Stadia’s dead, but new Chromebooks keep Google’s cloud-gaming dreams alive
Ars Technica – All content
The final nail is all but driven into Google Stadia’s coffin, with Google announcing that it will shut down the game streaming service on January 18. In a meeting with the press this week, Google said it still sees cloud gaming as a huge profit driver for the company moving ahead. With Stadia on its way out, though, Google will have to rely on gaming platforms and manufacturing partners. Today, three so-called gaming Chromebooks were announced from Acer, Asus, and Lenovo, boasting high specs for Chromebooks, including refresh rates up to 144 Hz. Google said it optimized the devices for streaming games from Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna, and the Xbox Cloud Gaming beta.
Gaming Chromebooks: specs and features
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE, Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip (CX5501) 2-in-1, and Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook announced today stand out with more premium specs than the average, more budget-friendly Chromebook, including higher resolution screens that support gamer-level refresh rates and beefier CPUs. Google said the computers range from $399-$799.
Here’s a quick overview of the specs:
|Acer Chromebook 516 GE||Up to Intel Core i7-1260P||8GB LPDDR4x (speed not specified)||256GB NVMe-PCIe 3.0 SSD||16-inch 2560×1600 @ 120Hz IPS||$650 with an i5-1240P|
|Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 (CX5501)||Up to Intel Core i7-1165G7||Up to 16GB (type and speed not specified)||Not specified||15.6-inch 1920×1080 touchscreen @ 144 Hz||Price TBD|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook||Up to Intel Core i5-1235U||8GB LPDDR4x-4266||Up to 512GB PCIe 2242 SSD||16-inch 2560×1600 @ 120Hz IPS||Starts at $599|
The systems go up to Intel i7 CPUs, but Google said it tested game streaming with i5 and i3 chips with “phenomenal” results. The Acer and Asus laptops also come with HDMI 2.1 and 2.0, respectively, leaving the potential for a decent gaming monitor.
But can’t other Chromebooks stream games too?
It’s important to note that any Chromebook, so long as it meets the streaming platform’s requirements, could use these cloud services, (albeit max resolution and framerates would be limited, depending on the system). The big difference is that Google purportedly optimized these three machines for streaming games from the cloud, including from the chipset to ChromeOS’ core constructs.
In its press briefing, Google said it optimized the three Chromebooks to run three partner streaming platforms (via downloadable web apps): Nvidia GeForce Now, which is launching a new Chromebook streaming mode that supports 1600p at 120 fps, Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming beta, and Amazon Luna. Notably, Xbox Cloud Gaming and Luna don’t support resolutions higher than 1080p.
The Chromebooks also come with latency claims, as certified by GameBench. Each laptop claims latency of “under 85ms,” but that figure is at 1080p resolution when playing Fortnite or Destiny 2 on GeForce Now.
During Google’s press briefing, an Nvidia spokesperson said Nvidia tested “about 60ms of total latency on the new Chromebooks last week on Destiny 2, Apex Legends, and Fortnite on a system with about an 8 ms ping time to the closest GeForce Now data center.”
Of course, expected results will vary based on your Internet capabilities. Nvidia’s rep, for example, claimed GeForce Now requires about 35Mbps to run 1600p at 120 fps. GeForce Now’s bandwidth requirements page also recommends less than 40 ms latency from an Nvidia data center.
Acer, Asus, and Lenovo’s Chromebooks will also be the first Chromebooks to have a game launcher search, which is activated through the Chromebook Everything button. Google said it indexed the game catalogs of streaming services, allowing users to type the name of the game they want to play into the ChromeOS search bar and see a list of game launchers where they can play those games. However, the feature will only work with GeForce Now and the Google Play Store to start. Google said it plans to expand the game launcher search to other streaming services and Chromebooks.
The gaming Chromebooks include RGB keyboards with anti-ghosting, so multiple keypresses can register simultaneously, as well as Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, (depending on the device).
For a limited time, the Chromebooks will include three-month subscriptions to GeForce Now and Luna’s highest tiers and, depending on the device and availability, a SteelSeries gaming mouse.