Talk about long in the tooth. We just did the math and it has been a nearly-unbelievable 18+ months since the first signs of Snapdragon silicon showed up in the Chromium Repositories signaling the emergence of the first Qualcomm-powered Chromebook. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day and we were all insanely excited by the prospect of seeing Chrome OS powered by a Snapdragon 845.
What has happened over the past 18 months is best categorized as a bit of malaise. In December of 2018, Qualcomm officially let the public know that we should expect affordable Snapdragon Chromebooks (plural) in the second half of 2019. At that point, we’d already been talking about ‘Cheza’ (the development board for the entire Snapdragon 845 effort) for a year, so we honestly weren’t terribly excited by this news. Fast forward to where we are now (the second half of 2019) and we still don’t have a whole lot of firm news around any imminent releases. We continue seeing work done on a daily basis for ‘Cheza’, but our sources told us early on in the Snapdragon Chromebook process that we shouldn’t expect a single Chromebook: we should expect a fleet.
Where are all the Snapdragon Chromebooks, then? Honestly, we aren’t exactly sure. It seems clear that Qualcomm is pushing for multiple Snapdragon 845 Chromebooks to be shipping by the end of the year, but we haven’t found much to corroborate that reality. We’re quietly hoping that manufacturers are being sneaky and working on multiple devices all based on ‘Cheza’ without giving too many clues away in the process, but it just isn’t clear at this point.
There is good news, though, and it comes from a great find in the Chromium Repositories by 9to5 Google. In the commit, we see the following:
Add trogdor overlay and baseboard
Initial check-in for trogdor overlay and baseboard, mostly copied from Cheza while dropping random stuff that I don’t understand or wasn’t sure we would need.
Likely still wrong in many places. Still basing off chipset-qc845 for now, will be changed later.
Yes, you are reading that right: a new Snapdragon-based device named ‘Trogdor’ is starting development based on ‘Cheza’. There’s one important factor here, however, and that is the final sentence in the commit message. “Still basing off chipset-qc845 for now, will be changed later.” That makes it quite clear that this isn’t going to be a ‘Cheza’-based device, so what is it exactly?
Right now, we don’t know. My money is on either the next-get Snapdragon 855 found in today’s flagship phones or possibly something like the Snapdragon 670 that is powering phones like the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. Either of those chips would be great for Chromebooks, but my hopes lie with the 855. While Qualcomm wants manufacturers to make the first round of Snapdragon Chromebooks affordable by using the 845 (which powers the Pixel 3 and will be at least 18 months old by the time the first 845-powered Chromebook hits shelves), I could see them wanting a top-notch Chromebook to be ready for introduction in the not-too-distant future.
While the 670 would be another solidly-performing, affordable chipset for Chromebooks, the tech enthusiast in me wants to see the 855 on a Chromebook. The Snapdragon 855 moved the needle so far forward for Qualcomm, giving their chips similar performance and speed comparative to Apple’s vaunted A12 chips. The results are impressive when we look at devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 10 and the OnePlus 7 Pro; devices so blazingly fast that I cannot wait until the fall when I can get my Pixel 4 with the same chipset.
Either way this goes, it is beyond encouraging to see some real movement forward on the Snapdragon Chromebook front. Here’s hoping we get that fleet of 845 devices we’ve been waiting for and another set of Qualcomm devices to begin tracking for what comes next.