While talking about our breakthough with getting Vulkan to work in Crostini (a full guide is coming soon!), I teased something else that a few folks picked up on. We found clues from the Chromium OS source code that answer a big question that we keep hearing from the community: what Chromebooks are getting the upcoming official Borealis/Steam support first? Let’s explore our findings!
There is a file of interest I stumbled upon called cros-board.eclass. It contains a list of every Chrome OS device ever. That includes devices that are still on store shelves, no longer on the market, devices that never saw the light of day, and also ones that are still in-development. Sadly, we couldn’t find the Chromium OS build configurations for these boards which would have given us a lot more answers. A handful of these devices surely must be private and internal to Google’s developers. Including a few special Borealis boards. That’s okay, as we now have a bit more information to go off of.
For Chromebooks (and some Chromeboxes), you can expect to see Borealis later this year if you own a device based on the “hatch”, “aurora” (a subset of “hatch”), “puff”, “volteer”, or “zork” boards. Basically most Chromebooks with an Intel 10th generation processor, AMD Ryzen 3700C processor, or newer. Oh, and that ‘borealis’ board up there? I suspect that to be a generic test image. After all, Chrome OS is just Linux and it can technically run on any computer. Want to see if you own one of these or are about to buy one? Checkout cros.tech and type in your Chromebook model number. It’ll tell you the base board it’s using.
We’ve got a full list of upcoming Chromebooks along with their board names here on the site, and it will give you an idea of what kind of Chromebooks or Chromeboxes to potentially shop for. Personally, I would not buy any hardware on a promise of an unreleased feature: I would wait for the official announcement of Borealis from Google and/or Valve. In the meantime, it’s never too early to start that winter holidays wish list!
Don’t freak out if your device is not on the list. Remember when the Linux beta (Crostini) support first came out? Only a handful of Chrome OS devices got it. Now it’s enabled for all new devices! The biggest catch for Borealis here is going to be the hardware support.
First of all, no Arm devices will be getting this at launch. Although, with Arm and NVIDIA Chromebooks in the works, that could change in a few years. Proton, the compatibility layer that Steam uses to run Windows games on Linux, requires Vulkan 1.2. We’ve been looking up the Vulkan support of the iGPUs of a few devices in our office and, unfortunately, almost every device from more than a couple of years ago simply will not work with Borealis due to them supporting old Vulkan versions. Intel has a nice guide on their website to help you determine the supported Vulkan version on their iGPUs (and now dGPUs, too!).
As for me? I’m saving up my pennies for the ASUS Chromebook CX9. With the top-end model having the best Intel iGPU on the market, it’s going to be a great experience playing casual games on a Chromebook. Does your Chromebook make the cut? Would you upgrade to a new device for Steam support? Let us know in the comments!