You may be aware that it’s been several years since Google first started talking about supporting Steam games on Chromebooks, and the functionality entered alpha testing earlier this year, but required an Intel CPU.
Now, the project has moved into beta testing, and incorporates AMD processors – but only certain Ryzen 5000 chips. Namely the AMD Ryzen 7 5825C or Ryzen 5 5625C processors, and the Chromebook in question also needs a minimum of 8GB of system RAM too.
AMD notes that some 50 games are part of the initial line-up of Steam titles that can be enjoyed on a qualifying Chromebook.
What kind of games are we talking about? Compatible efforts include Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, Civilization V, Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, among others.
Analysis: Coolness, but with caveats
How does this magic work? Well, Steam games are played on a Chromebook using the Proton compatibility layer, which is the same way that the Steam Deck, a gaming handheld running a flavor of Linux as an operating system (SteamOS), is able to run Windows games. (Remember, Chrome OS is Linux-based too).
Clearly, being able to run the Steam client and play PC games on a Chromebook is pretty cool, but there are some caveats to be observed here. Obviously the first is that while this feature has progressed from alpha to beta, it’ll still be rough around the edges, so you can expect to encounter a variety of glitches, hitches and gremlins.
And because compatibility is facilitated by Proton, as you may realize, games using anti-cheat software are going to be problematic (even if the developer has enabled support for Proton, it may not work on Chromebooks – yet).
Furthermore, some games are obviously more demanding than others, so that minimum system RAM of 8GB may not be enough in some cases. Google notes 16GB might be needed for smoother gameplay with some titles (or to run at all, for that matter).
For example, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (pictured top) is one of those games that needs 16GB, and Google further advises to “set graphics and postprocessing to low” in its release launch notes. (Those notes provide not just a list of compatible games and additional requirements in some cases, but also documented known issues, and a roundup of Chromebooks that are currently supported).
Chromebooks are becoming more suited to gaming as we’ve seen in recent times, not just due to this progress with bringing Steam games to the platform, but also thanks to the development of Chromebooks specifically targeting gamers (with decent components, high-quality displays, RGB gaming keyboards and so forth).
As to how these devices compare to a full gaming laptop, well, there’s still some way to go here – but the hope is that Chromebooks can at least make for a decent shot at an affordable alternative way to enjoy gaming on the go.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).