If we look back to when the Chromebook was initially launched in 2011. All of the devices that were available were cheap budget laptops. This was perfectly fine at the time because you didn’t need much else to use ChromeOS. In fact, it’s still the case today that you can get most things done with a cheap Chromebook, which is why you still find plenty of them to choose from.
In the past few years, Google has been working hard to bridge the gap between what you can do with a ChromeOS laptop compared to a Microsoft or Apple laptop. The great news is they’ve been pretty successful at it. This means the need for something more than just a budget Chromebook is something many people can take advantage of.
The introduction of Android and Linux apps in 2018 was the first reason why people wanted more from a Chromebook. This saw the introduction of medium-spec ChromeOS laptops such as the Asus C434, the slightly cheaper C433 and the original HP x 360. These were incredibly popular, and we’ve seen many more models released since.
The High-spec Chromebook
Apart from the Pixelbook, we hadn’t seen many high-spec Chromebooks. This changed after manufacturers were impressed with the sales of their medium-spec offerings. Although high-spec ChromeOS laptops were few and far between in 2020. If you take a look around now you’ll see plenty of higher-spec Chromebooks available such as the HP Dragonfly and the three new cloud-gaming Chromebooks.
I wasn’t too convinced by the need for super-powerful Chromebooks when they started to hit the shelves. Sure, they looked great and they offered some serious performance, but I always had the nagging question of why you would need such a powerful laptop. After all, ChromeOS was and still is a lightweight operating system, so you can do most things without needing lots of processing power. Things change a little when it comes to gaming.
I was blown away when I could play some of my favourite PC games on my Chromebook. This was possible due to the advances in streaming, and I’ve played many hours of gaming using streaming platforms such as Nvidia GeForce Now. Streaming games don’t require local processing power, as it’s all done in the cloud. It’s why I was able to stream games even on a budget Chromebook. When Steam and Google started working together to create a Steam Linux App for ChromeOS, high-performing Chromebooks started making more sense.
Playing games locally with the Steam Linux app
As soon as it was possible to install Steam on a Chromebook thanks to Linux I was all over it. The issue was that the games didn’t work too well. This wasn’t just about Chromebooks not being powerful enough. ChromeOS has always put security first, which meant Steam and any other Linux app was limited to using all of your computer’s hardware.
This is one of the limitations that the Steam Linux App has had to deal with. How to get access to all of your computer’s performance, and how to communicate with other parts of your computer, whilst maintaining security. Steam Linux Alpha was launched in April 2022, and it worked better than installing Steam directly from Linux. The recent launch of Steam Beta in November 2022 offers a more stable experience.
Steam beta offers a more stable local gaming experience
I’ve been really impressed with Steam beta. I decided to try and install Anno 2070 locally on my Chromebook and was surprised that it worked just fine. I was using my Asus CX5, which is one of the devices that are compatible with Steam beta. It took about 5 minutes to download the game from Steam to local storage. I then simply launched the game and had no issues whatsoever.
Now I’m not saying that you can install all of the games you own on a Chromebook at the moment. However, the fact that it’s now possible to install some games locally surely shows we are getting to that stage. The reason why I was impressed about Anno 2070 installing without any issues. Is that it’s the first game I’ve installed that was originally written for Microsoft Windows. This means the Steam Play compatibility tool for ChromeOS is doing its job. Previous to this I was only able to get games written for Linux to work.
By the time Steam is out of beta I’m sure there will be many more gaming titles that can be played. This means the need for more powerful Chromebooks if you want to play games locally is an absolute must.
I’m really pleased with where local Chromebook gaming is heading, which is thanks to Google and Steam working together to make this possible. It’s no longer the case that high-performing Chromebooks will only be needed by a small number of people.
If you’re considering buying a new laptop and playing games is important to you. Then I would seriously consider making sure you buy a high-performing Chromebook.