Since we’ve been tracking the new generation of MediaTek-powered Chrome OS devices, we’ve known some would end up as tablets and/or detachables. Of the five (yes, 5) MediaTek 8183 devices we’re tracking, we’re quite sure one is a detachable and another is a tablet. We’ve talked about ‘Kodama’ already and the clear references to its detachable status, but we’ve never honed in on any of the others from a form factor perspective.
I came across a commit last night, however, that shows the new unibuild baseboard for all these MediaTek devices – ‘Kukui’ – is being tested with a display that makes me very excited and, at the same time, I found clear language pointing to the fact that ‘Kukui’ is definitely a tablet.
First, lets get the tablet portion out of the way. With detachable Chromebooks being a category we only expect to grow by year’s end with the inbound Qualcomm devices slated by year’s end, it is easy to freely assume anything that may be a tablet will by extension be a detachable. That isn’t always the case, though, and some devices are meant to be tablets first and foremost, similar to the Acer Chromebook Tab 10. It looks like ‘Kukui’ is one of those devices as is made clear in this commit:
tablet_mode: Fix tablet mode for tablet devices
Tablet devices would normally only define CONFIG_TABLET_MODE_SWITCH, and not CONFIG_TABLET_MODE, and define a tablet_get_mode function which always returns 1.
TEST=Boot kukui, onscreen keyboard works
Keep in mind ‘Kukui’ wasn’t always the torch-bearer for these MediaTek Chromebooks; that title used to belong to ‘Flapjack’. We’re not sure what shifted (some think ‘Flapjack’ was bound to be a Google-made set of tablets before Google quit tablets), but there is clear reference in the repositories showing ‘Kukui’ being added as a unibuild and the original ‘Kukui’ device being added to that board family. It’s all a tad confusing, but you just need to know that in this circumstance, ‘Kukui’ is the name of the unibuild baseboard but also a device as well.
Now, on to the good stuff. The commit I spotted last night shows ‘Kukui’ getting support for this display panel: P097PFZ. A quick search for that model number brings up the exact same panel used for the Acer Chomebook Tab 10. As a matter of fact, the link I just put in that last sentence is a link to a replacement for the Acer’s screen, so this isn’t just a similar screen: it is the exact same screen.
If you’ve ever used the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, you’ll quickly note that the nearly 400 nit, IPS, 9.7-inch, 4:3, 2048×1536 panel is one of the device’s major highlights. That tablet only had a couple faults in my eyes, one being poor performance and the other being a strange button layout that made cases open in a very awkward way. Apart from those two issues, I really enjoy the Acer Chromebook Tab 10. Sure it is plastic, but that makes it light and easy to hold and the overall feel is very iPad-like, so that is definitely a win.
With ‘Kukui’, however, we’re hopeful performance won’t be much of an issue. The MediaTek 8183 isn’t in a ton of current devices, but we’re expecting massive performance improvements over the Rockchip RK3399 in the current Acer tablet. You can ask Gabriel and Joe, I’ve repeatedly said that if Acer would just update the processor in the Chromebook Tab 10, I’d buy it up in a heartbeat. A quality, fast, light, 9.7-inch tablet is probably the last hope in redeeming Chrome OS tablets for me. I know many users like the Pixel Slate, but I’ve talked about it before and I’ll say it again; that device is too large to be a good tablet.
With ‘Kukui’s form factor, a faster processor, a great screen, and wireless charging, I’ve really become much more excited about this upcoming tablet. As always, we’ll keep digging until we see ‘Kukui’ revealed to the public.