Chrome OS has definitely gone through its share of growing pains over the years. From big issues in printing to janky Android app inclusion, the developers behind Chrome OS have overcome many stumbles and issues to get the OS where it is today. That isn’t to say the experience is without its problems, however, and one of the still-glaring examples of this is the flaky Bluetooth users have to deal with on a regular basis.
Different attempts have been made over the years to fix Bluetooth on Chromebooks once and for all, but none of those fixes have brought about the solid wireless connection most users hope for in their electronic devices. From dropped connections to completely non-functioning Bluetooth in some devices, the situation simply hasn’t gotten better fast enough.
Enter Harrison Peak
What? Yeah, before coming across some commits in the repositories talking about Harrison Peak, I’d never heard of these codenames for wireless protocols, but they do exist. Names like Harrison Peak, Stone Peak, and Cyclone Peak are Intel’s internal working names for their wireless cards than end up in laptops. For Harrison Peak, we’ve left the development phases and there are actual new devices shipping with this WiFi/Bluetooth chip inside, but it now goes by its real name: Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX201.
As you can see in the product description for the AX201, Bluetooth 5.0 is on board and part of the overall package. This is something I may have seen prior to now, but I never put the pieces together. You see, we discussed WiFi 6 (via Intel’s AX201) coming to a ton of new Chromebooks in the entire ‘Hatch’ family of devices and also in the ‘Kukui’ line as well. All told, those two groups of devices make up a staggering 15-20 new devices deep in development at this point. Add to that the handful of Snapdragon 845 Chromebooks we’re still expecting to see soon and you have a TON of new Chromebooks that will have this new Harrison Peak AX201 inside with support for Bluetooth 5.0 by the beginning of 2020.
While this doesn’t really help all the Chromebooks currently out in the wild, it does give us great hope that all the work on the Newblue feature (currently still a development flag) that we’ve seen over the past 18 months is leading the team to a final fix for the Bluetooth woes Chromebook users have had to deal with. I’m hopeful that Newblue will be able to be added to devices retroactively, but the fact that they’ve been working on it for so long at this point and still have yet to bake it into the OS makes me feel like this might be destined more for Bluetooth 5.0 devices.
Either way, until these Bluetooth 5.0-enabled devices begin shipping, we won’t know what the real-world effect will be. I’m hopeful that between Newblue and Bluetooth 5.0, we might finally be getting to the point where wireless connectivity issues for Chromebooks are a thing of the past. With wireless printing being a breeze on Chromebooks these days, Android apps getting better and better desktop support, Linux apps coming into their own, and Stadia soon solving the gaming needs of users, Chromebooks are beginning to take the shape we’ve all been hoping they would. It all makes me incredibly hopeful for the next year of Chromebook releases.