We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what the Chrome OS tablet landscape will look like in the upcoming months, but our unboxing of the first current-gen tablet to actually arrive in stores gives us a bit of a look at what this new breed of Chromebook could be like to own. Small, light, fast, battery-efficient tablets with Chrome OS under the hood can serve a ton of users very well and if their pricing is led by Lenovo’s upcoming Chromebook Duet, there could be some fierce competition brewing for the later parts of 2020.
As that effort begins to fully take shape, the Chrome OS developer community isn’t sitting still. Instead, work on a newer, more powerful MediaTek-based board is in the works with the MT8192 processor. Gabriel has already written about it and the benchmarks for this chip are quite impressive. If the actual experience of using the Duet can be informed by the time I’ve spent with the Chromebook 10e (and it can as it is the same chip inside), then the bump in performance on offer from the newer MT8192 will make for some very fluid, very capable 5G-ready Chromebooks and tablets.
Along with the ability to perform standard tasks faster and connect devices via 5G networks, the upcoming MediaTek MT8192-powered Chromebooks will have another speed upgrade on their side as well: UFS storage. According to a recent commit in the Chromium Repositories, UFS storage support is being added for the MT8192 chip for use in upcoming devices.
If you’ve never heard of this storage type, that’s OK. It serves double duty as both removable and embedded storage for phones and tablets currently, so acting as either in an ARM-powered Chromebook would totally make sense. Depending on the generation, UFS storage is crazy-fast, reaching speeds of up to 23.2 GB/s at peak performance with version 3.0. While we don’t know yet which version will land in a Chromebook, you can bet that even the older versions of this storage are much faster than the eMMC we see in many Chromebooks.
We also can’t come down on whether this is internal or external storage support being referenced, either. MediaTek’s current processors are largely found in smartphones that have UFS as their internal storage type, so I’d bet this is being set up for internal storage purposes. While we do have UFS support in Chrome OS already for external drives (the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook supports this), we don’t have it in use internally up to this point.
UFS is also very power efficient alongside its crazy-fast speed, so putting this alongside a modern ARM processor will be very helpful if some of the resulting Chromebooks end up shipping with 5G. No one wants a thin, fast, light tablet that can’t quite make it through the day. UFS support will help with that quite a bit as we look forward to a more-connected Chrome OS tablet future. Now, if we can get Qualcomm to get back on board, we might have a proper competition on our hands.