Finally!! I’ve been scouring the Chromium Repositories for months at this point looking for signs of life in the tablet/detachable Chromebook space. While we have a few nice models available right now, there are some powerful new fanless ARM options out there that would make a great fit in a new breed of Chromebook tablets. I’ve talked about this before, but a tablet like the Lenovo Duet 5 with something like the MediaTek Kompanio 1200 inside would be stellar.
With these newer, more-powerful ARM chips, you still get the best of both worlds: performance with great battery life, cooling without fans, and solid ChromeOS performance with enhanced Android app support. Like we see in fantastic devices like the Acer Chromebook Spin 513, these higher-end ARM chips from MediaTek can deliver both parts of a great Chromebook experience. We praised that MediaTek Kompanio 1380-toting device for its speedy performance, thin form factor, and great battery life. And these things are precisely what ARM chips are capable of in Chromebooks when leveraged properly!
But that device – beloved as it is – still isn’t the most beneficial use of this sort of silicon. Instead, I think these faster processors from MediaTek and maybe even Qualcomm with the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 (eventually) would be best leveraged in a tablet/detachable form factor. We’ve yet to see the full potential of ChromeOS on a tablet, but that is about to change. While some devices are nice to hold, they lack the power to get real work done. And with something like the Pixel Slate, it was powerful enough, but lacked the ergonomics of a good, single-handed tablet.
Finally, some tablets that can be both
Thanks to a very lucky find in the Chromium Repositories today, I’m so happy to say that we finally have ChromeOS tablets on the horizon once again! And this time around, they’ll be powered by a processor that – on paper, at least – should provide stellar battery life and rock-solid performance, too. There’s a bit to unpack, here, so let’s start with the clear evidence that detachable Chromebooks with an unreleased MediaTek SoC are on the way.
Honestly, that’s enough to get excited for right there. For quite some time, we’ve had zero luck finding anything concrete that refers to upcoming tablets. With the progress made by the latest tablets from HP and Lenovo, however, it felt absolutely bizzaro that no one else had a tablet waiting in the wings. The Lenovo Duet 3, Duet 5, and HP x2 11 were all huge steps in the right direction, so it has felt completely out of place that no one else was ready to take another swing at making the best ChromeOS tablet out there.
With ‘Geralt’, we have the baseboard (development board) for the MT8188 (I’ll explain that in a second) and clearly, that board is one that will be capable of supporting detachable form factors. I did find a second commit that makes it clear that not all MT8188 devices will be detachable, so I don’t think we’ll see some sort of avalanche of ChromeOS tablets anytime soon. But even a few new offerings would be awesome!
‘Geralt’ and the power of the MT8188
So, if you’re still following along, we have a new-ish baseboard (we uncovered ‘Geralt’ and the MT8188 back in September of 2022) that will be the launch point for new Chromebooks with the new MT8188 SoC inside, and some of those Chromebooks will be of the tablet/detachable variety. Simple enough, right?
Now we have to explain what the MT8188 looks to be. In our previous post about ‘Geralt’, I laid this out, but I also assumed this SoC would be a mid-ranger since – based on the model number – it looked to fit in the existing MediaTek Kompanio 800 mid-range group. After all, the Kompanio 828 we’ve covered in a few Chromebooks is internally the MT8192 with the top-end Kompanio 1380/1200 being the MT8195. MT8188 looks closer to the recently-announced MT8186, a.k.a. the Kompanio 520/528. You can forgive the confusion.
However, when we dig in and look at the core layout, it becomes clear that this is a much more powerful SoC than the existing Kompanio 820/828. Mainly, that is due to the larger cores getting an upgrade to the same Cortex-A78 cores as we see in the Kompanio 1200/1380. Granted, there are only two of them versus the 4 in those other higher-end SoCs, but along with the 6 Cortex-A55 cores on board, this chip should be capable of some impressive performance and incredibly solid battery life.
So, put that together with a detachable form factor and you have the recipe for what I feel like could be the first lineup of ChromeOS tablets that can do all things well. Having enough performance to dock your tablet and get to work or detach and play games or consume content without much friction sounds like the sweet spot for a reasonably-priced Chromebook tablet. With the Kompanio 1200 having the ability to output up to two 4K displays or 3 total displays (one 4K and two addtional FHD), I’d imagine this new MT8188 will at least be able to pull off a single 4K extended screen.
And if performance is solid, battery life is long, and we get tablets similar to the Duet 5 or Duet 3 in their design and build quality, I can’t imagine a scenario where these devices don’t quickly become best sellers overnight. ChromeOS is so versatile these days that a similarly-versatile hardware solution just makes sense. I love a great clamshell Chromebook just like the next ChromeOS user, but I see the wild potential in a high-performance tablet as well. ‘Geralt’ looks to be on the cusp of delivering just that to us, and you can bet I’ll be keeping a very close eye on this one as development continues. Stay tuned.