Earlier this week, rather discretely, Intel launched the their 7th generation Core processor Kaby Lake. Along with it came its Atom counterpart, Apollo Lake. The coverage of Intel’s announcement has been nominal at best. Undoubtedly due, in part, to the fact that this is now the second generation of processors produced in place of Intel’s fabled 10nm chip Cannonlake.
The Cannonlake processor was originally planned for release in 2015 then was quickly pushed back to late 2016 and the current Skylake released in its place. Then, in April of this year, Intel announced the release of yet another 14nm line and the delay of Cannonlake until 2017. Poor performance yields along with the complexity of the 10nm technology have been the major cause of delay for Intel. But, that has not stopped them from pushing forward with enhancements to the latest additions to the Intel family.
While the Skylake processors are just getting settled into their new homes in the Chromebook ecosystem in devices like the HP Chromebook 13 G1 and the rumored upcoming ASUS convertible, it appears that an Apollo Lake device may already be in development. In May, a mainboard code-named ‘reef’ was added to Coreboot.(Coreboot is the lightweight BIOS software that runs on many embedded chips that handle the installed OS. You can read more about it here.)
Until recently this was the only sign of ‘reef’ and Intel’s newest chipset. In the past month we have seen numerous commits containing the new Apollo Lake based board including multiple hardware tests. Touchscreen support, accelerometer as well as peripheral tests have been submitted to the chromium reviews in the past few weeks. While the device itself is still a bit of a mystery and very well may be for testing purposes only, you can be sure it will just be a matter of time before we see the first batch of Apollo Lake Chromebooks hitting the market.
You can check out some of the recent chromium commits here:
The Apollo Lake chip carries with it the same Gen9 graphics architecture at the Skylake processors. It is boasting up to 45% better GPU performance and a 30% increase in CPU performance over its Braswell predecessor. I would presume the OEMs will embrace this new lightweight processor with the increasing desire for tablets and 2-1 devices like the Acer R13 Chromebook announced earlier this week. The demand for more powerful, portable Chrome devices will continue to grow and the Apollo Lake should definitely fit the bill for manufacturers.
In addition, support for the Kaby Lake processor has also been recently added to the chromium project. This means testing can begin on new boards and devices. I would suspect that the 7th generation Core processor will be finding their way into high end Chromebooks by Q2 of 2017.
It’s certainly exciting to see all of the possibilities. We personally can’t wait to see what’s next for the world of Chrome.