NVIDIA officially launched their cloud game streaming service yesterday to quite a bit of deserved fanfare. While platforms like Stadia are a bit more polished and much more user-accessible, GeForce NOW is a unique in its ability to let users play some of the games they already own. It is now available for users on Android phones, Shield TV, Mac OS and Windows, but Chromebooks are left out in the cold for the time being. NVIDIA is saying a proper web-based GeForce Now client is due later this year and that will give Chromebooks proper access to the service. In the meantime, I had to wonder if we could get the Android version up and running on a Chromebook. The answer is yes, but you shouldn’t do it.
First up, the biggest hurdle to installing the GeForce NOW app is the fact that it is blocked in the Play Store. That means when trying to install the app the proper way on your Chromebook, you simply won’t find it in a search. If you do manage to find your way there through some Google search efforts, you see the app is listed as incompatible with your device.
That’s not enough to stop us, though. There’s side-loading after all and we clearly went in this direction. A quick search led us to the latest version of the GeForce NOW app APK download, but you’ll quickly remember that side-loading of apps isn’t possible unless your Chromebook is in developer mode. This mode allows for a few more options, but also turns off verified boot (which is the main tool at your Chromebook’s disposal for keeping your system safe and secure). We don’t recommend anyone use developer mode unless you understand the risks and are willing to have your device or data compromised.
That being said, we went ahead and did just that, getting the Pixelbook Go transitioned to developer mode so we could install the GeForce NOW app. All of that went smoothly and the app opened right up with no real problems. Selecting a game was simple and, upon launcing Apex Legends, I was also quite impressed that the mouse cursor lock worked and the game inherently accepted keyboard input. Up to this point, things were looking great.
Then I played the game for about 90 seconds. First up, we were seeing tons of stutters and a bit of lag. Audio was choppy as well, and this was the very same game I was running quite perfectly on my Pixel phone just minutes before on the exact same WiFI network. After about two minutes, everything ground to a halt and froze up completely. I could close the app down and re-launch, but every single time on every single game I ran into the same set of problems. Clearly, something isn’t set up properly for the Android framework on Chromebooks with this app.
While I’m a bit bummed that it doesn’t work, I’m glad to see NVIDIA is actively working on a web-based solution that will be a much better overall experience on Chrome OS. Right now, the web player is one of the huge advantages Stadia has over GeForce NOW, but it may not stay that way for long. As we eagerly await its arrival, it’s with a heavy heart that I can tell you to steer clear of installing the Android app on your Chromebook at this point. It simply isn’t worth it.