Google might be onto something

Andrew Grush / Android Authority

Google’s mid-October announcement revealed its first three ChromebooksOfficially designed to stream games. At the time, I wondered if a gaming Chromebook actually made sense or if this was just another rushed idea that wasn’t fully ready for prime time. It turns out that the answer is a bit of both.

Over the last nearly two months, I’ve had the opportunity to use the Acer Chromebook 516GE as my primary machine for work and play.

The hardware is good, the screen is bright, the keyboard is great, and the power is sufficient for my daily tasks. While streaming games can look and work well, if you have the right connection, there will be occasional slowdowns and glitches. Even Steam support is actually surprisingly good, though it’s still a beta feature.

After using the Acer Chromebook 516GE I’m convinced that gaming Chromebooks make a lot of sense. A gaming Chromebook could prove to be a smart move for Google and consumers. Gaming Chromebooks won’t live up to their full potential, however. At least not soon.

About this articleI used the Acer Chromebook 516GE to test for two months. Although the unit was provided by Acer for testing purposes, Acer had no control over its content or direction.

Google can gain a lot from gaming Chromebooks

Three gaming laptops

Criticisms have been panned for years Google ChromebooksThey are cheap web portals and offer little more than that. Despite this, Chromebooks have seen an enormous growth in popularity over the years. AppleIn the education sector. Recently, however, fortunes have started to slip a bit.

The pandemic was very damaging to the economy. However, laptop sales have remained strong due to the increase in working from home. It’s not just that, however. Also, lockdowns meant that more people were forced to stay indoors for extended periods of time. This also meant that PC gaming saw an increase during this period. Chromebooks are experiencing a different story right now.

Chromebook shipments are at the lowest they’ve been in five years for both educational and consumer demand. Due to the pandemic and school closures, some of this slide is due to school finances tightening. Chromebooks also last a long time and so they don’t need to be upgraded very often. But, the pandemic itself is another reason.

Google built a cloud-first platform, and it’s a good one. It’s faster for most basic tasks, sips battery life even on more advanced hardware, and it’s relatively safe from viruses and other malware. There’s just one problem: Many consumers still think it’s not a real laptop.

Chromebooks are still considered to be less than a true laptop, but gaming could change this.

People who are buying computers right now feel that they are good for their daily work and personal needs. That’s just not something Chromebooks have a reputation for.

Google needs to continue to drive the message that Chromebooks are cloud-first but this doesn’t mean they are all basic entry-level machines. Google should show off the versatility of Chrome OS and dispel the notion that Chrome OS is only for browsing the internet. Google should be able to convince mainstream users that Chromebooks can play games. Gaming is often associated strongly with high-end hardware.

Also, winning over gamers would be a great thing. expand its market reach. 60% of Americans play video games every day. Globally, there are currently three billion video gamers.

Furthermore, 59% are younger than 34 years old. These are the same people you may have grew up with. Chrome OS in schools. People will stay with the platform they know, as long it meets their needs. Google is able to better serve these users by adding gaming capabilities. Google could reap the benefits of gaming Chromebooks, in a number of ways.

So I can see why Google might want to expand into gaming from a business standpoint. But is this a good move for gamers or not? It could be. It could be. After all, not everyone wants to be tied down to Windows. Having more options is a good thing. Take a look around the Steam DeckDespite being its own Linux-based platform and proving immensely popular,. Steam OS. While the Steam Deck technically can run Windows, Steam OS is the default OS. Most gamers embrace the Linux-based platform. Steam is a major reason why Mac owners are getting more into gaming, and it’s partly due to Steam.

There’s a growing demand for gaming machines beyond Windows PC, but it will only matter if Google can figure out the right approach.

Chromebooks may be a good option for gamers, but only Google can think beyond the cloud.

Screenshot 2022 12 16 1.19.34 PM

Andrew Grush / Android Authority

PC gamers are often more tech-savvy than console or mobile gamers, though obviously, that’s not always true. Part of this is because a good gaming rig can cost a lot, so more casual folks aren’t investing in them. But it’s also down to Windows. Windows is more demanding than Chrome OS, macOS, and Linux. Malware is more prevalent, and Windows has a reputation for being less stable. This means PC gamers must be more knowledgeable to keep everything running smoothly.

If you’re a gamer but don’t want to mess with the more technical aspects like Windows maintenance, Chrome OS would certainly prove easier to use. It’s also cheaper than going the Mac route and has less of a DYI approach than most Linux machines.

Chromebooks also don’t have the virus problems you’ll find with Windows, thanks to their sandbox nature. A Chromebook can be set up in just a few minutes. Due to Windows licensing costs, they are cheaper than most Windows machines even if they have similar hardware specs. Chrome OS is more affordable for OEMs, which allows Chromebook manufacturers to keep their costs down. The barebones web-first nature of the OS also means it’s less resource intensive to begin with so it runs better even on less powerful specs.

Gaming Chromebooks require more than cloud gaming to be truly successful.

The real problem for Chrome OS is cloud gaming isn’t enough to win over gamers. As we expect, the Acer Chromebook 516GE handles streaming games very well. As we mentioned, streaming games requires an internet connection that is fast and reliable. When that’s not present, the Chromebook effectively becomes a doorstop for gaming.

I had several issues streaming videos from my Chromebook while going to coffee shops, or staying at a hotel for the weekend. The best thing about my ROG Zephyrus G14 device is that I can play my games wherever I go with almost the same power as a computer behind me. That’s simply not the case for gaming Chromebooks. Gaming Chromebooks without local gaming support will not be noticed enough. This is where the solution lies.

Chromebooks can already be used for mobile gaming, and Google could add perks such as a free Google Play account. Google Play Pass subscriptionFor the first year of ownership, or something similar. Yes, we know mobile gaming still won’t cut it. That’s where Steam comes into play.

acer chromebook 516ge 1

Andrew Grush / Android Authority

Right now, Steam for Chromebooks is still a beta product so it can’t be an official part of Google’s gaming strategy. This will hopefully change in the future. Steam is my favorite way to create a complete gaming package for Chromebooks.

The Acer Chromebook Chromebook 516GE is one the few Chromebooks that runs the Steam Beta. After switching the Chromebook to the beta channel, I eagerly installed the Steam Beta. As it’s still just a beta, you’re not going to get a perfect experience, but I was actually blown away by how functional it is.

Fallout 4 ran smoothly, with no hiccups. However, I had to reduce the settings to low. Stellaris ran flawlessly even with all my mods and expansions. It was set to medium settings. Games such as Disco Elysium performed beautifully at medium settings. The 516GE will install most non-intensive Steam games, but it is up to you how playable the experience is. Games designed for Linux work best, but games made with Windows can still be installed. They take longer to install because Steam must process Vulkan shaders, and make some other tweaks. However, this is all automated and requires no user effort.

acer chromebook 516ge 2

Andrew Grush / Android Authority

Not all games performed as expected. Some of this can be attributed to the Intel Iris graphics simply not being able to handle new AAA titles. Theoretically, future gaming Chromebooks with dedicated AMD and Nvidia graphics will be able handle even more. Steam is still in beta so there will be bugs.. Here’s a list of games that have been confirmed to work with. Steam on Chromebooks hereIt is not an exhaustive list.

The third issue is that while some games on Steam are natively working on Chrome OS using the Linux compatibility layer, others are basically converting Windows versions and that’s when things get a bit more hit-and-miss. This situation is expected to improve as Steam Deck (and hopefully gaming Chromebooks!) gains more users. We’ve already seen Valve work with its partners to bring native Linux support to hundreds of major games, giving the open-source platform the best gaming support it has ever seen in its many decades of existence.

My Steam experience was so great, I sometimes forgot that I was using a Chromebook rather than a Windows PC.

Imagine if Google, Valve and others pooled their resources in order to promote Linux-based gaming. While Microsoft probably isn’t shaking in its boots over this idea, over time it could slowly help Google and Valve catch up to Windows in gaming performance.

Google could be able to make a deadly combination of mobile gaming, game streaming, and Steam.

Is a Chromebook a serious competitor to a real gaming laptop? It is unlikely, if at all, that it will be anytime soon. It doesn’t need to. Take a look at Steam Deck, which has managed not to sell. a million units despite limited production runs. There is a market for a simple-to-use gaming machine capable of playing PC games. The gaming Chromebook is a better option than the Steam Deck-style Steam Deck. You can hook up the Deck to a monitor to use it as a Linux productivity device, but something like an Acer Chromebook 516GE is a fully-fledged laptop you can use for browsing, work, and more without any accessories.

Google is making one of the biggest mistakes in terms of timing

Google Stadia Founders Edition box top down

Although I got a glimpse of what a true gaming Chromebook might look like, the Acer Chromebook516GE was far from perfect. While I believe a gaming Chromebook could be a smart move by Google, the problem is that it was not perfect. Google is doing it wrong.

Google’s current approach to gaming Chromebooks has some flaws, but the biggest problem is its timing. It launched a cloud-first product almost immediately following the announcement of its name. quits on Google Stadia. Stadia might not have the subscriber count Google wanted, but it had its loyal fans. These fans were quite upset when Google pulled out Stadia. Do they expect to openly support gaming Chromebooks? Pretty low, I’d say.

Waiting a bit longer to launch wouldn’t have magically fixed Google’s cloud reputation, but it could have given the company more time to ensure the launch was successful enough that spurned users might still give it another chance. It may have also allowed Google to work with its partners to develop features that would have made the gaming Chromebooks even more successful.

I mentioned previously that the Acer Chromebook 516GE can work with Steam, and that this should be a main focus for gaming Chromebooks once beta is over. Google could have waited longer for gaming Chromebooks to be launched with its partners to allow it to work with Valve, prioritize Steam readiness for the official Chrome OS channel, and give Google more time. This would have really helped machines stand out.

Stadia has been discontinued. Steam isn’t ready. Google, your timing is terrible.

Google could have integrated its streaming partner services better into its OS by waiting a bit longer. Amazon Luna, Xbox Gamepass, Nvidia GeForce NowAll supported apps will be pre-installed on gaming Chromebooks. My experience with the apps is great, especially if you have a good connection. What’s missing is deeper integration into the OS itself. Without this, a gaming Chromebook will be a modified Chromebook with a few preinstalled applications that you can just sideload.

Pixel phones have the Discovery feed you can swipe to right within the launcher, I’d like to see Google and its partners do something similar for gaming Chromebooks. Imagine a portal that lets you search for all the best mobile, Steam and streaming games on your device. You can download or stream them immediately. Chrome OS settings should include more advanced gaming features, such as fan speeds, power profiles, overclocking, and fan speeds. Imagine seamless integration of Chrome OS’s notification and chat services with partner services.

While my Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 doesn’t have tight gaming integration beyond what is provided by Windows already, it does have more advanced settings like different performance profiles, the ability to tweak fan settings, and more. Gaming Chromebooks don’t really add much more customization to the mix than a standard Chromebook.

It would have made most sense for Google Stadia, to be the integrated service. However, third-party options can also be as effective. As long as there’s real value added to Google’s take on game streaming, that will help gaming Chromebooks stand out from any other device that supports Luna, Xbox Game Pass, or Nvidia GeForce Now. Right now I’d say that’s definitely not the case.

Do you need a gaming Chromebook?

Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Chromebook showing Chromebook logo

Kris Carlon / Android Authority

Right now gaming Chromebooks hold plenty of promise, but they are rough around the edges, unless you’re content with gaming streaming as your main way to play. If gaming is your primary use case, I honestly don’t think Chromebooks are there yet.

Gaming Chromebooks could be great productivity tools, however. This is important for anyone who needs it. who love productivity Chromebooks, as there haven’t been that many great options recently. While I can’t vouch for Asus or Lenovo’s options, the Acer Chromebook 516GE absolutely blew past my expectations when it came to day-to-day use. It was able to do photo editing, writing and editing, as well as video conferencing without any problems.

Gaming Chromebooks are a good alternative if you are a Chromebook user, but are disappointed by the lackluster Pixelbook laptops in 2022. Just understand the gaming experience isn’t going to be perfect — yet.

Acer Chromebook 516 GE

Acer Chromebook 516 GE

Great for productivity • Great streaming support

One of the first Chromebooks for gaming

The Acer Chromebook516GE was designed with gaming streaming in mind. It features a large 16-inch screen, a light up keyboard and other high-end functions. This laptop is great for streaming games and it also has high-end specs that make it a great productivity tool.

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