I was surprised to see the announcement by Google introducing three Chromebooks targeted to gaming. In this article I will compare the gaming Chromebook against other traditional choices to determine if they compete.
With a gaming Chromebook it is important to understand games are played from the cloud and supported cloud services include the following.
To use these services require registration and access to premium features a subscription. There is another popular gaming service not on the list titled Steam. Although it has limited support for Chromebooks currently, it is available through GeForce Now.
To fully understand the gaming Chromebook experience, it helps to have a sense of the type of cloud hardware powering your game. Let's pull the curtain back on the GeForce solution.
The GeForce cloud solution is a rack enclosure which contains 10 twin node blades. nVidia states the CPUs are Intel Core i9 processors with 8 cores supporting 16 threads operating at 3.5 GHz supported by 64GB of memory. There is some evidence to support the fact these CPUs are custom built for the data center as they are missing turbo support and appear to be tweaked for power efficiency. The GPU is interesting as well. nVidia simply states it is a nVidia RTX GPU with 3,584 Cuda® cores supported by 16GB of GDDR6 memory. It has been rumored the GPUs fall under the branding of Telsa which are designed for the data center. And yes the name comes from Tesla's own custom 5,760 GPU supercomputer for AI machine learning. In terms of computing power this server ranks 5th in the world. A fully stacked GeForce server contains 20 CPU and 40 GPU nodes and supports 1600 concurrent games.
Hey, if I am going to consider a Chromebook, I said I would consider other options.
The Playstation is a bit out of the circle but it is a popular gaming console. Playstation offers a cloud option named PlayStation Plus but it is restricted to its own titles and suffers from performance issues. The popular title “God of War” was offered briefly on GeForce Now but was pulled by its creator.
The Xbox Series X by Microsoft is definitely a contender.
Neither the PlayStation nor the Xbox come with a monitor. Many will simply use their TV, but for the purpose of comparison, I matched them with the Dell Alienware gaming monitor. This monitor supports the PlayStation variable refresh rate.
Another choice is to purchase a gaming laptop which allows you to play your game locally. The following are the specs for a Dell Alienware m15 R7 gaming laptop. My intent is to match the specifications as close as possible to a single instance of the GeForce Now server and the gaming Chromebook.
(!) Dell upgraded the 144 Hz panel of this model with a display operating at 165 Hz.
Google’s announcement featured three products which are specifically created for gaming. It is important to remember the games are running in the cloud and the purpose of the Chromebook is to be the display, speakers, keyboard, or game controller to the cloud. All of these Chromebooks offer access to 1000+ PC games & more with 3 months of NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s top membership tier, and Amazon Luna+, at no cost.
(1) Terms and conditions apply.
The Chromebook from ASUS is the only one of the three which flips its screen. In the circumstance when you want to play your game with a controller instead of the keyboard, the laptop can be set up in tent mode.
It's a bridge too far for me to get comfortable with a Chromebook powered by an Intel Core i3. I would prefer an i7 but I can live with an i5. I like the fact that the Asus comes with 16GB of memory but the key item for any gaming device is the screen and it really needs to deliver. I take issue with Asus for only being full HD and Acer for using a TFT panel instead of IPS.
If you play PlayStation games there is no light at the end of the tunnel unless you want to broaden your gaming to non PlayStation titles.
Xbox is another good solution and if you have the X series with updated software you can also play games on GeForce Now and Luna. However, the Xbox and PlayStation are not portable and to be fair, you should also budget the cost of a monitor like the Alienware AW2721D at an additional $750.
It is critically important to verify the game that scratches your itch is available on GeForce Now or Luna. If not, a gaming Chromebook may become a disappointment.
What about the other elephant in the room - the Alienware m15 R7 Gaming Laptop. It's a beast but the beast experience comes with a cost. If you want to play World of Warcraft, it is a good choice as the other devices discussed are incompatible.
(!) Although there are rumors World of Warcraft will be coming to Steam, it is not listed in their catalog.
The Alienware m15 R7 Gaming Laptop and any of the three gaming Chromebooks should offer a similar gaming experience when using a fast internet connection (40Mbps or greater). The screen resolution on the Alienware laptop is 1920x1080@165Hz which is similar to the Asus.
The cost of GeForce Now is $16.67 per month and you will need to purchase/own your games. The cost of Luna+ is $9.99 per month.
Assuming a $2000 premium for the Alienware laptop, you can buy 120 months (10 years) of GeForce top tier RTX 3080 service or 200 months (17 years) of Luna+.
Or - pay month to month and use the savings to purchase the Alienware AW2721D monitor, a pair of HyperX Cloud Alpha - Naruto Edition headphones, and a Xbox Elite Wireless Series 2 Controller.
That's what I'm talking about, “Go big or Go home!”