Categories: ChromebooksNews

4K Chromebooks Are Coming

Yeah, you read that right. We have some interesting stuff happening in the world of Chromebooks right now, and this development is right at the top of the heap.

In the event that we have some readers who haven’t really cared enough about marketing speak to figure out what 4K is, let’s cover that very quickly. 4K (or UHD – Ultra High Definition) is simply marketing language for a display with a pixel layout of 3840×2160.

For reference, FHD screens (Full High Definition or 1080p) have a resolution of 1920×1080. We also have HD and QHD. HD being 720p (or 1280×720) and QHD (Quad HD) coming in at 2560×1440.

If you are relatively quick at math, you are seeing a theme here. QHD packs in twice the pixels both vertically and horizontally when compared with HD. In the same way, 4K does this with 1080p, FHD screens. For every 4K display you see, you are looking at the equivalent resolution of 4 1080p screens. Two on top, two on bottom. Many times, all these pixels are packed into a screen with the same physical size of a 1080p screen, so pixel density becomes insanely high. Below there is a great visual reference.

Now About Those Chromebooks

Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get to this commit. The issue being solved here has to do with the boot logo being a bit off. As part of the fix, there is a line at the end of the comment that reads:

As an added bonus, this logo is not only much rounder but also higher resolution, making sure it will continue to look crisp and pretty on our secret upcoming 4K Chromebooks.

I have to admit, that’s a bit cheeky. It almost feels like it was put there on purpose to see if we’d find it. If that’s the case: well played.

Anyway, the idea that 4K-equipped Chromebooks are on the way is pretty exciting for a few reasons.

First, it is a continuation of a pattern that shows manufacturers are interested in bringing premium hardware to the Chrome OS ecosystem. Beneficial or not, 4K screens are clearly considered a premium feature on Windows laptops. Much like glass trackpads, backlit keys, thin form factors and QHD screens (in the Pixels, Pixelbook, and Samsung Pro/Plus), Chromebooks had to evolve a bit to start seeing these higher-end features.

4K displays are the natural progression of this trend. If the industry is pushing 4K displays as their top-tier offerings, the brightest, most color-accurate displays will end up being 4K. It is simply the nature of things. I, for one, am glad that Chromebooks will get to be in on this evolving trend.

Second, with the evolution of display scaling we reported on yesterday, Chrome OS will be well-suited to handle these higher-res displays. The more pixels you have on screen, the easier it is to scale through many display size variations. The Pixelbook, for example, has 4 workable resolutions depending on your needs. All of them look tack-sharp and are easy to move through with the CTRL+SHIFT+(+/-). Lower-res displays can’t scale through multiple resolutions with as well.

Is This Necessary?

The question that still lingers for me is the question of necessity. With the beauty, sharpness, and clarity of the existing QHD screens, what benefit comes of adding so many more pixels? If, to my naked eye, there are no visible pixels on my Pixelbook, how is a 4K display going to make this experience better?

Performance and battery life suffer with 4K displays, though. You can see this across the board on Windows laptops and it is just the nature of the beast. More pixels to push means the processor works harder and kills more battery. Sure, faster processors and bigger batteries compensate for this, but is there a good reason?

Right now, I’m having a hard time seeing it. Again, I’m excited because this is a further shift into the high-end territory, but I’m not sold on the necessity of it all. Maybe you have different thoughts? We’d love to hear it in the comments.

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Robby Payne

Tech junkie. Musician. Web Developer. Coffee Snob. Huge fan of the Google things. Founded Chrome Unboxed because so many of my passions collide in this space. I like that. I want to share that. I hope you enjoy it too.

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  • Only one company can pull off a 3840×2160 screen, resolution, and that would be HP. So HP is getting into the high end chromebook game. Let the chromebook wars begin.

    • Does HP manufacture screens? Most screen panels are manufactured in Asia - China, Taiwan and South Korea mainly. I am not sure what you are specifically referring to but as a rule components like screens are provided to laptop/tablet/device manufacturers from an existing supply chain of component manufacturers. Quite often particular panels are specified by an ODM that is part of the supply chain and that acts as an intermediary between the manufacturer and component suppliers. There are not a lot of components in this supply chain that a given manufacturer has sole access to (n.b. Apple is a rather special case). If a manufacturer's screens are a cut above that would normally be because the manufacturer sought the best that the supply chain could offer.

  • Well just got a new Pixel book but if they have a 4k model looks like one of my kids will be getting a Pixel book so I can get one of these.

  • 4k resolution is a VERY welcome feature for those of us who use to read technical PDFs on the PC. Only way to read full pages per screen, without need to keep rolling the page, which makes the reading experience much nicer and more efficient

  • Developers have been known to troll the folks who go through the commits, and "on our secret upcoming 4K Chromebooks" sure sounds like it might not be serious. I'm sure that 4K, and 8K, and 16K, and... will eventually be the norm but I'm not sure if 4K is imminent.

  • So, reading the foregoing, what this actually sounds like is that, muy pronto, the Chrome browser has to be upgraded to support 4K resolution in order to remove the apparent competitive advantage of the MSFT Edge browser on Win10, primarily for Netflix users. And so, regardless, that's positively going to happen, ASAP, as an absolute top priority business necessity. But as an indirect consequence, since the Chrome browser is the application interface for Chrome OS, this means that Chrome OS will be modified so that it will be able to take advantage of the 4K resolution capability in the upgraded Chrome browser. The result is the same. But Chrome OS will actually be the unintended benefactor of an improvement targeting Win10 users. Anyway, that's how I see it.

  • "...our secret upcoming 4K Chromebooks..."

    Looks fishy to me. And hardly believable considering the flurry of recent announcements of another generation of 1366 x 768 11.6 inchers. It seems a first step would be to standardize 1920 x 1080 first, or better yet, 1920 x 1200.

    I'm feeling those guys are trolling those who complain about 1366 x 768.

  • Now, we just need full 100% inegration of the Android app support. Also, Android app developers need to come up with apps that scale their UI's right for working on laptops.

  • 4K is overkill for a Chromebook. I still have a 32 inch 720 TV that has a clear image. 1080 really was unnecessary for any TV 32 inches or smaller. And what size screen does a Chromebook have? 15 inches at most is rare, 14 inches less rare, with 11-13 probably being the majority. I have 1080 FHD on my 14 inch Acer Chromebook and that's more than good enough (brightness could be better though).

  • I'm still wanting a Chromebook detachable with a Samsung or LG OLED display. 4K isn't as important as a 3:2 panel with infinite contrast ratio and high pixel density. 540+ nit HDR support would improve outdoor use and video streaming. My eyes are thankful since I upgraded to all OLED displays (watch, phablet, laplet, TV) but I do miss ChromeOS for its advantages.

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