Nvidia RTX GPUs are coming in the two upcoming Chromebooks

Google continues its push into gaming Chromebooks, with the next generation set to bring dedicated Nvidia RTX graphics cards.

Play on ChromeOS today

Last year, Google announced a big push for gaming on ChromeOS, including unveiling several gaming-focused Chromebooks. Despite what this hardware focus might mean, these laptops were best suited to cloud gaming needs because they lacked any dedicated graphics hardware.

However, Google has made it clear that the cloud isn’t the only intended path to play on ChromeOS (especially, given Stadia’s demise). For years, Google and Valve have made Steam up and running on ChromeOS, allowing high-end models to play locally downloaded games.

Acer Chromebook 516GE

At any other time, this might have seemed like a fool’s errand, but the PC gaming market is starting to turn around thanks to the popularity of Steam Deck. All of the same software that allows Steam Deck to run games so well also directly benefits Chromebooks since they are both based on Linux rather than Windows. Any developer working on making their game “Deck Verified” has also primarily optimized the game for ChromeOS.

However, the gaming Chromebooks we own today mainly get the “gaming” distinction based on good features like a higher screen refresh rate and RGB keyboard anti-ghosting. On the inside, it’s mostly the same Intel-based hardware you’d find in premium, ready-to-go Chromebooks.

These laptops Can You play Steam games, but you’ll probably want to stick with titles that are less graphically demanding. Google provided an example list of games tested on Chromebooks, consisting primarily of older 3D titles and recent indie games, as well as some fairly recent titles like DOOM (2016).

Nvidia RTX graphics in a Chromebook

Fortunately, Google is addressing this head on by enabling ChromeOS devices to include a dedicated Nvidia RTX graphics card. This effort went on for over a year as there were many factors to consider. For starters, since Steam games on ChromeOS take place in a virtual machine (or VM), Google needed to make sure that the virtual machine had direct access to the graphics card for maximum performance.

The company’s efforts initially focused on devices called “Draco” or “Agah”. From what we were able to uncover, this was an internal prototype based on 12th Gen Intel processors (Alder Lake) and included Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics hardware.

Early this year, the company shifted its focus to new foundational hardware codenamed “Hades”. Crucially, according to a developer comment posted by 9to5GoogleSince the Agah was only meant to be a prototype, Hades will be used in real retail Chromebooks. In that case, let’s take a look at what the first Chromebooks with Nvidia graphics will offer.

Set up Steam on ChromeOS
Steam games on ChromeOS today

For starters, Hades serves as the basis for OEMs to build, and so far two Chromebooks have come out — the “Cora” and the “Zeus.” No specific details of these models were cropped out, which means we can look to Hades for more details.

Hades-based Chromebooks will be built on Intel’s 13th-generation chips (Raptor Lake) and paired with Nvidia’s RTX 4050 graphics card. Since this particular model has yet to be announced, we don’t know exactly how well it will perform, but it should presumably be comparable. With the current RTX 3050, generally found in gaming laptops under $1,000.

Gaming Chromebooks will also feature newer DDR5 RAM, and according to one code change, the RAM will no longer be soldered on. If true, it would be possible to upgrade your Chromebook’s RAM for gaming down the line, if you see fit.

Google is also superimposing these two gaming models with a pair of unique features not seen in other Chromebooks today. First, at least one USB-C port will support the new “Extended Power Range” (EPR) standard that allows 240W of power to be transmitted over USB-C.

Besides, Google provides a way for the Chromebook to “bypass” the battery and run directly on the incoming power from the charger. This would be perfect for reducing heat and preserving your laptop’s battery health in the long run when you’re playing somewhere with a reliable power source.

For whom is this?

Overall, Google and Nvidia seem to have put a great deal of work into making gaming on ChromeOS more rewarding than ever. With the help of a dedicated graphics card — and the extra power to power it — these new Chromebooks can be surprisingly competent for gaming on the go.

However, we’re not yet sure what market Google and its OEM partners hope to capture with these laptops. Those who are already familiar with PC gaming will likely continue to use Windows devices. Instead, perhaps Google intends to introduce Chromebook owners to the world of PC gaming.

Since this new generation of hardware only seems to have launched in the past three months, we don’t currently expect to see gaming Chromebooks with Nvidia graphics released anytime very soon.

Thinking of a gaming-ready Chromebook? Let us know in the comments below.

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