Having been confirmed by a Googler over two years ago, Chrome OS is now closer than ever to officially supporting gaming through Steam. 9to5Google has uncovered the first Chromebooks that should support playing Steam games.
When we first investigated Google’s efforts into playing Steam games on Chrome OS, codenamed Borealis, all signs pointed to things kicking off with Chromebooks built with Intel’s 10th Gen Core processors. Of course, a year and a half has passed since then with no indication of when Steam would be launching onto Chromebooks.
However, things may finally be in the final stages of preparation. According to a developer comment from January, Google now has firm “timelines” for when Steam on Chrome OS needs to ship. It’s possible this is directly related to Google’s partner companies like Lenovo and HP likely working on Chromebooks with RGB keyboards marketed at gamers.
Update: Since this article was published, Google has officially unveiled the Steam Alpha for Chrome OS, including which Chromebooks are supported (effectively the same list as seen below) and what games you can probably play well. If you’re curious as to how well it runs, our Ben Schoon was able to go hands-on with Steam games on his own Chromebook.
In a recently posted code change, Google has introduced an initial list of supported Chromebook models, along with a few extra minimum specs they’ll need to have. For now, the list consists mostly of Chromebooks from Acer and ASUS.
- Volta – Acer Chromebook 514 (CB514-1H)
- Volet – Acer Chromebook 515
- Voxel – Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (CP713-3W)
- Delbin – ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500)
- Drobit – ASUS Chromebook CX9 (CX9400)
- Elemi – HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook
- Lindar – Unknown/unreleased Chromebook from Lenovo
Further down in the code, we find that not just any version of these Chromebooks will work, as there are a few extra requirements. At a minimum, your Chromebook needs to have an (11th gen) Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and a minimum of 7 GB of RAM. This eliminates almost all Chromebooks but those in the upper-mid range and high end.
That said, there is plenty of time for this list to expand in the coming weeks and months. Notably, none of the aforementioned Chromebooks with RGB keyboards are currently listed as supported. We’ve also seen evidence that Google has been testing Steam on older 10th Gen Intel Core processors as well as chips from AMD, each as recently as October.
Another interesting tidbit is that Nvidia appears to be directly involved with the development of Steam support for Chrome OS, with multiple code changes being developed and submitted by Nvidia employees. Nvidia was already set to have a greater presence in Chrome OS thanks to its collaboration with MediaTek.
At the same time, Nvidia has been actively working on making it possible for Chromebooks to have a discrete graphics card – or “dGPU,” which is strictly used for intensive usage – be used exclusively by the virtual machine that will be used by Steam. Considering there aren’t any Chromebooks on the current list that offer a dGPU, surely there are more supported models to be added in the future.
All said and done, it’s clear that Google has strong ambitions for gaming on Chrome OS both in the possibly near future and in coming years, including an entirely new class of gaming Chromebooks on the horizon to better support Steam. It should be interesting to see how Google manages to fit Steam on Chrome OS into its broader gaming vision with things like Stadia and Google Play Games on PC.
More on Chrome OS:
- Exclusive: Pixel will be able to stream Android apps to your Chromebook/PC, here’s how it works [Video]
- CloudReady is now ‘Chrome OS Flex,’ Google’s free way to turn old Macs, PCs into Chromebooks
- ‘Bruschetta’ may bring your favorite flavor of Linux into Chrome OS
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