One of the categories of Chromebooks we’ve been keeping a keen eye on is the handful of devices that will come equipped with MediaTek’s new Kompanio 820 SoC. Previously known as the MT8192, these devices should – in theory – give us a solid bump in peformance over the existing Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks we currently have while still maintainging all the good stuff ARM-based Chromebooks excel at – thin/light design, long battery life, and better Android app performance.
I’d imagine we’ll see a bit of an increase in the number of these devices in the next few months begin springing up. In a similar fashion, Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks were few in number until the first one arrived, and it seems like a new one gets added to the Chromium Repositories on a pretty regular basis. We’re now tracking 11 Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks currently with a new, additional one being added that we’ve yet to even report on. That takes the number of Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks up to an even dozen and I get the feeling that more are on the way. Though we only have 4 total Kompanio 820 boards at the moment, that number is sure to balloon.
‘Spherion’ is close to release
In a message that we’ve not seen in quite some time, a new commit shows a few different SKUs being added for ‘Spherion’ and interestingly adds in a bit of language that has been purposefully absent for a while: PVT. For those unaware of this language, you can read a quick refresher on Quora. The quick explanation is that in production, there are a few, different steps a piece of hardware goes through on its journey from testing to manufacturing to availability. Those are EVT (engineering validation test), DVT (design validation test) and finally PVT (production validation test).
We used to see this language constantly in the Chromium Repositories, but a few years ago they decided to stop using this so blatantly as it was tipping folks like us that a device was nearing production. I can’t find the specific commit where it was clear the developers were going to move away from EVT/DVT/PVT language, but I found a similar bit of work being done to try and keep this stuff under wraps a bit.
Anyway, back to ‘Spherion’ and that new commit that – again, a bit to my surprise – has returned to the PVT language right out there for us all to see. While the commit is simply adding a few different SKUs for this Chromebooks (touch, non-touch, keyboard backlight), the language in the commit message is what really interests me: “Add SKU ID for Spherion of PVT build.”
This tells us quite clearly that ‘Spherion’ is on the way pretty soon. Now, don’t think that this means we’ll see an announcement next week, but I’d wager we’ll know something about this device in the very near future. At PVT, this device is being readied for full-scale production, so they won’t need to wait until it hits shelves to actually announce it. Instead, a press release can go out with a general availability date once they are certain the manufacturing is scheduled and ready to begin.
Who’s making ‘Spherion’
In digging around a bit more for ‘Spherion’, I did manage to find a few more interesting tidbits of note. Namely, the manufacturer of the device and the fact that it looks to be a basic clamshell Chromebook without any detaching or converting tricks up its sleeve. Let’s start with the manufacturer. It looks like Acer will be behind ‘Spherion’ and, honestly, that is fitting. Acer and MediaTek go way back, so I’m not surprised at all by this. We discerned this info from looking at the battery info for ‘Spherion’ and by the emails attached to the ongoing development of this device. One email in particular – Ben Chen – is all over Acer devices new and old.
You can see his email on both of these commits (and there are tons more), but that isn’t what is important, here. In the first commit, you have the battery model being used for ‘Spherion’ – the Panasonic AP1505L. A quick Google search of this model makes it quite clear that this battery is a pretty standard issue component for Acer laptops. Between the emails and this battery, there’s little doubt Acer is behind ‘Spherion’ at this point.
The second commit up there also gives us a clue that this Chromebook won’t be enabling tablet mode for either detaching or converting. ‘Spherion’ will be a clean-cut clamshell Chromebook. We have found references to a touchscreen and backlit keyboard, so those options will definitely be in play for the first Kompanio 820 Chromebook, but don’t expect tablet mode to be in play on this one.
For now, that’s about all we know. ‘Spherion’ should arrive relatively soon, will be a clamshell with an optional touchscreen, backlit keyboard, and will be built by Acer. For me, this device doesn’t sound particularly interesting aside from the processor inside. I’m very eager to see what – if any – real world benefits we get with this updated MediaTek chip versus the Snapdragon 7c. Benchmarks show a step up, but real world use is always the most important part of the equation. While we’re extremely excited for the Kompanio 1200 chips to start arriving, I think the 820 could be a great middle-ground processor that could bring decent performance and very low prices. Stay tuned.