The Made by Google 2019 event is still a few months away, and yet it feels like we already know everything there is to know about the Pixel 4. That being the case, there’s no better time than now to take stock of what we know about the Google Pixelbook 2, being developed under the codename “Atlas.”
Last year, we closely tracked three in-development Chrome OS devices that all had the makings of being the Made by Google Chromebook for 2018 — Meowth, Nocturne, and Atlas. Of these, we’re now confident that Meowth was scrapped due to supply chain issues with Intel and redeveloped under the codename Nocturne, eventually becoming the Pixel Slate we know today.
Despite the obvious signs at the time that Atlas was also a Made by Google Chromebook and a solid successor to the Pixelbook, it didn’t see release in 2018. However, as Google never stopped developing Atlas, we now know with even more confidence that it is indeed the Pixelbook 2, likely to release later this year.
The Pixel doesn’t fall far from the tree
Atlas, since it entered development last March, 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, Pixel C, and Pixel Slate.
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.
Not a tablet, but is it convertible?
Back in June, Google cancelled two of their in-development tablets, choosing instead to focus their efforts on laptop projects. What isn’t clear about this is whether Google will continue to develop convertible devices like the original Pixelbook. Our first glimpse of the Atlas “Pixelbook 2” actually came in the form of a video, which shows a very different hinge from what the original Pixelbook is equipped with.
It’s hard to say just from this preview, but it appears plausible that the Pixelbook 2 may not have a 360° hinge like the original did, instead opting for a traditional clamshell design. Honestly, this makes good business sense, as a new laptop/tablet convertible would compete too directly with the still-new Pixel Slate.
In the video, you can see that where the original Pixelbook has a Control Panel “hamburger” button, the Google Pixelbook 2 has a power button. Presumably, this will replace the side-mounted power button found on most Chromebooks including the first-generation Pixelbook.
Google Pixelbook 2 Specs
We were treated just a few weeks ago to benchmarks for Atlas which revealed specs that very closely line up to the evidence we’ve uncovered thus far for the Google Pixelbook 2.
Specifically, we know it will be available with the exact same Intel i5-8200Y and i7-8500Y processors available in the Pixel Slate. This is because both devices are in the “Poppy” line of Chromebooks, sharing their lineage with other devices like the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 and the HP Chromebook X2.
The biggest difference between the presumed Pixelbook 2 and the Pixel Slate is that all models we’ve seen so far feature a massive 16GB of RAM. Previously, this was a privilege offered only on the highest-end model of Made by Google Chrome OS devices, and it was always priced to match.
Additionally, the Pixelbook 2 will have a proper 4K display (3840 x 2160) display, with a 16:9 aspect ratio. For comparison, previous Made by Google Chromebooks were known for their 3:2 ratio — 3000 x 2000 on Pixel Slate and 2400 x 1600 on the original Pixelbook. This will make it only the second Chromebook to feature a 4K option, following the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630.
The Google Pixelbook 2 is currently slated to offer a front-facing Sony IMX208 camera, which supports 1080p video, compared to the original Pixelbook’s 720p camera. This is admittedly modest, by comparison to the Pixel Slate’s front and rear cameras.
At one point, the Pixelbook 2 was supposed to be available with a high-end NVMe SSD storage option, like the original Pixelbook had, but Google has since changed their plans and removed all NVMe code.
Google Pixel stylings
While last year’s Pixel Slate came in a gorgeous shade of Midnight Blue, Google seems to be taking a more traditional path with the Pixelbook 2. So far, we’ve seen two visual leaks, each of which showed a very different color for the device.
The original video leak showed what looked like a simple black chassis with grey or brown keys, though we quickly discounted this design due to its prominent display of the word “ProductName.” A more recent leak, seen above, demonstrates a color scheme more in-line with the original Pixelbook, with a silver chassis.