and 486 s for the SQ3 version.

On the other hand, software that does not have ARM-specific versions can work, but using emulation. In Photoshop, our application of a series of filters takes 138 s for the Intel version and 525 s for the ARM version; the processing time is therefore almost tripled. Cinebench R23, which is our second benchmark, does not have an ARM version — unlike GeekBench 5.4 — and the scores suffer severely: 559 / 3733 for the SQ3 processor and 1145 / 8307 for the Intel.

This comparison of software, built for Windows ARM and not, is a perfect illustration of the problems you might encounter with the Surface Pro 9 ARM. The performance of the SQ3 is decent as long as the appropriate software is used – even if it remains below that of an Apple M1, also in ARM and released more than two years ago!

Microsoft is working to reduce this problem. Thus all native Windows applications are fully compatible with Windows ARM (Calculator, Edge, Media Player, etc.), as well as certain applications present in the Microsoft Store, and of course the Office suite.
Some publishers offer software designed for Windows ARM (VLC, HandBrake, 7-Zip…), but they are far from being a panacea. For example Spotify ARM which is much more responsive than the x86 version is only available in beta thanks to a link on the editor’s forum and only the x86 version is offered by the Microsoft Store.
On the contrary, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which allows you to manage subscriptions and the installation of its software, is not compatible while Lightroom and Photoshop are announced as being optimized… So be careful if you use specific software, make sure you about its compatibility.

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