Here are five high-end Chromebooks in development to challenge the Pixelbook

Here are five high-end Chromebooks in development to challenge the Pixelbook

Evidence is mounting that a new generation of Chromebooks will utilise high-end features not commonly seen in Chromebooks such as powerful CPUs, 16GB RAM, backlit keyboards, and high-resolution displays.

High-end Chromebooks are few and far between, with the Google Pixelbook being the lone device that is head-and-shoulders above the rest. Five high-performance Kaby Lake Chromebooks are currently in development that would bring competition to the Pixelbook for a much-needed refresh to the enterprise market.

When developing new Chromebooks, the Chrome OS developers speed-up progress by starting with a master board and then use variants of the board to create different flavours for different manufacturers. This is why you’ll often see devices—like the education refresh we saw early 2018—come with similar specification sheets across the range. Manufacturers will sometimes source different parts (e.g. batteries from different suppliers), but the specification sheet will remain similar across that generation of Chromebooks.

We’ve been following a rather interesting “master board;” codename Nami. Everything about Nami and its different flavours point to high-end machines from Chrome OS’s stalwart manufacturers. Here’s what we know so far:

There are five flavours of Nami, developed under codenames: Akali, Nami, Pantheon, Sona, and Vayne. There are hints that Vayne is Dell’s and Sona is HP’s. The others are still a mystery. These five boards inherit some very interesting features from their parent board:

      • Form factor: 360° convertible. Compared to the detachable announced by HP or the tablet by Acer, this is fairly vanilla for 2018 Chromebooks.
      • Screen: 2400×1600 panel, the same as what we’ve seen in the Pixelbook and the forthcoming HP x2. This could change for each variant, however, as the developers are working on just one engineering platform in these early days of development. [source]
      • CPU: Nami’s variants will use high-wattage Kaby Lake chips, something we can infer from the fact that they have a fan profile to keep them cool. This means that these machines will be more powerful than their fanless counterparts. [source]
      • Memory: Based on Coreboot files, we’ll have both 8GB and 16GB variants.
      • Keyboard: All variants except for Akali will have backlit keyboards.
      • Storage: At this stage, it looks like Nami variants could use either standard soldered eMMC or the faster and more expensive NVMe. It’s too early to say for sure. [source]

No hint yet for stylus support, but that may come later. Beyond hard specifications, we can expect them to support Linux apps out of the box (it looks like all of the new Chromebooks like the HP x2 will). They will also have Wake on Voice support for Google Assistant [source].

The specifications point to an effort to fill the gap between the $550 Samsung Chromebook Pro and the $1000+ Pixelbook, and the number of devices in development mean more than a throwaway effort at prosumer devices. Google is steadily firming its grip in the education sector but has had little limelight in the enterprise sector.

The Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook was the last enterprise Chromebook, released in 2016.

The Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook, one of the latest enterprise Chromebooks, was released in 2016. Image source: Lenovo.com

The last enterprise Chromebooks launched in 2016 to little fanfare. But with Chrome Enterprise now on the scene, the Nami family could be another effort by Google to push into the enterprise space with enticing new hardware.

Release dates aren’t confirmed. Development is still in early stages so we probably won’t see them before Fall/Winter 2018, just as businesses start considering purchases to squeeze in before the end of the financial year. In the meantime, we’ll continue tracking the exciting developments of Nami and friends.

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