Well, it seems it is officially Chromebook Silly Season. Everywhere we look, new devices are popping up, new features are being added, and the list of things we are all eagerly waiting for continues to grow.
Today brings another one of those “coming soon” tags and gives us another device to begin tracking, desiring, and getting excited about.
Today we introduce ‘Asuka’.
For now, we know a few details, but as this has transpired with other devices, there will be more as this device gets closer to launch. What we’ve pieced together thus far gives us a basic picture of the device, but not a lot of specifics.
Like the development of ‘Cave’, I’m going to quickly explain why we’ll have fewer details along the way with this device than we would, say, with ‘Kevin’.
Now, on to the commits, repository files and details we know so far.
First, we can see in this first .ebuild file that this is, in fact, a Chromebook. Not a Chromebase, Chromebox, Chromebit, or IoT (internet of things) device. As we are seeing more and more of those types of devices, getting that fact straight is pretty important.
The other thing we find in this file is reference to “amd x86.” For those unaware, there are two main types of processors and SoC’s (system on chip): x86 and ARM. We won’t go into the specifics, but ARM chips are what almost all phones and tablets use, along with a few Chromebooks. They are great at power consumption.
x86 processors are what we know mainly as Intel’s whole line of processors. Core i, Core m, Atom, etc. They are more powerful and capable, but not as good at power consumption and sometimes require fans for cooling.
As mentioned above, there are some differences in the repositories for devices using the two types of processor. ARM chips are made to be way more flexible as they are used in a wide variety of devices. Thus, they need a lot more specificity to work with monitors, speakers, keyboards, etc. As they need more of this to be addressed, those commits to the repositories are more out front and easy to see. x86 processors are more set and require less from the commit side to get up and running, thus we see way less particular commits for them. You can read more about this here.
We also found this file in use for ‘Asuka’. It contains “Skylake Chrome Reference Design board-specific configuration.” With the first reference to “x86 AMD” and this clear reference to Skylake, we can feel sure this will be a Skylake-powered device.
Next, we see a commit to the ‘Asuka’ board overlay with reference to settings on an ELAN touch panel. This shows us very simply that this will be a touch-enabled Chromebook. We have some other thoughts around this commit, but we’ll hold that back for now. Once we find some clearer data, you know we’ll share!
As a follow up to this, we can feel relatively confident that this will also be a convertible device. In this commit we read clear language about lid changes, keyboard function and inversions. Giving us a hint that we are dealing with a 360 degree device. To solidify this, we have this file in the repositories that references functions for lid angles. For standard laptops, you really don’t need to have lid angle functions. This is pretty clear that we’re dealing with a convertible here.
While it may not matter for most, we also have the kernel version this device will be using: 3.18. Most people don’t care, and it doesn’t matter that much to the end-user, but a slightly older kernel (‘Kevin’ is using 4.4, for reference) can simply mean that there’s nothing groundbreaking from a hardware standpoint here. Kernels, in general, are updated to add more hardware functionality as hardware changes. Since the hardware your Chromebook ships with is the hardware it stays with, kernels don’t change in Chromebooks once they are shipped and it really has no effect on the user.
Lastly, we have a direct reference to DVT back in early August with this commit. If you remember from an earlier article about ‘Cave’, DVT is the second stage of manufacturing, following EVT and preceeding PVT. You can read more about it here. This is not a firm window, but lets us know that this device will likely be out sometime in Q4 this year.
So far, that’s all we know about ‘Asuka’. Skylake, 360-degree convertible, kernel 3.18, and pretty far along in production testing. We’re excited to start tracking a new device and excited about what this one turns into. As always, we’ll keep digging, you keep reading, and together we’ll see what ‘Asuka’ becomes in the coming months.