Thanks to its clean design and powerful internals, the Google Pixelbook remains one of the best Chromebooks on the market today, and a capable Windows or Mac replacement. It’s been more than two years since the Pixelbook went on sale, however, leaving us hoping for its successor to soon be announced.
Rumors have been swirling for over a year now, but as they’ve heightened, it seems that a launch could be near. Here’s everything we know about the Pixelbook 2 so far.
Release date and price
Google has a hardware event currently scheduled for October 15, 2019. Though the Pixel 4 will undoubtedly be in the spotlight, it might make sense for the Pixelbook 2 to also make an appearance.
Rumors suggested a the Pixelbook 2 would initially launch at Google’s October 2018 hardware event, but instead Google announced the ill-fated Pixel Slate. The was canceled less than a year after its launch. The sequel of the Pixelbook, however, seems to still be alive. References to the Pixelbook 2 have appeared in the Chrome OS repository. These commits generally appear near the final stages of development, and the Atlas references in Chrome OS code may be a positive sign that Google is wrapping up work on the device before the device’s debut.
Atlas is also mentioned by name in Google’s Crostini development, a project designed to allow Linux apps to run on Chrome OS. This code may indicate that early Pixelbook 2 prototypes are being used by developers to test Crostini.
The original Pixelbook was announced at a similar event in October 2017, so it would be not be out of the ordinary to see the sequel do the same. If the Pixelbook 2 isn’t announced during Google’s October event, it may be until 2020 before we see a final version of the product.
The Pixelbook was priced starting at $999. It’s always been the most expensive Chromebook you can buy, and we don’t expect that to change this year. If Google ends up offering a 4K model, you can expect it to be even more expensive.
Leaked images show black chassis with moderate bezels
According to recently leaked images which 9t05Google reports as being that of the Pixelbook 2, Google’s anticipated successor may actually become available in a color other than aluminum. In fact, according to the photos, it appears that the Pixelbook 2 will be offered in black. It also appears, that while the side-bezels are significantly thinner than those found in the original Pixelbook, they’re not as barely-there like the ones in that leaked Google advertisement.
The bottom bezel still seems almost as thick as the bottom bezel found in the original Pixelbook.
FCC filing indicates updated connectivity
One reason we believe that the Pixebook 2 is on its way in fall 2019 is that the manufacturer Quanta has filed with the FCC to modify a wireless chip inside an unnamed computer device. Quanta creates Google devices, including the Pixel Slate, so it’s a good guess that this new filing pertains to upcoming chips for the Atlas project.
The change is an updated Intel chip that will improve both Wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities for faster connections. No past Google devices have this particular update, which makes it very likely that it will be part of a new device release.
New icons for Chrome OS
Google is also planning on new developments for Chrome OS, which appear to be made with the Pixelbook 2 in mind. Internal documents reveal that Chrome OS icons are being changed to a uniform circular design.
This is to prevent app icons from being different sizes based on their origin. We don’t know exactly what these new icons will look like, because the documents only include mock-ups to represent the general idea, but it’s likely to be a smoother UI experience.
A tale of two Pixelbooks
Early leaks in 2018 suggested that Google was developing two devices internally called Nocturne and Atlas. Both devices made appearances in the Chromium repository and seem quite likely to be two different renditions of a second-generation Pixelbook. When Atlas first showed up in the repository, it was said to be “closely related to eve,” with Eve being the codename of the original Pixelbook. Atlas also has the same number of ports as the original Pixelbook.
Nocturne, as we now know from Google’s event in late 2018, launched as the Pixel Slate. At the event, Google executives claimed that the Slate represents the company’s new vision for Chrome OS to deliver productivity and entertainment on the go. The Slate is Google’s first Chrome OS tablet, but also one that can convert into a laptop thanks to an optional $199 keyboard folio accessory.
Atlas was then believed to be the codename for the Pixelbook 2, a Chrome OS convertible laptop that would share a similar form factor to the original Pixelbook.
Since then, the Pixel Slate — along with all future Google Pixel tablets — have been canned.
Thinner bezels, higher resolution display, fast charging
Dell was one of the first PC companies to experiment with barely-there bezels on its XPS laptop, and the feature has proven to be so popular that other notebook manufacturers followed suit. In late 2018, a leaked Google advert appeared to show a near-bezel-free Pixelbook-like device, potentially giving us our first look at what the next-generation Pixelbook looks like. This would confirm rumors reported by VentureBeat’s Evan Blass, who tweeted in late 2018 that smaller bezels are part of this year’s upgrade. Then a second image appeared in summer 2019 showing Atlas with a new, updated silver frame, and significantly smaller bezels, so it’s a safe bet this rumor is now reality. Another key display feature that was rumored was a 4K resolution.
What seems a bit more clear, however, is that the Pixelbook 2 could support quick charging through a feature known as “Zinger.” Language in a code commit mentions that Atlas, the code name for Pixelbook 2, can push a chargers power limit to 60-watts and pull more power when it is needed. This comes as a change from most Chromebook models, which charges through 30- and 45-watt power bricks.
When it launched in late-2017, the original Pixelbook shared the same 7th-generation Intel mobile processors as Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, making it a capable machine for a Chromebook. Google eventually did make the switch to Intel’s 8th-generation processors in October when it announced the Pixel Slate. That device debuted with Intel’s Amber Lake Y-Series processor, coming in a dual-core, four-thread architecture that’s designed for thin and light devices. The Pixel Slate also integrated Intel’s UHD 615 graphics.
Given the recent launch of Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake processors, we expect Google to use them for a launch of the Pixelbook 2 later this year. The mobile processors are available in either Y-series or U-series chips, though both now include four cores.
Sticking with Intel chips this year could help the Pixelbook 2 improve on the performance of the original, but it could also help Google bring dual-boot support to Chrome OS. The feature could have allowed Chrome OS hardware to also boot into Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, making the Pixelbook 2 a more competitive device for business users. Unfortunately, Google did not debut the dual-booting feature when it unveiled the Pixel Slate, and it’s unclear if dual-boot support could be ready in January.
Fingerprint and facial recognition security
Leaked code found on the Chrome developer channel suggested that fingerprint scanning and facial recognition would be available on Nocturne, giving users the ability to login to their device without the need for a password. That would be useful for tablet logins where onscreen keyboard typing is far from ideal, and fortunately, the feature did materialize on the Pixel Slate when Google announced that tablet.
Google debuted its Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner on the Pixel Slate, to allow users to log into their Chrome OS devices without needing to type in a password. The feature will likely also make its way to the Pixelbook 2. When it debuted earlier this year, Pixel Imprint wasn’t perfect. If you share your Pixel Slate between multiple users, you can’t use different fingerprints to switch between profiles. Only the first user is able to use their fingerprint to unlock the Pixel Slate, Google claimed. Hopefully, Google will make profile switching easier if the Pixelbook 2 debuts with this technology.