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Surprise! Google Chrome goes native for Windows on Arm

Surprise! Google Chrome goes native for Windows on Arm


Google has started testing an ARM64 version of Chrome that will dramatically improve performance on Arm-based Windows devices.

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The Google Chrome logo surrounded by blue rings
Illustration: The Verge

Google appears to be readying a version of its popular Chrome browser for Windows on Arm. X (formerly Twitter) user Pedro Justo spotted a native version of the browser for Windows 11 Arm-powered devices in the latest nightly builds of Chrome in the Canary channel.

Google’s release of a Chrome Canary version for Windows on Arm is a surprise, and we’ve reached out to the company to clarify when it plans to bring this to the stable channel. I have installed and tested the Canary version to verify it’s an ARM64 version.

An ARM64 native version of Chrome on Windows 11.
An ARM64 native version of Chrome on Windows 11.
Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge

While Microsoft has long supported an Arm version of its Edge browser, also based on Chromium, Google has showed no sign of supporting Windows on Arm until this week. That’s left Windows devices running on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chips having to run Chrome in an emulated state, with slow performance.

The difference between the Edge ARM64 version and the regular x86 version of Chrome running on a Windows on Arm device is significant. Native versions of Edge on Arm devices feel just like any other Intel machine, but the slowdowns and performance issues in Chrome on Windows on Arm are noticeable.

Google has long supported Arm processors with its Chromebooks, offering a version of ChromeOS that’s optimized for Qualcomm’s chips. Microsoft was able to ship its own ARM64 version of Edge as the software maker used the basics of Chromium to build a new browser without Google’s Widevine digital rights management (DRM) system. Other browser vendors, that also use Chromium, have stuck with Google’s DRM so the choice of a native Arm browser on Windows is effectively just Edge.

As I wrote last year, 2024 is shaping up to be a big year for Windows and laptops. Microsoft and Qualcomm are both preparing for the next major push of Windows on Arm, thanks to Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite processors. Qualcomm claims its latest chips will beat Apple, Intel, and AMD, all while recent reports suggest both Nvidia and AMD plan to launch Arm PC chips as soon as 2025. Having Google join that effort could be significant for the future of Windows on Arm.