A lot of people are looking to buy a Chromebook for its super low price and speed. The performance to price ratio is off the charts. But, many people want to be able to do some gaming on their new laptop. Given the price of the Chromebook being as low as $139, many people are questionable about whether or not a Chromebook can even run games- specifically Minecraft, due to its enormous popularity. That’s why we put together this guide to go through some pointers that you might want to know. If you’re going to get a Chromebook and playing Minecraft is a must for you, you will definitely want to give this a read-through.
Last updated: 5/6/17.
So, let’s get the first and obvious question out of the way:
“Can I play Minecraft on a Chromebook?”
The short answer? Yes.
The answer you don’t want to hear? Maybe.
Well, we should say “it depends.”
You’ll need a specific type of processor and graphics card in order to run it. But the good part is that most Chromebook models have these two necessary components, so if you’re looking for a Chromebook to run Minecraft you’ll be able to find one easily. If you’ve already purchased a Chromebook and now you’re looking to play Minecraft on it, you probably already have these two components. Hopefully.
What you need to play Minecraft
What’s the point of these two components and why is it so specific? The problem is that Chrome OS can’t play Minecraft by itself. We’ll need to do some technical work and install a copy of Linux on your Chromebook. Linux is capable of running Minecraft, but to install it you’ll need a specific processor. The other component is the graphics card. Even with Linux installed, if your laptop isn’t powered by the right graphics processor, it’ll lag and freeze and frame rates will drop. You don’t want to mine for diamond only to have your machine lag and freeze on you. And the next thing you know you’re in a pool of lava. Without the diamond. Ouch.
So, the first thing you want to look for is if the Chromebook it is powered by an Intel processor. Many Chromebooks that are powered by Intel CPUs are capable of playing Minecraft. What you want to look for is the Intel Celeron processor. The point being is because Intel processors are a lot easier to work with when you set up Linux on your Chromebook. That’s the thing. If you want to play Minecraft on your Chromebook, you have to enable developer mode and then set up a separate OS since Chrome OS isn’t capable of playing Minecraft by itself. The easiest way to do this? It’s to have an Intel processor. A lot of Chromebooks are powered by Intel, however there are a few Chromebooks powered by Rockchip processors such as Asus, although they do offer some Intel versions as well. Other Chromebooks up powered by the ARM processor, so be on the lookout for that.
So now that you’ve narrowed down the Chromebook processor, the next thing to do is to look at the graphics card. Almost all Chromebooks are powered by integrated Graphics, specifically Intel HD graphics. Fear not, for Minecraft doesn’t need a beefy GPU to be run. An Intel HD GPU will run Minecraft just fine. You’ll want to choose a Chromebook that has this graphics processor. Although Intel HD graphics may have a bad reputation, it really doesn’t matter in this case. It’s more than capable of running the game on your laptop. You won’t be able to run the newest and demanding games, but you’ll definitely be able to run Minecraft. That’s the point of this guide.
Your next consideration will be the RAM. Most Chromebooks come with 2 gigabytes of RAM, which is enough to run Minecraft. If you’re looking to run a server off your Chromebook, which is entirely possible, you may want to invest in a 4 gigabyte version instead. The more RAM you have, the more multitasking power your Chromebook is capable of. The server will require more dedicated RAM, so if you plan to launch a Minecraft server for you and your friends, or for strangers, investing in double the ram isn’t a bad choice. The price differences between the 2 gigabyte and 4 gigabyte versions aren’t too great either. In fact, some 2GB versions are more expensive than their 4GB counterparts. Be sure to look at the specs when you’re browsing the market. More RAM also allow you to play while hosting the game simultaneously. If you like to play Minecraft with your friends and you’re usually the server jockey, going with 4GB of RAM is the obvious choice. Go for it.
Screen size, mouse, and keyboard
Next, we have some other considerations. Most Chromebooks will offer 11.6 inches of screen size, diagonally. You can find some in the $159 range that offer everything we’ve listed above along with and 11.6-inch screen. Although this may be on the small side for some Minecraft players, or gamers in general, the choice is entirely up to you. You could jump to a 13-inch screen, however the price will jump up significantly. If the screen size matters to you that much, and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you’ll be glad to know that the Chromebook has an HDMI port so you can plug it into an external monitor, such as your PC monitor. And if the keyboard and mouse on a laptop bother you, you can also plug in your own mouse and keyboard via the USB port on a Chromebook. So you can pretty much use your Chromebook as a console to run Minecraft while playing it with your desktop mouse, keyboard, and screen. Pretty cool huh?
That’s about it. That’s all you really need to play it. So now that we have the technical stuff out of the way, we can actually see what kind of performance we can get. We have a guide to help you choose a Chromebook.
Chromebook performance with Minecraft
Typically, users with an Intel Celeron processor along with Intel HD graphics report frame rates of about 50 FPS on low to medium settings. If you must play on fancy, your frame rates will probably drop to the 30 FPS range, which is still pretty decent and playable. You have to remember, this is a very inexpensive machine that not even made for playing Minecraft in the first place. So, 30 FPS may not be a lot, but it’s still definitely playable. If you want to increase the FBS and give yourself a nice little boost, just turn down the settings that are unnecessary to you via the menus, or just install OptiFine and tweak your graphics settings. With some light tweaking, we were able to boost the frame rate by about 30% over the average. That’s amazing for this little beast of a machine.
Hosting Minecraft on a Chromebook
On hosting environment, we were able to connect up to about 12 users with no performance issues. This was on an Intel-powered Chromebook with 4 gigabytes of RAM. We wanted to add more users until we started noticing performance issues, however, we couldn’t find anyone else to add. Running 12 users simultaneously on such a small little machine was indeed impressive. You could use the Chromebook as a dedicated server and just play on the hosted server with another computer. There were no noticeable lag spikes. We could turn render distance up to 16 without noticing any lag, other than on our own computer playing the game. Just install OptiFine on the machine you’re playing on, and you’ll be fine.
Playing while hosting on the same laptop
We also tried playing on the same Chromebook that was hosting the server. There were a few lag spikes here and there, but it was really nothing too major. The frame rate was constant at about 30 FPS, which was playable. The only time when it lagged was when other people joined the server. Many other servers hosted by Windows computers do the same thing. So, we didn’t really think of it as an issue with the Chromebook, but rather just a performance issue that’s widespread across all operating systems in general.
Using OptiFine, we were able to tweak the settings and give about a 5% FPS boost on the same machine. Without OptiFine and just using the basic menu, 30 FPS was about the average frame rate we could get by turning down graphics settings and maximizing FPS- that was probably the best we could do. The OptiFine tweaking really did help and allowed us to play with a noticeably increased margin.
Still though, even without OptiFine and playing with the basic menu settings, 30 FPS is more than enough to make the game playable, especially since we’re playing on the same hosted Chromebook.
If you really must host and play Minecraft on the same laptop, you’ll be glad to know that it’s entirely possible.
So there you have it. You can definitely play Minecraft on a Chromebook. This inexpensive machine is already capable of so much, and having the ability to play one of the most popular sandbox games out there it’s just a nice bonus. Even for the low price tag, we wouldn’t mind if it couldn’t play Minecraft. But it can. That’s just awesome. If you need help getting Minecraft set up on your laptop, leave a comment below. Also be sure to check out our complete guide on getting your Chromebook Minecraft ready.