This is ‘Chromebook X’: Google’s new standard for ChromeOS

This is ‘Chromebook X’: Google’s new standard for ChromeOS
Written by Techbot
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When does a Chromebook become more than “just a Chromebook?” That’s the question that Google has set out to answer with its upcoming “Chromebook X” program for high-quality laptops and tablets.

For many people considering which Chromebook they should buy, the answer could honestly be “almost any of them.” ChromeOS devices consistently provide a solid baseline for the most basic needs for a computer – a fully-featured web browser, file management, and access to office productivity apps.

Over the past five or so years, Chromebooks have grown to become capable of so much more. Through the Android app support, Chromebooks now have access to powerful productivity apps and video editing suites like LumaFusion. You can also run full (Linux) desktop programs on a Chromebook, including audio workstations like Audacity, developer tools like Android Studio, and even some of your favorite Steam games.

Of course, most of that requires better than baseline hardware to run smoothly. In the case of gaming, ChromeOS only allows Steam to be installed on a select few of the latest mid-range and high-end Chromebooks.

To put it another way, if you want to get the most out of what ChromeOS can offer, you currently need to know just enough tech jargon to know a premium or mid-range consumer Chromebook from a cheap, student-oriented one.

But what if there was a way to easily know that you’d get an excellent experience from your next Chromebook without needing to learn the ins and outs of processors and specs?

In the past, the device directory hosted by Google would designate “Plus Chromebooks” and “Premium Chromebooks.” They were officially distinguished as such:

Plus Chromebooks offer fast performance, smooth video calls and plenty of storage. Premium Chromebooks offer high performance for multitasking and advanced workloads.

This Plus and Premium classification was pretty niche and not user-facing in any significant manner. After several years, Google pulled these badges entirely on May 31, ostensibly in preparation for what comes next.

Enter “Chromebook X.”

For the past few months, Google has been preparing new branding for above average devices from various Chromebook makers. Notably, we haven’t yet seen any signs of Google making a Chromebook X device of its own, which is honestly a shame considering how long it’s been since a Pixelbook has been released.

The Chromebook X brand, which could change before launch, will appear somewhere on a laptop/tablet’s chassis, with a mark that could be as simple as an “X” next to the usual “Chromebook” logo. There should also be a special boot screen instead of the standard “chromeOS” logo that’s shown on all machines today.

Chromebook, ChromeOS logo

Aside from the added “X,” what actually sets a Chromebook X apart from other devices is the hardware inside. Specifically, Google appears to require a certain amount of RAM, a good-quality camera for video conferencing, and a (presumably) higher-end display.

Beyond that, Google has so far made specific preparations for Chromebook X models to be built on four types of processors from Intel and AMD (though newer generations will likely also be included):

The most noteworthy inclusion here is “Nissa,” which represents Intel’s N-series chips. These are typically found in sub-$400 devices rather than premium or high-performance models. That being the case, we believe Google and its partners are planning for Chromebook X to represent high-quality devices in the $350-500 range that many shoppers are seeking. This market today is already quite packed, and includes the Lenovo Flex 3i, Acer Chromebook Spin 514, and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2.

In fact, it seems there are already some devices available today that would qualify to be a Chromebook X, and Google is working to upgrade those “legacy” models in the near future. For now, it’s not clear precisely which Chromebooks will be getting this upgrade.

To further differentiate Chromebook X models from low-end Chromebooks, Google is also preparing an exclusive set of features.

As mentioned, one of the key focuses of Chromebook X is video conferencing, with Google requiring an up-to-spec camera. Complementing that hardware, Google is bringing unique features like Live Caption (adding generated captions to video calls), a built-in portrait blur effect, and “voice isolation.”

Earlier this year, we reported that ChromeOS was readying a set of “Time Of Day” wallpapers and screen savers that would change in appearance throughout the day, particularly to match the sunrise and sunset. We now know that these are going to be exclusive to Chromebook X devices.

To ensure that those wallpapers only appear on Chromebook X and can’t be forcibly enabled, Google is preparing a system it calls “feature management.” At the moment, feature management is only used to check whether to enable Chromebook X exclusives.

Based on that, some other exclusive features of Chromebook X include:

All of this – and likely more features that are yet to be developed – combines to ensure that if you buy a Chromebook X, you’re getting an experience that represents some of the best that Google and its partners can offer. It will be much easier to know that you’re buying more than “just a Chromebook.”

So when can we expect Chromebook X laptops and tablets to arrive in stores?

The only public clue we have today is a bit of text that says Chromebook X branding will only appear on a particular device when using ChromeOS version 115 or newer. That version is already available for Beta testing and should launch sometime next month.

Meanwhile, a source tells 9to5Google that we can expect Chromebook X devices to begin launching by the end of this year. This will likely occur as a coordinated push, similar to how most of the first wave of cloud gaming Chromebooks was announced side-by-side last year.

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