If you’ve kept up with Chrome OS in the past six months or so, you’ll know that one of the more interesting new features to launch is Linux apps support. While this has potential to introduce all sorts of new applications to Chrome OS, there are some features missing that hold it back, in this early stage. One of the most anticipated features, graphics acceleration (or GPU support), necessary for running Linux games and some other apps, will be available to test soon on Chrome OS.
As it stands, Chrome OS’s Linux apps support (internally known as Crostini) can be used to run some (non-intense) games on your favorite Chromebook. However, without GPU support, they’re running exclusively using the main processor, which makes many games slower or entirely inaccessible.
Of course, games aren’t the only programs that use the GPU. One major application that Google has been hard at work trying to perfect for Chrome OS is Android Studio. While Android Studio itself can run on Chrome OS today through Linux apps support, the Android Emulator, used for testing your Android app on a simulated device, makes heavy use of the GPU.
A proposed code change, discovered on Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, will create a new option to enable the GPU inside of the Linux apps virtual machine. Additionally, the short term plan for GPU support in Chrome OS Linux apps is laid out plainly.
Update 1/18: Kevin Tofel at About Chromebooks has discovered that the GPU support for Linux apps should be arriving shortly in Canary for a handful of high-end Chromebooks. It’s too early to say at this point why Google is limiting the test to these five models, but support for more will likely some soon.
- Google Pixelbook
- Acer Chromebook 13
- Acer Chromebook Spin 13
- HP X360 Chromebook 14
- Lenovo Chromebook C630
Judging from the commit message’s listed “test,” the GPU may still need to be enabled using the command seen below, but we’ll know more over the weekend. I know I’ll personally be trying out some Steam games on the Pixelbook.
Be advised though, that Canary builds of Chrome OS are highly unstable, and you can’t switch back without powerwashing your device. You may want to at least wait for this to land in the Dev channel.
At first, only users of the Beta, Dev, and Canary update channels will be able to try out GPU support. This is because Google considers the feature to be in “pre-alpha” stage and that it is therefore “not ready for everyday use.”
Intentionally not included in this commit is a simple way to enable the GPU, using the app icon, due to the test being pre-alpha. Power users who wish to try out GPU support (when it arrives in your preferred update channel of Chrome OS) may need to use a special command in the Crosh terminal.
vmc start --enable-gpu termina
As the code change has not been finalized, it’s not yet known when we’ll see GPU support arrive for testing on Chrome OS.