Recent commits to the Chromium Gerrit code review appear to have added a reference board and variant that could indicate 10nm Intel chips are on their way for the Chrome OS platform. Specifically, there are two boards in the new commit and although there has been some speculation that the chips in question would be tied in with Intel's 8th-Gen 'Whiskey Lake' chips, the code underlying the commit seems to point to 'Cannon Lake' instead. One of those appears to be a reference board that other boards will essentially be based on, called 'Sarien', while the other is a variant called 'Arcada'. Both contain a line that ties into the driver configuration for Cannon Lake processors – reading "CONFIG_DRIVER_SOC_CANNONLAKE=y". There are also at least seven similar references to Cannon Lake made throughout the various attached files. The commit also seems to indicate that the much faster NVMe storage protocol is planned for both Arcada and Sarien instead of the traditionally used eMMC storage. That should equate to a much snappier experience for end users.
Background: The reference to Cannon Lake processors in the commits is obvious but the boards themselves are still very early on in development. To begin with, Intel's 8th-generation Core processors built on the 10nm process encompassed under Cannon Lake have yet to really appear on the market. For now, the only known chip built on the process node is the company's Intel i3-8121U, launched in the second quarter of this year in a limited capacity. According to Intel's site, that's a dual-core 64-bit CPU clocked at 2.20 GHz, with a maximum boost clock of 3.20 GHz and a highly-efficient TDP of 15W. With that said, the full lineup of Cannon Lake processors has continuously been pushed back since its announcement. Initially, it was expected to land approximately two years ago before being pushed back to its currently expected launch window sometime in 2019 as per the most recent estimates.
The chip maker did outline further details about its 10nm process back in 2017 as well but it isn't really clear whether any of those details remain pertinent. That's especially true with consideration for the long spans of time in-between information appearing about the chips since they were compared to Kaby Lake processors at the time. For example, Intel had said they could perform as much as 25% better and reduce power consumption by as much as 45-percent by comparison. Meanwhile, Intel has since released a wealth of CPUs on its improved 14nm process under its 8th-Gen "Core i" branding and its 9th-Gen processors have already been revealed too on the desktop front. Some of those are already available to pre-order at Amazon. What's more, 10nm SoCs are already available on mobile platforms and at least one of those, the Snapdragon 845, is expected to land on Chrome OS devices at some point in the near future.
Impact: None of that necessarily means that the Chrome OS gadgets built on the newly added boards either will or won't be at the upper end of the spectrum. Intel may effectively be playing catch-up with both itself and the competition at this point. Bearing that in mind, shrinking down from the 14nm process will have intrinsic benefits to both performance and efficiency due to the physical properties of the chips themselves. For Chrome OS, in particular, the energy savings could easily equate to hours of additional use between charges without sacrificing on performance.