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Google Wants You to Buy a Gaming Chromebook. No, Seriously

A new crop of Chromebooks promises better gaming experiences without the big hardware costs.

Three Chromebooks from Lenovo, Acer and Asus from left to right designed for gaming with colorful backlit keyboards.
Lenovo, Acer and Asus (left to right) will release the first three Chromebooks built for gaming. 
Google

Gaming on Chromebooks has come a long way. The most you could do at first was play simple browser-based games on them -- fine if you're killing time between classes (or in them) but not what most people are after in a gaming laptop. Google Play support improved that some with access to a bunch of Android games. Linux support opened up more game options (including Minecraft). But it's cloud gaming services like Nvidia GeForce NowXbox Cloud Gaming and Amazon Luna (sorry, Stadia) that really make it possible to turn any decent Chromebook into a part-time gaming laptop, though. 

Google is taking the next step forward with a new category of Chromebooks made for cloud gaming. The Acer Chromebook 516 GE, Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip and Lenovo Ideapad Gaming Chromebook are the first three models built to deliver a better gaming experience for anyone who wants to play AAA games without the expense of a high-end gaming PC. 

What is a cloud gaming Chromebook?

Cloud gaming services already work well on Chromebooks. A current Chromebook with at least 4GB of memory and a reasonably fast internet connection can be used for cloud gaming. However, these new cloud gaming Chromebooks are the first designed with features to improve the gaming experience.

The cloud gaming Chromebooks have displays with a refresh rate of at least 120Hz for smoother-looking gameplay and better target tracking in shooters. Google worked with Nvidia to add support to Geforce Now for frame rates up to 120 frames per second at resolutions up to 1600p. Fast wireless is also required for cloud gaming so these models all have Wi-Fi 6 or 6E. The Acer Chromebook 516 GE even has a 2.5G Ethernet jack if you don't want to risk a wireless connection in a match. 

The Lenovo Ideapad Gaming Chromebook's keyboard backlit in red, yellow, green and blue.

Lenovo's Ideapad Gaming Chromebook's keyboard has RGB backlit keys.

Lenovo

These Chromebooks also have anti-ghosting keyboards with single-color or RGB backlit keys. And Google optimized ChromeOS to include Launcher search integration for games available in GeForce Now and Google Play. Works with Chromebook accessories from Acer, Corsair, HyperX, Lenovo and Steelseries will be supported and settings apps for be available for them as well.  

What's great about this new breed of cloud gaming Chromebooks is that it marries what the devices are known for -- simple operation, affordable pricing and good battery life -- with some decent entry-level Windows gaming laptop features: a colorful backlit keyboard, a high-res display with a fast refresh rate, high-speed wireless connections and software to improve the gaming experience. You still can't play demanding, graphics-intensive games directly from a Chromebook, but this is the next best thing.

Here's a look at the first three cloud-gaming Chromebooks coming from Acer, Asus and Lenovo. Also, all three come with three-month subscriptions to GeForce Now's highest performance tier membership and Amazon Luna+.

Acer

The 16-inch Chromebook will come with either an Intel Core i5-1240P or i7-1260P processor, 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR4X memory, and either a 128GB or 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD for storage. The 2,560x1,600-pixel display has a 120Hz refresh rate, 16:10 aspect ratio and 100% sRGB color gamut coverage. 

Other features include a 1080p webcam, a 2.5G Ethernet jack, an HDMI 2.1 output and an RGB backlit keyboard. A Core i5 model with 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD is available for $649. 

Asus

The Vibe CX55 appears to be identical to the AMD-powered Asus Chromebook Flip CM5. Asus didn't call it a gaming Chromebook at the time, but its orange color-blocked WASD keys and its color-matched power and volume buttons made it look like one. The CX55 is expected to be available in a few configurations with 11th-gen Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, up to 16GB of LPDDR4X memory and a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD.  A Core i5 version with 16GB of memory and a 256GB SSD is $699. 

It'll have a backlit, anti-ghosting keyboard and a 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen with a 144Hz refresh rate. And since it's a two-in-one, you can flip the keyboard out of the way and connect a keyboard and mouse or a controller and you've got a portable gaming system.

Lenovo

Like the Acer, Lenovo's Ideapad Gaming Chromebook is built around a 16-inch 2,560x1,600-pixel display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 100% sRGB color gamut coverage. Processor choices are either a 12th-gen Core i3 or Core i5 paired with 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and either 128GB of eMMC flash memory or a 256GB or 512GB SSD for storage. A keyboard with four-zone color backlighting and a 1080p webcam are also part of the package. 

Prices for the Ideapad Gaming Chromebook start at $600 with a Core i3, 8GB of memory and 128GB of eMMC flash memory. However, it looks like Walmart already has it on sale for only $399, which is a great deal for a premium Chromebook. 

$429 at Walmart
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