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Your next Chromebook could have NVIDIA RTX graphics

A team-up with MediaTek could bring fast graphics to Google-powered PCs.

Published onApril 12, 2021

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 left profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
  • NVIDIA is teaming up with MediaTek to bring RTX GPUs to Arm-based Chrome OS and Linux PCs.
  • This could lead to Chromebooks with fast graphics.
  • There are no timeframes for when you’ll see shipping products.

You probably don’t think of a Chromebook as a graphics powerhouse, but that might change before long. NVIDIA is teaming up with MediaTek to develop a reference platform that would bring RTX GPUs to Arm-based Chromium and Linux PCs as well as NVIDIA’s own developer kits.

The two didn’t say when they expected to bring NVIDIA RTX graphics to the reference design, let alone a Chromebook you can buy. However, they weren’t shy about the potential uses. MediaTek chief Rick Tsai envisioned using GPUs for “gaming, content creation” and other intensive tasks.

The implication is clear — ideally, you’d have an affordable, long-lived Chromebook with NVIDIA graphics powerful enough to play games without relying on cloud streaming or Android apps. Most Chromium and Chrome OS-based PCs have to rely on their integrated graphics regardless of whether they’re using Arm or x86 chips, so this could be a huge stride forward. You could edit professional-grade videos, too.

Related: The best gaming laptops you can buy right now

With that said, it’s important to temper expectations. As much as MediaTek chips have advanced in recent years, a Chromebook based on one of its CPUs is unlikely to match a conventional, x86-based laptop even with NVIDIA graphics.  We’d add that NVIDIA might have to tone down the capabilities of its GPUs to meet the cooling and battery life expectations for an Arm-powered portable.

There’s also the question of software selection. There aren’t many web or Android games that can benefit from RTX-level GPU performance, and the typically limited storage on a Chromebook rules out locally stored media. You’d still have to rely at least partly on networks and the cloud.

A Chromebook with an NVIDIA GPU could handle more of the workload than in the past, though. This might also encourage developers to write more sophisticated web apps, while Chromebook makers might add more storage. The MediaTek partnership is a hint at how Arm-based PCs could change rather than a clear roadmap.

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