Chrome OS Code Shows That Gaming Chromebooks Could Be Incoming

(Image credit: Google)

Google's Chrome OS has come a long way from the experimental devices aimed at enthusiasts all the way to machines for offices and education establishments. While there are fairly expensive Chromebooks with good displays for those who want a premium experience, there is still one market segment that Chrome OS yet has to address: gaming systems. But it looks like Google is working on this and a few gaming-oriented Chrome OS PCs are incoming. 

According to changes to Chrome OS source code made in the last few weeks and noticed by 9to5Google, Google has enabled support for RGB keyboards on supported devices to the operating system. RGB keyboards are common among gamers, but nobody can stop anyone from using a keyboard with RGB backlights with a Chrome OS-based machine. The key thing about enablement is that it is limited to select devices, and there are several of them incoming. 

The lineup of RGB keyboard-enabled devices includes codenames like VellTaniks, and Ripple. 9to5Google reports that Vell is a gaming Chromebook developed by Quanta, an original design manufacturer (ODM) working with many leading brands; Taniks is another Chromebook clamshell built by Lenovo's subsidiary LCFC; whereas Ripple is a 2-in-1 machine (a-la Pixel Slate) with an RGB keyboard. 

Vell and Taniks are reportedly based on Intel's 12th Generation Core 'Alder Lake' platform. Although we cannot verify, Intel's Alder Lake-N chips are rumored to be destined for Chromebooks. Meanwhile, the hardware inside Ripple is unknown. We also do not know what to expect from these systems apart from the latest CPU platform and an RGB keyboard. Perhaps a high-performance display panel will be offered as well.  

Truth to be told, Chromebooks can already play PC games using cloud services like Google's Stadia or Nvidia's GeForce Now, but most Chromebooks were not designed with games in mind, so the actual experience may be rather subpar.

Furthermore, PC gamers certainly want to be able to play their games from Steam, but there are no games designed for Chrome OS. Google is reportedly working on its codenamed Borealis effort that will allow running Linux-compatible titles in virtualization mode on Chromebooks, but it yet has to be launched. Meanwhile, keeping in mind that all Chromebooks are not exactly powerful as far as GPU performance is concerned, Borealis will probably enable running relatively outdated Linux-compatible games on Chromebooks, but not the latest titles that are already available on cloud streaming services like Google's own Stadia. 

But does it make sense for Google to launch gaming Chromebooks that can't run the whole Steam library and lack decent discrete GPU support? Since Chromebooks' growth slowed down in recent quarters, whereas demand for gaming PCs is booming, it certainly makes sense for Google to try its luck in a new category. To attract gamers to gaming Chromebooks, it could offer a free subscription to its Stadia cloud gaming service and bundle an appropriate controller with these PCs. After all, Stadia has not gained much traction yet, so maybe offering PCs designed with it in mind is a way to popularize it.  

It isn't likely that Google will talk about gaming Chromebooks until everything is ready, so at this point, we can only make guesses about its gaming efforts. 

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.