A new variant of a Chrome OS board, codenamed 'Atlas', that's widely believed to be the Google Pixelbook 2, has now been spotted in the Chromium Gerrit code review with support for Intel's Integrated Sensor Hub (ISH). Specifically, the commit adds a new board named "atlas-ish." That seems to indicate that this is a secondary to the original Atlas board, serving to prepare files for a directory build-out that can then be turned on later by default using more standardized methods. Meanwhile, the Intel-built solution in question centers around the use of a co-processor to offload low-intensity operations away from primary processing units. The results of that typically include a noticeable improvement to battery life as well as slight improvements to performance. Those operations chiefly deal with data from the various sensors that are found in a laptop or other devices and are running with high-frequency. That often stops a given device from entering into standby mode or another low-power state for extended periods of time or interrupts those states.
Background: Although there has been a moderate level of convolution in reports regarding the exact role Atlas plays with respect to Google's devices, the current consensus is that it will eventually find its way into consumers' hands as the Pixelbook 2. In fact, the Chromebook had been expected to launch alongside the Google Pixel Slate Chrome OS tablet, referred to by its codename 'Nocturne' during Google's hardware event in early October. However, although the latter device was ultimately unveiled at that media gathering, Atlas did not make an appearance at all. The expectations were not entirely derived from baseless speculation either. For starters, Atlas was initially replicated almost identically from the original Google Pixelbook board, 'Eve'. It was also shown to feature an apparent minimum RAM capacity and screen resolution that are still exclusive to Google's top-tier offering in the convertible Chromebook segment. Even the Pixelbook's unique keyboard layout remained intact throughout the process.
What's more, the internals of both devices received moderate updates. For example, both Intel's Kaby Lake and Amber Lake processors have been shown in tests for both Nocturne and Atlas. The same is also true of the NVMe storage that should prove much faster and more efficient than the eMMC storage used in almost every other Chrome OS device. That all leaves plenty of room to question what happened to the Google Pixel Slate's apparent counterpart, now that the Pixel Slate is official. Having said that, the language used with this new commit does not clearly indicate whether this will eventually be rolled into Atlas itself or if this variation is only intended for a specific version of the device, if and when it finally launches. It isn't inconceivable that this feature might only be intended for the most expensive of the suspected Pixelbook 2 convertibles. Conversely, as the code indicates, this could easily be a side project that will be rolled in later, with the team planning to include it as a main feature for the entire lineup.
Impact: In any case, the addition of support for Intel's now four-year-old solution would actually mark the first time that such as feature has been included on the platform and there's a good chance it will perform even better than it has on other platforms. Chrome OS is already a very lightweight operating system that's purpose-built to be highly-optimized for standby modes and other low-power functions. One of the biggest benefits the platform's hardware exhibits, as well as one of its key selling points, is just how long the devices can last between charges compared to Windows machines. So the inclusion of Intel's ISH should not be inconsequential.