The Chromebook Pixel may soon be challenged by some high-end competition. Swirling rumors and Chrome OS code commits suggest that HP's creating a powerful new Chromebook, code-named Chell, which may even pack virtual reality capabilities.
The bulk of the speculation about the upcoming Chromebook comes from Chrome Story, a Chrome OS-focused site. Diving into code commits, which name Chell’s manufacturer, and other development information in recent months, Chrome Story has pieced together an idea of what the new Chromebook is going to look like.
It appears likely that the HP-made laptop will have a touchscreen, 16GB of RAM, two USB-C ports, a standard USB Type-A port, Bluetooth, and an expandable storage slot for SD cards. The PC will be powered by an Intel “Skylake” Core chip and also offer a backlit keyboard.
Based on the high-quality specs, Chrome Story believes HP's new Chromebook may actually be a Pixel successor. If it’s not, and HP is working on its own high-end Chromebook, it certainly doesn’t seem all that different from the current Pixel. The latest flagship Chromebook also has a touchscreen, Core i5 or i7 processor, two USB-C ports, an SD card reader, backlit keyboard, and an option for 16GB of RAM.
The big difference between Chell and the 2015 Pixel would be the addition of virtual reality support—but most PCs that can meet the demands of virtual reality have a discrete graphics card. So far there haven’t been any hints that Chell would have that kind of hardware. If that’s the case then the device would rely on Intel’s integrated graphics.
Intel’s HD or Iris graphics may be enough to run VR for platforms like Google Cardboard or Samsung's Gear VR, but they definitely wouldn’t be able to power the sort of AAA VR games found on the Oculus Rift. Speaking of which, it’s far from clear what kind of accessory HP's new Chromebook would need to take advantage of its VR features. HP has publicly stated it plans to bring VR to Chromebooks via the power of the web, however.
Why this matters: VR is a major theme for 2016 with the introduction of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the upcoming PlayStation VR. Web-based platforms apparently don’t want to be left behind. Mozilla has been working on the Oculus Rift-compatible MozVR since late 2014, while Google added 360-degree videos to YouTube in March 2015.