Thanks to its clean design and powerful internals, Google’s Pixelbook remains one of the best Chromebooks on the market today and a capable Windows or Mac replacement. However, it’s been almost a year since the Pixelbook went on sale, and rumor is rife that Google will announce a Pixelbook successor later this year with updated internals.
There’s been no official announcement, but as the year rolls on, more rumors, leaks, and speculation point to not just one, but potentially two new Pixelbook devices being unveiled before the end of the year. Here’s everything we know for sure, think we know, and just really hope is true about the Pixelbook 2.
In terms of cold, hard facts, we don’t actually know that much about the much-rumored Pixelbook 2. We don’t even really know if it will be called the Pixelbook 2, but we do know that there are two very Pixelbook-like devices being worked on at Google, and the details on those are starting to stack up.
Google is developing two devices internally called Nocturne and Atlas. Both of these devices have 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,” Eve being the codename of the original Pixelbook. Atlas also has the same number of ports as the original Pixelbook.
More recently, however, it’s believed that Nocturne, the other codenamed device, will launch as the Pixel Slate. The Pixel Slate is widely reported to take on a tablet form factor — as its rumored name implies — and come with a detachable keyboard accessory. This will make the Pixel Slate more competitive against other devices with similar form factors like the iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Go.
Google hasn’t even made an official announcement for the Pixelbook 2 yet, but if it were to do so this year, its October 9 #madebygoogle event would be the place to do it. All rumors so far have pointed to this event as hosting the unveiling of the new Pixelbook(s). The New York event is slated to kick off at 11AM local time, or 8AM Pacific Time.
The original Pixelbook was announced at a similar event in October of 2017 and was released just a few weeks after.
As for the release date, we’d expect Google to release the Pixelbook 2 by the end of the month in the same way the original was.
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. Even if Google recycled the current aluminum-clad design with glass accent on the current Pixelbook for its second-generation laptop, thinner bezels would not only help the laptop appear more modern against competitors, but it’s a feature that also brings business appeal. A design with slimmer bezels would help the Pixelbook 2 occupy a smaller footprint on a desk or a laptop bag.
The coveted feature is now all but officially confirmed. 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 recently tweeted that smaller bezels are part of this year’s upgrade. Given his previous record with providing reliable leaks, the feature appears highly likely.
In terms of screen resolution, we know Atlas has a 4K screen. If Atlas is indeed a Pixelbook, it would be the first 4K Pixelbook, though thanks to Lenovo’s Yoga Chromebook, not the first 4K Chromebook.
When it launched in late-2017, the original Pixelbook shared the same 7th-generation Intel mobile processors as Apple’s MacBook Pro, making it a capable machine, especially for a Chromebook. However, with most laptop manufacturers (including Apple) recently making the switch to newer 8th-generation processors, we can likely expect that Google will make similar upgrades when it refreshes the premium Pixelbook.
There is still some debate about what chips Google could upgrade its second-generation Pixelbook(s) to. There are the mainstream U-Series Core i5 and i7 8th-gen chips to consider, as well as the upcoming ninth-generation Core line. Another series that could be an intriguing option are Intel’s newly announced Amber Lake Y-Series eighth-generation processors. They come with built-in LTE connectivity and support for gigabit Wi-Fi, so they could offer a performance upgrade and greater connectivity options out of the box.
If Google stays aligned with the original Pixelbook, we’d expect its sequel to come with an option for Whiskey Lake 8th-gen Core i5 and Core i7, as well as the Amber Lake Y-Series in more affordable models. The supply issues with Intel’s recent release of chips, however, could delay such an update.
Sticking with Intel chips this year will not only help the Pixelbook 2 improve on the performance of the original, but it could give this year’s flagship Google-made Chromebook a new feature. Rumors suggest that Google may be working on bringing dual-boot support to Chrome OS, and it may debut this nifty trick first on the Pixelbook 2. While odd bedfellows, the most likely operating system that could make its way to the Pixelbook 2 alongside Chrome OS is Microsoft’s Windows 10. If this is accurate, it would make the Pixelbook 2 a more competitive device for business users, and the high-end internals should make Windows 10 run like a champ. With added support for touch, a convertible tablet mode, and even pen support, the Pixelbook 2’s Windows 10 mode could give other Windows-only convertibles a run for their money!
Chromebook partners have already begun experimenting with new form factors for Chrome OS. Though the Pixelbook brought the convertible form factor to the premium segment for Chrome OS, Acer has since debuted a Chromebook Tab 10 tablet and HP launched its Chromebook x2 with a detachable form factor, similar to Microsoft’s Surface Go.
That could well be what Google does with its second-generation Pixelbook. The biggest differentiating factor between Nocturne and Atlas appears to be that one has a detachable keyboard known internally as “Whiskers.” It could be that they represent two versions of Pixelbooks. While one will have a 2-in-1 hinge, the other could have a completely detachable keyboard, making it a far lighter and more efficient tablet device. That could lead to some variation in price too.
Google is also working on bringing better touchscreen support. Chrome OS code reveals that Google is playing with a new UI that could make the operating system more touch-friendly when used as a tablet. When you swivel the keyboard around on its 360-degree hinge, the Pixelbook 2 could potentially display larger icons and menus, making it better suited in tablet mode. Bring back the keyboard, and you’ll be greeted with the same desktop experience — smaller icons and menus will help you stay productive without having to scroll too much on the device’s high resolution display.
More recently, a new Pixel Pen has been leaked in a new blue hue. Other than the color change, it’s unclear if the pen adds any additional functionality over the Pixel Pen from the original Pixelbook. The new blue shade, however, makes the pen a good color coordinated match for the Pixel Slate, which is rumored to also be available in the same cool tone. Like the original Pixel Pen, the blue version comes with a single button on the side of the barrel.
Leaked code found on the Chrome developer channel suggests that fingerprint scanning and facial recognition and will 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.
It’s not clear if this is something that both Atlas and Nocturne would support, but it could mean that either, or both devices receive an improved camera too.
Having a built-in LTE modem on the Pixelbook 2 is much more than just about convenience. With better Android support on Chrome OS devices, and the operating system’s potential to supplant and replace Android tablets, having always-on connectivity would be a huge advantage. This is the same vision that rival Microsoft has for its Always Connected PC platform.
The feature wouldn’t be too hard for Google to accomplish, given that it already runs its own virtual mobile network through Project Fi, which relies on T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s network infrastructure for the backbone. Google’s experiment to deliver voice and mobile data service on its Android smartphone hardware has been met with positive reviews. Google could potentially apply a similar business model to take on data-only devices, like Chromebooks and Chrome OS-powered tablet.
If it did opt for Intel’s new Y-series processors, it could even do so without needing any dedicated LTE hardware, since it’s baked into the chips themselves.