Chrome OS tablets have had a rocky start. While the tablet experience of Chrome OS continues to evolve and improve, the niche form-factor is still a hard sell for the average consumer and enthusiast alike. Still, there is a degree of intrigue around a device that can perform as both a productivity machine and a portable platform for media consumption and entertainment. (By entertainment, we mean PUBG mobile because that is what will sell us on Chrome tablets.)
To date, there are only five Chrome OS tablets on the market and of those five, only two are technically detachable. Acer, ASUS and CTL have their self-branded 9.7″ tabs powered by the aging OP1 RockChip RK3399 ARM SoC and they’re good enough for the EDU demographics they target. Then, you have Google and HP.
Both companies have their own, unique detachable Chromebooks and both are well-built and highly capable devices. The glaring difference between the two is without a doubt the price. True, the Pixel Slate represents the pinnacle of design and is intended to set the bar for devices that follow it. Still, the HP Chromebook X2 is nothing to scoff at and it can be had for under $500 most days at Amazon. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that the HP comes with the detachable keyboard and active stylus. These peripherals will cost you an extra $250-$300 for your Slate.
Moving on. A new Chromebook has begun development this week that could be our first look at a proper ARM-powered detachable Chromebook tablet. ‘Kodama’ was added to the Chromium repository more than a month ago but we’re just now seeing details that set it apart from other devices in the same family.
Initially based on the ‘Kukui’ development board, ‘Kodama’ will be powered by MediaTek’s octa-core MT8183 SoC. Recent changes to ‘Kodama’s’ code clearly indicate that the new devices will, in fact, be a detachable as opposed to a convertible or traditional tablet.
kodama: Support dock keyboardChromium commit
Deeper in the same commit we find a reference to the detachable form-factor inside the file labeled “
If the base status is unclear (i.e. not within expected ranges, read
the ADC value again every 500ms.)
Hoping to find a little more information on the new Chromebook tablet, I dug into the .dts files and found a reference to a specific panel identifier that appears to be a 10.1″ 1920×1200 panel that cranks out up to 450 nits of brightness depending on the model number. This would put ‘Kodama’ in a unique arena where currently, only the ASUS Flip C100 and C101 live.
This device could be very similar to products such as the ASUS Transformer series or HP Pavilion x2. While many of us may be chomping at the bit for a Snapdragon Chromebook, OEMs look to be completely content moving forward with MediaTek’s chipset which is great news for the market. Six months from now, we could be looking at an entirely new landscape for the Chrome OS tablet space and ARM power could very well lead the charge.