Partner Spotlight: Samsung and Intel Transform the Chromebook Category

By: Josh Newman, Vice President, Client Computing Group at Intel



Creating the First Project Athena-Based Chromebook on the Market Today

Chromebooks are all about choice—but, until recently, people haven’t had the choice of a premium, incredibly thin, Chromebook with a 4K AMOLED touchscreen. The technical challenges were too complex. The designs weren’t ambitious enough.

Until now.

The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook—the first Project Athena-based Chromebook available for purchase—delivers on Intel’s vision for its Project Athena1 innovation program and raises the bar for a new generation of laptops.

A Shared Vision for an Ambitious Design

Samsung and Intel started the project with a shared vision: design an ultra-thin, premium Chromebook that meets the key experience requirements and other specs of Intel’s Project Athena innovation program. This made the teams ideal partners, combining their complementary expertise to create a pioneering laptop.

Together, they set out to do nothing less than redefine Chromebooks, joining superior performance, beautiful visuals and advanced features like a built-in pen—all in a device thinner than one centimeter.

The project was a top priority for Samsung, with 70 engineers on the team and a goal of debuting the design at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2020. But with just a little over six months until CES—or roughly half a typical development timeline—the pressure was on. Could the two companies make it happen?

Partnering on Complex Technical Challenges

The partnership’s most important success was the active communication between Intel and Samsung engineers. This close collaboration enabled us to quickly develop and refine our ideas.

- Sunghyun Yoo, Samsung Engineer

As part of Project Athena and an expanded partnership with Google, the Samsung and Intel teams worked hand-in-hand to design the Galaxy Chromebook:

  • The world’s top experts: The partnership joined Intel’s world-class expertise in board design, performance tuning, and thermal optimization with Samsung’s deep knowledge across hardware, software, and firmware. By pooling their expertise, these teams pushed the boundaries of innovation to create the thinnest Samsung Chromebook ever, on an extremely aggressive timeline. From beginning to end, the Intel and Samsung teams collaborated in real-time to flag problems early and solve them fast, designing a laptop with a range of new technologies and impressive key experiences that meet the standards of the Project Athena innovation program.
  • Bootcamp at Asia’s best laptop lab: The collaboration kicked off with an in-person bootcamp at Intel’s advanced Taipei lab, featuring one of the most comprehensive sets of design and debugging tools in Asia. This proactive, close collaboration enabled Samsung and Intel engineers to dramatically accelerate early development. Opened in June 2019, the Project Athena Open Labs in Taipei is one of three Open Lab sites to support performance and low-power optimization of vendor components for laptops built to Project Athena design specifications and target experiences in 2020.
  • Cracking the performance challenge: The teams’ greatest challenge was ensuring great performance in an incredibly thin device. To solve it, Intel’s engineers tuned performance to operate in just 8W compared to 15W on a normal laptop—to reach the desired laptop thinness.
  • An innovative thermal solution: When a problem emerged with the cooling system, Intel’s engineers held another in-person bootcamp and found an innovative way to shrink the circuit board, making room for a game-changing new thermal solution.

Launching a New Era for Chromebooks

The Galaxy Chromebook elevates what’s possible for Chromebooks. Samsung recognizes its device as a huge engineering success that will inspire future Project Athena designs.

This ground-breaking partnership shows what Project Athena can accomplish. When the ecosystem’s brightest minds partner to solve a specific challenge mapped to a clear goal, the PC industry is nearly unstoppable.

About the Project Athena Innovation Program

Project Athena is Intel’s innovation program designed to incubate and deliver the future’s most advanced laptop experiences and form factors. Its innovation is rooted in insights about people and what they want and need from their laptops; it charts a course to deliver the best laptop experiences, leveraging the technological strengths of Intel’s PC platform engineering and long-held ecosystem partnerships.

To be a part of the Project Athena innovation program, laptop designs are co-engineered, tuned and tested with Intel to show they’ve met or surpassed the program’s tech specification and real-world key experiences spanning battery life, responsiveness, and instant wake.

Since its debut in 2019, Intel has verified2, more than 30 laptop designs against the program’s first specification and key experience targets. The company expects to verify approximately 50 more laptops across Windows and Chrome OS this year.