For a few years, it seemed the days may be numbered for the humble, analog headphone/microphone jack. When Apple so courageously removed the venerable port from the iPhone, many manufacturers began following suit across a wide variety of devices. First it was phones and then it became a tablet epidemic. And then it wasn’t too long before we started seeing laptops and Chromebooks deciding to skip out on the beloved headphone jack.
That ship has somewhat righted itself in the form factors where it never really made sense to remove it, though. We have most laptops and Chromebooks at this point shipping out with the headphone/microphone jack in place, and that really makes sense. In phones and tablets, the focus is definitely on content consumption and you can at least partially make the case that those devices and their razor-thin form factors can benefit from removing an additional port and necessary DAC needed to make it work.
In laptops and convertibles, that argument doesn’t really work. By their nature, these devices have extra room in the chassis for things like a headphone jack, and unless it is necessary to remove it, I’m always expecting to see one. Even with sleek devices like the HP Dragonfly Chromebook Pro, I really see no reason not to have this port available. And yes, I’m aware that there are adapters for USB-C ports, but for devices with the space available, the functionality of a headphone/mic port demands that it should still be around.
Bigger tablets shouldn’t get a pass, either
And if that argument stands, large tablets shouldn’t be shuddering the heaphone jack, either. Yet, even in the Chromebook space, that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing of late. Devices like the Google Pixel Slate, Lenovo Chrombook Duet, the Duet 3, the Duet 5 and the HP x2 11 were all built with portability in mind and all showed up without the headphone jack.
This left us feeling like that would be the case moving forward with slimmer, lighter Chromebooks, and that is a bit of a shame. There are still times when plugging in a headset is the preferred way to hear a Chromebook’s output, and with activities like simple video editing, Bluetooth latency over wireless earbuds makes syncing up the video and audio extremely difficult to manage.
Thankfully, with the upcoming MediaTek MT8188-powered tablets on the way, there are tests happening that point to the re-inclusion of the headphone jack in these upcoming detachables. Check out the following commit from the Chromium Repositories:
Simply put, this change is adding the audio codec (NAU88L25) that is responsible for handling the DAC (digital to analog converter) responsible for powering the headphone/microphone jack on the ‘Geralt’ development board (the code name for the latests ChromeOS tablets in development). And while that doesn’t mean that every one of these ‘Geralt’-based Chromebook tablets will have a headphone jack, it at least points to a reality where some of them will.
While I personally have moved to an all-wireless headphone habit, I simply know that isn’t the case for everyone. And with tablets on the way with the MT8188 inside that will be more than capable of a few video edits, I think there are definitely some users who will appreciate the inclusion, and I’ll be ready to see the return of this simple I/O interface.