Two new videos spotted in the Chromium bug tracker by Twitter tech enthusiast Brandon Lall and About Chromebooks before summarily being taken out of public view are now upending previous notions about a Chrome OS device long-thought to be the Pixelbook 2. Filed under the codename 'Atlas' and intended to showcase display bugs, the videos were uploaded to YouTube prior to being removed and show a device that is clearly a complete break from Google's previous hardware.
The subtle design language seen in Google’s Pixelbook or Pixel Slate is nowhere to be seen in the video. The nearly square display ratio and design give way to a much more rounded design in what appears to be a much wider resolution with the device that’s being shown. The hinge that display is placed on doesn’t appear to be a 360-degree 2-in-1 hinge and doesn’t seem to be the detachable variety either.
A power cord appears to be plugged into the keyboard in part of the video, further implying this is a clamshell-style device without 2-in-1 capabilities.
Just below the display, there’s a product name placeholder seen in the video. Ordinarily, that would be where the branding of the device in question is placed but Pixel gadgets have typically avoided that -- opting to showcase the Google “G” in the final design instead. Some standard features like the existence of media playback keys on the keyboard remain but the hamburger menu key found only on Pixel devices is replaced by a power button.
So what else is new?
Although the bezels of the gadget in the video are decidedly Pixel-like, there are a few other changes in the design that appear to break with Pixelbook tradition. The use of black hues for the case of the build isn’t too surprising and even the beige keyboard tone could easily be chalked up to Google’s ever-changing design refinement -- perhaps meant to accent the long-expected dark mode UI.
Less easily explained is the dual-speaker grill that's placed to either side of the keyboard in the video or the apparent use of plastics in the body and frame itself. Unless Google intends for its next-generation Chrome OS hardware to go in a completely opposite direction from the premium first-generation device, it is difficult to imagine this gadget is actually going to be the company's next Pixel-branded laptop.
Everything that can be seen in the newest leak for 'Atlas' flies in the face of guesses that have been made about it so far, leading to some speculation about what exactly this gadget is supposed to be. One hypothesis is that Atlas isn't a 'Made by Google' device at all, despite previous leaks and code commits to the contrary. All of the information up to this point has suggested that Atlas will be a 2-in-1 or detachable centering its design around a 4K display.
Those have also pointed toward 60W charging via a USB PD charger and something referred to as "zinger." Indications that a dedicated Assistant button would be included in the build have been spotted as well as commits pointing to a minimum of 8GB RAM and high-end processors -- none of which mesh well with the design language seen here.
None of that necessarily means the test wasn't being performed in relation to an upcoming Pixelbook replacement from Google.
Setting aside the obvious differences and the fact that the company was recently reported to have cut key members from the associated hardware team, there is at least one other possibility. While it's not implausible that Atlas isn't a Pixel gadget or that Google has completely redesigned it, the search giant may also simply be testing its device under a mockup design expressly to prevent leaks of the final design.