All Chromebooks to date not suitable for PC gaming

We’ve recently found out that the Steam Linux App that has been on the cards for a couple of years will finally be released in Alpha. If you like your gaming then I’m sure you’ve been waiting for this news for a long time. I know I have because I do like computer games, specifically PC-style games.

To use Steam Linux Alpha you need to switch from using the stable channel and go into the less reliable developer channel. Something that isn’t going to appeal to everyone because things can go wrong in the developer channel.

On top of this, you would need to own a Chromebook that meets certain requirements. The list is pretty small because it means owning a Chrome OS device with some pretty decent specs. Think eleventh-generation Intel i5 processor and above, and you get the idea.

I tested it out with my Asus CX5 Chromebook

Luckily, I happen to own the Asus CX5 Chromebook that meets the specs required, so I had to give it a go. I wasn’t expecting too much because I fully appreciate it’s in alpha. However, I have to give you the sad but real conclusion, it isn’t that great.

The actual process of setting up your Chromebook for Linux Alpha isn’t that difficult. If you want to know more have a read of how to set up Linux Alpha for your Chromebook. You’ll also find a list of all the devices currently compatible.

Steam Linux Alpha - Prison Architect - Chrome OS
Prison architect crashed on loading but worked on a standard Steam install

Once you’ve set up Linux Alpha on your Chromebook steam launches fine. It looks very similar to how it would look on an MS Windows PC. The problem I found is that hardly any of my games worked. I was able to install Civilization, but other games simply crashed. This included games specifically available for Linux, which worked on a normal install of Linux using .deb file install on your Chromebook.

The current Chromebooks will not play advanced PC games

Although Linux is in Alpha and it could not even run older games that are not graphically demanding. Will hopefully get resolved over time as Linux Alpha is continually developed. However. I’m still not sure any advanced games will work with the current Chromebooks we have available.

I’ve mentioned this before and still stand by my concerns that current Chromebooks are not made for advanced gaming. Sure, you should be able to play less demanding games, but any new game that has decent graphics will struggle.

It doesn’t matter whether Linux Alpha gets significantly improved in the next six months. There is no getting around the fact that if a game was designed with certain computer spec requirements in mind. Then Steam Linux Alpha isn’t going to magically change that.

Chromebooks will need more power, and that means they will cost more

If a game you play on your PC requires 8GB of RAM, an Intel i5 processor and can work with an integrated graphics card. Then you should hopefully be able to play these games once Linux Alpha is in a better place.

However, most modern games could not work with these specs. It doesn’t really matter if you have a superpowerful Intel i5 or i7 quad-core processor. If the game has been made to take advantage of a dedicated graphics card. Then your Chromebook would need a dedicated (Graphics Processor Unit) GPU.

I can’t see how there is any way you can get around this. This isn’t about coding and tweaking the code for Linux Alpha. It’s about physical hardware and whether games have been designed to need that physical hardware.

Summary

I think it’s great that we have a Steam Linux Alpha. What I’m not too impressed about is that it’s currently worse than installing Steam via Linux, which I simply don’t understand. We can only hope this improves over time, which I’m sure will be the case.

The one thing I think we need to be honest about is that current Chromebooks are not going to work with many modern PC games. If Linux Alpha gets to a stage where you can play PC games locally. Then I can’t see any way around needing a Chromebook with a GPU.

This will mean Chromebooks will cost a whole lot more than they do at the moment. We’d need a new tier of Chromebooks made for gaming. The cost of these will not be too different than a gaming PC made for MS Windows. I think a Chromebook at this price would be a hard sell. That’s before we even consider the fan noise people will have to get used to, which is something I’ve personally enjoyed doing without since moving over to Chrome OS.

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