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Steam Alpha Has Finally Arrived on Chromebooks

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The first reports of Steam on Chrome OS surfaced about two years ago, but Google has been mostly mum on the topic. Not anymore, though. Get ready to hear a lot about Steam on Chromebooks, starting with the new Alpha version. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have the correct hardware to run it right now, and even if you did, the bugs will make it hard to actually enjoy any games. 

Most Steam gamers are using Windows, but Valve has championed Linux gaming in various ways over the years, from Steamboxes to the new Steam Deck. Chrome OS is based on Gentoo Linux, and it can run Linux apps in a container. Google says it was Valve’s long-term investment in Linux gaming that made this possible, and even though Chromebooks are not the most powerful machines, Steam has a huge catalog of (theoretically) compatible games. 

It’s no simple matter to try Steam on Chrome OS right now. First, you have to be using one of just seven Chromebooks that have support for the software. According to Google, performance is paramount in gaming, so it opted to focus on supporting specific device models in the alpha phase. And since this is an alpha, Google is also reminding all testers that absolutely anything can break at any time. Here are the supported Chromebook models, all of which cost $700 or more, which is high for a Chromebook. 

There’s another wrinkle, too. Some of these devices have multiple SKUs with base models sporting a Core i3 CPU and 4GB of RAM, but that won’t work for Steam. Not only do you need one of these models, but it needs to be a verison with a Core i5 or i7 CPU, Iris Xe graphics, and at least 8GB of RAM. If you meet those requirements, you’ll have to move your laptop to the experimental Dev channel. Then, enable the toggle under chrome://flags#borealis-enabled and restart. Finally, you can install Steam by opening a crosh terminal with ctrl+alt+t and entering “insert_coin volteer-JOlkth573FBLGa.”

The Asus CX5 is one of the more popular supported devices, the version with Steam-supported hardware costs about $800.

Google has also provided a list of 48 PC games that it feels will be a good test of Steam on Chrome OS. The list includes Portal 2, Civilization V, Stardew Valley, and Cuphead. Early reports on performance are mixed, but that’s what you’d expect from an alpha. It’ll take a while before Steam is ready for the general public — maybe in time for some of those potential gaming Chromebooks with RGB keys.

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