Google Pixelbook 2018 may be coming – But which rumored Chromebook is it?

It’s no secret that Google intends to release a new Chromebook this year. Breaking the bi-yearly release cycle, it can only mean great things. Google is known for putting a lot of work into their technology. The Google Pixel line of smartphones are some of the best Android devices to date. We can expect the same from their Chromebooks, and last year’s Pixelbook is one of the best around. We’ve been reporting on a lot of Chromebooks recently that are in the Chromium Gerrit, so which of these devices could it be? We’ve spent some time trawling through commits and we’ve narrowed it down to three potential candidates. Here they are in their most likely order.

Before we dive deep into the candidates, here’s a quick rundown on the differences between the three devices:

  • Nocturne
    • NVMe storage for fast read/write
    • Kaby Lake processor
    • Fingerprint sensor
    • Mid-range cameras for possible face unlock
    • Detachable with a backlit keyboard
  • Atlas
    • Kaby Lake processor
    • 4k resolution display
    • No SD card slot, just like last year’s Pixelbook
  • Cheza
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
    • EAS support
    • Pressure sensitive stylus
    • Detachable

Nocturne

Nocturne is the most likely candidate of them all. It’s one of the most balanced, yet high-end Chromebooks currently being worked on. It’s got a number of high-end features too, which is very much what Google may be going for. While Google could, theoretically, go for a lower-end device, it just isn’t what Google does these days. The Google Pixelbook from last year is the fastest one on the market, far above the rest. We’ve been following Nocturne rather closely, and we have a lot of reasons to believe it could be what we see come this Fall.

First and foremost, it uses NVMe storage. NVMe storage can reach speeds of 3GB/s at ease even in affordable consumer hardware. With that alone, there should be a massive speed boost. NVMe storage is faster than an SSD by an order of magnitude, so it’s one amazing upgrade to have. A lot of laptops don’t use NVMe, let alone Chromebooks. Google likes their unique features. NVMe storage is more expensive too, so it’s likely not to have a lot of storage onboard. This also buys into Google’s push to bring everything to the Cloud.

Next, the processor. While it initially seemed to utilise one of Intel’s Skylake range of processors, that appears to have changed. Now it looks like it’s running a Kaby Lake processor, sometimes jokingly referred to as “Krabby Lake,” which the commit says. It originally said “kbl” which was changed to “krabbylake.” Either way, it would appear that the processor is no longer a Skylake one. That helps futureproof this device further and lends credence to it being a higher-end Chromebook that Google may be interested in.

Nocturne also appears innovative in terms of features. Not only does it sport a fingerprint sensor, but it also appears that Google is working on bringing Smart Lock to Chrome OS. That in itself isn’t evidence to suggest that Nocturne is Google’s Pixelbook, but the inclusion of high-fidelity cameras may be. Could it be that the new Pixelbook will be unlockable with facial unlock and fingerprint unlock?

This Chromebook also has the exact same resolution as last year’s Pixelbook – 2400 x 1600. Coupled with that, it appears to be detachable with a backlit keyboard to boot. There are lots and lots of unique features. This is one of the most high-end Chromebooks being worked on at the moment, and it’s got Google written all over it.

Atlas

Atlas doesn’t have much by way of features. It doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor, the camera is poorer, and it does not appear to use NVMe storage. It does appear that Atlas will have the same processor as Nocturne, or at the very least it will use a Kaby Lake processor. There is one defining feature though, and one that I’m sure we could all see Google doing. Atlas will have a 4k resolution display. That’s 3840×2160 in resolution, and it’s something that a company like Google may certainly consider. There’s a chance it’s detachable, but we don’t know for definite yet.

But there’s more, and this one may be the strongest piece of evidence going for Atlas yet. According to the board information for Atlas, which also gave away the resolution, there is no SD card support. The Pixelbook last year also didn’t support an SD card, as you could pay more for higher storage options instead. Most Chromebooks have SD card slots, so it would certainly be consistent with Google’s approach. Still, Atlas is very much barren in terms of features. That’s why it’s second on our list.

Cheza

An unlikely option, but one not as unlikely as you may think. This is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845-powered Chromebook that’s in the works, and it also has a number of great features that would make it worthy of being a Pixelbook. Nocturne may have Google written all over it, but this is the most Google-y Chromebook I’ve seen in the works so far. I have a few reasons as to why I believe that to be the case.

First and foremost, the processor itself. We’ve already mentioned that it uses a Snapdragon 845 processor, but that has a lot of implications that you might not think of at first. The Snapdragon 845 supports EAS, something not usually done in Chromebooks since the Acer Chromebook R13. While it makes sense to be utilizing EAS given that’s what’s in CAF, it’s nice to have it confirmed. Google loves EAS, having brought it to the Google Pixel phone already with the advent of the Snapdragon 821 a few years back. It’s a unique selling point, and one that the company may feel will give it an edge in terms of smoothness. Not only that, but the inclusion of a Qualcomm processor can allow for passive cooling. This means that no fan may be needed, so the device will be dead silent.

But that’s not all, as Cheza will also likely be a creativity-fueled machine. With a built-in Wacom pressure sensitive stylus, it could be a great device for artists. It’s also very likely a detachable tablet too. On top of all of that, we already know cheza is being prototyped at the moment, which suggests a release could technically be on the horizon.

Having said all of that, there’s a reason we’re pegging it as the least likely of these three devices to be the new Pixelbook. The processor itself won’t be what users are used to, and the specifications themselves just aren’t that special aside from that. While I could definitely see Google signing off on being the first to use a Qualcomm processor in a Chromebook, the other options are a lot more powerful and consistent with previous releases. For what it’s worth, I do have a feeling Google is up to something with this particular device.


Conclusion – Which is this year’s Pixelbook?

While we can never say for sure, all signs currently point towards Nocturne being what we’ll see this year. It’s the most powerful Chromebook being worked on at the moment. Not only that, it also has pretty much all of the features of devices in tiers below it. Still, there’s a reason we listed the other two and that’s because it could be any of these devices. In theory, Google could even be working on something privately, though that would go against what they’ve done for years. Which device do you think is the next Pixelbook?

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