We’ve known for months at this point that Chromebooks were coming with 5G built in. With new silicon from Qualcomm and MediaTek on the way, it felt like a foregone conclusion that we’d eventually see this connectivity option in ARM-based Chromebooks. With ARM-based silicon in every single phone out on the market, it should come as no surprise that the same chip makers that power all those smartphones would be working to include similar network connection capabilities in Chromebooks. But what about good ol’ Intel?
Intel isn’t really a player in the mobile phone space, so their links to network-connected devices is a bit different than what we see from Qualcomm or MediaTek. Because of this, I tend to think of Intel and things like LTE or 5G well after I’ve considered them in ARM-powered devices. But Intel has had quite a few laptops and tablets with always-connected LTE and 5G capabilities over the past few years, so the fact that I tend to forget about them is really more on me.
To be fair, the availability of LTE-enabled Chromebooks hasn’t been great, and even doing a quick search to find a few to recommend for a family member recently left me pretty high and dry. There are a few here and there, but they are all generally aimed at enterprise and as far as consumers go, they are just tough to get your hands on. But that may be set to change in 2022.
5G Chromebook possibilities
With Qualcomm and MediaTek clearly ready to deliver 5G to Chromebooks in 2022, it only makes sense for Intel to do the same, right? While I’d assume 5G is on the way just on a logical basis alone, I’ve uncovered a few commits that show 5G is on the way from Chromebooks with 12th-gen Intel Alder Lake processors inside. Here’s one example:
You can clearly see references to ‘Brya’ (the baseboard for all 12th-gen Intel Chromebooks) and some changes being made to get 5G enabled and ready. There are other commits like this as well, but the point is pretty clear: Alder Lake will bring the emergence of 5G connected Chromebooks from Intel to the market in 2022.
With Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Intel now all on the 5G train, does that mean we’ll finally start seeing more availability of these devices on store shelves? Only time will tell on that front, but I sure hope so. I know not everyone wants a Chromebook with LTE or 5G connectivity, but for many users out there, the ability to get connected, up and running as soon as the lid opens on your device would be a game-changer. Here’s hoping that we at least see a handful of consumer models in the coming year with 5G ready to go.