Of all the Chromebooks in development right now (and there are many), few captivate my attention quite like the one codenamed ‘Kohaku’. As Gabriel made a solid case back in April that ‘Kohaku’ looks to be the sequel to Samsung’s Chromebook Pro that debuted over 2 years ago. That assumption was based mainly on emails attached to this particular variant in the ‘Hatch’ family of upcoming, flagship-level Chromebooks, but today we have some pretty solid proof that ‘Kohaku’ will definitely be Samsung’s next flagship Chromebook.
[Quick disclaimer: the image above is the 2019 Samsung Notebook 9, not the Chromebook Pro V2]
More Samsung Email Addresses
Let’s begin with more of what we’ve already seen at this point: email addresses. It isn’t always the case, but we’ve had much success in predicting the manufacturer on Samsung and ASUS Chromebooks based completely on email addresses. As a matter of fact, Gabriel’s earlier conclusions on ‘Kohaku’ being from Samsung came from a single commit with an @samsung email address. What I can tell you is there are many commits with multiple @samsung email addresses now in the repositories just for ‘Kohaku’. The two of the commits we’ll discuss in this article contain another @samsung email that wasn’t mentioned in Gabriel’s original article. Clearly Samsung’s hands are on this device.
Battery tech isn’t something I dig too deep into generally, but there was something about this commit language that grabbed my attention. Check it out:
kohaku: Implement custom charging algorithm
TEST=build/update EC FW and then check charging
That custom charging algorithm caused me to pause and take note, and I’m glad I did. While I still can’t figure out what exact battery is being used here, I was able to at least narrow it down to one of Samsung’s own in-house battery packs, further lending credence to our claim that ‘Kohaku’ is definitely being made by Samsung.
If you dig around in the battery.c file a bit, you’ll find reference to the battery manufacturer listed as “SDI.” Upon just a little searching, SDI batteries are made by and for Samsung products from vehicles all the way down to mobile devices. You can see their stand-alone website here if you are interested, but just the fact that the battery in ‘Kohaku’ is a Samsung-made one gives us yet another reason to feel confident that Samsung is making this Chromebook.
References To ‘Caroline’
‘Caroline’ is a name we’ve not mentioned around here in quite some time, and there is a good reason for that. ‘Caroline’ is the codename for the Samsung Chromebook Pro that debuted at CES 2017 and began shipping later that year. Though many had a love/hate relationship with that Chromebook, it was Samsung’s biggest splash in the Chromebook market up to that point with a good 10-minute presentation on stage at the company’s keynote at CES that year.
Apart from the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate, we’ve not seen a Chromebook debut with that much fanfare since we’be been covering Chrome OS. Sure, it had its issues and Chrome OS was in the process of growing in some massive and considerable ways back then, but the Samsung Chromebook Pro was a massive step forward for Chromebooks in several meaningful ways. With the unique look, 3:2 high-res bright screen, thin form factor, and included pen, this device really pushed Chromebooks forward in a meaningful way.
If you check out the file board.h file for ‘Kohaku’, you’ll see a pretty glaring reference to ‘Caroline’:
Parameter to calculate LUX on Kohaku
TODO (b/130835790): These values are from Caroline. Do they need to be changed for Kohaku?
One of the more important files in a Chromebook’s development is the board.h file, and this one for ‘Kohaku’ clearly is pulling boilerplate info from ‘Caroline’ – or as we know it now – the Samsung Chromebook Pro.
Finally, we come to the part that has me very excited about ‘Kohaku’: the screen. While we aren’t completely sure about this part yet, the ‘Hatch’ line of devices is being tested at least in part with a 2400×1600 resolution screen much like the Pixelbook, Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro employ. This info comes from the images/boards.yaml file from the Chromium Repositories and the end products have varied a few times from the resolutions listed there. For example, this file lists the Pixel Slate as 2400×1600 when the actual device shipped at 3000×2000 resolution.
One thing we have more solid evidence of, however, is the brightness of the panel being used for ‘Kohaku.’ In this commit, the language is very clear:
Kohaku: change panel backlight level
Set initial panel backlight to be 80 nits for battery only.
Panel max is 400 nits.
Yeah, you’re reading that correctly: ‘Kohaku’ is being outfitted with a screen that has brightness only matched by a few other Chromebooks. The panel in the Pixelbook is the same one being used in the HP Chromebook X2, Samsung Chromebook Plus V1 and Chromebook Pro. Though the Pixelbook gets a tad brighter (very near the listed 400 nits) than the rest, these Chromebooks easily have my favorite screens available today. While they are colorful and sharp, one of my favorite features of these screen panels is the max brightness. It simply give the entire device another level of flexibility. With the references to ‘Caroline’, I’m hopeful that a revised version of the original Samsung Chromebook Pro will be on offer, but we just can’t be sure yet.
What we do know is this Samsung-made Chromebook will be powerful, fast, and will have a nice, bright screen. If Samsung Chromebooks of the past are anything to go by, ‘Kohaku’ looks to be a fantastic entry into the growing catalog of highly-capable Chromebooks coming in the second half of 2019. We’ve said it before and will say it many times over: Q4 of 2019 is going to get really fun!