It’s a pretty exciting time to be a fan of games and Chromebooks. Following the introduction of Steam Alpha (Borealis) earlier this year, Intel’s 11th and 12th generation chipsets with Iris Xe graphics are pretty capable devices.
With options like the ASUS Chromebook CX9 and the upcoming HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, these are two of the most powerful Chromebooks we’ve ever seen. Not only are they some of the best gaming Chromebooks out there, but from a hardware standpoint, there’s more power under the hood than pretty much any other Chromebook.
So now that the hardware is becoming available and Steam Alpha is still running, it’s time for Google to start preparing to capitalize. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a meteoric rise in gaming, from enhancements to cloud streaming services. New GPUs are also on the way, with AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series and NVIDIA’s RTX 4000 series. Slated to arrive after September, these new GPUs aim to deliver up to 130% faster performance than the current lineup, which will trickle down to dedicated laptop GPUs and, in turn, Chromebooks.
What is that really does this mean for the future of Chromebook gaming? Well, things are already starting to get rather interesting. The timing of everything means we’ll have Chromebooks that can match the best laptops. It also puts ChromeOS and Google in a position to compete with Windows and macOS devices for more reasons than just getting work done. As a result, this gives consumers additional options, without having to make many sacrifices (if any).
Chromebooks with dedicated NVIDIA and AMD GPUs are coming
Intel has done wonders to improve its on-board graphics capabilities with Iris Xe, and AMD has always been pretty good, but you won’t find any AMD-powered Chromebooks on Google’s Steam Alpha supported list. With that in mind, it’s important to note that while the vastly improved integrated graphics are good, the game can’t reach its true potential until we see integrated graphics.
The assumption was that we would see new Chromebooks with AMD or NVIDIA GPUs in the near future. A little more fuel has been added to the fire following a discovery by ChromeUnboxed. According to a new commit from Chromium Gerrit, a new Chromebook codenamed “Agah” has appeared, using a 12th Gen Intel processor with an NVIDIA GPU. Unfortunately, there is no mention of What The GPU is used, but it is a device that exists in one form or another.
Of course, you could think of this as just another test device that will never see the light of day. But it could also become one of the first true gaming Chromebooks released.
There will be plenty of gaming laptops to choose from
Google has a big part to play in all of this, as ChromeOS and future Chromebooks will need to have the hardware to support things like Steam and other hardware-based games. But there’s also something else recently uncovered by the folks at 9to5Google suggesting that Google will apply a “Cloud Gaming Device” label to some Chromebooks.
Not only will there be new apps pre-installed, but it looks like “GeForce Now will even be one of the startup apps pinned to your ChromeOS bottom bar.” What makes this a bit odd is that many of the best Chromebooks don’t need a whole lot of extra power just to play cloud-focused games, and that’s what these kinds of services are all about.
Whether it’s GeForce Now, Google Stadia, or Xbox Game Pass, all you really need is a proper controller and a fast, reliable, and stable internet connection. So what could be the purpose of this newly discovered label? This could mean more laptop makers entering the Chromebook space. It could also mean we’ll finally see Chromebooks with ASUS’ ROG branding, or a new offering with HP’s OMEN branding. Both of these are recognizable in the PC gaming space, but there are no gaming-centric equivalents when it comes to Chromebooks.
There’s another scenario at play, which we’re really keeping our fingers crossed. These Cloud Gaming Device-branded Chromebooks offer a few extra bells and whistles like faster refresh rates or RGB keyboards. But then, just like the Windows laptop space, we also have Chromebooks with integrated GPUs paired with the latest AMD and Intel chipsets. This could open the door for more unique Chromebooks to come out, as opposed to OEMs just continuing to recycle naming conventions and creating confusion when it comes to different versions.
Google is about to do something awesome with ChromeOS
For years, ChromeOS has been bemoaned as a “kids” device, and much of that has to do with the popularity of Chromebooks in education. Inexpensive Chromebooks do the job, and you don’t need a whole lot of extra power to get a solid experience, even if you’re not using one for school.
But ChromeOS is also maturing at an increasingly rapid rate, and we’re excited to be on the road. Google has already made the necessary changes that would open the door to introducing gaming-centric accessories and hardware as part of the Works with Chromebook initiative. This includes things like support for higher refresh rates with external displays, better diagnostics and connectivity with peripherals, and even RGB support.
Steam Alpha isn’t flawless, and there’s definitely more work to be done, because Google will need to support as many games as possible when the program exits its Alpha phase. Cloud gaming is already pretty awesome as it is, but obviously Google wants to add some kind of branding for a bit of marketing and PR.
We don’t expect any major changes or introductions to arrive until late 2022. On the other hand, 2023 could end up being the biggest year for Chromebooks we’ve ever seen.