For the average consumer, the current selection of Intel Core-powered Chromebooks offers more than enough computing power to handle anything they may toss at them. On the flip side, the addition of Linux apps has led developers to focus on adding GPU access to Crostini and even working on the addition of more powerful dGPUs for future devices. While these features will likely be enough to make a Chromebook a viable video editing station, developer device or gaming rig, a recent discovery in the Chromium repository points at the possibility of desktop-class processors coming to Chrome OS.
A little background here. Flagship Chromebooks are currently equipped with either Core M or Core I processors. Some have fans and some do not but the max TDP (Thermal Design Power) you’ll find in a Chromebook is only 15W because even the more powerful U-series chips are still considered “mobile” chipsets designed for lower-powered laptops. At most, they are equipped with 4 cores capable of running 8 threads when applicable. Again, this is more than enough power for anything Chrome OS needs.
That may change in the near future as developers have now added support for 8-Core Intel processors. The commit, added just yesterday, was tested with a 9th Gen Intel Cannon Lake i7-9700E processor that is labeled as an “embedded” processor but it still falls under the 65W TDP desktop-class of CPUs.
UPSTREAM: soc/intel/cfl/vr_config: Add 8-core desktop CPU support
Add 8-core desktop CPU support by adding the corresponding PCI IDs. Tested using “Intel Core(TM) i7-9700E”.Chromium Commit
This processor boasts 8 Cores, 12MB cache and a substantially faster base clock speed than the 10th Gen Comet Lake processor that will be found in a number of upcoming devices that will hit the market this year. Now, the processor is somewhat irrelevant as it was simply the test device for this commit but adding support for octa-core chips means more video memory, higher single and multi-core benchmarks and possibly even the ability to upgrade your processor. (That’s simply a possibility. I’m not saying that’s going to actually happen and based on the nature of Chrome OS, I wouldn’t hold my breath.)
The big takeaway here is that someone somewhere sees the potential for more powerful Chrome devices. Whether it’s going to be aimed at enterprises, developers or creators, it’s a big step forward for the platform as a whole and I could definitely see Chrome OS becoming the Linux device for the masses if and when external GPUs and desktop-class CPUs are available. We’ll keep an eye on this as it develops but I wouldn’t expect to see an 8-core Chromebook on the shelves anytime soon. Still, it’s exciting.