As we’ve seen in the past few months, Linux apps on Chrome OS have come a long way. There’s still work to be done and there are new features that are on the way or that have just launched, but the overall feel of Linux apps on Chromebooks is way more cohesive than it was just 6 months ago.
If you’re like me, you’ve either tried or want to try a few games here and there using the new ability Chromebooks now have to install some things in a more native fashion. Steam actually installs quite easily and other games that have installers (like Open Areana) can be installed right from the command line. In addition, many people seem quite interested in the handful of video and photo editors Gabe has covered in the Command Line series. All of these tasks need one very specific thing to run, though, and that is GPU acceleration.
This idea isn’t new and we’ve had GPU acceleration working for some time now. The thing is, it hasn’t been working out of the box up to this point. Instead, users were required to enable the Crostini GPU Support flag to get the whole thing running and for many, this is either something they won’t do on their own, something they’ll forget, or something they won’t even know exists. For any of those users, loading up any graphics-intense application becomes a mess of dropped frames and unusable software. Most games simply won’t perform at all without access to the GPU. Though the integrated graphics chips in Chromebooks aren’t that powerful, they are far better at tackling these tasks than just the CPU alone.
Thankfully, this requirement doesn’t seem to be a thing any longer. With Chrome OS 80 and the new version of Debian Linux (Buster) that it installs when enabling Linux apps on your Chromebook, it seems GPU acceleration has finally become part of the general Linux app experience on Chromebooks. This is a massive win since most users giving Linux apps a try may or may not ever be familiar with GPUs and whether or not there is a need to enable them. From this point forward, they won’t need to worry about it and the entire Linux app process can become one step less convoluted and one step more seamless. It’s beneficial all around and a feature we’ve been waiting on for a long time. Now, about those discrete GPU Chromebooks that can start really taking advantage of this…