It's quite an exciting time to be a fan of gaming and Chromebooks. Following the introduction of Steam Alpha (Borealis) earlier this year, Intel's 11th and 12th Gen chipsets complete with Iris Xe graphics, are making for some pretty-capable devices.
With options like the ASUS Chromebook CX9 and the soon-to-be-released HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, these are two of the most powerful Chromebooks that we've ever seen. Not only are they among the best gaming Chromebooks, but from a hardware perspective, there's more power under the hood than pretty much any other Chromebook out there.
So now that the hardware is becoming available, and Steam Alpha is still chugging along, it's time for Google to begin preparing to capitalize. Over the course of the pandemic, we saw a meteoric rise in gaming, ranging from improvements to cloud streaming services. There are also new GPUs on the way, with AMD's Ryzen 7000-series and NVIDIA's RTX 4000-series. Expected to arrive sometime after September, these new GPUs aim to provide up to 130% faster performance than the current lineup, which will trickle down to laptop-dedicated GPUs, and in turn, Chromebooks.
What does this really mean for the future of gaming on Chromebooks? Well, things are already starting to shape up to be rather interesting. The timing of everything means that we'll have Chromebooks that can match up with the best laptops. It also puts ChromeOS and Google in a position to compete with the likes of Windows and macOS devices for more reasons than just getting work done. As a result, this gives consumers some additional options, without needing to make many (if any) sacrifices.
Chromebooks with dedicated NVIDIA and AMD GPUs are coming
Intel has done wonders to improve its onboard 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 this in mind, it's important to note that while the vastly-improved onboard graphics are fine, gaming can't reach its true potential until we see built-in graphics cards.
The assumption has been that we'll see some new Chromebooks in the near future that sport GPUs from AMD or NVIDIA. Some more fuel has been added to the fire following a discovery by ChromeUnboxed. According to a new Chromium Gerrit commit, a new Chromebook with the codename of "Agah" has appeared, using a 12th-gen Intel CPU along with an NVIDIA GPU. Unfortunately, there's no mention of what GPU is being used, but it's a device that definitely exists in some form or fashion.
Of course, you could chalk this up to being just another testing device that won't ever see the light of day. But it could also end up being one of the first true gaming Chromebooks released.
There will be plenty of gaming laptops to choose from
Google has a big role 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-driven games. But there's also something else that was recently found by the folks at 9to5Google suggesting that Google will be applying a "Cloud Gaming Device" label to certain Chromebooks.
Not only will there be new pre-installed apps, but it appears that "GeForce Now will even be one of the starter apps that is pinned to your ChromeOS bottom bar." What makes this a bit odd is that many of the best Chromebooks don't need a bunch of extra power just to play cloud-focused games, and that's the point of these types of services.
Whether it's GeForce Now, Google Stadia, or Xbox Game Pass, all you really need is a proper controller along with a fast, reliable, and stable internet connection. So what could be the purpose of this newly discovered label? It could mean that more laptop makers are getting into the Chromebook space. It could also mean that we will 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 aren't any gaming-centric equivalents when it comes to Chromebooks.
There's another scenario at play, that we're really keeping our fingers crossed for. 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 built-in GPUs paired with the latest AMD and Intel chipsets. This could open the door to more unique Chromebooks being released, as opposed to OEMs simply continuing to recycle naming conventions and causing confusion when it comes to the different versions.
Google is on the cusp of something great with ChromeOS
For years, ChromeOS has been lamented as a "children's" device, and a lot of that has to do with the popularity of Chromebooks in education. Cheap Chromebooks get the job done, and you don't need a lot of extra horsepower to enjoy a solid experience, even if you aren't using one for school.
But ChromeOS is also maturing at an increasingly rapid rate, and one that we're just excited to be on the ride for. Google has already been making the necessary changes that would open the door for gaming-centric accessories and hardware to be introduced 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 some more work to be done, as Google will need to support as many games as possible when the program exits its Alpha stage. Cloud gaming is already pretty great as it is, but it's obvious that Google wants to add some type of branding for a bit of marketing and PR flair.
We aren't expecting any major changes or introductions to arrive before the end of 2022. On the other hand, 2023 could end up being the biggest year for Chromebooks that we've ever seen.
Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.
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