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Gaming Chromebooks could actually be a thing soon — here's how

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 on a desk
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Chromebooks don't have much in common with gaming laptops, but that may soon change if a recent Chrome OS code update is any indication.

This is significant because Chromebooks are generally known for being cheap, durable and capable enough to tackle any task you can take care of with a browser and an Internet connection. Some are as thin and light as any ultraportable, and the best Chromebooks are elegant devices that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best laptops you can buy — but they're definitely not gaming machines. However, based on recent code updates, we may soon see a new breed of gaming-focused Chromebooks hitting the market.

News of the update comes to us courtesy of a 9to5Google report (opens in new tab) that Chrome OS devs added a new feature this month which lets users enable or disable RGB keyboard lighting on a per-key basis. It's currently only accessible to Chrome OS devs via a console command, but hopefully we'll see it put to use down the road in a feature which lets Chromebook users customize the RGB lighting scheme on their keyboards.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook running an Android game

Gaming Chromebooks with flashy RGB lighting and enough power to play (or stream) the latest PC games may be coming soon. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

9to5Google hypothesizes that this RGB keyboard support feature is associated with at least three upcoming pieces of hardware. One device is believed to be a detachable RGB keyboard which may be part of a gaming Chromebook 2-in-1 (like the Asus ROG Flow X13 gaming laptop/tablet hybrid) that's early in development. The other two devices which may be getting this feature are believed to be Chromebooks from HP and Lenovo packing Intel's latest 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs.

While the debut of this feature has nothing to do with Chromebooks running PC games well, the fact that Google appears to be equipping Chrome OS with a tool to customize the sort of per-key RGB backlighting typically seen on gaming laptops and keyboards suggests gaming Chromebooks are a real possibility for the future.

This isn't the first clue we've seen that gaming Chromebooks are on the horizon. Last year eagle-eyed Chrome fans spotted a Chrome OS build configuration for a Chromebook with a discrete AMD GPU, codenamed "Mushu", as well as code for a Chrome OS game mode feature that could be tied to long-running reports that Valve is working to bring Steam to Chromebooks.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.