Back in February, we uncovered the fact that the upcoming ‘Hatch’-based Chromebook code-named ‘Mushu’ would likely be the first Chrome OS device to ship with a dedicated GPU. From commits about extra fans on board to BOMACO (Bus Off Memory Alive Core Off) testing, it isn’t hard to piece together the fact that this Chromebook will be arriving on the scene with a discrete GPU inside.
The next questions that follow are: which GPU are we talking about and why do we need this at all? Let me tackle the second question first and say that I’m not entirely sure why we’re seeing a GPU included in a Chromebook at this point. With the upcoming high-end APUs from AMD on the way in a handful of ‘Zork’ Chromebooks and the integrated Xe graphics that will ship with the ‘Volteer’ Tiger Lake Chromebooks, I’d wager that we’ll see better graphics performance on those devices than we’ve ever had before on Chrome OS. So why would there be need for a true, discrete GPU?
I suppose a few applications would be the upcoming Windows app support via Parallels, better-integrated applications via the Linux containers, and/or a few planned Android apps that will truly leverage a powerful dGPU. Those are guesses and I’d wager the aformentioned AMD APUs and Intel Xe integrated graphics will do quite well with this stuff, so I’m still a bit quizzical on what the real use for this massive added power will be in a Chromebook. I’d assume there are other things in the works to take advantage of this that we are simply unaware of at this point, so I’m quite excited to see what those things may be.
As to the first question, I do have an answer for that one. According to this commit and the make.defaults file therein, we get a nice bit of info on the GPU being worked on in ‘Mushu’. According to the file, we’re looking at an AMD Radeon GPU based on the Vega 12 firmware. I admittedly know little about GPUs, but according to this article from last year, the Vega 12 is powerful, but not new. While we can’t know for sure that Vega 12 firmware means the Vega 12 GPU is actually going to be added to this device, something like a couple-year-old chip would make sense as the first one in a Chromebook. For what it’s worth, the linked article above also mentions the fact that the Vega 12 actually formed the basis for the much newer Vega 16 and Vega 20, so there’s a chance those GPUs end up being the one’s onboard when ‘Mushu’ actually ships.
For now, we still have more questions than answers. Who is making ‘Mushu’? Why build such a graphically powerful Chromebook? Why is this the only device we’re seeing with this sort of CPU/GPU setup? Who is this Chromebook being targeted towards? As with all upcoming Chromebooks, all we can do is keep digging for more clues before a device shows up in the market.