Earlier this year, the long-awaited Borealis project A.K.A. Steam on ChromeOS finally emerged as an Alpha test. The initial debut of the monumental collaboration between Google and Valve was restricted to only a handful of devices. It required users to move to the sometimes unstable Developer channel of ChromeOS. (You also had to have the “secret” token to activate Steam on an eligible device.) After seven months of user testing and feedback, Google announced today that Steam for ChromeOS is ready to graduate to Beta.
Steam on ChromeOS Beta
The term “beta” serves two purposes in today’s announcement. Not only will Steam on ChromeOS now be in beta testing, but it will also move to the much more stable Beta channel of ChromeOS. More on that in a minute. First, let’s take a look at what’s new and improved with Steam on ChromeOS. Initially, ChromeOS managed storage for Steam games based solely on the game’s reported installation size which created issues because many games require downloadable content beyond the basic file installation. To address this issue, Google implemented a sparse disk solution for more efficient file handling and most importantly, gave Steam on ChromeOS “ballooning” capabilities. This simply means that the disk size will increase automatically as more space is required.
Google states that the Steam team has placed focus on improving performance on high-res displays which was an issue at the project’s initial launch. This means better, more stable game performance on QHD and UHD displays which is an absolute must if Steam on ChromeOS is going to be taken seriously. Another area where Google improved performance is power management. This includes power notifications when playing full screen and lower CPU overhead being used by Vulkan and DirectX.
As a result of these improvements, the ChromeOS developers have added 50 new titles to the recommended games list. The team also encourages players to try out their favorite games and provide feedback on the experience. This could result in games being added to the recommended list or if you find bugs, will help developers hone Steam on ChromeOS to smoothly run more titles.
Now, just because Steam on ChromeOS has graduated, does not mean that it’s ready for prime time. Opening the platform up to more users should accelerate the ChromeOS team’s ability to squash bugs and improve performance. Hopefully, this will lead to an early 2023 release of a stable version of Steam on ChromeOS but only time will tell. For now, there are still some known issues with certain features and specific game titles. Here’s a look at what is currently creating hiccups.
Getting started with Steam on ChromeOS
As of this morning, ChromeOS Beta has been updated to version 108 for eligible devices. If you have a device on the list below, you can now move to the Beta channel and try out Steam for yourself. You no longer have to use the secret token to enable Steam. Instead, head to chrome://flags and search for Borealis. Enable the “borealis” flag and restart your browser. You should now see the Steam launcher in your app list. Click it to begin the installation.
- Acer Chromebook 514 (CB514-1W)
- Acer Chromebook 515 (CB515-1W)
- Acer Chromebook 516 GE
- Acer Chromebook Spin 514 (CP514-3H, CP514-3HH, CP514-3WH)
- Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (CP713-3W)
- Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (CP714-1WN)
- Acer Chromebook Vero 514
- ASUS Chromebook CX9 (CX9400)
- ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500)
- ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5601)
- ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip
- Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition
- HP Elite c640 14 inch G3 Chromebook
- HP Elite c645 G2 Chromebook
- HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
- HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook
- IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook 16
- Lenovo 5i-14 Chromebook
- Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook 14
- Lenovo ThinkPad C14
If you’re ready to give Steam on ChromeOS a try, don’t forget that moving to the Beta channel does come with some caveats. The move there is simple enough but if you move back to Stable, you will need to powerwash your device. So, don’t forget to back up any important files. Also, if you find yourself gaming on your Chromebook and you experience any bugs, be sure to provide feedback via the ingame feedback console or by pressing Alt+Shift+i on your Chromebook and providing as many details as possible. You may just help the team bring Steam to the next level. Read the full announcement on the ChromeOS developer’s blog here.