I was really hoping there would be more 13th Gen Intel Chromebooks in the pipeline this time of year. Last year at this time I was tracking 13 Intel-based 12th generation Chromebooks in some sort of development. At this point in 2022 – before this post – I’ve only laid eyes on the main development board for 13th gen Intel Chromebooks: ‘Skolas’.
We’re adding our first device to the list today, and I think there might be a good reason why our 13th generation Chromebook count is so short. We’ll get into that in a second, but first let’s meet our newest Chromebook in development, codenamed ‘Zydron’.
The ‘Zydron’ was added just a few weeks ago, so we can’t tell you much about this Chromebook right now. The main thing to note is the fact that it is based on ‘Skolas’ and will come with 13th gen Intel Raptor Lake internals. And for several reasons, I think this one is made by Acer.
First, we have the appearance of David Wu in some of these early commitments. Lately he’s been using Acer hardware, including the Acer Chromebook 516 GE (‘Osiris’) and the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (‘Kano’). This second inclusion is two-fold, since ‘Zydron’ was developed in parallel with ‘Kana’. We’ll explain why shortly, but the fact that the new Chromebook in development is receiving updates in sync with the existing Acer device pretty convincing evidence that Acer is behind the ‘Zydron’.
Why there is a close relationship with Alder Lake
So why are we seeing so many references to ‘Skolas’ and ‘Zydron’ alongside existing Alder Lake Chromebooks? The answer is quite simple when you understand the small difference we see between Intel’s 12th generation SoCs and these new 13th generation SoCs. Raptor Lake is Intel’s last 10nm chip, so the differences between Alder Lake and Raptor Lake are minimal from a development perspective. This is abundantly clear in the reservoirs from the very beginning of Raptor Lake development.
I wouldn’t say that Intel’s 12th and 13th generation sockets are the copy/paste, drag and drop of their similes, but it seems closer to that than we’ve seen in the past. With that in mind, it makes a little more sense that we don’t have many of these frameworks in development yet.
This can be for several reasons. First, if a manufacturer wants to make a Raptor Lake Chromebook, they can probably call on existing devices they have with Alder Lake built in and make things run relatively quickly. If most things are already working, Chromebook makers can move quickly from development to shipping the device.
Second, if Raptor Lake is not an improvement huge as for Alder Lake, maybe some manufacturers will skip this round of Intel chips and aim for Meteor Lake in the next round. However, we probably won’t get into either of these devices until late 2023 or early 2024, so it will be interesting to watch.
There are still plenty of Alder Lake Chromebooks that haven’t launched yet, so I’m betting we’ll continue to see these devices released as we see some upgrades to existing Chromebooks with a simple increase in internal hardware. We’ve seen this before, seeing devices get minor improvements from Intel’s 10th generation to 11th generation processors, and Acer immediately comes to mind.
The beloved Acer Chromebook Spin 713 had a solid 10th generation version of Intel and was essentially a slight refinement of the 11th generation version. Some of the external parts were improved, but for the most part it was the same device, repeated to make things a little better for the latest version, but not radically overhauled. I could see all the major Chromebook manufacturers doing this with their existing Alder Lake Chromebooks in the next year.
But so far I can’t find any other signs of life in the world of 13th generation Intel Chromebooks. While I’d love to see one at CES 2023, I’m not hopeful that will be the case. Instead of that, We’re betting we won’t see Raptor Lake Chromebooks until summer and even then we won’t see many of them. And when you look at the performance, battery life, and overall productivity of current Chromebooks, I think it’s pretty good. Refinement is the goal at this point and it looks like it could be on the radar for most of 2023.