We previously reported on a Chromebook in development, code-named Mushu, with a discrete graphics card unit (dGPU). This is the first and only Chromebook we know of that has a dGPU. Such a Chromebook would blow all other Chromebooks out of the water when it comes to gaming. At the time, it wasn’t clear what dGPU it had. However, while I was casually building Chromium OS from the source code, I noticed something very interesting. I found the build configuration for Mushu that helps us to better understand what to expect.
We are getting a Chromebook with an AMD dGPU. We knew before that Mushu is a device based on Hatch which means it will have an Intel 10th-generation processor. What we now know is that it will also have an AMD Vega 12 dGPU.
What even is the Vega 12? There is, after all, a Vega 11 that is an integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU). I talked to Gabriel about it and his first thought was one of the weird and short-lived Intel hybrid processors with an AMD iGPU. However, there is official confirmation from AMD on a Phoronix forum that states this is not the case.
Upon further research, it has yet to ever come to market. However, according to Hassan Mujtaba from Wccftech, a development board has been leaked on eBay shedding some more light on the device. It’s a mobile dGPU that started development 3 years ago in 2018. Normally a new piece of hardware like this takes 1 to 2 years to reach production. It has 4 GB of high-speed memory, 1024 compute cores, and already has native out-of-the-box driver support in Linux. This dGPU would make a great mid-range gaming laptop without breaking the bank. We also know that Mushu is a variant of the Hatch board which is being used to test Steam support via Borealis. Our friends at Boiling Steam have reported about QA testing for this already being in progress.
Time to speculate!
Proton, a program that allows playing Windows games on Linux, was released in 2018 at the same time this dGPU went into development. Is it a coincidence that Valve released Proton in the same year? Possibly. If not, it could mean that this was Valve’s plan all along and they sought out the latest in-development GPU at the time to help create a roadmap for their Linux gaming future. A future that involves a close partnership with Google.
With Steam support coming via Borealis, this may be the first of many Chrome devices with a dGPU to come in the future. Gabe Newell, the co-founder and president of Valve, recently said this in response to a question about Steam coming to game consoles “You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year… and it won’t be the answer you expect.” I would bet that Mushu is going to be the flagship Steam Chromebook with a nice “certified by Valve” sticker slapped on. Perhaps the Vega 12 is even an exclusive piece of hardware for Mushu and that’s why we haven’t officially seen it yet.
In case you missed it, check out our Gaming in a Pre-Borealis World guide. We walk you through how to use Proton to game on your Chromebook today. Enjoy the basic games on your iGPU now while you wait for this powerful AMD dGPU Chromebook!
What are your thoughts on the matter? Is this the next generation of the Steam Machine game console/PC? Would you be interested in buying a Chromebook with a dGPU? Are you as excited as I am? Let us know in the comments below!