Having a computer for work is nice, but a gaming computer will always be better because it can do what a work computer can and more. You might think that a Chromebook is mostly marketed as a laptop for light work, but can you actually use it for gaming?
Absolutely. But there are lots of conditions for that since “gaming” and what counts as video games these days are broad.
A word of warning is also in order; Chromebooks have weak hardware and the cheapest ones don’t even measure up well against Android phones of the same price point.
However, since Chromebooks also use the Android operating system, whichever games are available on the Google Play Store on your Android phone are also available on the Chromebook. But there are limitations…
Each Chromebook Is Different
Like in Android phones, there are different tiers, models, and specifications for Chromebooks. The price usually determines the specs, as always. Ultimately, the Play Store game’s performance depends on the price and the specs of your Chromebook, assuming you’ve already bought one.
Since Playstore apps or video games are typically made for lower specification devices, then the specs you want for your Chromebook to be able to handle gaming are more modest compared to that of a budget gaming PC. Here’s what solid Chromebook specs look like if you want to play or max out just about any Android game:
- Intel Core Processor (11th-Gen is preferable)
- Intel Iris Xe Graphics
- 8 to 16 GB of RAM
- 256+ GB SSD
Anything lower than that and you will need to lower the graphical settings for heavy Android games such as Genshin Impact or Apex Legends Mobile.
If your Chromebook can run those games, then it can run any Android game until something more visually impressive compared to Genshin Impact comes out.
What Kind of Performance To Expect?
If you’re the type of gamer who doesn’t care much about high refresh rates and visual fidelity during movement, then the Chromebook’s limitations shouldn’t really bother you for Android games.
Varying reports claim that the framerate with the specs listed above is acceptable and smooth enough (using Genshin Impact as a benchmark or standard). Again it’s entirely dependent on the specs of the Chromebook, but the most important specs would be the RAM and the Processor.
The RAM helps a lot in granting performance overhead for the Chromebook while the Processor practically carries the whole performance, especially with its integrated GPU.
Storage for the Chromebook is somewhat important as well especially if you plan on keeping multiple games installed at the same time. If anything, you can treat gaming on Chromebook as you would gaming on an Android phone, except the screen is bigger.
What About Steam Games?
Back in the first quarter of 2022, Steam announced full support for its video game distribution service on ChromeOS, meaning it’s now officially available on Chromebook. So it’s fair to assume that you can now play bonafide PC releases on Chromebooks.
But again, that depends on your Chromebook’s specs.
Steam will only be available on certain devices, such as the ones with the specs listed above. And even then, the list of video games you can play will be limited.
You might be able to get away with popular titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or DOTA 2. But as a rule of thumb, the Intel Iris Xe Graphics is only safe for games released on or before 2014. Later games could also be playable depending on the simplicity of their visuals.
It’s best not to count on the availability of Steam games on Chromebook and to set your expectations low as even some of the best and most graphically pleasing games on the Google Play Store aren’t guaranteed to run smoothly.
It’s Not Really a Good Choice for Gaming
Now the other question you might be asking is whether we recommend the Chromebook for gaming if you haven’t bought one yet and are just shopping. Perhaps you need it more for work and you want to game a bit on the side during break time.
Sadly, in its current state, the Chromebook is not really a good investment for gaming. You’re better off just playing mobile games on your Android or iOS device and using the cheap laptop solely for work.
A PC with a Windows operating system and a dedicated GPU or an integrated AMD GPU will still be significantly more powerful for gaming and other digital media tasks compared to a Chromebook.
The bigger question is whether the Chromebook might improve in the future or not.
It’s sadly hard to find a definite answer to that or predict what the near future holds. Because if Chromebooks were to be made with regular or modern gaming in mind, the manufacturers would likely have to add beefier components for gaming, and this would increase the cost and change the manufacturing process.
Remember that one of the Chromebook’s biggest advantages would be the low price and the thin form factor. If it has to accommodate modern PC gaming as one of its capabilities, it will have to change its fundamental engineering, making it not much different compared to Windows laptops both in price and specs.
Moreover, there are software limitations since ChromeOS doesn’t seem to be as well optimized for gaming as Windows.
Still, as nanotechnology keeps improving, it’s not really too far-fetched to expect Chromebooks to have some modern PC gaming capabilities while still retaining their size and hardware class. But at that point, it will probably still lag behind compared to what Windows machines can do.
So don’t hold your breath and don’t buy a Chromebook if you want to play the most modern video games. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out.