By this point late in the year, I really expected there to be more 13th-gen Intel Chromebooks in the works. Last year around this time, I was tracking 13 total 12th-gen Intel-based Chromebooks in some form of development. At this point in 2022 – before this post – I only had eyes on the main development board for 13th-gen Intel Chromebooks: ‘Skolas’.
Today, we’re adding our first device to the list and I think there could be a good reason our running tally of 13th-gen Chromebooks is so short. We’ll get into that in a second, but first let’s meet our latest Chromebook in development, code name ‘Zydron’.
‘Zydron’ was only added a few weeks ago, so there’s not a ton we can tell about this particular Chromebook at the moment. The main thing to note is the fact that it is based on ‘Skolas’ and will come bearing 13th-gen Intel Raptor Lake internals. And for a couple of reasons, I think this one is being built by Acer.
First up, we have the appearance of David Wu on quite of few of these early commits. He’s been on Acer hardware of late, including the Acer Chromebook 516 GE (‘Osiris’) and the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (‘Kano’). That second inclusion is a double clue as ‘Zydron’ is developed side-by-side with ‘Kano’. We’ll get into why that is in a moment, but the fact that a new Chromebook in development is getting updates in lock-step with an existing Acer device is pretty compelling proof that Acer is behind ‘Zydron’.
Why the close relation to Alder Lake exists
So, why are we seeing so many references to both ‘Skolas’ and ‘Zydron’ right alongside existing Alder Lake Chromebooks? The answer is simple enough when you realize the small difference we’re seeing between 12th-gen Intel SoCs and these new 13th-gen ones. Raptor Lake is the final 10nm chip from Intel, so the differences between Alder Lake and Raptor Lake are pretty minimal from a development standpoint. This is made quite plane in the repositories from the beginning of Raptor Lake development.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying 12th-gen and 13th-gen Intel baseboards are copy/paste, drag-and-drop in their similarities, but it feels closer to that than we’ve seen in the past. With that in mind, it makes a bit more sense that we don’t yet have a ton of these boards in development.
This could be for a couple reasons. First, if a manufacturer is looking to make a Raptor Lake Chromebook, they can likely reference the existing devices they have with Alder Lake inside and will be able to make things work in relatively-quick succession. If the bulk of things work already, Chromebook makers can go from development to shipping a device pretty fast.
Second, if Raptor Lake isn’t a massive improvement over Alder Lake, there could be some manufacturers who skip this round of Intel chips and aim for Meteor Lake on the next go-round. We likely won’t get into any of those devices until late 2023 or early 2024, however, so this will be intersting to watch.
There are still tons of Alder Lake Chromebooks that haven’t been released, so my bet is we’ll continue seeing those devices trickle out as we see a few updates to existing Chromebooks with a simple bump in the internal hardware. We’ve had this before, watching devices get small refinements from 10th-gen Intel processors to 11th-gen, and Acer comes to mind with this immediately.
The beloved Acer Chromebook Spin 713 had a solid 10th-gen Intel version and was basically a tiny refinement for the 11th-gen version. Some of the outer pieces were improved, but largely those were the same device, iterated to make things a bit better for the newer version but not radically overhauled. I could see all the major Chromebook makers doing this with their existing Alder Lake Chromebooks over the next year.
But for now, I can’t find any other signs of life in the 13th-gen Intel Chromebook world. While I’d love to see one at CES 2023, I’m not hopeful at all that this will be the case. Instead, I’d wager we won’t start seeing Raptor Lake Chromebooks until the summer, and even then we won’t be seeing a ton of them. And when you look at performance, battery life, and general productivity with current Chromebooks, I think that is perfectly fine. Refinement is the goal at this point, and it looks like that could be on the radar for much of 2023.