Google is trying to make Chromebooks for cloud gaming

Some of Google may have stopped gaming in the cloud, and Stadia will be discontinued in a few months. But within the ChromeOS team, there’s a whole new initiative to try and cut down on the whole “you can’t game on a Chromebook” thing. Today, Google – along with a handful of hardware and software partners – is announcing what it calls “the world’s first laptops built for cloud gaming.”

Reducing the hyperbole, what does this mean in practice? After all, the whole point of cloud gaming is that you don’t need super-powerful hardware to enjoy high-quality games — many existing Chromebooks can run cloud gaming services just fine. That said, the new laptops announced today are quite different from your average Chromebook.

On a high note, Google says it has focused on a handful of hardware features to differentiate these laptops, including large displays with high refresh rates, keyboards with anti-ghosting technology (and in some cases, RBG keyboards), WiFi 6/6E cards and generally high specifications.

Three new laptops from ASUS, Acer and Lenovo
Acer Chromebook 516 GE


ASUS, Acer and Lenovo all announced new computers today as part of this push. First, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE has a 16-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and a refresh rate of 120 Hz, along with an RBG anti-ghosting keyboard and 12th Gen Intel processors (up to a Core i7). It is also equipped with a gigabit ethernet port, two USB-C ports, a USB-A port and HDMI. Finally, it has DTS audio through two upward-firing speakers and two more downward-firing speakers on the bottom of the laptop. Acer will offer a number of configurations, but the first will be at Best Buy this month for $650 – it will include a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage via the NVMe SSD.

ASUS’ offerings are a bit different: The Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip has a 15.6-inch display that hits up to 1080p, but it’s a touchscreen and has an even higher refresh rate of 144 Hz. As the name suggests, the CX55 can spin in “tablet” and “tent” modes, just like many other ASUS Chromebooks. It doesn’t have RGB lighting on the keyboard, but it does have a rather noticeable orange border, including around the crucial WASD keys; it also has 1.4mm of travel.

                                                                                                                            ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip

In terms of specs, the CX55 uses 11th generation Intel processors; you can get it with an i3, i5 or i7. The i3 model is paired with Intel UHD graphics, while the i5 and i7 models use Intel’s Iris X graphics. It has 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM and up to 512 GB of storage. Unsurprisingly, the CX55 also has two USB-C ports, as well as USB-A and HDMI ports. The laptop is also due out this month, and Google said in a briefing that the price would start at $399 – we don’t know what specs that will contain, but it’s probably safe to assume it’s the i3 model.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook


Lenovo’s IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook has quite a bit in common with Acer’s device. It has a 16-inch display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and a refresh rate of 120 Hz, as well as an RGB, anti-ghosting keyboard with 1.5 mm of travel. Processors include 12th Gen Intel Core i3 or Core i5 options, plus 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage (base configuration starts with 128GB). The port selection is a little more limited – it only offers two USB-C ports, one USB-A port and a MicroSD slot. Like the other two laptops, the IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook launches this month; it starts at $599.

Software, gaming services and peripheral partnerships
Banner for cloud gaming titles


Of course, access to software and games is perhaps just as important here as the hardware. As such, Google has partnerships with NVIDIA, Amazon, and Microsoft to ensure its devices work directly with GeForce Now, Luna, and Xbox Game Pass. Its partnership with NVIDIA is probably the most important as the company brings GeForce Now’s high-performance RTX 3080 layer to Chromebooks for the first time. supports these specifications of course). NVIDIA has also created a progressive web app (PWA) so you can launch directly into GeForce Now from your Chromebook’s dock or launcher.

Microsoft also made a PWA for Game Pass, but everything works the same as running Game Pass on a PC – assuming you have an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you can stream any Game Pass title to your Chromebook. Likewise, an Amazon Luna subscription gives you access to a rotating selection of over 100 games.

Google is also optimizing ChromeOS to make instant game launches easier. When you hit the “everything” search button on your Chromebook, just type in the name of the game you want to play and launch it right away, as if it were installed by default. For starters, this only works with the GeForce Now catalog (as well as apps on Google Play), but Google says it wants to add this search feature for other services as well.

To ensure that anyone viewing these Chromebooks can start playing right away, Lenovo, Acer, and ASUS have all included a three-month subscription to the GeForce Now RTX 3080 tier and three months of Amazon Luna+. The ASUS option also includes a free SteelSeries Rival 3 gaming mouse.

Speaking of mice, Google also partnered with companies like SteelSeries, Corsair, and HyperX (as well as Lenovo and Acer) to make sure their gaming-focused peripherals work with Chromebooks. This includes ensuring that these peripherals can fine-tune their settings in ChromeOS, in some cases through PWAs.

Do gaming Chromebooks stand a chance?

It’s reasonable to wonder how much traction Google’s latest initiative will gain. Chromebooks have had a lot of success in education and (to a lesser extent) corporate settings, but the idea of ​​a full-fledged push to let people game on a Chromebook is a pretty big shift. That said, I’m impressed with the prices on these models — there aren’t many Chromebooks out there with large, high-resolution, high-refresh displays. Overall, it sounds like you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with these models compared to some other premium ChromeOS devices. Sure, these laptops are a lot bigger and heavier than the standard 13-inch Chromebook, but that’s a tradeoff that may work for some people.

Google also puts a big advertising and awareness campaign into this strategy, and it’s not tied to a single product like Stadia. Since Google is service agnostic, these laptops should provide a very good cloud gaming experience for the foreseeable future, even if Google doesn’t stick with its cloud gaming push in the long run. And with other initiatives like Steam for ChromeOS advancing (Google said it should enter beta soon), it’s fair to say the company appears to be focusing on removing the long-standing idea that you can’t get games on it. can play a Chromebook.

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