The latest generation of 8th gen Kaby Lake Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are just getting settled into the consumer market but as always, development marches on. Less than a month ago we uncovered the inclusion of Intel’s Whiskey Lake Platform in the Chromium Repository. Today it appears that Chrome OS is aiming even higher with the addition of an unreleased, 9th gen chip from Intel.
Somewhere in the mix, Intel’s long-delayed Cannon Lake was being used as the foundation for some upcoming Chrome devices. For reasons that are still unclear, the Kaby Lake successor has failed to hit the market and the fine folks over at the Chromium project look to have washed their hands of Cannon Lake which is probably a wise decision based on rumors that Intel themselves may have abandoned it to focus on future chipsets.
Then there’s Whiskey Lake which should bring support for Gigabit wifi and let’s not forget that Intel’s Ice Lake processors, slated for a 2020 release, has already turned up in the Chromium repository. As Kyle Bradshaw (@SkylledDev) points out, Ice Lake could be the next big processor evolution for Chrome OS as code for Cannon Lake is steadily being removed from the repositories. He even theorizes that Google’s Pixel Slate was once intended to be a Cannon Lake-powered device. I have reason to believe the same but we’ll cover that in another article.
With all of these new and unreleased chipsets being added to the Chromium repository, it’s crazy to think there would be a need (or room) for another series of processors.
Yet, here we are.
Barely two weeks old, baseboard ‘Hatch’ has been added to the repository as the unibuild device for Chromebooks powered by Intel’s 9th gen, yet-to-be-official, Comet Lake processors. Unibuild simply means it will be the base or parent of devices using this family of processors. For example, the 8th gen Kaby Lake Chromebooks like the Acer Chromebook Spin 13, HP Chromebook x360 14 and Dell Inspiron Chromebook are all built on the ‘Nami’ unibuild.
If you’re like me, your asking “what the heck is Comet Lake?” Honestly, I don’t have a clear answer. Just this week, there has been a buzz around the unannounced processor family as a recent leak tells of a 14nm chip packing a whopping 10 cores. If true, this will surely be the desktop class chip in the family so I wouldn’t anticipate seeing it in a Chromebook.
Apart from that rumor, very little is known about the supposed 9th gen processors. It is presumed that they will be built on the same Skylake architecture that Intel has been milking while trying to make the 10nm process a reality. I turned up one interesting tidbit on the site WCCFTECH. They show a table of recent and upcoming chipsets from Intel and under the Comet Lake column they list “ICL-PCH.”
“ICL” stands for the Ice Lake family that will be arriving further down the road and “PCH” is Intel’s Platform Controller Hub. In short, the PCH is sort of a middleman between the processor and motherboard. It handles peripheral functions such as clocking and FDI. Ice Lakes PCH and what it supports is still a secret but there is a rumor that it will include integrated Thunderbolt support. The current PCH on the upcoming Whiskey Lake processors is advertised as supporting Thunderbolt hardware but it is a little misleading. It actually supports adding external controllers for Thunderbolt. Extra hardware is still required and extra hardware means more money.
Integrating Thunderbolt support into the PCH itself will not only potentially reduce manufacturing cost, but it could also be the bridge to bring official support for Thunderbolt to Chrome OS. That one feature would open up a world of options for peripherals that Chromebooks can use.
We’ll be tracking ‘Hatch’ and the Comet Lake processors closely. Hopefully, Intel will release official details on the upcoming chips and we can get a closer look at what to expect from the 9th generation processors.
Source: Chromium Repository