If I were to list the top five requests for articles I get, this one would be in the top 5 for sure. Bluetooth has been a struggle that has plagued Chrome OS for years. Blame it on an outdated Bluetooth stack, cheap hardware, or whatever you want: using Bluetooth devices with Chromebooks has been a mess for far too long.
It would appear, however, that Google is finally introducing a fix to the myriad of issues with the wireless tech and trying it out is as easy and flipping a switch.
Current State of Bluetooth
Currently, I have a Microsoft Sculpt mouse I keep in my bag for when I’m out and about and would prefer a mouse input versus my trackpad. I don’t use it that often because, honestly, the pairing process is generally a headache and the device simply loses connection too often.
Look, I understand Bluetooth connections can fall off after lack of use for a prolonged time, but I constantly had an issue keeping this thing connected. This has been the case with every Chromebook I’ve tried it with.
Apart from the connection issues, the setup process is generally painful as well. Put the mouse in pairing mode, go to my Bluetooth settings, and wait. And wait. And wait a bit longer.
Eventually, if I get lucky, the device shows up and I can get it paired up over a few minutes of more waiting, but the whole thing feels cumbersome and tiring. Enough so that I usually just don’t bother.
The Newblue Difference
Hinted at earlier this year in the bug tracker and other commits, a new effort to fix Bluetooth looks to be underway for Chromebooks.
The name of this new effort is Newblue and can now be enabled in the Stable Channel of Chrome OS 69. Simply head to chrome://flags/#newblue, enable it, and restart. You won’t really notice anything different…until you go to pair up a Bluetooth device.
No, the interface isn’t any different, but the function is! I was able to pair up both an Apple trackpad and my often-difficult Microsoft Sculpt Mouse with ease. I simply put the devices in pairing mode, flipped on Bluetooth on my Pixelbook, and the mice were found immediately.
Once the pairing process began, it was only seconds before they were connected and, after being connected for hours of work today with breaks in between, I can confidently say this Bluetooth setup is how it always should have been. No dropped connections, no laggy pointers, no issues.
Even turning off the mouse for a few minutes and powering back didn’t cause any connection issues. I shouldn’t be so amazed by a Bluetooth fix, but I am at this point. It is unclear how close all this is to launching and replacing the existing Bluetooth stack, but my guess is we’ll see it along with all the other big changes on the way in Chrome OS 70 being prepped for release with Google’s new Chromebook hardware.
If that’s the case, we don’t have long to wait now.