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Monday, August 15, 2022

Leaked Chromebooks with RGB keyboards show HP, Lenovo getting serious about gaming models

We’ve known that gaming-focused Chromebooks could be on the horizon since Nvidia announced plans to bring its high-end DLSS and ray tracing graphics technologies to the notebook devices all the way back at the 2021 Game Developers conference. But, can anything truly be called a “gaming” version of something without RGB lighting built into it? Apparently, HP and Lenovo don’t think so; leaks show both companies’ working on gaming Chromebooks that will ship with full RGB keyboards in tow. 

A gaming laptop of any stripe without an RGB keyboard is nearly unheard of. Being able to set the exact shade of glow coming from the entire board or even individual keys is an intrinsic form of expression to many gamers. HP and Lenovo appear ready to support that trend, according to changes discovered in the underlying code of Chrome OS by 9to5Google. The newly-introduced “feature flag” reads simply “, Enable RGB Keyboard support on supported devices.” 

The Google-centric blog took this evidence and explored it a bit deeper, discovering several development connections with two companies known to be designing products for HP and Lenovo: Quanta for HP and LCFC for Lenovo. Both firms are rumored to be creating Chromebooks around Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake series of laptop CPUs, which could provide more than enough graphical oomph for many, many gaming titles.

Little in the way of additional details have surfaced. However, the momentum towards Chromebooks being a viable gaming device has been growing for some time. Game streaming services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now and Google’s own Stadia service have both offered ways to play brand new, AAA gaming titles on the relatively modest hardware most Chromebooks pack. Meanwhile, work was also known to be underway on creating a Linux-based version of Steam that could run on Chromebooks. 

It’s unlikely that these new Chromebook models will drop in the kind of discrete GPUs that would be required to turn these Chromebooks into traditional gaming laptops. But, the combination of lightweight to moderate locally-installed games and much heavier-duty streamed games could create an extremely compelling new form factor for customers looking to game on the go without spending the $1,000+ it often costs to acquire a decent Windows-based gaming laptop with a built-in GPU.

An increasing focus on portable gaming with a strong cloud-based component recently led game maker Valve to create the soon-to-launch Steam Deck. Meanwhile, its older look-alike in the console space, Nintendo’s Switch, continues flying off the shelves. HP and Lenovo’s decision to try to tap into that mobile gaming fervor with their respective Chromebook lines may be coming at just the right time. 

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