There's been a lot of talk recently about the next version of Windows running on ARM processors at only 1GHz. Many people have been skeptical, few more so than myself. Rather than be a naysayer however I decided I'd find out if Windows really could run on processors with this little grunt so Microsoft kindly sent me Acer's new W500 tablet PC.
Windows running at 1GHz is very important for a whole range of reasons. Firstly and most importantly all its competitors can already do this. It also helps keep the cost of devices down and means they can run smaller and with much greater battery life than existing x86 architecture chips such as the Intel Atom.
The processor in the W500 is an AMD C-50, a dual core chip that I genuinely expected to have Windows 7 dragging its heels behind the competition. Imagine my surprise then when the lowly AMD chip not only matched a 1.66GHz Intel Atom for performance, but actually outshone it.
In the image above we have the Windows Experience Index scores for two Windows 7 tablets, the top one running an Intel Atom dual-core processor running at 1.66GHz, and the bottom score running the AMD C-50 chip running at just 1GHz.
Now the WEI score for a PC isn't the most scientific measure of actual performance, however the scores here were borne out in general usage with the two tablets when I used them side by side.
The W500 was every bit as quick as the tablet with the Intel chip and even felt more responsive in some tasks. This is because the original Atom is now a few years old and since it was released, processor manufacturers have been working hard to make their chips more power and performance efficient.
This bodes very well for the next version of Windows, and for Windows users. We can be certain that the next Windows will be a bit leaner than Windows 7, and thus should run even more smoothly than I've experienced here. The biggest hurdle people will face moving to Windows on ARM though is that none of their existing software will work. A whole new 'app store' will need to be built from scratch to support it and for many people, for whom their existing software works perfectly well, that's just too much to ask.
This tablet though proves that moving to a 1GHz low power chip doesn't necessarily mean having to sacrifice all those apps. The C-50 is still based on Intel's original x86 architecture and will run all existing Windows software. While you can expect certain applications such as HD Video, 3D games and anything processor-intensive to be logically out, it will be perfectly good for anything else.
It's been an interesting learning curve working with Windows 7 on a processor running at just 1GHz (the same speed as the chip inside most modern smartphones) but now that I've seen it for myself it's impossible to deny. Windows at 1GHz isn't something we will have to wait another year for, we can have it now.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.