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Steam on Chromebooks is ready for testing, comes with steep requirements

<i>Portal 2</i> is one of the games Google recommends trying.
Enlarge / Portal 2 is one of the games Google recommends trying.


After prematurely announcing that Steam on Chromebooks was ready for testing last week, Google is making the release official today. The alpha version of Steam on Chrome OS is currently available in the Chrome OS 14583.0.0 Dev channel, as announced via a post in Google’s Chrome Developers Community.

Not all Chromebooks will be able to run Steam, however. Google said only the following machines can try the alpha:

  • Acer Chromebook 514 (CB514-1W)
  • Acer Chromebook 515 (CB515-1W)
  • Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (CP713-3W)
  • Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500)
  • Asus Chromebook CX9 (CX9400)
  • HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook
  • Lenovo 5i-14 Chromebook

“Because many games have high performance demands, we’ve focused our efforts thus far on a set of devices where more games can run well,” Google said.

Chromebooks also need to hit specific requirements to run Steam, including an Intel 11th-gen Core i5 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, and 8GB of RAM. Google made it clear that using a supported machine with a lesser configuration—such as one that includes an i3 CPU or 4GB of RAM—will not cut it. In fact, you may want higher specs to run some games, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, two games Google claimed work well with the alpha.

These requirements limit Steam on Chrome OS to the pricier tier of Chromebooks. You can currently find HP’s G2 Chromebook for $849 and Acer’s Chromebook 514 for $780 or its Chromebook 515 for $772.

Asus' Chromebook CX9 (pictured) has either an i3 or i7 CPU, with the latter model costing $1,150.
Enlarge / Asus’ Chromebook CX9 (pictured) has either an i3 or i7 CPU, with the latter model costing $1,150.

it’s unclear if the vast number of Chromebooks with chips like Intel Pentiums and Arm-based offerings will be able to join the party when the feature is finalized.

In addition to the above titles, Google named 46 other PC games that work on Chrome OS, including Cuphead, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Fallout 4, Hades, Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2, Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Stardew Valley, and Tekken 7. 

Beyond the alpha, Google is also starting to experiment with supporting variable refresh rates in Chrome OS, which would be expected to fight screen tearing in supported displays, About Chromebooks reported Friday.

Get ready for bugs

Google said it doesn’t recommend trying Steam on Chrome OS on a “Chromebook that you rely on for work, school, or other daily activities.”

Expect “crashes, performance regressions,” and bugs, Google said. As this is an alpha, “anything can break,” Google said, highlighting the Dev channel’s “inherent instability” and the fact that Steam on Chrome OS is a work in progress.

Among the expected bugs are “performance and scaling issues” at resolutions higher than 1080p.

“It’s early days, but we’re hoping the optimization that comes from gathering user feedback helps us build a more polished experience at launch further down the line,” VP of Chrome OS John Maletis said in a statement.

Listing image by Getty / SOPA Images

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