It’s already been almost eight months since Google and Valve announced that they were jointly working on a version of Steam for ChromeOS, something that would greatly expand the gaming options available on Chromebooks. While this was an alpha release, limited to a handful of devices, I was surprised to how decent the experience was – even the most powerful Chromebooks won’t be able to run cutting-edge titles, but there are plenty in the Steam catalog worth playing.
Starting today, more people can have fun: Google and Valve have announcement that Steam for ChromeOS has moved into beta. This means that a handful of things have changed; one of the most notable updates is that you don’t need to change your Chromebook to run on the experimental, less stable version. Development channel. Instead, you can run your device on the beta release channel; Obviously, that’s still not something you might want to do with a computer you rely on for day-to-day work, but ChromeOS beta builds are generally pretty stable.
Another big change is wider hardware support. Beta now works with Chromebooks running AMD Ryzen 5000 C-Series and 12th Gen Intel Core processors; the list of supported devices now includes 20 models, up from just seven previously. In addition to supporting these new chips, Steam also works with Core i3 and Ryzen 3 processors. Google still warns that an i5 or Ryzen 5 chip with 16GB of RAM is recommended – but possibly opening things up to the many Chromebooks with i3 processors might be good for people playing older or less demanding games.
Google has also made some changes to the user experience. A basic one is to keep the low battery notification popping up when you’re playing a full-screen game so your computer doesn’t die unexpectedly. A more complicated change involves the way Steam handles storage in ChromeOS – previously games simply reserved the amount of space needed based on the requirement reported on Steam. But games that needed to download content from outside of Steam weren’t able to access the storage they need. Google and Valve say they’ve completely reworked the way Steam determines how much storage it needs, a process that has led to additional benefits, like better file access for games that use the Proton compatibility tool.
Finally, there are a number of notable performance and compatibility updates. Steam for ChromeOS now works with the widely used DirectX 12 and Vulkan 1.3 graphics libraries, and Google says battery life when running games has been improved by reducing CPU overhead when playing games. running titles using DirectX or Vulkan. Google has also fixed some issues with high resolution displays – even if games ran at a lower resolution, Chromebooks with displays running at QHD or UHD resolutions could experience serious performance issues. Fortunately, this should no longer be the case.
If you’re ready to take your Chromebook to the beta channel, you can get started with these new Steam features today. Google’s Chrome site has everything you’ll need to try it out, including a list of new supported devices, recommended games, and known issues to watch out for.
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