With the Made by Google event a mere month away, excitement for Pixel devices is reaching a fever pitch. But despite the borderline humorous number of leaks of the Pixel 3 XL, we have next to nothing solidified about Google’s Chrome OS plans. Today we’re digging into a second device, Atlas, that we believe could be a successor to the Pixelbook.

This is part two of a three (or more?) part series cataloging everything we know about upcoming Chromebooks that we believe could be the next Pixelbook (or, generally, an upcoming Made by Google tablet/convertible/laptop). It’s very possible that none (or all) of these devices could be part of the Pixel family, and we won’t truly know for sure until the Made by Google event on October 9th.

Last week, we looked at ‘Nocturne’, a detachable Chromebook that had some similarities to the Pixelbook and new fingerprint capability that lead us to believe it could be the next Made by Google Chromebook. But where Nocturne whispered hints of being a Pixel, today’s subject, ‘Atlas’, almost screams “Look at me, I’m a Pixelbook.”

The Pixel doesn’t fall far from the tree

Atlas, since the beginning of its development, has been described by Chromium developers as being “closely related to” the Pixelbook. In fact, when Atlas was initially tested, it did so “posing as” the Pixelbook (internally known as Eve). The Atlas hardware itself even appears to be produced by Quanta, the same manufacturer as the Pixelbook and Pixel C.

Given the close relationship between the two, you’ll find that many things about Atlas’s hardware are near identical to the Pixelbook. For example, the two devices have the same ports: two USB-C ports (one on each side, each with an LED), a headphone jack, and no microSD slot. It’s quite possible that we may not be easily able to tell the two devices apart from their side profiles.

atlas ports

The Pixelbook’s ports

Atlas seems firmly attached

Some outlets have been reporting that Atlas will be a detachable. We firmly believe this is not the case, and that instead Atlas is more likely a traditional notebook. Some had suggested that Atlas being in the ‘Poppy’ line of Chromebooks implies being detachable, but the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2, another Poppy device, is not detachable.

Another piece of code suggesting a detachable nature was the added ability to access recovery without a keyboard. This commit was put in place back in April, when Atlas was in an earlier state. Last month, that code was “reverted”, with the listed reason being “no longer needed, enabling ‘normal’ behavior“. This implies that Atlas’ recovery will be accessible via keyboard like normal.

The final nail in the ‘detachable’ coffin, is that Atlas has a built-in ELAN trackpad, as opposed to Nocturne which gets its trackpad from Whiskers.

Atlas and Nocturne: Like brothers, only closer

Atlas also shares some things in common with Nocturne. Firstly, like Nocturne, Atlas has been tested with Intel’s Kaby Lake and Amber Lake processors. Support for lightning-fast NVMe solid state drives is coming to the two devices, which is much faster than traditional eMMC storage found on most Chromebooks.

Both also started in the Poppy line, of HP Chromebook X2 fame. Since then Atlas and Nocturne have been moved into their own special baseboard called ‘Krabbylake‘. The point of a common baseboard was to make it easier for the two devices to “share code”. To me, this seems to mean that there is a special relationship between Atlas and Nocturne, that couldn’t be shared with the other Poppy devices.

Chrome OS, now in 4K

But for all the things that Atlas has in common with other devices, it does have one interesting advantage over both the ‘eve’ Pixelbook 1 and Nocturne: Atlas is equipped with a 4K display, placing it firmly in the premium device category. Originally, some had speculated that Atlas would be the first 4K Chromebook to release, but the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook has since beaten Atlas to the punch.

Another minor improvement over the Pixelbook is the camera, with Atlas offering a Sony IMX208 which will support 1080p video at 60fps, compared to the Pixelbook’s 720p video. The only remaining difference we’ve uncovered is that the keyboard does not have a control panel “hamburger” button, but instead has a power button.

9to5Google’s Take

If Atlas is indeed a Made by Google Chromebook, as the evidence seems to indicate, it’s most likely a tried-and-true refresh of the Pixelbook. This seems like a similar situation to how the original 2013 Chromebook Pixel received a refresh two years after launch.

In comparison to the game changer that Nocturne is shaping up to be, I’m much more excited about the latter. Either way, I believe that, thus far, these two devices are different enough, satisfying different niches. Instead of seeing one or the other next month, we may actually see both.

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