AMD has partnered with Google to play Steam games on Chromebooks with Ryzen CPUs.
You may know that it’s been several years since Google first started talking about supporting Steam games on Chromebooks, and the functionality went into alpha testing earlier this year, but required an Intel CPU.
Now the project has moved into beta testing and will feature AMD processors, but only select Ryzen 5000 chips. Namely the AMD Ryzen 7 5825C or Ryzen 5 5625C processors, and the Chromebook in question also requires a minimum of 8GB of system RAM.
AMD notes that about 50 games are part of the first batch of Steam titles that can be played on an eligible 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.
Analysis: Coolness, but with caveats
How does this magic work? Well, Steam games are played on a Chromebook using the Proton compatibility layer, in the same way that the Steam Deck, a gaming handheld with a flavor of Linux as its operating system (SteamOS), can run Windows games. (Remember that Chrome OS is also based on Linux).
Obviously it’s pretty cool to run the Steam client and play PC games on a Chromebook, but there are a few caveats here. Obviously the first is that although this feature has evolved from alpha to beta, it will still be rough around the edges, so you can expect a variety of glitches, hitches, and gremlins.
And since compatibility is facilitated by Proton, as you may realize, games that use anti-cheat software will be problematic (even if the developer has enabled support for Proton, it may not work on Chromebooks yet).
In addition, some games are clearly more demanding than others, so the minimum system RAM of 8 GB may not be enough in some cases. Google notes that 16GB may be needed for smoother gameplay with some titles (or to run at all, for that matter).
For example, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (pictured above) is one of those games that needs 16 GB, and Google further recommends “setting graphics and postprocessing to low” in the release notes. (These notes provide not only a list of compatible games and additional requirements in some cases, but also documented known issues and an overview of Chromebooks that are currently supported).
Chromebooks are becoming more and more suitable for gaming, as we’ve seen in recent times, not only because of these advances in bringing Steam games to the platform, but also thanks to the development of Chromebooks specifically aimed at gamers (with decent components, high-quality screens, RGB gaming keyboards, etc.).
As for how these devices compare to a full-blown gaming laptop, there’s still a way to go – but the hope is that Chromebooks can at least stand a good chance of providing an affordable alternative way to enjoy gaming on the go.