If you haven’t already, take a look at the other three posts this week regarding the new Rockchip 3399 processor and pen input coming to Chrome OS (and it’s follow-up). They will give you some insight before reading this post.
All of those Chromium commits referenced above were centered around a testing baseboard codenamed ‘Gru’ and what looks to be a device codenamed ‘Kevin.’
Two nights ago, a very, very large number of commits about ‘Kevin’ hit our inbox. Among them were some very interesting tidbits that lead us to some conclusions we may be able to draw about this upcoming device.
In summary, we feel pretty confident that this device will feature the new Rockchip 3399 SoC, some type of removable pen input accessory (specifically referred to as a stylus), and what looks like a 360-degree hinge. Sorry tablet/detachable fans.
Lid, Power & Volume Buttons Referenced
In these commits, you can see discussion surrounding the power button and lid position. For starters, tablets don’t have lids. Clamshell devices do. Secondly, there’s really no reason to deal with the power button behavior in regard to the lid on a standard Chromebook design. But, when you have a 360-degree hinge and an exposed power button in every lid position, some UI elements and functions need to be tweaked to compensate.
This is no different than the functionality we see on the Acer R11 or the ASUS Chromebook Flip.
https://chromium-review.googlesource.com/359063 (volume keys reference)
We also see in this commit that there is discussion about mapping hardware volume keys that behave differently than the standard keyboard keys. Standard Chromebooks handle volume requests via the keyboard, but the convertibles we’ve seen thus far have additional hardware keys. Once again, what we’ve seen on the R11 and Flip seem to be showing up here, lending more credence to the 360-degree conclusions.
Finally, as we mentioned in a previous article about ‘Kevin,’ EV Testing has begun. On some level, this device is getting prepped for manufacture, so it shouldn’t be terribly long before we fill in the missing pieces. You can read about the testing and further proof of a stylus on-board right here.
For now, this is all we know about ‘Kevin,’ but it’s enough to start drawing conclusions about what type of device we’ll get. When it’s rolling out and who is manufacturing it, well, those are details we hope to see soon.
One last interesting point to draw from this upcoming device is the fact that a stylus is being included on a Rockchip-powered Chromebook. Thus far, all the Rockchip Chromebooks have been extremely affordable. Devices that have pen input of any kind, generally speaking, are not in that class. Think Galaxy Note, Microsoft Surface, Surface Book, etc. Those devices command a premium price tag and add stylus support as a premium add-on.
It appears Chromebook OEMs are continuing the trend of delivering more features for less money, and that is a very encouraging thing.
Until then, we’ll keep our eye out for more clues on ‘Kevin’ and other upcoming devices!