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Steam is reportedly coming to these Chromebooks — this is big

Acer Chromebook Spin 514
(Image credit: Acer)

Steam running on Chromebooks has been a rumored ambition for Google for some time, but now 9to5Google (opens in new tab) believes it has uncovered the first seven laptops approved for Valve’s gaming platform.

Citing a recent code change (opens in new tab) on the Chromium Gerrit, the site spotted seven Chromebooks in a list of devices with support for Borealis — the reported code name for Steam games on Chrome OS. 

Of these, six Chromebooks identifiable from their own codenames: 

  •  Volta – Acer Chromebook 514 (CB514-1H)  
  •  Volet – Acer Chromebook 515  
  •  Voxel – Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (CP713-3W)  
  •  Delbin – Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500) 
  •  Drobit – Asus Chromebook CX9 (CX9400)  
  •  Elemi – HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook 

There is also one more unknown device — “Lindar”, which TechRadar (opens in new tab) has previously speculated could be a collaboration between Lenovo and Google.

But if you happen to have one of these Chromebooks, you should know that the code later clarifies that not all versions of the above models will work, as you need to have an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and at least 7GB RAM. 

Suffice it to say that this rules out all but the best Chromebooks, as most Chrome OS devices are known for their cheap-and-cheerful innards, due to the operating system’s modest processing requirements. 

That said, 9to5Google has uncovered evidence that Google is looking to expand beyond that with tests of 10th-generation Intel chips (opens in new tab) and processors from AMD (opens in new tab) also seemingly underway. It has also noted code changes submitted by those with Nvidia email addresses (opens in new tab), which is intriguing given Nvidia’s experimentation in pairing RTX GPUs with ARM processors (opens in new tab) — something which could transform Chromebooks’ gaming prospects if development continues.

That’s a big if, of course, but even if it doesn’t come to pass, or if you own a more basic Chromebook, all is not lost. Not only are the best Android games perfectly playable on Chrome OS, but so are cloud gaming services like GeForce Now, Xbox Game Pass or Google’s own (reportedly struggling) Stadia platform. 

Obviously, there are drawbacks to game streaming — chiefly the need for a stable internet connection, which rules out playing on the move — but it does make Chromebooks more versatile than they’re often given credit for. 

All the same, the ability to explore some entries on the Steam store front would be extremely welcome, even if the hardware continues to put limitations on what can actually be enjoyed.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.