While many Chromebooks are still basically small, cheap laptops with a browser-based operating system, we’ve seen a growing number of mid-range and premium models in recent years with the kind of processors, displays, RAM, and other specs you’d expect from a decent Windows notebook.
One thing we haven’t seen yet? A Chromebook with discrete graphics. But now there’s evidence that at least one PC maker is working on one.
The folks at Chrome Unboxed spotted a recent code Chromium OS code commit for an upcoming Chromebook that mentions a dGPU, also known as a discrete graphics processing unit.
It’s unclear if this is an NVIDIA, AMD, or even Intel GPU. But up until now all Chromebooks have featured integrated graphics, which means that you only get whatever GPU technology is baked into the Intel, AMD, MediaTek, or Rockchip processor that powers your Chrome OS laptop.
So why would you want a Chromebook with discrete graphics? There may be a few possible reasons.
One is that modern web browsers can already leverage a GPU for hardware-accelerated rendering of web content… so a GPU could speed up the core function of most Chromebooks: web browsing.
Another possible reason? Gaming. Rumor has it that Google is working on bringing support for the Steam game client to Chrome OS by leveraging Steam’s existing Linux client and Chrome OS’s ability to run Linux apps.
The Chromebook mentioned in that code commit is code-named “mushu,” and it’s expected to be an Intel Project Athena-certified device that will ship with a 10th-gen Intel Core processor, a touchscreen display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and Wacom digitizer for pen input, plus support for up to 16GB of RAM.
While it’s the first model to feature a mention of discrete graphics in the Chromium source code, it’s possible that we could see other models with dGPUs in the future.
Then again, it’s also possible that “mushu” may never see the light of day — while code commits suggest that someone is testing Chrome OS on this piece of hardware, that’s not a guarantee that a real product matching this description will ever hit store shelves.