It feels like we’ve been talking about upcoming hardware for months at this point, and in many ways, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Part of what we do here at Chrome Unboxed is search the Chromium Repositories for signs of new devices, baseboards, and other clues that would point to new hardware coming down the line.
With that process, we sometimes uncover devices at the very inception of their existence and it makes the wait for arrival feel like a veritable eternity. This happens to be the exact case for a slew of new devices we’re expecting to see in the next few weeks and it will likely all begin at CES 2020. With that particular show being the place devices like the Samsung Chromebook Pro, ASUS Flip C434 and Flip C302 were unveiled, it is highly likely we’ll see a handful of these next-gen Chrome OS devices in Vegas in less than a month from now.
So, prior to that week, we wanted to recap all the devices we’re planning on seeing in the early parts of 2020. This won’t be an exhaustive list of every device possible because we don’t have that list. Just like with the ‘Nami’ devices from 2019 (HP x360, Lenovo Yoga C630, Dell Inspiron, etc.), there are likely quite a few we don’t even know about at this point. What we do know, however, are all the baseboards at the root of these new devices and what is going to be possible from them. So let’s take a look.
The big development board we’ve been tracking with the most devices attached to it is ‘Hatch’. This board has variants from likely every manufacturer and basically every possible bell and whistle available to a Chromebook. The base ‘Hatch’ board has support for NVMe storage, RGB/IR ambient color/light sensors for adaptive display, stylus, backlit keyboards, WIFI 6, Bluetooth 5, integrated LTE, Thunderbolt 3, Hi-Res displays, Intel Comet Lake processors, and fingerprint scanners. Phew! I’m dizzy from reading that list back!
Without doubt, these devices will be powerhouse, flagship Chromebooks. Right now, there are somewhere between 10-15 variants we know of, but that list will grow over the course of the next 6-9 months. Just like the ‘Nami’ based devices before it, ‘Hatch’ Chromebooks will appear throughout the year and all get themselves settled in to duke it out in the holiday shopping season of 2020. We fully expect to see a few of these at CES 2020, so make sure you are following along when we head out to Vegas the first week of January.
This baseboard is a decidedly different part of the ecosystem, but no less important in my eyes. The ‘Kukui’ baseboard is one that is built on the new MediaTek 8183 SoC, so it will serve a very different purpose. Being an ARM chip, the Chromebooks based on this board will be thinner, lighter, and more tablet/detachable oriented than the ‘Hatch’ devices. As a matter of fact, nearly every variant we’re tracking from ‘Kukui’ is a tablet or detachable with some sort of POGO pin keyboard.
The feature set for these devices will be impressive as well, including extended battery life, Bluetooth 5, stylus support, hi-res screens, RBG/IR sensors for adaptive displays, magnetic keyboard attachments, and the best performance of any ARM chip in a Chromebook to date.
We just wrote a post or two about a Lenovo tablet being tested in public that tells us we’ll likely see at least one of these new MediaTek tablets in the coming weeks. If there’s one, there’s likely many coming. We are currently tracking at least 9 of these unique variants, but I’d put good money on the chance that many, many more variants will surface throughout the year.
We can’t talk long-in-the-tooth, upcoming Chrome OS hardware without talking about the baseboard we’ve been tracking for nearly two years at this point: ‘Cheza’. This board showed up in December of 2017 and, at the time, we thought we were in for an ARM-powered Chromebook revolution. It took nearly a year for Qualcomm to officially recognize the whole effort and their statement at the time was that we would see Snapdragon 845 Chromebooks in the second half of 2019.
Well, as many of you are noticing, the second half of 2019 is nearly wrapped up and we haven’t seen anything indicating Qualcomm’s official entrance into the Chromebook ecosystem. We’ve not heard anything about a delay and we’ve heard nothing about the project moving forward. Work continues on ‘Cheza’ in the repositories and a few boards have spun off of it in the form of ‘Trogdor’ and ‘Bubs’, but details are pretty sparse.
I still think we could see the first of these devices in the first couple months of 2020, but I’m beginning to wonder if there are some fundamental issues with Snapdragon and Chrome OS. While I still hold to the idea that we need Qualcomm’s silicon in Chromebooks, I’m just not sure it is going to happen in a timely manner. If they end up waiting 6 more months, the Snapdragon 845 feels like a very odd choice in a new device as the 865 will be in multiple phones on the market by then.
Still, I hold out hope that the Snapdragon onslaught could still happen. I hope that Qualcomm’s speedy ARM chips could bring improvements to form factors in the Chrome OS ecosystem across the board and give users Chrome OS devices that can handle demanding Android apps with ease. But, for now, those are all just hopes. I wish we had more firm evidence that everything was progressing, but we don’t.
Even if we remove the Qualcomm devices from the mix, our slate of upcoming Chromebooks, tablets, and detachables is extremely exciting. We expect everything from large 4K laptops to small tablets and everything between. And we expect to begin seeing it all arrive in the next few weeks. 2019 belonged to ‘Nami’ devices, for sure, and I think 2020 will belong to ‘Hatch’ and ‘Kukui’ just the same. We’re right on the edge of what feels like the next wave of Chromebooks, so be sure and subscribe to the email list, YouTube channel, and all our social media (down in the footer) so you don’t miss a bit of it!